ABS Plastic Color Change


Below are some basic instructions for successful color change on ABS plastic panels from Rhino Fabrication.  These would include kick panels, seat shields, or other hard ABS panels.

The instructions below are not intended for Vinyl Dash Pads. Please see our specific Dash Pad Coloring Guide on our web site.

First, our American Craftsmen here at Rhino Fabrication use no silicone in our shop what so ever. The absence of silicone helps keep the surface of the ABS product free of nasty stuff that could possibly screw up your attempt at a great color change on the ABS panels  you purchased for your classic vehicle. With that being said, remember that by now you have probably opened the package from Rhino Fabrication containing your new product. In doing so you have slightly contaminated the surface you will be wanting to color. Don’t panic, this is one of the reasons that we suggest you clean the surface thoroughly so that those finger prints containing lotion, hand cleaner or other strange substances don’t show up later on the finished parts.

You will need the following materials to make your color change:
-Masking materials, optional.
-ABS vinyl dye.
-Prep spray and or flexible colored primer designed for PVC and, or ABS.
-A mild cleaner.  (wax and grease remover works well for this.)

You also will need some patience and finesse to achieve quality results. This is not a difficult procedure, but like anything else the amount of effort you invest will be apparent in the end result.

Keep in mind that the products you will be using for this color change are far different than what you may have used 20 years ago and the results will also reflect the newer more advanced materials on the market today. Color change on vinyl and plastic was at best very poor in the past, but today it is an easy process, and can be a very successful process that does not need to cause you anxiety and frustration any longer.

You may choose to use a colored vinyl primer to reduce the number of color coats that are required to achieve your finished look. The primer is highly recommended as my first choice in color matching and produces excellent visual results. The grain on your new part will look fantastic unless you apply too many color coats. The primer allows for fewer color coats in the application process. Too many coats will fill in the grain detail and ruin the cosmetic appeal that we have worked so hard to deliver to you. If the primer is used you may elect to not use the prep spray but I still personally recommend both. It is not worth saving $12 on the prep spray and risk a quality job on an expensive product. Remember, you will most likely be the one staring at the parts you install so spare no effort or expense.

You may have heard me say it before but prepare your Rhino Fabrication Classic Parts in a comfortable, clean environment. Ok now on to the process of color change.

Clean the surface with a wax and grease remover, you can get something like DX330 by PPG or use a mild detergent that leaves no residue after use.

After you have cleaned the surface and it is completely dry you should apply a very light coat of vinyl prep spray. This is a clear spray that softens the surface so that the color spray will attach itself deeply into the substrate or ABS surface. I prefer SEM products because of the spray patterns and the color consistency they offer. You may choose another product other than SEM that you are comfortable with. There are multiple manufacturers of color spray on the market; I’m simply stating what I prefer. Let the prep spray tack out and while sticky apply a second, heavier coat. Don’t allow the prep spray to run or sag.

Now is the time for you to decide if you wish to use a primer coat to help with your color change process. If you choose a primer, now is the time to apply the first coat of that primer. I have talked to customers that use a primer coat in place of the prep spray, this decision is completely up to you. Excellent results have been achieved either way.

When your second coat of prep spray or primer has tacked out apply the first coat of color. This will be a mist coat only, remember we are building coats slowly and filling in the color as we build. Do not attempt to achieve a color change in one or two coats. It may take a few or so depending on the color you are trying to achieve. As each coat tacks out apply another over the top. You will begin to see the coats fill and blend to each other. Each coat gets a bit heavier and nicer to look at. If you continue to do this procedure you will end up with a really nice looking end result. After you get the color match that satisfies you allow your new Rhino Fabrication products to cure at least overnight in a warm 68-70 degree climate. This will allow the color product to off gas the solvents in the dye applied and dry completely. The last thing you want to attempt is to install a colored part that is not cured completely and create scratches in the surface during the installation process.
Good luck,
Owner / Rhino Fabrication


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