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Thread: DIY: E36 Door Card Restoration w/ PICS -- not perfect but I happy

  1. #1
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    DIY: E36 Door Card Restoration w/ PICS -- not perfect but I am happy

    What's up everyone.

    I restored my door cards a while back. I thought I'd share my experience in case anyone else is going to tackle this project. My understanding is that heat is what causes the adhesives to fail. My car grew up in Houston, and then moved to South Carolina. I also understand later models fare better than earlier ones, so maybe BMW was improving its manufacturing process. Mileage doesn't seem to matter at all. Some of these garage queens are equally f'd.

    Please share your experience below



    Notes, in no particular order:


    GLUE

    • I used polyurethane glue, which is good for bonding dissimilar materials
    • Poly adhesive sealnant also remains flexible, unlike epoxy and gorilla glue
    • I flaked off both epoxy and gorilla glue from the panels due to failed previous repairs (attaching the black plastic strips to the fiber panel)
    • I think I used 3M 550 Fast Cure, but they make so many products I can't remember at this point
    • 3M 550 is not available at Home Depot as it is a commercial grade product, however Sikaflex is a polyurethane sealant that is more commonly available ... not advertised as adhesive like the 3M 550 is though ... read the product sheets and make your own determination
    • I think I bought 3 tubes and ran out, had to supplement with construction adhesive from ACE. Recommend buying 4 or 5 tubes (standard caulk gun size).
    • I drilled holes in the plastic strips to allow the glue to squeeze through and create a mechanical bond
    • I used a wire brush on a drill to prep the glue surfaces
    • I used a lot of small binder clips to clamp the vinyl at the edges
    • FWIW I purchased vinyl cement (which melts the vinyl and joins it chemically) but with some experimentation it was clear the risk of dripping some where I didn't want it was way too high, since the damage would have been permanent. This was my original plan for re-attaching the inset panel to the large panel.



    SCREW

    • I used screws in some places where clamping was difficult and the risk of glue squeeze through on the front was too high
    • For example where the inset panel attaches to the larger panel, I didn't want to get glue too close to the edge
    • I valued the functional integrity over the non-oem look; not for everyone, but I think it's cool if the car develops a patina and retains original parts
    • I carefully color matched screws to assist with various clamping tasks
    • I used DTM (direct to metal) oil paint
    • I filled the holes of the screws first with bondo, sanded
    • If you prep perfectly and do not shake the paint (air bubbles) they can turn out beauitfully
    • If you prep hastily, they flaws will translate through as the paint dries
    • I had to do the painting a number of times to get it right
    • I carefully applied paint with a toothpick, the surface tension will create a beatiful dome
    • Make 5x more screws than you think you will need, some will have blemishes, you will use them elsewhere
    • Thick oil paint can take weeks to dry, even months, depending on climate, you want hot/dry ... can find creative ways to accelerate



    FABRIC

    • I cut away the original vinyl in the map pockets
    • I tried to find a 4 way stretch vinyl fabric and vacuum press the fabric into the concave map pockets
    • I could not find a perfect match, and it wasn't nearly as stretchy as the oem stuff -- if someone has a source please share for others
    • I tried to vacuum press the fabric into the complex curved pocket, but failed
    • I was using fast cure epoxy -- has to be a chemical cure inside the plastic bag
    • Vacuum probably failed because the vinyl did not have enough stretch -- ?
    • Risk of glue getting on finish surfaces is high (contaminating inside of bag)
    • In the end, I filled the corners with a lot of poly glue (it's thick like caulk) and let the fabric form a simple curve (double curved-requires stretch -- think sphere vs cylinder)
    • I let this cure without the vacuum press, which was not working
    • The poly glue filled the void between the old curvature of the fiber and the new curvature of the fabric, so it is not loose
    • The results were not perfect, still had some lumps



    SEW

    • I drilled holes along the edge of the map pocket where the old fabric joins the new fabric
    • Initially I used wire staples, twisted behind, but these looked bad
    • I removed those and used heavy thread, and this looked better
    • The color match was not perfect so I followed by painting the thread with the paint I used on the screw heads



    PANEL FASTENERS

    • I tried to use cheaper plastic aftermarket door panel clips -- these were a huge hassle, broke, were too tight, made it hard to re-attach door panel (you will see it is difficult to apply pressure)
    • Just get the OEM BMW clips, some later models have a foam gasket which might help with noise ... it was so long ago I don't have part # sorry!
    • It is important to line up the top strip by the window glass perfectly.
    • If yours are broken someone makes aluminum replacements.
    • You will find that there is no exact guide for the placement of this strip on the inside of the door card.
    • (The side strips and the map pockets will lock into place)
    • If the upper strip has not completely detached before you begin, mark the placement before you remove it
    • Due to the difficulty of alignment I used screws and double sided foam tape to attach the upper strip, in case I got it wrong I could change it
    • Poly glue would not have been reversible
    • I wathed a video of someone installing those aluminum ones and he got the placement wrong, didnt' seem bothered, but it wasn't up to my standards



    MISC.

