I get a lot of 240sx owners asking me about the best way to reupholster the S13 door card insert. It’s easily the most common interior mod, basically only interior mod, that S13 owners attempt. The OEM door card consists of a vinyl wrapped card with some nasty light beige/gray tweed material in the non-removable insert. If you have never seen it, it’s bad! This tweed insert usually just gets ripped off by most owners and the standard vinyl behind it is good enough for some. However, a lot of owners like to attempt to reupholster the insert. Unfortunately there are several issues when attempting this. 1) The area is concave… so the material is under a high stress and wants to “lift” in the concave area over time, or even in a very short time in the heat. 2) Off the shelf spray adhesive that most people use isn’t going to cut it. Forget about using the 3M stuff. 3) The entire door card is covered in vinyl… which can tend to lift off the actual door card in the concave area. So even if you found a spray adhesive that worked, the actual OEM vinyl is lifting, which means your material that you glued to the vinyl is going to appear that it’s lifting. I have recovered my personal cards about 4 times now, trying different methods or spray adhesive each time…..
I have officially found the ultimate method on the S13 door cards. First thing is to get rid of the OEM vinyl covering in the insert area. This actually isn’t too bad… just may take a little time to get all the backing off. You can carefully run a razor blade in the groove around the insert area. You will cut through the vinyl and can then start to peel it out of the insert area. You will want to use some sort of flat tool to slide under the vinyl as you pull it off. The vinyl has a foam backing on it and the tool will help release it from the door card without the foam separating from the vinyl and sticking to the card. Kind of like pulling a nasty sticker off something… you want it to come off in one piece. You will no doubt have foam that sticks to the door card. You will need to scrape this off or whatever means you find to work. Make sure everything comes off the card. Now it’s basically the standard procedure of gluing on the material, however, you will want to use a contact adhesive sprayed out of an automotive spray paint gun. This is the only way to guarantee that your new material isn’t going to release over time. I recommend DAP Landau Top Contact Cement.
Below is the material removed from the center section. As you can see in this picture, there is still some foam backing still stuck to the door card. For the best results, this foam needs to be removed to the best of your ability:
Standard procedure for material application:
Things needed: A small 90 degree hook pick, 3M blue masking tape, contact adhesive and spray gun, razor blade and some newspaper/packing paper/plastic etc.(anything to cover up the door card where you don’t want glue)
1st: Use blue 3M masking tape to tape off the area to be glued.
-You need to tape to the outside vertical wall of the valley.
-I use a long piece of tape on the straights and a bunch of small pieces around the radius.
-I use a 90 degree hook pick to help push the tape onto the vertical wall.
-Then fold over the tape onto the door card.
-Next tape paper etc. onto the tape that is folded over to mask off the entire door card.
Here is an example of the insert taped off. Note: You will still need to tape off the rest of the door card with paper or similar.
2nd: Spray contact adhesive onto the area not taped off and onto the back of the material being used.
-Don’t worry about getting spray adhesive past where you need it on the material….actually it is recommended.
-You will let the adhesive set up per directions…. usually at least 5 minutes, but no longer than 60 minutes.
This is the gun I use:
Here is an example of the door card completely taped off and contact adhesive being sprayed on:
3rd: Next pull off all the paper and tape.
4th: Apply your material onto the card. Make sure it is big enough to cover each direction by several inches.
-NOTE: the glue will only stick to itself. So that’s why it doesn’t matter that you have extra glue on the material…. because it will not stick onto any of the plastic that
doesn’t have glue on it.
5th: Work the material onto the card making sure to stretch this way and that so you do not get any wrinkles etc.
-Use a lot of force to work the material onto the card…. ESPECIALLY in the corners.
-Keep applying pressure as you rub your fingers, thumb whatever back and forth over the material.
-even after step 8, I will still keep rubbing the material onto the card firmly…..ESPECIALLY in the corners.
-even after I wake up the next morning, I will go over it again applying pressure.
-most glues don’t fully cure for 24 hours at 75 degrees.
-The material should extend at least a few inches past the valley.
6th: Use the hook pic to push the material all the way down into the valley.
-Obviously make sure not to catch the end of the pick on the material. I use it at an angle so the end is sticking out of the valley.
-You can usually just pull or push the pic through the valley and it will pull the material down in.
-So you will obviously have extra material sticking out of the valley now.
7th: Take a raw razor blade used in utility knives and carefully run it around down inside the valley.
-This will make a perfect cut down inside there and the extra material will come right off.
-I like to wrap the same blue masking tape around the razor blade except for the last 1/4″ of the tip.
-that way the rest of the blade has no chance of catching on the material on the walls of the valley.
This is with the material laid down and pushed down in the valley. You will notice the extra material extending past the valley as previously discussed. You will also notice the razor blade wrapped in masking tape as described above:
8th: Unless the material you are using is very thick/plush, you will have a gap in the valley between the original OEM vinyl and the new material.
-You can buy pre-made upholstery piping at your local upholstery/crafts store in the color of your choice. You will most likely need mini piping…. something like this: http://shop.hobbylobby.com/products/116/117-303-maxi-piping-447920/
-This should simply pressure fit down in the groove and stay there without any other help(glue). I did have to trim the backside of the piping though. There was simply too much material on the backside. You will cut most of the excess material off the backside down the length of it… essentially only leaving the piping. You just need to make sure you keep the stitched seam intact.
NOTE: If you decided to NOT remove the OEM vinyl, then you most likely will not need the piping as a filler.
A couple of pics of the finished work and some up close of the upholstery piping: