Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Restoring the Center Console Arm Rest

From my Proton
My center console arm rest started cracking a few years ago, right where my right arm tends to lay across the "pleather" - seems this is a common problem and probably has to do with the constant abrasive action of the arm, along with the oils, etc associated with skin contact on the plastic. I've always taken very good care of the interior so these cracks were rather distressing to me - it also greatly diminished my truck in  my eyes, defending a lack of interior detailing (basically with the arm rest looking so bad I wouldn't take the care in detailing the interior that I used to take). So the fix for me was to get it recovered.

On the VX forum, a couple of people suggested taking it to an automotive upholsterer and one enterprising VX owner went so far as to offer a re-cover with a textured "pleather" material that resembled carbon-fiber (thinking that this would look better with the other faux carbon fiber parts in the interior) - that offer was at $80 plus postage. I decided to ask around to see if I could find someone local, plus I would like to replace it in leather and not the usual vinyl. To me leather just feels better and lasts longer.

First step was deciding whether I wanted to remove mine or to find another as I didn't know what route to take (drop-off or ship) and didn't want the stuff in there exposed. Luckily, a VX forum member offered up some parts and the arm rest was mine. Once I had it in hand I started calling around and visiting local shops. Most of the estimates I got were right around $75 - on a lark, while driving on a nearby road I stopped and went into "Tony's Auto Upholstery and Trim" on Beaver Ruin Road. I showed the proprietor the arm rest and he said "$30" so "...Is that for leather?" and his reply was "$45 in leather" - I made sure they would match the stitching and left it - they said it would be ready the next day. Next day I got a call and this is the result:

Newly Covered Arm Rest
I think they did a very good job. More photos and comparisons:

Old on left, new on right

Comparison of the stitching

Can you smell the leather?

Note the cracks in the underlying plastic - I had noticed that the tension on the plastic was weakening and have found pieces of plastic under the seat. Step two of the project is to either replace the plastic or reinforce it in some way - I'm thinking aluminum plate shaped to the size of the center console. This would attach using the same holes for the latch and hinge. My thinking is that it would raise the arm rest about an eighth of an inch and provide support for everything above. Thoughts?

See the cracked corners?
Here's a detail shot of what's under the plastic:

I think adding a plate would work

-- John