One thing that is a weird feeling to have as an installer and modifier of cars is relief in knowing that the car I am about to work on is stock. Like, no one has touched it before apart from the mechanics under the hood. Because you know that it hasn’t been messed with, there’s nothing broken. Which is kind of sad when you think about it. I mean why is my automatic reaction to seeing a mod like “I wonder what was broken to get that in”? Or having a look to see how dodgy the wiring is or something. And usually it isn’t actually that great either which just kind of cements this whole sentiment. But the worst thing, the worst thing is seeing marks and scratches or panels that got broken after getting pried off wrong. Because that mark is there for life. It’s not like wiring that you can clean up pretty easily, throw some split loom over and there you go. If you get a scratch on your facia or around your gear shift that is it.
The thing is though is that it’s really easy to prevent that kind of thing from happening and in this article I’ll go through it all with you. I’ll be fitting a bunch of stuff to the Mazda soon and I’ll obviously be documenting the whole thing for you but until then I’ve set out a process for you guys that will help you to avoid things that will mark your interior. This is the process we go through almost every time a car comes in for work to be done. It’s been developed from years of working on cars and through watching other technicians carry out work themselves. No matter the car or equipment if it’s followed religiously, it saves sooo many headaches both while you’re working and during testing and troubleshooting. So here it is our Interior Protection Detail 101.
1. Before you start work: Check the car over.
This includes checking over panels and surfaces checking lights, making sure there’s no engine lights up on the dash at all and just generally get to know the car that you are about to tear apart. If there’s any aftermarket equipment just double check that’s all working then make notes on the car about anything that’s not quite right. This will bring up any issues that either you might not know about or that you might be able to have a look at while you’re there.
2. Protect any high traffic areas.
This includes places where panels can be marked by hands, tools, equipment or even other panels as they are removed. Seat covers, carpet, guard protectors and masking tape all come into play to prevent possible damage to your car and it helps to cut down on cleaning up after yourself with things like finger marks etc.
3. Start removing anything that’s going to be in the way while you’re working.
And I don’t mean just pull the panel back a bit so you can throw a wire behind there. Actually take the panel or the seat or whatever out of the car. The car was put together piece by piece so just figure it out. Once it’s apart you have the car naked as shit just waiting to be modded. You don’t have to mess around and waste time working around a panel pulling it back and trying to work with one hand etc. It’s all open to you. Id rather take 5 mins taking a panel out then spend an 5 extra mins cursing and getting frustrated by something in my way later on. So take everything out that’s in the way. and place it to the side it a way that will make it easy for you to remember when you go to put it all back together.
4. Visualise your plan of attack.
Make sure you have everything you need, you know where you’re parts are being mounted and know where wires and cables need to be going before you start. This is so important. Obviously it saves time but because you aren’t having to go over the same spot twice or three times it lessens the amount of time spent in one area AND any frustration from doing the same thing over.
5. When you’re installing: Find ways to minimise the time spent actually in the car.
This might seem a little counter-intuitive seen as you’re supposed to be installing in the car but hear me out. I’ve found that if did as much set up as I could outside the car I was able to complete the job quicker and easier because I didn’t have to jump in ad out of the car so often and I wasn’t distracted or confused as to what I was doing. By now you might have an idea as to the kind of person I am. That’s right I am seriously disorganised, chaotic, forgetful all the things that make for a shitty service tech. But if I follow this process I can fake that I’m actually not shit at my job.
6. Be careful, but I mean that’s just a given.
7. When you’re done installing: Test all the connections and functions.
It’s best do do this before you put the car back together because if there is an issue you don’t want to be pulling it back apart again! I know it’s so tempting to start clipping bolting or screwing it back together but just hold of for a few minutes to make sure it does what it’s supposed to do first.
8. Put it all back together the way it came apart.
This is made so much easier since following the third step. Just make sure all the mounting hardware like screws and bolts are put back in before putting the next panel over top. Also check to make sure your panels are lining up flush around where you installed the aftermarket stuff. If it isn’t then find out why! Then change it or fix it so it all goes back together all good.
9. Check it all over again.
Just go over everything again to make sure nothing is out of place and back together properly. Go over your work area, clean up your tools and stuff and have a sweep up. In doing this you just make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.
10. Wipe down
Finally remove any remaining tape or protective coverings and give your car a wipe down with some cleaner and a micro-fibre to get rid of any finger marks or smudges.
You’re done! Congratulations you did it! And your car is even better than it was when you started. I’ll get some pictures up at some point I promise!