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How to Remove Car Interior Panels Without Doing Damage

Car door panel

Removing a car door or kick panel may be necessary to run wiring, repair power windows and locks, add soundproofing material or perform other maintenance tasks. Such panels are typically made of molded plastic and covered in leather or a similar material. Although car panels are quite durable, the connecting pieces can break if you don’t use the right tools. Here’s how to remove car interior panels without damaging them in the process.

Hand-Crank Window Removal

If you’re planning to remove an interior panel, the tools you’ll need will vary depending on the project.

For instance, an older vehicle might have hand-crank windows rather than the power windows common in today’s cars. If that’s the case, you’ll need a special tool to reach the ring inside the hand crank that holds it in place. Here’s how you do it:

  1. To begin, reach behind the crank with the tool, then remove the ring.
  2. Separate the crank from the panel.
  3. Use a Phillips-head screwdriver to remove the screws holding the panel in place. Always set the screws and protecting covers to the side where you can easily find them.
  4. Remove the remaining screws, except for the plastic ones, which you can pull out with a pair of pliers.
  5. Once every screw and cover is removed, hold the panel on both sides and yank it free. You can then begin your project.

Power Window Removaldashboard

If your vehicle has power windows, you won’t find the process much different. You don’t have to deal with a hand crank, but you’ll find the usual clips and screws in place. In this case, a pick may not do.

Instead, turn to plastic panel tools to get the job done. Such tools typically include a pull-type remover, a narrow-edge remover, a wide-edge remover, a handle remover and an upholstery clip remover. Use the appropriate remover to separate the door panel from the clips, then lift the panel up and out.

Dashboard Panel Removal

Removing a dashboard panel requires some extra steps that go beyond the kick and door panels.

  1. Before you do anything, disconnect the negative battery cable to avoid causing electrical damage when removing the dashboard.
  2. Like other interior panels, the dashboard is secured with screws and clips. Open the glove box, then unhook any clips or fasteners present. Put the glove box to the side.
  3. Locate all the screws on the lower panel of the dashboard and undo each one. The panel will separate, and you can put it aside.
  4. Disconnect the faceplate for the audio system using a screwdriver and the appropriate remover. The audio system will slide out of the dashboard.
  5. At this point, find the screws and latches on the top section of the dash and loosen them.
  6. Before you disconnect the dash entirely, ensure all wiring is detached and wrapped in electrical tape, then complete the process.

Tools of the Trade

One word of caution: Consult the proper repair manual when working with technical equipment. Knowing what’s behind an interior panel before you go in will help you to avoid creating any problems.

With the right set of tools — and a healthy dose of determination — it’s possible to learn how to remove car interior panels and pieces without damaging them in the process.

Check out all the tools and equipment available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on car interior panels, chat with an expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.


Matthew C. Keegan View All

Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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