- 2 identical grilles (GL/CL 3-slat, or VR6 2-slat)
- Plastic welder or multi-purpose epoxy (I used the latter; make sure it adheres to ABS plastic)
- Welder or metal epoxy (I used the latter)
- Measuring device (if you want good results)
- Permanent marker
- Cutter (I used a Dremel)
- Wax and grease (w&v) remover
- Sand paper (I used coarse (80/120/180), intermediate (240/400), and fine (600/800/1200) grit)
- Water bottle with spray
- Masking tape
- Plastic/etch primer (for slats/lower grille cover)
- Paint (either satin/bumper black for textured look, or colour-matched)
- Clear coat (depending on paint finish)
- Paint thinner (to achieve even finishes)
- Dremel (not necessary, but makes the job a whole lot easier for sanding in between the slats)
- Safety equipment (goggles, gloves, face mask, covered clothing etc.)
- Your own grille + donor (cheers Oli) - detach the metal part from the plastic grille before commencing.
- Selleys Steel Knead It Epoxy
- Sika Multipurpose Epoxy
- Wet-sanding "tools" (imagine a water bottle with a spray nozzle and multiple grits of sandpaper)
- Protective clothing: It is best to wear closed shoes, pants and a long sleeve top to cover the majority of your body. You won't know what will go astray and come in contact with your skin that shouldn't be.
- Using the dremel: The dremel is such a great tool - there's so many different uses of it with the different adapters and all. It can function as a grinder/cutter, sander and drill. These things can make short work of metal, so I hate to see what it can do to fingers. Wear protective gloves while working with the Dremel. Wear goggles and a face mask to, well, protect your face, and stop you from inhaling harmful particles. I've had sand dust spray all over the place, grinding discs breaking and throwing debris at great speeds (check out one of the pics in my Photobucket; I've had several grinding discs break on me, propelling the broken grinder bits all over the place - lucky none of it hit me), and the Dremel jutting out of place while operating it at nearly full speed.
- Sanding: It's always an arduous task. No one likes sanding. Coincidentally, it's also probably the most time-consuming step of this DIY. As such, remember to take rests at regular intervals. Have a beer, watch TV, have a drive, whatever. You're not getting paid to do this, just take as long as you want. You are doing this for yourself though, so it's best to have it done properly. A face mask should be used as the sand dust can be irritating for your respiratory system. Goggles aren't necessary, but some of the sand dust can get into your eyes (happened on a few occassions) and can cause discomfort.
- Painting: Fumes! Wear that face mask, and make sure you're doing it in a well-ventilated area.
- First things first! Make sure safety is prioritised as number 1. You will be dealing with toxic/potentially toxic products, using electrical cutting tools and others I haven't listed because I can't think of them. That said, make sure all safety equipment is worn before proceeding each step.
- We will start with the lower grille part, which basically acts as a cover along under the headlights and the bottom half of the grille. I will refer to this as the lower grille or the metal grille in this article. The other part (the slats) will be referred to as the upper grille or plastic grille. Just makes it more simpler for me :)
[I used epoxy bond instead of welding, so my instructions will be based on that]
Cut the side protrusions that are situated horizontally on the top of the lower grille. Cut the tab that slots under the badging of the plastic grille as you won't be needing it - this is not shown in my pics as I thought I could still use it after the job was done. Sand the surrounding cavity where the badge usually sits*. Sand about 3-5 cm out*. Level the area by hand-sanding using intermediate grit.
- Using the donor grille, mark out (well, trace) the section required to fill the cavity*. Pictures best explain this:
- Test fit on the grille. Make the necessary trimming so it fits perfect, with very little gap in between for the epoxy to bridge over (1 mm)*. Sand down the donor piece completely as the epoxy will need to bond to this too. Clean everything with w&g remover making sure there is not a spec of sand dust on it. Ensure the working area is clean too.
- Prepare the epoxy (for application on moderate-high temperature metal surfaces) as instructed.
Align the donor piece so that it sits exactly like the main piece*. Work the epoxy in, applying ample pressure so the epoxy squeezes into the gap*. Remember to also do the back at the same time too*.
Once the whole section has been done (i.e. no gaps at all), put aside standing the correct side up (not flat like in the pic below)* and leave for a day.
- Moving on to the plastic grille. Mark out the circle badged section to be cut, extending down to where the section is completely flat.
Also, make a marking down the middle of the grille, using the tabs behind and in front of the grille as reference points*.
Also, try and cut the bottom part of the top slat to reveal an open slot - this can be seen beside the circle badge section on the pic on top of the above. The above pic demonstrates the backing cut out, but not the extension under the top slat. Hard to explain but you'll see it when you're doing this part, and would agree that it doesn't flow.
Take measurements between each slat to the middle of the grille and the bottom section. Take note as you will be marking these dimensions on the donor grille in the next step.
