“Soft Touch” interior trim. One of the worst ideas in a long time.
“Soft Touch” interior trim was a big thing in the early 00’s. Most manufacturers were doing it (as an example my VW Golf had it, as did my E46 BMW and V36 Skyline), and when it was new, it was very nice. Sadly as time has gone on, it’s been proven that it just doesn’t last. As it ages it becomes very easy to scratch, and sometimes it can also become sticky to touch.
The standard 3rd Gen Legacy came with a couple of different interior trim options, but they were basically a high gloss plastic with a pattern in it. The most common BE/BH B4/GTB trim was a dark, almost black, wood grain.
That pattern can be seen in this photo, next to the badly painted one I removed from my last Legacy BH5.
The S401 is special though. STI, for whatever reason, deemed that it should have soft touch interior trim instead. This is what it should look like,
But like most soft touch trim, it never stays like that. A previous owner had already started to remedy this issue, by cleaning most of the soft touch goop from the main dash trims, but it didn’t come off completely cleanly, and it left a gloss black trim which was scuffed, had dull patches and just didn’t exude class. There were also still various parts with the soft touch “intact”, and it just let the whole interior down. This is what I was dealing with.
It didn’t look great. It didn’t feel great. I had a couple of options, either buy new trims, probably from a normal B4 or Blitzen, or try to fix what I had. I chose the latter (don’t I always?).
Armed with some cans of Plasti-Dip and a screw driver, I went to work.
Initially I was just going to remove, fix and spray the cup holder, which like most, was stuck open and wouldn’t shut. So I removed the centre console, which was done by removing two screws under the armrest lid, and another two under the shifter boot. The shifter surround and boot just lifts off (it should also be clipped into the radio surround trim, and need to be pulled towards the rear of the car to free it, but someone had long since broken those tabs off mine).
I also took this opportunity to fix the front pocket that hadn’t been fitted correctly in the past. The rear has a tab that needs to go into a slot on the trim. It had been fitted with this tab below the slot, leaving an unsightly gap (probably only noticeable by me though).
I moved the centre console into the garage for disassembly. The cup holder is held on with three screws, and the coin holder is just clipped in on each side.
Once the cup holder was out, I took a look into why it wasn’t closing. I removed the steel plate off the side, to access the mechanism. I immediately noted that little steel wire that should be in the channel, was missing.
Damn, where has that gone? Oh there it is!
Thanks dirty old grease for sticking that to the plate.
Because I needed to get the flaps off to revamp them, I put this aside and kept disassembling.
The soft touch stuff is fairly easy to remove with some elbow grease. I started with scraping is with a plastic scraper, just a break the surface up, and then I hosed it down with orange Spray and Wipe cleaner. This seemed to soften it, and lubricated the cloth to keep it from sticking to the goop. The final method was a vigorous scrub with a cloth, followed by a degrease, and clean with isopropyl alcohol.
This is what I was left with. It was actually pretty decent, just nice clean textured plastic. But that just wouldn’t do, as i’m trying to replicate the factory look and feel (without the sticky, scratchy goop).
This was my first time ever working with Plasti-Dip, and to be honest, it’s actually really good to work with. I did learn one very valuable lesson early on though, KEEP THE CAN WARM. Initially I was getting a clumpy, splotchy spray. Heating the can in a bucket of hot tap water helped a lot. After a few layers of dip, warmed up with a heat gun to help cure it in the cold, this is what I had.
It was starting to look good already. But then I lost my mind, and pulled the rest of the car apart 😂
I removed the radio surround trim, the RH trim, and the main trim with the vents in it. I took the vent trim out so I could look into why the hazard button wasn’t attached at all, and just floating around. Turns out the mounting points in the trim had all been broken, so there was nothing to screw it into. What had the previous owner been doing?! I ended up just super gluing the switch into place, it wasn’t worth replacing the whole trim piece just for that.
Now I can use the button. If I tried to use it before, my finger would disappear into the dash with the button 😆
I also pulled the front window switches out, because they looked haggard as.
I disassembled the dash trims, so they would be ready to prep and spray. I removed the shift boot from the surround, and then cleaned and conditioned it.
And then after prepping everything, I began to spray. The window switch trims were first up, and they looked gooooood.
I did have a less than desirable finish on one half of the cup holder lid (some dust and some clumpy spray), so I actually ended up peeling the dip off and starting over on it. It was much better second time around. This is what happened initially,
And then I painted the rest. This is the RH trim, with the alarm LED blank also dipped.
I reassembled the cup holder, with the steel wire in the channel, like it should be.
And it works again!
So I reinstalled it into the centre console (which I cleaned whilst it was out)
Isnt that a damn sight nicer to look at?
And then it all went back into the car.
It looks amazing, much much better than before, and it also feels nicer to touch. The texture and colour are just right. I’m very happy with how it has turned out. Hopefully it lasts well, but at least if it doesn’t it’s not too hard to redip it.