Magnets are quickly becoming the fastener of choice for custom trim shops across the world, and Mobile Solutions, LLC is helping to bring about the change.
Yes, we’re talking about those cool videos you’ve seen on Instagram of door panels, consoles and package trays snapping into place. They’ve garnered lots of views and comments. While trimmers who use magnets swear by them, others remain skeptical about their performance.
To learn more about the correct application and benefits of magnets in interior builds, we spoke with Todd Ramsey of Mobile Solutions, who are revolutionizing the industry with their training programs, innovative fabrication techniques and cool tools.
In fact, Mobile Solutions just released a Magnet Fitment System that uses powerful neodymium magnets to secure interior panels with absolute precision.
Here’s what he told us…
Why choose magnets over traditional trim fasteners?
Magnets allow for serviceability because parts of a panel can be easily removed and replaced time after time with the precision of going back in exactly the same place. In this way, the wear and tear on a traditional fastener, such as a clip or screws, is avoided. In addition, by using magnets to attach trim or accent pieces on a larger panel that requires a mechanical fastener (such as a door panel), the trim can hide the fasteners, but allow for easy access to service.
In which applications do magnets work best? When should they be avoided?
Magnets work well in almost all applications of a trim panel or interior piece. They work well on console sides where gaining access to shift linkages, wiring or other items is necessary for service. When you use magnets on a door panel, for example, there should still be some kind of mechanical fasteners to mate the base panel to the door itself, then trim elements can attach with magnets.
Magnets shouldn’t be used on door pulls (that’s a job for a mechanical fastener) and on headliners. Some people have used magnets on headliners to keep a clean look, but the magnets themselves can attract dust on the outer paint surfaces, which may not be the best thing for maintaining a beautiful paint job.
Should magnets always be used in pairs or is it suitable to magnetize panels directly to metal surfaces?
Using magnets in pairs ensures the positioning of the panel is the exact same every time. Without the mating of north and south polarities in exactly the same size, it would mean the magnetized panel on a direct metal surface would not necessarily fit the same each time it’s removed and replaced.
We’ve heard that neodymium magnets can damage painted surfaces. Is there any truth to that?
Just like the headliner example, magnets will pull in dust on outer painted surfaces so in those cases best to avoid using. They don’t necessarily damage the paint, but the associated dust (especially if there are metal particles in the dust) is what would be the potential damage to the paint.
Can neodymium magnets interfere with a vehicle’s electronics?
Neodymium magnets of the sizes used in trim panel applications won’t interfere with solid state electronics commonly found in modern vehicles. These magnets are small – though powerful for the size – but nowhere near the kind of magnetism that would interfere with car electronics. Think of it this way, if speakers with much larger magnets can be placed throughout a car and next to electrical wiring or other components without issue, there’s really nothing to worry about with these smaller trim panel magnet applications.
How secure are trim pieces held in place by magnets? Do they shift or bounce when the vehicle is driven on bumpy roads?
Very secure. Depending on the number of magnets used and the weight of the panel they support, you can simply use more magnets when dealing with a larger panel versus a small one.
For any panel that sits vertically, we recommend using the magnet with one side slightly countersunk by 1/32” of an inch below the surface and the opposing magnet protruding about 1/32” of an inch so that they lock in place – both with the magnetism, but a mechanical fitment in that 1/32” that ensures precise alignment. It’s just a small extra step to ensure that there’s no shifting of the panel once it’s in place.
Tell us about Mobile Solutions’ Magnet Fitment System. How does it work and how can trimmers benefit from using it on their builds?
The Magnet Fitment System is a complete kit that makes using embedded magnets precise work rather than guesstimating placement and depth.
It starts with a four-piece precision-machined countersink bit set called Magnet Match that exactly matches the diameter of the magnets themselves. The laser-etched depth markings on the side of the Magnet Match bit let a fabricator know just how far to drill in to achieve the correct countersink. Since the diameter is so precise, very often there is no need for additional adhesive in the “pocket” that’s countersunk, although some fabricators may choose to add a small drop of CA glue on applications like MDF or soft plastics. Harder plastics and aluminum have such great rigidity that the fit is very tight.
The kit also includes the pilot hole drill bits so that both surfaces (the base panel and the attachment) can be drilled through at the same time, then the appropriate countersink bit would create the “pocket.” Finally, the clear acrylic Smart Mag Alignment Plates with the specific-sized magnets already embedded (one side with a “south” orientation and the other side with a “north” orientation) ensures that when tapping the magnet into place with a small rubber mallet, it is perfectly centered on the embedded magnet in the alignment plate so there’s no chance of it shifting around as it goes into the countersunk pocket.
To keep the consistency of the right magnet polarity for multiple pocketed magnets on the panel, Mobile Solutions recommends doing “north” on the base panel (or vehicle side) and “south” on the removable part of the panel. Again, very easy to do with the alignment plates because they are clearly marked.