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Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio Debut

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fiat 500 Abarth Carbon Fiber Dash Install

Fiat 500 Abarth with carbon fiber dashboard

The Fiat 500 Abarth offers a seemingly endless array of customization options. One popular enhancement for the Fiat 500 Abarth is a carbon fiber dash panel. It gives the interior an upscale look and is used in the special Abarth 695 series available in Europe.

The panels are available from various manufacturers, and I sourced mine from 500 Madness. Like most, if not all custom parts, there are no instructions on installing these products as they are geared towards professional installers. However, an Abarth owner or regular 500 owner for that matter can do the install if they have patience and the will. Of course, some instructions would help so the following is how I installed a carbon fiber dash in my own Fiat 500 Abarth.

First a word or two of advice. These carbon fiber dashboards are hand made and require some handwork of your own to make fit. If you are insane about the fit of your radio, you may be disappointed because there can be variances in the handmade panels compared to the die cast factory pieces. This is not a simple remove and replace, 10 minute job, especially if you have an Abarth.

Safety First!
Warning: Disable the airbag system before attempting any steering wheel, steering column or instrument panel component diagnosis or service. Disconnect and isolate the negative battery (ground) cable, then wait two minutes for the airbag system capacitor to discharge before performing further diagnosis or service. This is the only sure way to disable the airbag system. Failure to follow these instructions may result in accidental airbag deployment and possible serious or fatal injury.

Eye protection.  You will be using a high speed cutting device so don't take a chance.




Fiat 500 HVAC bezel
Start by disconnecting your negative battery cable.  Isolate it and wait two minutes before proceeding.  Get out an old credit card and pry off the HVAC panel outer bezel.  Go around it and carefully pry it off. Use two cards if need be to get the necessary leverage.


That is what the bezel looks like when it pops off.


Next, unscrew the two center screws that help hold the dash panel in place.  These are Torx screws, by the way.
 
There is one more Torx screw on the passenger side.  Besides the three screws, there are bracket fasteners that attach the outer panel to the dashboard.


Fiat 500 Abarth dash panel removal
Reach under the outer dash panel and give it a tug to disengage the bracket fasteners. Start at the passenger side and then...


Go to the center and give that part a tug.  The outer dash panel will come off but be careful because there is a wire that connects the Sport, Hazard and Defogger buttons.


Disconnect the wire harness.  I used my fingernail to disengage the locking clip.


I turned the outer dash panel over so you can see the brackets behind it. You have to remove the bracket and install it on your new carbon fiber dashboard. 


 
You first need to remove the air vent.  Get out your Torx driver and unscrew this fastener,

Depress the clips that hold the air vent to the dash panel. 


The air vent pulls out from the front.


Next, you need to remove the bracket from the outer dash.  This has been plastic welded by the factory, but it isn't really hard to separate.  Use a PLASTIC trim stick and wedge it under each weld.


Pry, wiggle and work it under the welded area and the panel will pop free with a SNAP.  Do this all around the dash panel.  There are a lot of them so expect to skin your knuckles, etc.


Eventually the panel will come free.  Savor the moment, because this is the easy part!


Another view of the dash panel and the center switches.  Each white spot on the panel is where it was welded.


This is what the bracket looks like without the outer dash panel installed.


You need to remove the chrome bezels that surround the dash mounted buttons.


Grab your trim stick and carefully press them out.


Here is what they look like.  There are three tabs that hold them in.


This is the back side of the Fiat 500 Abarth carbon fiber dash.  Note the three cutouts for the chrome trim .


The chrome trim installed.  Carefully press them in.  They may be keyed, so match the size of the tabs to ensure a proper fitment.  Don't crack your dashboard trying to jam them in!




This is what they look like installed.
 


You need to secure the carbon fiber dash board to the inner bracket.  This can be done several ways, but I used 3M double sided molding tape.  This is professional grade and will hold aerodynamic accessories to the outside of a car, so it will hold a dashboard on without a problem.

Before you attach the bracket to the carbon fiber dash, test fit the dash to the car and make sure it is molded correctly and fits properly.  You need to look at where the radio fits and all along the top of the dash where it meets the top of the dashboard. You are looking for gaps and to ensure the dash lines up with the radio.  There are tabs that can be trimmed to adjust the panel fit.  Take the time now before you attach the bracket or you will have bigger issues later. 

