Restore/Repair Cracked Dash Pad, Door Panel or Arm Rest

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Back in 1986 I took over a vehicle interior restoration distributorship mainly working with used car dealers. Over the years I have found different  ways to take care of Dash Pads, Arm Rests and Door Panels. Keep in mind I was and still am in a Vinyl Repair/Interior Restoration Business. One of the reasons why I was kicked out of my distributorship is because I refused the sacrifice quality. Don't forget to click " Was this guide helpful?" if it was.

1. RECOVERING WITH VINYL Many upholstery shops are able to recover simple dash pads. The down side is sometimes they have to use seams in order to go around curves or angles. To hide the cracks from showing through a layer of foam must be glued on first before gluing the vinyl on. This may cause the item to look bulky. Also if the wrong vinyl is used, a fog from the vinyl can evaporate and coat the inside of the windshield. Don't give up on your local upholstery shop. Depending on the item, sometimes they can recover the item without the fog, bulkiness or seams but this is generally rare.

2. VACCUFORMING WITH VINYL The most expensive and longest wait. The main brand is Just Dashes, I believe there is another. The work I have seen is great,so close to original you could almost swear they made the item originally. If you don't mind spending $500-$1500 for a dash pad restoration & waiting up to 12 weeks for a close as possible looking to original this is the option for you.

3. VINYL REPAIR The lowest cost and shortest lasting option available. First we have to look at why the dash pad or door panel cracked. Expansion cracks happen because the dash pad expands with heat and you end up with a split because the dash vinyl has dried out over the years & will not stretch any more. These are the typical cracks you see in the direction of the front to rear of the car or truck. There are two methods.. A flexible or hard repair. The better of the two is the hard because that is one that looks the best. Negative is that if the dash or arm rest expands heat you will have another crack. The flexible one either get a valley when cools or pops a vein when warm. This method ONLY should be done if you a selling a car and just want a cheap quick fix.

4 AFTER MARKET REPLACEMENT Costs more than recovering with vinyl & repairs but less than Vaccuforming with vinyl. One big plus is there is no wait, you just buy it & install. The urathane ones will outlast anything maybe even you, for sure your vehicle.  Mold lines that are viewed from the windshield in are common.  Big negative because most are made with "molding urathane", it is very hard to color. Most paints especially solvent bases will not stick. There has been many complaints of dash pads not fitting. The urathane arm rests have not had the same fit problems just the coloring. Don't rule it out some do fit and you can get some in the right color.

5. DASH PAD CAPS/OVERLAYS-ARM REST CAPS/OVERLAYS DOOR PANEL CAPS/OVERLAYS  The above is a example of a Dodge Ram. These are everywhere. This dash replaced at the dealer costs them at least $900 for parts & labor BEFORE they add the markup to the customer. Costs less than vaccuforming, after market replacement or recovering with vinyl.  Basically a molded shell that installed over the existing part to make a old one look new again. It has a little flex but firm enough to hold its shape. Big plus is you can color this with anything. House paint will even stick. The key to make it look right is the color. Comes only in Hair Cell Or Leather look grain pattern.  There are three manufactures. Two have lifetime warranty's the other one does not. One refuses to do the proper grain, the other no problem. It's best to deal with someone who buys in bulk from all three & chooses the best based on fit.proper grain pattern, price & warranty


After you made your car or truck interior look good, lets keep it that way. Invest into a reflective sun shield for your windshield. Keep the sun off, don't bake it in with a carpet mat. If you think that a carpet mat helps think again. Do this experiment but keep emergency help close by. Wrap yourself in carpet mat then sun bathe. How long before you pass out? That is the effect carpet mats do to dash pads.

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