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What Are Carbon Fiber Dash Kits?

Lori Kilchermann
Lori Kilchermann

Carbon fiber dash kits are pieces of carbon fiber or simulated carbon fiber that can be attached to a vehicle's dashboard and interior trim panels to add a look of space-aged technology to any car. Often sold as individual components or complete interior sets, these kits can be installed in a short time with typically only minimal skills required of the installer. They are usually manufactured and marketed by aftermarket companies and are commonly formed using actual vehicle dashboard pieces as templates to ensure that the trim components fit properly and look good. While actual carbon fiber pieces are used in the highest-quality kits, the much less expensive ones use a simulated carbon fiber applique placed over a plastic or composite backing material.

In most applications, double-sided tape is used to attach the trim panels into position on a vehicle's dash. Provided that the area has been prepared properly and is free of grease, dirt, and any wax or cleaning residue, the tape is sticky enough for most applications. Occasionally, a liquid adhesive is used when installing actual carbon fiber to a vehicle's interior surfaces. The adhesive is able to seep into the gaps and crevices of the carbon fiber, creating a much stronger bond than tape can provide. Using the liquid adhesive means that the trim is not removable without damaging the original dash, however.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

Because carbon fiber dash kits are only used for visual effect, only a very thin layer of the material is required to create the pieces. Unlike an actual carbon fiber component that would be required to provide strength and support while reducing weight, the trim kits are used only to decorate the original component that is designed to provide all structural roles within the vehicle. Lower-end kits are simply fitted to the dash and sanded to fit properly, while the higher-end ones occasionally require the dash to be disassembled to complete the installation.

In the higher-end kits, the components actually protrude behind the instrument cluster and stereo, which usually provides the best look to both the driver and passengers. Once the dashboard has been removed and disassembled, the pieces are placed into position on the frame and the instruments are replaced with no gaps between the components and the trim pieces. This provides the illusion that the dashboard is actually made of carbon fiber.

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