- Mark the dimensions on to the donor grille, ensuring that the centre of it all is exactly where a support stands*.
Cut it out the same way as done in the previous step*.
- Test fit - make sure the supports are directly aligned at the middle marking you made previously. Trim/sand off edges that overlap, ensuring that the maximum gap in between is only about 1 mm*.
Using coarse sandpaper, rough up the surface around the edges*. If your donor grille was originally painted, roughen up the surface using intermediate sandpaper*.
Clean the whole grille, and the working area with w&g remover.
- Prepare the multipurpose epoxy (i.e. any epoxy that bonds to plastic - ABS specifically) as per instructions while you wait for the grille to air-dry.
When applying the epoxy*, I recommend doing the bottom section first (the bit that the metal grille covers)*. Pay special attention to aligning these sections. Stand from different distances, look at it from all the different angles*. Adjust accordingly to get it looking as straight as possible.
Make sure the undersides are thoroughly bonded too. All kinds of support will help, and will lengthen the life of it.
After that's settled (give it a few hours to harden and be fixed in place), apply epoxy to the top slat. Let it settle overnight before proceeding on to the middle and bottom slat.
For the middle and bottom slats, apply the epoxy in the same manner as you did for the bottom section and top slat.
Also, this is your chance to fix stone chips and other imperfections that have made their way on to grill after 10 years of use.
Once you're totally done with the bonding, set it aside while you move on back to the metal grille. Have the plastic grille sitting upright like in the pics.
- Have all grits of sandpaper ready. Starting with the most coarse, sand until you feel that the edges of the epoxy are smooth and the transition from it to the metal are unnoticeable by feel. Using the finer coarse sandpapers, smooth the whole area until it all feels level.
Start wet-sanding* on the intermediate grits to achieve a smooth, level surface.
Clean the entire metal grille and work area with w&g remover. Air-dry.
- Back to the metal grille. Spray etch primer on to the bare metal parts. Let it dry for about 20-30 minutes, then wet-sand using 1200 grit.
Spray on as many layers of paint as you want* - keep it to a minimum of 2. Paint thinner was used to try and keep the colour consistency, then a few more coats were put on.
I finished off with 1200 grit wetsanding* until I achieved a smooth finish.
Clear-coat* once you're satisfied with the paint. Again, wet-sand at 1200 grit but very lightly, taking off any specks that may have landed onto the surface.
And here's what made me smile and gave me that proud feeling:
That was one of my many progress shots! I took so much cos I thought I was going to make some progress blogs, but didnt end up doing so. This job did end up taking about a month only because I took my time and did most of the work on the weekends. Anyway.
- Now with the lower grille done, it's time to sand that plastic grille. Depending on the thickness of the epoxy, you can start off with the disc sander on the Dremel. Use this to level out the epoxy slightly, just to make things easier. You have to be very careful not to accidentally go overboard and sand through to the plastic.
Starting from 120 grit, wet-sand until edges of the epoxy are level with the plastic. Next, level out the bond with 180 grit, wet-sand*. Once entirely done, check for cavities and cracks. Bond over these again using the multipurpose epoxy, but make sure you apply a thin layer. Repeat the sanding steps.
Keep doing this until it is perfect.
Once perfect, wet-sand with an intermediate grit sand paper. The goal here is to achieve smoothness - it should be level already, so there's no need to work it hard. There should be very little or no difference with the plastic parts and the epoxy part. However, don't progress on to a fine grit. We still want some roughness for the paint to adhere to.*
Once you're confident that there are no imperfections and the whole thing is as smooth as a baby's butt, then you're ready to clean the damn thing with w&g remover. Make sure there are no dust particles - actually, anything at all - on the entire surface.
- Using plastic primer, prime the whole surface*.
Immediately after the primer is dry, start spraying a coat of paint*.
Spray many layers*. Allow time between each layer to dry.
Make sure you remember to paint the undersides of the slats too*. Basically cover anything that isn't the right colour in paint.
Apply clear once the last coat of paint has been given ample time to dry. Apply as many coats as you want - it will give it a more glossy look, but more coats will provide better protection. Decide on your own compromise.
Let to dry, preferably overnight, before you attach the lower grille back on.
Don't worry about wet-sanding at this step*.
- Test fit just the metal grille onto the car, simulating where it would go with the plastic part attached to it too. Check the sides - shape/bend them in place to get a better fit when you actually put it back on in its entirety*.
Attach the metal grille back on to the plastic part. Take care not to scratch the paint and refrain from bending the parts.
Now the moment we've been waiting for - take a step back to admire some of that handy work of yours!
It put a smile on my face when I saw this in its final form. I was quite proud of what I made, as although it was not even close to perfect, it's not bad either for my standards! I'll definitely know now what it takes to make a better, closer-to-perfect badgeless grille.