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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After everything was allowed to cure overnight, I came in the next morning and reassembled the dashboard and console.
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!
Edward Munday says
Retired… We Always Used A Vinyl Dye To Coat Plastic Parts But I Supose What ever Works. You Job Turned Out Very Good.
where did you learn the trick to soak in water overnight?
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?
Naseem Muaddi says
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.
Amazing power of water! Thank you for sharing your knowledge! Very good result on the car!
David from France
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!!
Bill Dormandy says
W h at instructions did you have for the disassembly?
Where are the disassembly instructions?
Found this site for the Mercedes paint-
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.
Gonçalo Victor Pereira Veloso says
Hello. What is a “i soaked a rag with lacquer and placed it on the panel”
Sorry. Many Thanks,
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!
Do you have any instructions on how to remove the panels?
Ryan, yo used laquer thiner¿? or what
i cant remove paint!!
Pete's Ponies says
The actual paint is available, no need for finding something close from SEM.
Robert Moore says
Who can you buy the paint from?
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?
Robert: I used to work at O’Reilly Auto Parts and because we sold auto paint at our store, we carried SEM brand.
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.
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? http://www.viponds.com.au/tautflexbenz.htm
Valerie duncombe says
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
bruce moquin 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
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.
Can you provide any instruction on how to take these panels loose without breaking them I have the 99 and some of my panels have to be replaced because they’re cracked
Naseem Muaddi says
Check out this website. They have great instructions for disassembling the interior. http://www.pelicanparts.com/techarticles/Mercedes-SLK230/52-INTERIOR-Front_Door_Panel_Removal/52-INTERIOR-Front_Door_Panel_Removal.htm
I have a customer wanting this job done, how much actual labor time do you think it took?
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.
GARY P MCMAHON says
From what I have read, SEM Classic Coat is not for use on hard plastics, only vinyl or leather. Color Coat is recommended for this application…
Andrew Roberts says
I am looking for someone to restore the interior on my wife’s sLK230 kompressor. Including the seats and headliner. We live in south west Florida. It’s a 1999. My wife loves it and doesn’t want to part with it, sentimental old woman lol.
Darren Kirby says
I have a 98 slk 230, yep the interior is peeling and i saw a video using a small bottle of liquid touch up paint and they just preped cleaned surface and dabed on using the color code in the owners manual, it was on amazon but did catch the site ??
Geoff Crowley says
I also have a 99 model and would love to know how to fix the cracked plastic, or find someone that sells replacement dash parts. I laughed when I read about water blasting it, mine would disentergrate if I done that! Thanks for any suggestions.
Bruce Ray says
ebay has a lot of interior plastic parts for 1998-2004 230 and 320 r170 slks. Prices vary. Go to ebay-parts and accessories, which should bring up a place to enter your vehicle.
Patrick Mullen says
Volico supply the paints for Mercedes, but these seem to be latex based and do peel again. I’ve found the same issues recurring having ‘fixed’ it before.
My big question is: does stripping the parts of paint remove the feaux leather pattern from the plastic?
Steve Johnson says
It doesnt, but the problem I ran into was having to glue and fix cracked and broken pcs.. I purchased some faux leather wrap to re cover it. UPS just dropped it off at the house.
Patrick Mullen says
Thanks for the response Steve!
Steve Johnson says
I am currently redoing my 98 slk as well. I have no idea what kind of paint was used from the factory, but that was some crap. If you want a shiny finish instead of the flat. I found some spray paint at Tractor Supply. This stuff shines like you just put armor all on the interior. I am finishing up this week and weekend if anyone wants to see any pictures.
Vicki Lewis says
I need to find someone to redo my interior where that terrible paint is peeling off. I do not want the same original paint used, as it will peel again. Anybody know someone in Chicago area, that can do this. Thank You
How did you remove the side panels of the center console? Struggling to find any information about removing it online.
Your paint job turned out beautifully; hoping to replicate your results.
Centre consol comes out in one piece, it’s the last piece to come out and is a complete unit from the dash to the handbrake section and round the sides to the carpet.
YouTube will help
Kent Brown says
Did anyone find replacement panels and other parts – maybe better than repainting?
This is my car exactly. Please tell me how long the re-paint job has lasted
Recently carried out the same job.
Start by removing the panels at the end of the dash (where the door closed onto it), remove the gauge panel, panel under the steering wheel in the footwell, then glove box, arm rest section (you need to remove the handbrake cover, can be tight), radio, gear stick surround and finally center consol. The fixings will reveal themselves as you go along.
Plenty of YouTube guides out there.
I used a hand steamer to remove all the paint. Very easy job.
Just be careful, the fixings will be brittle so take your time. Removal took about an hour being careful.
I’m struggling to find where the interior trim (plastic) color code is located. I have a 2004 SLK 32 AMG. It’s a designo version but I think that only relates to the leather/contrast.
Anyone know where to look?
It’s a 3 digit code under the chassie number on the vin plate located on the slam panel ?
I touched up my interior paint using cheap acrylic craft paint by apple barrel. 50 cents per 2 oz. I used elephant gray with a touch of khaki and blended til I reached a perfect match. Applied with small art brush and blended dabbing with a paper towel. Adheres like original paint, : ( but looks good until it scratches again. Takes about 10 min. to do a touch up.
James Priest says
Have had a 2002 SLK 320 since it was new and every time I hear the slogan “The Best or Nothing” I think of the pitiful paint they used at the factory on the interior. I removed the cover from the console and took it to three ”big box” store paint departments to let them try to match the color. Fairly close but no match. Paint seems to peel off if you look at it wrong. Admire the talented ones who did the repaint after disassembly but Murphy haunts my tool box. Great little car though.
Randy Bauder says
Do the seats need to come out to get the center console out?
Brilliant job, I have just brought SLk230 year 2000.
The interior is the exact same colour as this!
I would love to do what you have done!
Did you do the seats and did the seats/colour match the interior when you had finished? Any pictures please would love to see it with the seats done too?
Fred Volkman says
The one thing that may or may not be an issue.
Did you actually soak the air bag modules in a bucket of water?
The airbags are way beyond their replacement point in the R170 and I know of nobody who has replaced them but still soaking them in water is risky no?
In some jurisdictions it is illegal to paint over airbags because is strengthens the tear seal area where the bag is supposed to exit and inflate. Body shops will not do it.
Looks good. Any plans to refresh the seats?
Hey. I just wanted to say a big thank you. I had read your water treatment idea some years ago. But only finally tried it yesterday. And it worked very well. Probably would have been no work at all, but I tried to get a glove box done in an hour, so I used hot water and did not soak much. Still worked great.
I am using Volico paint on my Salsa interior, and it is not matching very well, the older paint, so that means redoing everything probably. I am debating my options there. I might try the SEM paint you used, or the Viponds. My dash is in good shape, so I don’t want to have to pull that.