Mercedes-Benz SLK: Painting Interior Plastics

Published by Naseem Muaddi on August 7th, 2014

Auto Upholstery - The Hog Ring - Mercedes-Benz Interior Paint

I recently purchased a 1999 Mercedes-Benz SLK 230 and discovered a major interior defect that owners have been struggling with since the vehicle debuted in 1996. Evidently, Mercedes-Benz used a low-quality paint on the cabin’s interior plastics that scratches easily, leaving SLK owners with an ugly interior unbefitting of a luxury car.

Without a doubt, it wasn’t something that I was going to tolerate in my car.

Auto Upholstery - The Hog Ring - Mercedes-Benz SLK Interior Paint

Although touch-up paints are available for a quick fix, they only mask the blemishes without preventing new ones from occurring. To solve the problem correctly and permanently, I needed to disassemble the interior and repaint all the affected panels.

The door panels, glove box, center console, instrument cluster bezel, and all remaining dash pieces had to be separated from all electrical and other accessories mounted to them and pulled from the car.

Auto Upholstery - The Hog Ring - Mercedes-Benz SLK Interior Paint

In most cases, you really don’t need to do much more than sand and clean a plastic panel to prepare it for paint. However, the paint Mercedes-Benz used wasn’t like anything I’ve seen before. It was sticky, hard to clean and scratched at the slightest touch. To avoid further problems down the line, I decided that the best course of action was to completely strip the plastics of the factory paint.

Auto Upholstery - The Hog Ring - Mercedes-Benz SLK Interior Paint

Knowing that harsh chemicals in paint-strippers could damage the plastics, I decided to soak them in water to remove the old paint. This method worked like a charm. After 24 hours of soaking, the paint practically peeled off on its own.  Any paint left on the plastic was scrubbed off with a rag or blown off with an air gun.

Auto Upholstery - The Hog Ring - Mercedes-Benz SLK Interior Paint

Auto Upholstery - The Hog Ring - Mercedes-Benz SLK Interior Paint

Auto Upholstery - The Hog Ring - Mercedes-Benz SLK Interior Paint

After the pieces were completely stripped of their original paint and allowed to dry, I began to prep them for paint. All parts were sanded with a 3M scuff pad, cleaned and degreased. I covered parts in tape that weren’t to be painted.

Auto Upholstery - The Hog Ring - Mercedes-Benz SLK Interior Paint

Auto Upholstery - The Hog Ring - Mercedes-Benz SLK Interior Paint

Auto Upholstery - The Hog Ring - Mercedes-Benz SLK Interior Paint

For paint, I turned to SEM — which has a large selection of OEM colors, including some for Mercedes-Benz models. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the exact shade of gray I needed for my SLK, but I found a near-perfect match in their BMW Silver Gray color.

Auto Upholstery - The Hog Ring - Mercedes-Benz SLK Interior Paint

I first sprayed all the pieces with SEM adhesion promoter and then applied the silver gray paint. It took numerous coats to cover the black plastic in such a light shade of gray. In the end, the job took one can of promoter and three cans of gray paint before I laid down the clear coat.

I choose to use SEM’s Low Luster Clear Coat because I didn’t want the panels to be too glossy. The clear coat really set off the pieces with just a subtle amount of gloss that looked completely OEM. The added protection from scratches that the clear coat provides is crucial, as I’d hate to have to do the job again.

Auto Upholstery - The Hog Ring - Mercedes-Benz SLK Interior Paint

Auto Upholstery - The Hog Ring - Mercedes-Benz SLK Interior Paint

After everything was allowed to cure overnight, I came in the next morning and reassembled the dashboard and console.

Auto Upholstery - The Hog Ring - Mercedes-Benz SLK Interior Paint

Auto Upholstery - The Hog Ring - Mercedes-Benz SLK Interior Paint

Auto Upholstery - The Hog Ring - Mercedes-Benz SLK Interior Paint

Though removing, stripping and repainting all the plastic pieces took time, it was definitely the right way to do the job. Next up, I’ll need to reupholster the seats.

Need to buy SEM Products? Visit DLT Upholstery Supply — which carries a full line of preparatory supplies and paint!

The Haartz Corporation

26 Responses

  1. Retired… We Always Used A Vinyl Dye To Coat Plastic Parts But I Supose What ever Works. You Job Turned Out Very Good.

  2. 8-track says:

    where did you learn the trick to soak in water overnight?

