f 355 dash leather shrinking ?

Discussion in 'Technical Q&A' started by f355james, Mar 26, 2004.

  1. f355james

    f355james Rookie

    Mar 14, 2004
    any one know how to pull the dash out? i have minor shrinking of the leather on my dash and would like to get it redone. The leather shop does not want to pull the dash, so i need to myself. any help would be great.
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  3. jeffdavison

    jeffdavison F1 Rookie
    Silver Subscribed

    Jul 29, 2002
    Suwanee Georgia
    Full Name:
    Jeffrey Davison
    About a year ago I was looking for the same info. I searched the archives and came across some one who had done this. His name is Micheal Kline. I communicated with him a bit and he sent me a "how to" email. If you can tolerate the length, here is that email in it's entirety:

    Hi Jeff:
    Here's how it went...sorry no photos.
    Removal of dash: Pretty straight forward, all screws and nuts. Fairly easy
    access. This is not your Cadillac by any means.Start with the easiest stuff.
    The Instrument pod, the radio, the instruments above the radio...this gives
    you a lot of access to the other fasteners. Then work the A/C vents out (all
    3). If you rotate the vents to their extremes, you'll find the clips formed
    into these plastic a/c frames, they may need to be helped out(ie pulled
    inward) to free the ac vents. They simply slip free of the ducting. I
    recommend that you work all three of them until the easiest one comes free,
    and the examine the retension clips...this will help you get the others out
    easier when you really see how it's made.

    While I'm on these a/c vents, you'll want to break and round the sharp
    corners on them where the contact the leather to get them back in
    place...file or sand paper or both. The leather wrapped into the corners of
    the square holes is in effect "formed" by the a/c vent....this area (3 a/c
    vents) is the trickiest of all.

    You will see that the air outlets on the top ( defrost) have 3 black plastic
    squares on each. These clips snap on to cover screws. While you might think
    these need to come out, they don't for dash removal can do it
    later when you have a better view out of the car. The clips form a "C" shape
    around the outboad/inboard edges of the metal frame that must be unhooked on
    either end to get them off and they are pretty tight. I got 5 of 6 of
    without breaking the "c" section, and I just glued it back over the screw
    when I was done.

    With the A/c vents out, next remove the airbag module (4- 8mm bolts into
    bulkhead) now you can get at all the fasteners. You will need a "security"
    Torx bit (ie it has a whole in it) I think it was size 40, and I got 2 for
    $3 at the NAPA parts store.

    Don't sweat all the wiring. there isn't that much and it's pretty idiot

    You have to remove the two piece lower dash too, and it's attached to the
    upper with nuts on studs at the seem.

    The upper dash comes out of the car first, but the lower has to be dropped
    to do this. I took the oppertunity to clean and reglue loose ends on the
    lower, which must go back in, in pieces, before the upper is re-installed.
    The Leather Work:
    Rip the old leather and foam off and use some 50 grit paper (by hand) to get
    the remaining foam off and too clean up all the glue areas...I wiped it all
    with a fast solvent too. You'll see staples underneath. The two pros I
    talked to don't use them, they just go for a longer /deeper glue seem. My
    staple gun wouldn't go into the fiberglass either.

    Keep the old leather as a flat pattern and as a reference until you're'll be looking at it a lot too.

    Don't strip the airbag yet.

    Materials: I bought the minimum material from that source I cited on the
    String. It was a very good match but a little thicker than I'd have liked.
    It was a "half skin" and cost me $200+tax. I have enough left to do another
    dash and airbag if you want it at my cost . It's black and there isn't
    enough to do the Instrument Pod...which mine didn't need anyway.

    Foam: They use a 1/4 inch thick open cell foam. I have that too. I knew this
    but thought I'd try a 1/8 inch closed cell, that was firmer. Bad choice.

    Glue: the pro's use plain old weldwood contact cement out of a can, with a
    brush. Probably the easiest. But I tested the strength of this and the 3M
    spray on the leather and Fiberglass shell of the dash and found the 3M much
    stronger. 3M make two strength levels. I used mostly the high strength stuff
    ($15-18 per can, one is enough) but I have to say that the lower strenght
    stuff seems much easier to use, and I might go that way. In a few spots, I
    used some 3M Superweatherstrip Adhesive, black, out of a tube because I
    wanted some insurance. Where I was having trouble, and where the leather
    wrap is short due to geometry ( like at the long thin slots for the top,
    defrost air outlets) I laid a bead of this at the edge of the laether after
    all other glueing was done and set...rationalizing that if the added
    (tough) adhesive kept the leather edge from curling up, the contact cement
    would hold longer.

    Glueing and cutting;
    While leather seems inelastic, it is in fact qiute malable in three
    dimensions. Tools like hammers, and round steel shanks can help you move it
    around...but it takes time and patience. Care not to mare the outer surface.
    Some cloths Line clips or simmilar will help a lot too.

    Start with lots of leather. Don't cut anything close until you have too!

    Star in the middle! at the center a/c vent. Don't cut or glue the outer most
    edges (of the dash) until last or at least your latest opportunity.