    • Overall this project took maybe 80 man hours, but a lot of that was trial and error.
    • Expect to spend at least 40h if you want to do an acceptable job
    • Do not attempt unless you are creative and good with adhesives, paint, etc., i.e. CRAFTY.
    • It's simply not worth the time, unless of course you cannot source new panels
    • New panels are available for black and gray cars, but maybe not for airbag models, coupe/sedan, L/R
    • If you can still get panels, even for $600 ea, it's probably worth it! bite the bullet.
    • Others have done much better jobs than me, but they probably took months doing it, finding the perfect fabric, doing full leather, etc.
    • I'm happy with my results, it was a labor of love, a rite of passage
    • I need to do the rear ones which are just wedged in place, and continue the screw detail on top for continuity



    THINGS I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY:


    • Vinyl -- find stretchier material. I probably should have experimented with removing the backing cloth.
    • Explore contact cement. I learned later that this is how you properly upholster curved surfaces.
    • This would have made the map pocket repair much faster and look way better.
    • (Nonetheless, I do like that there is no tension in my repair, since the fabric is not stretched. Those concave surfaces are just such a terrible idea.)
    • Drill twice as many holes and do a vertical whip stitch instead of the X pattern.




    PANEL PREP & CLAMPING: you can see the delaminate pockets in the first image -- come completely loose. note also the dark gray material behind the inset panel which will later be removed. That had started to delaminate as well. Carefully cleaning old adhesive with wire brush. Note gorilla tape used to clamp difficult corners, test first on non-visible section, but the tape did not leave any residue. Note wood clamp to distribute clip pressure.

    img-8970_orig.jpg img-8971.jpg img-8972.jpg img-8973.jpg img-8984.jpg
    Last edited by 35nhma; 03-11-2023 at 04:23 AM.

    [ US spec 10/1995 e36 m3 ]

  2. #2
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    DIY VACUUM PRESS ATTEMPT. New vinyl fabric has been layed into the map pocket. The old vinyl fabric has been carefully trimmed and overlaps the older fabric slightly below the top of the pocket, to keep the seam in the shadow. I am pointing to location of difficulty in picture 3, where I was not able to press the new fabric into the complex curvature of the fiber coor card. I did achieve considerable pressure though, so that worked. I created a bag with 6mil poly sheeting and gorilla tape. After 2 hours the vacuum overheated but luckily had an internal failsafe. Epoxy was not holding fabric after 2hrs of pressing.

    Note holes drilled through plastic edge strip (where panel clips mount) to provide mechanical advantage, increased surface area, polyurethane glue squeezed through and deliberately left in place. Polyurethane glue recommended because it is flexible and bonds dissimilar materials, detals discussed above. Note the material removed from behind inset panel, so inset will adhere directy to fiber door card. Note also the small areas removed around the edge of the inset panel for the same reason. Tape used to protect squeeze out, clamping difficult at this edge, used screws. Careful with squeeze-out, watch the delayed drip from the caulk gun, etc. Poly glue is f***ing sticky!

    img-8988_orig.jpg img-8989.jpg img-8991.jpg img-9037.jpg img-9034.jpg
    Last edited by 35nhma; 03-11-2023 at 12:56 AM.

  3. #3
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    RESULTS: Look decent from far away. I'm happy with them, especially knowing how much work it was. Rite of passage, like I said before, these e36 door cards.


    img-0169.jpg img-0172.jpg img-0181.jpg img-0180.jpg
    Last edited by 35nhma; 03-11-2023 at 12:12 AM.

  4. #4
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    SEWING / FABRIC DETAILS

    Get worse the closer you look ... but IRL if you keep the stitching in the shadow (facing toward the ground) you will rarely see it. Note the use of screws to fasten map pockets. The replacement fabric is on the upper part of the map pocket. Trim the original fabric carefully. Try a line about 1/2" away from your target line first to practice. corners are hard. I used the X stitch pattern to try to capture as much of the original fabric and squeeze it down tight; closer spaced holes might look even better. I exprimented with a number of different stich patterns and this gave me the best results. I ran out of good looking screws and so this was an early un-bondo'd example where the allen head is still visible (last image). Note also that it doesn't matter if your new fabric is not totally pressed agaisnt the fiber board of the panel, the simple curve (in one direction) that the fabric takes looks totally fine. The lumpiness is not ideal, though. You really need to find some stretchy fabric (4 way) like the OEM stuff if you want to improve upon my solution. The stuff I found essentially had no stretch and that explains the issue you see on close inspection.

    img-0170.jpg img-0175.jpg img-0171.jpg img-0176.jpg img-0179.jpg
    Last edited by 35nhma; 03-11-2023 at 12:37 AM.

