Repair Dashboards by Thermo Vacuum Forming

Published by Naseem Muaddi on October 22nd, 2012

Most auto upholstery shops repair vehicle dashboards by either installing a replacement dash pad or covering the old one in new foam and vinyl. However, there is a third option that’s all too often overlooked – sending out your customer’s dashboard for thermo vacuum forming.

The quick and inexpensive fix is to order a replacement dash pad from an aftermarket supplier, like Coverlay. While these covers are designed to install right over your customer’s old dashboard, they’re not available for every model vehicle. And, like most aftermarket parts, they can lack OEM fit and finish.

For better results, I hand-wrap damaged dashboards in new foam and vinyl. The process can be more time consuming and expensive, but ends up looking much better. Of course, this method also has its drawbacks. Even with recent advancements in vinyl-stretch capabilities that allow for four-way and even six-way stretch, not every dashboard can be covered by stretching alone. In some cases, unwanted seams are necessary to get the vinyl to fit properly over complex curves and edges.

For the best results – especially when working with complex dashboards – use thermo vacuum forming. Through this process, a machine bonds heated vinyl evenly over the entire surface of a dashboard by sucking out all of the air between the two pieces. Auto upholstery shops that aren’t equipped to provide this service, can send out for it.

Just Dashes in Van Nuys, California specializes in thermo vacuum forming. Mail them your most damaged dashboard and they’ll return it to exact factory specifications. They even restore consoles, armrests and other trim parts.

Check out this quick five-minute video to see exactly how they do it:



6 Responses

  1. darrel says:

    This looks like an awesome suggestion!! I see a couple drawbacks…. Although you can get the factory grain and any color you desire they dont supply custom grains such as alligator ostrich or any custom grain for that matter….
    Also the dash they used in the video is a common dash in a 78′-88′ chevy monte carlo, malibu, el camino… the price for that is $1,350.00 plus shipping. Honestly if I’m goin to pay a price like that i need more options than “factory finish”. I’d rather find a factory dash in good condition an dye it myself.

    • Custom grains would be nice but to be honest I don’t think there would be enough demand for them to justify offering the service.

      In some cases it would be more cost effective to install a dash but this service is great for less popular models that are hard to finds parts for.

  2. Wow, imagine if every shop had one of these! Darrel is right, it is pricey. But for some dashes it might be the only way to go to get that factory finish.

  3. Ayman says:

    you are using vinyl, does it give the same leather look and releability

  4. Ray rosen says:

    I have a 2008 jaguar xk8 convertable. The dash is in great shape but is shrinking from the window and of of a small dome shape above insterment panel. I would love to have it repaired a new skin put on if you can do it and a cost factor would be great and also time frame. As i mentioned it is in great shape no tears or dicoloring. I can send pic if desired. I am looking forward to your responds thanks ray

  5. al scrivani says:

    I have a 1976 chevy monte carlo it looks like the pad is part of the whole dash can you do this dash.


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