    Focus on the hardess features first...simple straight / curved edges must
    come last. For instance. Tword the end you'll be cutting the long slits for
    the a/c defrost vents on top. And it is tempting to glue the leading edge
    first, and then cut the slit, and glue the little 1/4 inch lap underneath.
    Dont!! You'll be able to distort the leather and draw more material from the
    leading (front) edge into thes slots, and get a longer lap seem...stronger.

    I found that if I cut to far, such that it would show, for instance in the
    corners of the a/c vents ( Square/rect. holes in front) that I could recover
    my error by pulling more material through the cutout hole to get my cut
    hidden. Again, the material is not like canvas, it will flow somewhat in 3D.

    At the tough a/c cutouts, you must start by reattaching the a/c outlets into
    the bare dash and carefully maesuring down into the hole to know just where
    the fitting will cover you cuts in the corners. The vent fittings sit deeper
    than you think and you have to gage your cuts carefully. I'd cut each corner
    less than I thought I need to, and then start working it into the whole,
    checking an extending the cut as I went. By refitting the vent fitting, you
    can see where your going...and this is where you'll first see the value in
    rounding their corners as noted above.The big center one is the
    easiest...and you will find that the bigger the whole or feature, the more
    stretch/give in the leather you've got to work with. But as you make you way
    to the outbard (smaller) a/c vents, the whole situation is less forgiving.
    Move as directly as you can from the center vent to the outers. Make the big
    rough cut outs at the Instruments and the Airbag, but dont glue them, (it
    will help move the leather around alot....) the glue at the instruments and
    airbag comes after you finish the small vents, because the loose material
    over a big area gives you the most latitude. Further, when the small vents
    are done...And I put the Vents in place to keep them done, then as you fit
    the big areas surrounding these small vents, you can pull the material away
    from the vents to get the lay/fit you want in the tough areas.

    This reminds me of few other tips:
    1) leather takes a set over time. If you dent it with a hammer for example,
    it has some memory and will come back some or all the way in a couple of
    days. On the other hand, if you clamp it for 24 hours it tends to stay. I
    did my dash over 3 days, and used this plastic charicteristic of the leather
    by partially forming features progressively over time. I used the the spring
    clamps(cloths pins for short) to get it to go my way.
    2) You can spray the bare dash with adhesive and stick the foam on. But
    don't put any glue between the leather and the foam, or under the leather on
    any of the exposed surfaces....the leather "membrain" must be free to slide
    around the foam so you can work it, and so that as it shrinks with age, the
    biggest areas will provide some it doesn't pull the glue joints
    apart any soonner than it has to...and it won't last forever.
    (Woops, cap lock on, no special meaning here.
    4) Very important NOT to stretch the leather any tighter than you absolutely
    must. Tighter looks better, but the leather will surely shrink, and it needs
    all the room you can give it.

    I did my glueing and forming (dash only ) over two full days. There were
    spots that I took apart after I'd glued them..and that's ok, but some spots
    I overworked a bit. If I'd glued a large, or perimiter feature too early, it
    would become very apparent when I got to a small feature where I need some
    give. I'd reverse course in some cases.

    I removed all the materials like above. but this thing has small o'lap/ glue
    seams that are trickt too. So do it after you've gaind the experience on the
    dash..You may want to doo a practice corner. Because getting it to
    wrap...wil be a real lesson in the malibility of the leather.

    My Airbag was warped as I have seen on many. And I fixed it by carefully
    warming the plastic with atorch and then letting it cool while it was
    pressed or clamped in the right worked great, but remember this
    thing is a bomb, so keep the heat out around the edges where the warpage is.
    And don't put any leather where the factory didn't, because the gray plactic
    cover is frangable (ie intended to fractue at a stess line you'll see molded
    along one of it's riveted attachment edges). You want it to work like it's
    supposed too.

    Also, I got a local shop to emboss AIRBAG in a piece of leather for me for
    $25. They had a die that was close enough to factory, a I wanted the
    originality. They had to clamp it for a day or two to make it stay.

    Between R&R, and recovering, I probably put 25-30 hours in it + $250. But I
    took care of details along the way that the Pro's wouldn't have touched. On
    balance it came out as good, and even better than some I've seen, and I know
    a lot about the car that I would't have if I had paid. If your any good with
    your hands, I'd recommend that you give it a shot.

    Take some pic's and we can do a decent job for the chatters.

    You got your money's worth here, since I can't type to save my tennis elbow.
    So let me know how it goes, and send me a pic of your work.

    Best Regards,
  4. Smiles

    Smiles Moderator
    Moderator Owner

    Nov 20, 2003
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Full Name:
    Matt F
    Great post, Jeff.

    A huge number of Ferrari owners have the same problem. Thanks for posting a way of fixing it! Thanks also to Mike Kline.

  5. malibumk

    malibumk Karting

    May 14, 2002
    Malibu, CA
    Full Name:
    Mike Klein
    Thanks for thinking and re-posting my long winded work.
    Mike Klein

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