A car's interior door panel takes a great deal of abuse over a vehicle's lifetime. Replacement door panels can be expensive and, if the car is an older model, difficult to find. Many car enthusiasts build their own door panels, using ABS. ABS is a high strength plastic used in the majority of plastic car parts. It is easily machined and can be painted with little effort. Use a few simple shop tools and plastic fabrication techniques to create custom door panels at a fraction of the cost of manufactured panels.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
Things you need
- ABS sheets
- Drill bits
- Double-sided masking tape
- Painter's masking tape
- 220 grit sandpaper
Measure the area to be fitted with the new door panel and create a template. The template is a cardboard pattern that the ABS door panel will be cut from. The template will contain holes for window and door buttons or knobs, arm rests and any other part that goes through or projects from the panel. Carefully measure and mark any holes on the template. Test fit the template once it is completed.
Apply the template to the ABS with double-sided masking tape. The ABS should be 3/16 of an inch thick. ABS is normally textured on one side, so it is important to lay the template on the correct side if the textured surface is desired. Use a jigsaw to cut the template, following the template's outline carefully with the jigsaw's blade.
Sand the cut edges of the ABS by hand rather than using an electric sander. Use a 220 grit sandpaper to eliminate the rough blade marks left over from the jigsaw. Wipe down the sanded edges with a clean rag.
Drill any necessary holes or openings. Unlike acrylic, ABS will not crack when cut with conventional shop tools. Holes larger than 4 inches can be cut with a jigsaw. To cut large holes, drill a pilot hole large enough for the jigsaw blade to fit into. Then carefully cut along the line drawn to mark the hole. Sand the insides of the hole until smooth.
Fit the new panel on the car door. Do not take the cardboard template off, in case further adjustments or additional holes need to be made. Once the final fit has been made, remove the template from the ABS door panel and wipe it down with a rag.
Attach the panel to the door. The simplest way to mount the panel is by using epoxy glue designed for both wood and plastic. Run a thin bead along the backside of the panel. Hold the panel in place with painter's masking tape. After the glue has dried, replace any hardware and the project is complete.
Tips and warnings
- ABS and acrylic machining techniques are nearly identical. Acrylic can also be used for door panels. Acrylic comes in a number of colours and textures. However, acrylic requires cutting blades and drill bits specifically designed for plastic fabrication. Consult a plastic retailer for the proper cutting blades and drill bits.
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