Once you are satisfied that the dashboard fits, install the bracket to the backside of the dashboard. I layed the carbon fiber dash on a soft towel and pressed the bracket down firmly to make sure the tape had good adhesion.  Sorry no pics, but I had my hands full!   Make sure you use enough tape by the switches because if you don't the switches will move around when you punch the Sport button.

Reinstall the air vent and then hook the wire harness going to the center buttons.  Don't forget this, because you'll have to remove the dashboard all over again (don't ask me why I know this...)!

Position the dash in the proper location and push to engage the bracket fasteners. They will snap in.  Make sure the dash fits all around the edges.  Pop it back off and trim the tabs if you are not satisfied.  Remember this is custom work!



The radio fit can also be adjusted.  Here is how.  Pull of the two covers on each "knob."


Using an old fashioned Ford/VW radio removal tool (available at any retail auto parts store) push the tool until it snaps in and then wiggle the radio out.  You can fine tune the fit of the radio to match the contours of the carbon fiber dashboard.


When you are done, reinstall the two center screws and the other screw by the glove box.


Stop and admire your work.  If you have a regular Fiat 500, the other side is a lot easier.  However, if you have a 500 Abarth, get ready for some more work!

To access the left side dash panel, you need to move the instrument cluster bezel out of the way. Here is how:

1.Tilt the steering column to the full-downward position.

2.Remove the two screws (marked in blue) attaching the upper column shroud to the lower shroud. After removing the screws, unclip the shrouds from each other by applying hand pressure along the seams where the shrouds connect on the sides, then remove the lower shroud. Don't be surprised if this is a pain to do! I had to use two hands to get this to pop apart.

3. Remove the column shrouds.

4. Remove the upper screw (red) and the two lower screws (green) and the cluster bezel will be free. You don't have to totally remove it, just move it so the boost gauge is out of the way.


Once the instrument cluster is freed up, you can remove the left side dash panel.  Just reach under it and give it a tug.  Fiat 500 owners don't need to free up the instrument cluster as far as I remember.



This is what you'll be presented with.  The left dash panel on a Fiat 500 Abarth is custom trimmed at the factory for fitment.  Guess what, you'll need to do the same!

This is the problem.  The left dash panel in a 500 Abarth has been trimmed to accommodate the boost gauge. You need to match the contours and then carefully trim them a little at a time to get the boost gauge to fit perfectly.


Again, pull off the air vent.  Disengage the clips.


Closeup on one of the clips. Push the tang in on each clip and then pull the air vent out of the dash panel.


Air vent detail.  I believe there are three clips.


Grab your trim stick and separate the inner bracket from the outer dash panel. 


Success!  The white spots are where the bracket was heat welded.


Use the inner bracket as a template.


Line it up as perfectly as possible...


Trace the cut out.


Where you need to cut.  Yes, you need to cut this part out!


Dremel tool with cutting disc.  Use eye protection!  Cutting carbon fiber is tough!  Also make sure you cover up because carbon fiber cuttings and dust are worse than fiberglass getting under your skin.


The roughed out panel.  This will need to be trimmed over and over again a little at a time to get the fitment perfect. Whenever you get impatient, just remind yourself how much this costs!


The panels ready to be assembled.


Test fit...


Close up on the test fit.  The contour match as close as possible.  If you screw up, well I don't have to tell you...


The 3M double sided tape ready to do its thing.


Assembled with the air vent attached. You may have to trim the dash panel to get the air vent to fit.


Ready to be installed. Man, this is taking a long time. I'm glad my wife was away this weekend!


Snap the left dashboard panel in and then make sure the boost gauge lies flat and fits into the hole you cut out. You may have to trim the hole somewhat. Easy does it!  I had to do this over and over again to get the fitment correct.  If you don't take the time to do this, the whole instrument cluster including the leather cover will not fit correctly and look off.

Once this is done, reinstall the screws that hold the instrument cluster down and assemble the steering column shrouds. 

You are done! 

Disclaimer: This is how I installed a carbon fiber dash panel in my Fiat 500 Abarth and is provided for entertainment purposes. If you have any doubts on you ability to do this work or have any issues, I recommend having it done by a professional. I am not responsible for any issues arriving from you reading this post. Use at your own risk.

Related:


Fiat 500 Abarth Suede Door Panel Inserts


Fiat 500 Abarth Short Shifter Install

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