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Dash kits; another profitable extra service

April 21, 2010
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Today’s successful detailer must look beyond the typical wash and wax service to find profitable menu items that can set him apart from the crowd and increase his revenue potential. It’s not always easy to identify what will be a winning sales concept and what will fail, but here is one idea that is sure to bring in some extra cash this year: Dash kits.

Drivers spend a lot of time staring at their dashboards. It’s front and center and offers many utilities to enhance the comfort and experience of the drive. Whether she’s turning on the radio, turning up the heat or simply checking the time or speed, the driver is glued to this front panel. Which is the perfect reason to sell or install dash kits at your detail shop.

What are dash kits?
Dash kits, accessories designed to make the interior look luxurious, are inexpensive to purchase and simple to install. Most of the kits available today are constructed of plastics that look like wood grain or even metal and some even use real wood.

It appears the trend is for the kits to be as flat and unnoticeable as possible. The customer does not want the kit parts to stand up from the dash, according to technical service people at 3M, a supplier of dash kits. They need to look like an original part of the vehicle and manufacturers are now using even thinner plastics. 3M has even developed thinner tapes to attach the kits that provide a lower profile look.

Without a doubt, proper installation is key in making a dash kit attractive and long lasting. With the installation, patience is the best advice. Don’t rush a dash kit installation because it will come back to haunt you and cost you. Learning how to install dash kits is simple, if you know the basics.

Prepping for installation
It is emphasized that surface preparation is the most important part of the install followed by careful placement and a smooth finish. Most detailers and many consumers use dressing containing silicone on their dash and door panels. Be aware that dressings can prevent a dash kit from adhering properly. So cleaning and preparing the surface of the dash for installation is critical — you cannot cut corners.

A wipe down of the surface with rubbing alcohol should be enough on a dash that has been only dusted and wiped down. But for those where dressing has been applied you need to clean with a solvent with a low volatile organic compound (VOC) count. And, always ask your customer if they have used dressing such as ArmorAll on their dash.

After cleaning the dash and all areas where the dash kit will be installed, wipe the areas down with a clean microfiber towel and alcohol to take off any oily fingerprints or smearing. Keep in mind it often takes more time to clean properly, but the cleaning eliminates any problems that will happen later.

Don’t be afraid to use more than one towel when cleaning. Like cleaning windows, once a towel has picked up dirt and you continue to use it you are just spreading the dirt around the area. Just remember to fold the towel often into a pad and flip it.

Some kits require a primer, so take a mechanical pencil and actually trace an outline of each part to mark exactly where the primer needs to be applied. Putting the primer in places where it won’t be covered can discolor the dash. You can clean up the excess primer with cleaner, but large areas will look unattractive.

Keep this in mind when using primer: If you drop it on a leather seat most likely you will have to re-dye the seat. Be very careful!

Check first before installing
Before doing anything further, put the pieces in place with the backing still on the tape to ensure that you have the correct kit and that you know where each piece goes and it fits properly.

Once you take the backer off the tape, do not touch the tape. Do not remove the backing until you are absolutely ready to install the piece. This eliminates any chance of contamination should the piece be dropped on the floor, etc. Any debris or grit that adheres to the tape will weaken the bond and it won’t stick properly.

Time to install
After prepping the surface and test fitting the pieces you are ready to peel and stick.

Consider warming the pieces before installing as they will conform better to the curves of the dash or area. Dash kits are becoming thinner and more pliable by design so heating is not as important as it once was, but can still help with the adhesion process. Use a hair dryer or a heat gun, but you don’t want to get the pieces too hot.

Be sure to warm on the liner side and not the finish side. If the liner begins to wrinkle move the heat to another area.

Another reason for heating the pieces in colder climates or during the winter is that some condensation can show up on the adhesive surface and interfere with the bond.

It takes about 72 hours for most quality foam tapes to build up their ultimate bond. Do not use any kind of cleaner on an installed kit for at least 72 hours. Always remember to take as much time as the install will require. Don’t think you can squeeze the install in after the detail while the customer is waiting to pick up the car.

If you sell kits
If you choose to sell kits directly to the customer, caution him to be careful when cleaning so he doesn’t scratch the kit. Advise him of products that are safe to use on the surface. The dash kit manufacturers are your best source for this information.

If you arm your customers with the proper care information this is the surest way to ensure that they will be completely happy with their new dash kit. Keep in mind your customer is paying you a lot of money for this upgrade feature and it’s a big investment. And note that every installation, whether on a $20,000 vehicle or a $70,000 vehicle, has to be done to the same high standards.