Automotive interior repair is a skill of a combination of art and magic, yes I said magic…What I really mean is it’s a skill to be able to trick the eye from not seeing an interior repair that has been made, that is the magic.
One little trick that we keep in our bag of pixie dust, is the art of texturizing a repair.
If you look in your automotive interior you see many different textures on the surfaces of the plastic trim pieces, vinyl covered door panels, and your leather and vinyl seats. All of these textures you see we have to imitate in someway to repair whatever has been damaged.
Texturizing a repair takes knowledge of products to use, skill in using them, and a lot of patience. Yes patience, when doing any automotive interior repair, patience is a virtue, if you get in a hurry you will fail, I promise.
The Grain Pad– This is one tool that makes our magic work so well. A grain pad is a rubberized material made from a two part epoxy like substance. The grain is achieved by mixing the two parts together and spreading the mixer over a piece that your wanting to get the texture from. When the mixture cures you peel off the grain pad and poof theres your texture right there in the grain pad. You then use this pad to replicate the texture in your repair. For you techs, when mixing up a batch of graining compound follow the directions as far as drops go for the catalyst, to many drops and you have a mess, and not enough well it won’t cure. Tape off an area that your wanting to replicate the texture of, about 3″ x 5″, spread the compound over the area then peel off your tape immediately, this will give you a nice rectangular pad to work with. Let cure for about 15-20 minutes, you’ll know when its cured by the feel on top, nice and smooth. If you did it right you should have a nice grain pad that will last for years to come. Making a good impression in your graining pad is the key to a good automotive interior repair. A good grain pad should have a good even texture on one side and smooth on the other, if there are any lumps, uneven places, or a bad impression in the pad these places will transfer into the repair.
Texturizing plastic– Plastic is one automotive interior part that I have the most trouble with, theres only so much you can do to some of the plastic pieces. Scratches in plastic are about the extent of a repair that I will do on an automotive interior plastic, and the scratches can’t be too deep either, or I’ll usually recommend they replace the piece. Scratches in plastic can sometimes be melted and textured with your grain pad. This technique takes finesse though. Heat the scratched plastic with your heat gun with a tip that concentrates the heat to a small area. Melt the scratch until the plastic shines (but do this slowly) then press your grain pad to the plastic very lightly by using your palm, never use your thumb or finger, this will keep a level repair without your thumb impression in the repair area. Repeat the process if needed until the scratch blends back in. Then dye the plastic to bring back the original look. If you can still see where the repair was made you may have to heat the whole panel until it shines….sometimes melting spots leaves shinny spots, so by heating the whole panel and blending the shine with the heat gun helps. If the scratches are too bad you can use Sems Texture Coat or your water based spray grain to help hide. But when sprays are used, you will lose the original look, I’m not big on spray grain, but it does work as a last result. Sometimes on say, Pontiac dashes, the spray grain almost matches exactly. In fact I have even taken my grain pad and pressed it into the Sems Texture coat after it flashes and been able to get pretty close. Really this one is up to you, like I said before it’s all in the magic to trick the eye. Experiment around a little if you can, and see which technique works the best. I look at it this way, you can’t screw it up anymore then it already is. Plastic repair is a tricky one, this is one area that I myself could probably learn a little more about.
Texturizing a leather repair– Leather repair is one that doesn’t take much texturing at all. Most leather repairs I do the only texture I will use is my leather dye. Leathers in today’s automotive interiors are for the most part smooth. The key is to get the repair area level with the surface. This is your best hiding technique. But if a texture is needed, use your water-based spray grain. Don’t go hog wild with it either, just a light coat will usually work. I like to apply mine the old fashion way with the spray grain in a small jar and sprayed with a mouth atomizer. I have more control where it goes that way. I have used a low heat compound also when mending holes or with large scratches, using my grain pad to achieve the texture. Be careful though when using heat on a leather repair, don’t pucker the leather by putting to much heat to it. Here’s an article on repairing torn leather, this gives you a good idea on using a low heat compound in a leather repair.
Texturizing vinyl– Or graining vinyl as we call it. This is where your little magic tool comes in, your graining pad. This is achieved by melting the vinyl then pressing the grain pad onto the repair area to achieve an imitation of the grain that was there. This technique can either make or break you in the vinyl repair business. To get maximum results, first you need a good grain pad that has the exact match to the grain your trying to achieve. Before you apply any compound keep in mind the smaller the repair area the easier it will be to hide. If your cut is say a 1/2″ then your repair should not be any larger then 1″, keep your repair areas as small as possible. Not all vinyls will require a vinyl repair compound though so identifying, what kind of vinyl to use it on, comes with experience. This technique takes a lot of practice and patience, in one of my previous articles I give you a step by step on vinyl repair.
Texturizing your repairs is a very tricky thing to achieve. With some practice and knowledge of products, the texture can be imitated. There are so many products out there that can be used to get where you want, I have mentioned a few here that have worked for me, but I’m sure there are more. If any of you techs have a suggestion feel free to put a comment up.
Just remember to take your time with your repairs, get your color right, keep your repair area as small as possible, and use the right grain pad for your automotive interior repairs and you should have success in texturing a repair.