  5. #5
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    SCREW DETAILS

    I think these are M3 screws (!). I used 12mm, 16mm and 20mm. There is enough friction to secure them with your thumb and then thread a nut on the back without them spinning. They have an oil film on them from the factory, so clean first, then bondo, then sand patiently, then apply paint, and wait forever to dry. I used DTM (direct to metal) oil paint. Carefully paint matched at the store with sample fabric, had to slightly lighten a few stock colors from a paint chip. Recommend going to a proper paint store (not home depot). DO NOT SHAKE YOUR PAINT. Let it settle after initial agitation, and then stir, otherwise entrained air will make its way to the surface slowly and ruin the finish. Make a lot of these! Some will have blemishes even after you perfect the technique. I accomplished these by slowly building up an even amount with a toothpick (while wet -- the surface tension creates the shape). This was perhaps the most satisfying part of the whole repair, because some of these really did come out perfect.


    img-0128.jpg img-0129.jpg img-0130.jpg 64160658103-3c70afbd-20b5-423b-8a4d-c73041163add.jpg img-0173.jpg
    Last edited by 35nhma; 03-11-2023 at 01:24 AM.

  6. #6
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    Looks like we went down a lot of the same road in trial and error. I ended up redoing the entire door panels with new vinyl, but I have yet to finish the inserts and put them in the car.

    https://www.bimmerforums.com/forum/s...6#post30496996
    Past: '99 Hellrot/Dove M3 | '97 S14 1JZ | '06 Triumph Daytona 675 | '01 330I M-Tech I | '99 Silvia S15 | Current: '96 Estoril/Black M3

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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrftKingIII View Post
    Looks like we went down a lot of the same road in trial and error. I ended up redoing the entire door panels with new vinyl, but I have yet to finish the inserts and put them in the car.

    https://www.bimmerforums.com/forum/s...6#post30496996

    I think I saw another write up on these when I was doing my research! I remember your incredible shop space. And like an F40 in the background? The panels look really good and I'm super impressed. Yours must have taken months though -- no criticism, just wow.

    [ US spec 10/1995 e36 m3 ]

  8. #8
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    looks pretty good! door panels are my biggest interior grip on E36
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  9. #9
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    Looks amazing, good work. The door panels take a beating after 25 years, such a light color.. nice to see these so fresh, I am impressed.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by 35nhma View Post
    I think I saw another write up on these when I was doing my research! I remember your incredible shop space. And like an F40 in the background? The panels look really good and I'm super impressed. Yours must have taken months though -- no criticism, just wow.
    DrftKingIII,

    Was that F40 in Austin for Radwood this past weekend? I had never seen a F40 in person, and Radwood had TWO of them!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by RBNetEngr View Post
    DrftKingIII,

    Was that F40 in Austin for Radwood this past weekend? I had never seen a F40 in person, and Radwood had TWO of them!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Radwood Austin was pretty bitchin' this year. The F40 and Countach right at the entrance was an awesome sight.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by RBNetEngr View Post
    DrftKingIII,

    Was that F40 in Austin for Radwood this past weekend? I had never seen a F40 in person, and Radwood had TWO of them!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    I don't remember which one specifically was in my post that you're referring to, but there are at least half a dozen F40's in Houston alone, plenty more in Dallas and Austin as well.
    Past: '99 Hellrot/Dove M3 | '97 S14 1JZ | '06 Triumph Daytona 675 | '01 330I M-Tech I | '99 Silvia S15 | Current: '96 Estoril/Black M3

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  13. #13
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    This topic recently came up in a discussion with @35nhma and he recommended I post...

    FWIW, I used the upholster discussed in the link below, BUT that shop (Allsher Interiors) is no longer operating, at least under that name. If you can find these guys, I can vouch that they did an amazing job. I was a bit particular and it took a lot of time, but it was worth it, see my door panels below (2012). Sadly, and with regret, I no longer own that E36M3.

    https://www.bimmerforums.com/forum/s...-Refurbishment

    DSC_0019-resized.jpg

    DSC_0022-resized.jpg

    DSC_0032-resized.jpg
    Last edited by argento; 02-11-2024 at 11:18 AM.

  14. #14
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    That turned out great! Im making custom door panels for my sedan, but Ill redo my stock ones as backups if I ever get bored or wanna buy another sedan. You have a great writeup!

  15. #15
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    Turned out great! I just reglued my 2002 BMW 530i sport door panel with Loctite PL 8x Premium Fast Grab (at Lowe"s for $10.95) for the black door panel clip holders, the door pockets & the separation of the black top soft vinyl from the door fiberboard.
    Last edited by rayztoy; 03-11-2024 at 08:08 PM.

  16. #16
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    Your work looks amazing, for the first time it's quite

  17. #17
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    in case anyone is wondering, in all the e36 door cards I have seen, the ones from lux package cars hold up better. I mean yes the mounts behind them still break but the leather inserts and even the vinyl surround has the least amount of delamination (In the 3 sets I have come across including my own).

  18. #18
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    just picked up some panels..... wow to the work here....

    1) is it normal for the white clips to wobble in the black housings on the back side?

    2)is there a technique to remove the white clips on the back side?

  19. #19
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    Yes they wobble a bit. Grab the clip, tilt to one side with a slim flathead screwdriver under the ear of the clip while rotating the clip out.
    Last edited by rayztoy; 04-16-2024 at 12:41 PM.

  20. #20
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    Rayz

    Thanx

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrkoupe View Post
    just picked up some panels..... wow to the work here....

    1) is it normal for the white clips to wobble in the black housings on the back side?

    2)is there a technique to remove the white clips on the back side?
    They are supposed to wobble, yes.

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