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2001 21i Dash Bezel Replacement

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    2001 21i Dash Bezel Replacement

    I get the impression that others have cracked and broken dash bezels. Mine was not looking too hot and based on a little searching and reading, it doesn't seem very easy to buy replacements. So I decided it would be worth trying to make some new ones. I am not done yet, but I like what I am seeing so far. I figured this might be helpful to someone else with a similar problem.

    Here is what one of the bezels looks like...
    I was amazed when I got the piece out of the dash, all the holes/slots appear to have been added as an after thought because they were very sloppy.

    Before getting into the process, I am not a professional by any stretch of the imagination. I have done a couple small fiberglass projects years back and I am sure there are some easier ways to do some of this, but it is what I know based on trial and error and some youtube videos (lots of error ).

    I started by working on the bezel shown and got it to a point that I thought that it was actually going to work, then decided to start the opposite side. Most of the pictures will be the process for the second side.

    My goal was to create a fiberglass mold to make a new fiberglass bezel. To do that, I needed to recreate the shape of the bezel that I wanted. The corners were completely missing, so I glued two thin pieces of metal to the back of the bezel.


    I then built up a clay like material on the metal and shaped it to be close as possible to what the bezel should look like. Sorry no pictures of what this one looked like. The second bezel was not as extreme, but it was distorted and had a low spot that I filled in with clay.


    The next step was to NEATLY cover the bezel in painters tape. Try to prevent any lumps and cover all surfaces. It does not need to be perfect.


    The next step makes things much easier (I didnt do this the first time). Get a few pieces of scrap wood, make a base and then attach some smaller pieces to elevate the piece and put it at an angle. I used hot glue to attach the bezel to the stand. It is not intended to be permanent.


    You are going to put fiberglass over the top of this, so it is important that you put a release agent over the tape. Get the Vasoline out of the closet and cover it in a thin layer, try not to leave any big clumps. Get out a heat gun and run the heat gun over it. You will see it melt and even out. In the picture above, you can see the shiny layer of vasoline. You are ready now ready for fiberglass.
    Last edited by lowesthertz; 12-18-2022, 09:55 PM.


      Next up is to create the mold out of fiberglass. I would pre-cut the fiberglass and decide how to place each piece. The first layer will be fiberglass CLOTH. Since there is vasoiline on the bezel, you can place the first layer down and form it to the piece before mixing your fiberglass resin/hardener. The vasoline will hold it down. For this mold, I was only doing one layer of CLOTH and one layer of MATT. You want this piece to be flexible so that you can get your bezel out of it without damaging it.

      Here are picture after it cured.


      Now you should be able to remove the bezel from the mold by simply sliding a putty knife in between the two in a couple places. It should not be difficult. Once it has released, I put it back in and traced a line around the bezel.


      Next, I used a Dremel tool with a small cutoff wheel to trim to the line. Also remove an bumps or ridges at the edges that you just trimmed.

      Clean up all the vasoline, and then cover it with painters tape similar to how you covered the bezel. You will then need to attach it to a base again, I used the same based that I attached the bezel to.


      Now put a layer of vasoline all over the molding surface. Use a heat gun again to melt the vasoline. You are now ready to make the bezel.


        Plan out your fiberglass cloth and matt again. First layer should be cloth and can be put down before the resin/hardener is added. Use caution on where you place the seams and try to keep the thickness consistent. Plan carefully for where you will overlap layers, remember that it will be thicker in these locations which can affect when you attach the switches, reset switches, etc.



        I ended up using 1 layer of cloth and 3 layers of matt. Make sure to soak the fiberglass beyond the edge of the mold. Here is what it looks like before curing.



          This is a nice little "How To." Well done @lowesthetz. I look forward to seeing the finished product.


            Once the glass cures, you should be able to remove it easily with a putty knife between the bezel and the mold. Once it is removed you will want to clean off the vasoline. Place the bezel back in the mold and trace around the mold. This is going to be your cut line.

            Again, I use a dremel tool with small cutoff wheel to cut on the line to remove the extra material. Next, test fit the piece on the dash. You will need to make adjustments. I used a bench top belt sander. Make sure all the sides are straight, sand off the high spots. Test fit, adjust, test fit, adjust, test get it. ALSO, make sure that both sides fit the same.