  3. Brent Parker Motor Trimming says:

    Great job guys looks fantastic. I to are wondering how ordinary water peeled that off? No metho or anything, hot water?

  4. Thanks guys. Yea water did the trick. It wasn’t warm, just room temperature. I left the pieces overnight to soak and came back in the morning to see the paint practically pealing off on its own.

    I don’t imagine this method would work for other vehicles. The SLK230 interiors were painted with what seemed to me to be a latex paint. From having worked with latex paints on my home, I knew that soaking with water is the best method for removing it. I gave it a shot and it worked like a charm.

  5. Joe says:

    How did you match the color? You have the same color as mine. Most of my plastic is crap, and am replacing it with newer pieces, but they are different colors. I am trying to find the a good color match. Thanks and it looks damn fine!!

  6. Bill Dormandy says:

    W h at instructions did you have for the disassembly?

  7. Ryan Ordinario says:

    i worked on one just like this about a month ago, our shop has had done a couple of these in the past but this was my first. having read your tutorial weeks prior, i decided to closely follow you. i also had time since the customer was gone for a week vacation.

    so, the water did not exactly work as well as the picture shows. however, the paint did react to the water, just not as aggressive. after scrubbing a couple of panels that were soaked in water (24-48 hrs) i decided to try a different method that my boss had done before.

    i soaked a rag with lacquer and placed it on the panel. within seconds you can see the paint lifting, exactly how your picture shows. this was a quicker method it seems, but i still would have rather done it through your method. the lacquer method was tedious, while the water (if it would have worked for me) would have allowed me to work on a different project while the paint peels.

    anyway, thanks for the tutorial! i used the same rattle cans, saved me time from mixing colors!

    i hope my alternative would help others if the water doesnt work.

  8. Joe says:

    Bill this page has pretty good instructions on disassembly.I am doing mine with as close as I can match SEM paint. Lets see how it turns out!

  9. Yvonne says:

    Do you have any instructions on how to remove the panels?

  10. Beth says:

    Ryan, yo used laquer thiner¿? or what

    i cant remove paint!!

  11. Pete's Ponies says:

    The actual paint is available, no need for finding something close from SEM.

  12. Echo says:

    I’m about to do the same job on the same vehicle for a customer. My question is, I’m having to re dye the seats as well. In the past the owner has had them done and the paint didn’t stay. If I re dye them with SEMS color will it hold up? My second question is this cars interior has been re dyed as well and is peeling and looks terrible. If I strip it down like you did should I have a problem with my color holding?

  13. Jewel says:

    Robert: I used to work at O’Reilly Auto Parts and because we sold auto paint at our store, we carried SEM brand.

  14. says:

    For those looking to this site for advice, note that using a pressure washer achieves the same effect in minutes. It strips the paint without damaging the plastic. Pure water, no chemicals, dries in the sun.

  15. Jonatas says:

    Great job! I had a R170 SLK 230 in Scarlet 227/Salsa Red interior, can anyone tell me if the SEM Color Coat 15373 Flame Red match the original color? As an alternative I discover the Tautflex from Viponds, which product that will be the best?

  16. I have 1998 slk the inside drivers door the paint worn off the vinyl its red so black showing though can you sell me some thing to cover it only done 45ooo miles from new could you email me what to use thank you

  17. bruce moquin says:


  18. gabriel says:

    The dash plastic components are very bretlle
    and are folling apart as being removed, do you know an after market place that sell them

  19. Mike says:

    I have a 2001 SLK 320. My interior was found the same thing. I followed these instructions and repainted my interior also. The water idea worked great. The color bond paint was perfect. My color is anthracite. I bought it off ebay for $19 a can. It took 3 cans. I also used the SEM satin clear. It was about $18. That took 1 can. It came out perfect. Wife is very happy. No sticky paint anymore. Thanks for the post.

  20. Jody says:

    I have a customer wanting this job done, how much actual labor time do you think it took?

  21. ryan says:

    i say at minimum 8 hours. taking everything apart and re-installing them takes time especially if you haven’t done it before. we have done several of them and had gotten 10 hrs, sometimes peeling the old paint isnt as easy. this trick helps alot, but i still have had to do other tricks.

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