|Refurbishing Your Interior Plastic, Vinyl, and Leather|
|Written by Jim Cavanagh|
|Friday, 20 January 2012 16:55|
Sometimes, a little bit of cleaning turns into a project, especially when it comes to sprucing up the interior of your airplane. You clean, you find a broken piece of plastic, and there you are!
Whether you replace or repair a plastic piece, you are going to have to paint your part. This can be done to match the existing color, or you can repaint the entire interior for a totally new color scheme. The company helping you do this is SEM Products, Inc.
SEM is the industry leader in interior finishes. Based in Rock, Hill, South Carolina, SEM was founded in 1948. Originally a company that made house paint, SEM developed an elastomeric (flexible) paint in 1972 that propelled the company in a new direction. Its paint is a permanent, highly flexible coating that sticks to flexible surfaces or surfaces that expand and contract due to temperature. This paint is what has allowed car, boat, and airplane manufacturers unlimited possibilities in concocting myriad interior designs for our vehicles.
With the perfect flexible paint, SEM branched out into the repair business. It develops dozens of products that help technicians or individuals perform their own repairs to thin or heavy plastic, different kinds of plastics, composites, vinyls, and leather. It also creates all of the cleaning, prepping, and gluing products needed to facilitate a permanent repair. This last thing, permanent repair, is what you pay the big bucks for. Any other repair, no matter how long it has been passed down through folklore, is only as good as the next time it fails. SEM has built a reputation on the permanence of it repairs.
Recognizing the hands-on attitude of most pilots, SEM began manning at booth at AirVenture, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, a few years ago, and it is slowly educating pilots on its products and refurbishing techniques. Online instruction shows how to repair leather and vinyl seats so that they look as good as new. While you have to buy the products from dealers who also do this type of work, you can still get the cleaning, prepping, and painting materials in a huge variety of colors, and the learning curve is about as easy as one can get.
So, let’s get back to your hangar and look at your interior.
When you find something really bad, your options are to either replace it or repair it. Either way, you have to invest some bucks and some time, so you have to look at what skills you have, what skills you might have to learn, and what kind of finished product you want. Nothing you will need to do is impossible, or even very difficult. In fact, replacing or repairing can be much easier than you think.
This article is basically on painting your interior pieces, so I will just briefly touch on the repairing aspect. Your interior parts, the molded plastic panels, trims, filets, etc., are either ABS or PVC plastic. Some manufacturers use a plastic called Kydex, but, for the most part, any adhesive that works well with ABS or PVC can repair your part.
The old way to repair these parts was to find a piece of plastic, shave off bits with a razor blade, and mix them with ABS or PVC glue until everything melted together. A little testing will show you what kind of glue you need. This melting together is basically what you will do with your part; think “chemically welding.” After cleaning with soap and water, dry thoroughly, fit the pieces together, and apply tape on the good side. Apply the paste you made to the back side of the crack, and let it set. Sometimes, if it is a large crack, you can press another piece of plastic down into the paste as a support, but keep the piece very thin, or use some matte material, even fiberglass (yes, sometimes drywall web tape), if it is porous enough to let the paste ooze through the weave. You want a mechanical bond, not a chemical one.
It doesn’t take long for the paste to cure, and you can go to the good side of the part. Here, you use an X-ACTO-type knife to clean out the crack, forming a tiny “v,” which gives you more surface area for the glue/paste. Apply as little paste as possible, because you will have to scrape or sand it flush. For the finish, you can pick up a vinyl repair kit at any auto parts store, mix up a color, and use one of the pieces of texturing paper that matches your grain. Or, just make it smooth enough for painting.
The SEM system takes a lot of the guesswork out of repairs, but requires more materials. The company wants to ensure that the repair is permanent, so it has SEM Soap, all sorts of prep materials for the material being repaired, primers for different paints, and a virtually limitless number of colors. Getting a proper repair depends on knowing what kind of plastic you are repairing, and SEM helps by having a tech line, (866) 327-7829, to help you determine what you need.
All of the plastic parts in your airplane or car are painted. There are a few instances where the actual color of the plastic sheet is used, but, most of the time, paint has been applied to match the decor and texture of an interior.
Vantage Plane Plastics, in Alva, Oklahoma, sells many airplane parts, and it will paint certain parts, if the company’s paint numbers match the customer’s trim number. J.D. Casteel is the guy who usually paints parts for Vantage Plane Plastics, and he knows the SEM colors for most standard parts.
If you have a lot of painting to do, it is very easy for you to paint your own parts, and if you use the correct material, you don’t even have to do a burn test. SEM makes two lines of vinyl paints, Color Coat, and Sure-Coat. Color Coat is an automotive product that is available in aerosol cans in 50 colors. It is very handy, and, even though it has passed FAA burn tests, it is not FAA-approved. Color Coat is used for vinyl, plastic, and composites. Sure-Coat is a water-based product used for plastic, vinyl, and leather, and it is approved for use in aircraft. Sure-Coat has to be mixed, and either SEM will do this, or you can go online and get a list of the company’s dealers for your closest source.
You can apply either type of paint with HVLP or the old pressure guns, as long as you use the correct settings and needle/cap combo. The great thing about HVLP “finger” guns is that even the smallest compressor can be used. There is virtually no overspray, and they are inexpensive.
Vinyl seats and leather take a bit more time to repair correctly, and they require the proper materials for a permanent repair. The auto parts store kits you get for vinyl and leather repair are okay for very basic small repairs, but anything larger requires a professional approach. Sometimes, you have to excise the entire damaged area, like a cigarette burn, and start from scratch; but, whether it is a hole or a cut or a tear, the basics are the same. Clean up the hole with sandpaper so that there are no “nubbies,” prep with the proper soap or cleaner, follow all directions to build up a substrate, and complete to the finished surface before you paint. Let each layer you add dry completely, just like the paint, and although it is okay to use a hair dryer to dry paint coats, a heat gun is required for the vinyl repair compound. On SEM’s site, in the Aerospace section, there can be found a very comprehensive video on repairing a business jet seat.
You can get SEM products in a number of sizes, but, realistically, you might end up with way more material than you need to do your job. If this is the case, you simply have to determine the cost efficiency of doing it yourself or having a shop do it. Upholstery shops and specialty businesses, such as Dr. Vinyl, can do the repairs for you, so get an estimate, and crunch your numbers. You can have them do repairs, and you can still do the painting yourself, or any combination. By the way, SEM will send you color charts for its stock formulas, and, for a fee, it will custom-mix to match a sample.
The real secret in repairing and painting vinyl, plastic, or leather is knowing your material and proper preparation. Have the materials and equipment or tools you need on hand and ready to go. Clean, clean, clean; ensure there is no contaminant; and use very thin coats, letting each coat dry completely before applying the next coat. Feather out to the good areas, and, if you have a good match, you’re set. If the match isn’t perfect, paint to a seam, or paint the entire part.Since SEM began attending Oshkosh, pilots are beginning to take notice and appreciate what they can do themselves. Between SEM and companies such as Vantage Plane Plastics, there is no reason why any production aircraft has to be out there with broken, faded, or torn interiors. Together, they allow an owner to acquire and install interior parts far cheaper than buying factory-new parts; plus, there is absolutely no need to worry about the colors matching. You can reach SEM at www.semproducts.com, or by calling the number I listed earlier.
|Last Updated ( Friday, 20 January 2012 17:01 )|