Fix chipping/bubbling paint on auto shifter
When I got my 330xi the auto shifter paint was wearing off from the front edge. By this I mean the silver strip down the middle of the shifter. The front edge was chipping and pealing which a) looks awful and b) the paint is some sort of metallic base so it actually chips off like chrome so I was sure I would eventually cut myself on a piece of it.
A replacement is like $90... that's a steep price to deal with some chipping paint. My solution was fairly simple, so I thought I'd do a writeup. Apologies for not taking pictures. I can take a final result if anyone is interested...
What you need:
- Shift leaver you want to paint: re-color, or fix chipping, whatever.
- Spray paint: I used Krylon Fusion in gloss black (~$6). You need something that bonds to plastic and can stand up to high wear. Color and glossyness are up to you, I was tempted with mat black, and might re-do it with that on a rainy day...
- Painters tape or masking tape: Painters tape is highly recommended because it's less sticky which makes it easier to work into the grooves.
- Fine grit sandpaper if you are fixing chipping or your paint choice requires surface prep (Krylon Fusion doesn't).
How to do it:
1) Remove the shifter.
There are plenty of instructions and a few videos available online. Simply put you pull the trigger and pull *straight* up really really hard. Some notes on this:
- Seriously, really hard. a Yank rather than steady preasure helps for the first removal.
- Make sure you pull *straight* up. The shifter has a plastic rod in the center that connects the trigger unlock button with the rest of the unlock mechanism. If you were to get at an angle when it came free you would snag the rod and snap it. If you do it's not the end of the world, the rod can be replaced *or* you can just use the car without it, you can shift out of park without the rod and that's all it does.
- Not a joke: make sure you don't punch yourself in the face. I missed myself by about an inch and it would have *really* hurt (black eye, etc.) if I hadn't... that yank just pops loose and WHAM.
2) Clean up the chipping.
If your shifter isn't chipping and you just want to paint it, skip this step.
If you've got chipping then start by pealing off as much as you can. Especially around the edges. You may find tweezers and a utility knife or even a pocket knife help deal with the edges and bubbles etc.
Once you've got as much off as possible take your sand paper and attack the edges of the paint. The underlying plastic appears to be nylon so you really can't do much damage to it. The remaining paint is obviously going to get covered so don't worry about scuffing that either. You need to be careful around the edges of the plastic piece so you don't accidentally sand the leather, just take your time. As it sands down you will notice it turns a copper color. You want the edges of the paint all to be that copper color, and feel as smooth as possible when you run your fingers over them. If you feel a snag on your finger or the sandpaper keep going.
3) Prepare the surface.
If your paint needs a rough surface you may need to sand everywhere you intend to paint (again, the krylon doesn't, check your can). It's a good idea to use a little soapy water on a paper towel to take some hand oil and surface gunk off the area as well just to make sure you've got a good bond. Just dab on, rub a little, wipe dry.
4) Tape up everything else.
Using the painter's tape cover everything you don't want painted. Painter's tape is non-sticky enough to be worked a little into the crack between the plastic and the leather. For me it took 1 strip up each side, then 2 little pieces to trim the top curve, and a bunch around the trigger button to get the edging right.
5) Paint it.
There's plenty of guides online on how to properly use spray paint, but essentially you keep it about a foot away from the surface and keep the can moving. Look up a guide if you're unclear or you may end up with an ugly surface, it's not hard, but you want to do it right since this is a trim piece and you'll see it every time you get in the car...
I used a gallon sized ziplock bag as a glove, and held the shifter by the plastic center rod. I gave it 7 very light coats with 10-15 mins between coats for drying. That was good enough for me. Your paint and tastes may vary. I could have stopped at 5, but if I do it again I'll go 10 just because why not when you've gone to the rest of the trouble and it takes about 5 seconds to apply.
6) Let it dry.
After your last coat it's probably dry to the touch in about 15 mins. However REALLY let it dry, give it a few hours if possible after the last coat just to be sure. It also won't be fully cured (final hardness) until the next day, so if you can give it as much time as possible. You don't want to scratch it because you didn't let it harden up...
Just put it back in place on the shift leaver, make sure it's facing forward properly (it has a guide tooth, so you can't get it really out of alignment or it won't go on). Push it back into place, and give it a good smack on the top to click it back in.
That's all there is to it. It is possible to get the plastic piece off of the rest of the handle, however I don't know how without breaking it. It is held in place with little clips inside the handle behind the trigger, and teeth on the back that slide down into a track. I don't know how to press in the clips without breaking something. I tried prying it up from the back but just broke the track teeth off... a piece of double sided foam tape holds it in place perfectly however and is totally invisible. If you wanted to you could pry it from the back and break off all the teeth and clips, then glue or tape it back into place when done and it would be totally fine (might be needed if you can't figure out the clips like me and you're looking to do a bigger mod to it, like instal a button etc.).
Hope someone finds this helpful!