            Here is what mine looked like after adjustments. Don't worry above getting the surface perfectly smooth yet, you will use body filler to do that.


            Here are some pictures of the test fit. Make sure you are happy with the fit at this point. Remember...test fit, adjust, test fit

            Make sure that you test fit both at the same time so that they sit the same as each other.


            Next up, body filler.


              Next up was covering the entire front face with body filler. The smoother you apply, the less sanding work you will have to do. For me, I was doing this in 15-20F temps so the body filler was not the easiest to work with.


              You will sand it smooth, at this time I was using a coarse sandpaper to make things move along fast. Next I patched any low spots and sanded again. You want to get it pretty good, but not perfect at this point, because you will do body filler at least one more time.


              Once it is close enough, it is time to layout the cutouts. Measure 5 times, cut once


              Now it is time to start cutting the holes out. Make sure that you have patients before starting this as you need to take your time. First are the tools that I used for the next few steps. First picture is the small cutoff wheel and a mounted point. The second picture is a pointy mounted point which is what I used to clean up the corners of the rectangular cutouts.


              Start cutting out each of the openings. The rectangles I used the cutoff wheel, the holes I used standard drill bits. I found it best to start the holes with an 1/8" bit then go straight to the final size.


              Notice that the cutouts are still rough. Go back with the dremel tools to grind out each hole until you are happy.


              Most likely you got a little chipping or have some overcuts from the cutoff wheel. Also at this time, if you have any fiberglass still showing, grind it back before you do your final bodyfiller layers.


              Sand and repeat body filler until you are happy. Make sure to hit the body filler with a finer sandpaper on your final pass. Here are the two pieces once I was happy to move on to primer. Note, dark spots are not high or low spots, I was just not consistent with the ratio of hardener in the body filler, so some body filler is darker than the rest.



                Next up is primer, here is a picture of the primer and paint that I am using.


                I used a 4" foam roller. Here is a picture of the two pieces with wet primer. Cant wait to get the paint on.



                  Since I cant paint yet, here a few other random things that have come up in this process. When I was originally stripping the hardware off the bezels to get started, I didn't know how to deal with the little rubber boots on the reset buttons. I peeled them off with a small screwdriver. Not until I got almost all of them off, did I realize that I was actually destroying should be able to spin them off. The rubber boot and nut are one piece. See pictures below. If anyone is trying to buy replacements, mine were a 3/8"-27 thread.


                  Also when you are stripping the hardware from the bezel, you take the rocker switches out, I had to disconnect the terminals from the back of the rocker. In the process a few of the contacts pulled out the back of the rocker, so I decided to get a new set of rockers. You will see that I have chosen to get a different color horn rocker. It probably wont look as good, but this is more about making sure that the horn can be found fast if needed in an emergency. There will be 9 black ones and one red.



                    The painting process did not go very smoothly. I was trying to roll and brush the marine enamel with no success (I dont have a spray gun and was not looking to learn that on this project). The quality of the surface was not good enough and when I tried to wet sand the imperfections off, I would go through the paint. Over and over again...but also it was a little too glossy for my likings.

                    Eventually I made the decision to go back to the rattle can. I picked out a light grey satin enamel and things got much better. Below is a picture after paint with them still attached to the bases.


                    Here is a comparison of the old and new.


                    Then FINALLY, here are the finish products installed! I like the color, but not crazy about how it looks against the gauge bezel color. The grey matches the accents in the vinyl. Guess I have a project for next winter. That piece would certainly be pushing my experience level with fiberglass...


                    Straight on view of the finished product. I am glad it is done



                      lowesthertz I watched this from start to finish. You did an excellent job!!! Sad to say.... but there isn't a lot of love for the guys who fix the old boat up here. You will get more comments on "look at my new boat" Not that there is anything wrong with that. It is just the way it is. Again nice job. you should post this up on "wake garage" you used some techniques that I never thought of or seen.


                        gumby Thank you for the kind words. I hope that someone might find this helpful since finding replacement parts seems to be a lost cause. It looks like a lot of work, but most of the work was in figuring out how to do it by trying something, then re-doing. I did it over about a month, and some days I didn’t do anything or some that I might have done 10 minutes of work. Good winter project.