Do-it Yourself Rear Window Replacement.

by Mike Davis

About two weeks ago I decided to make a project of replacing the old, cracked plastic window on my '97. Here in Marin, CA there is a shop called TAP plastics, which sells sheets of vinyl of various thickness. I picked up a sheet that is slightly thinner than the OEM vinyl, but it is much clearer and more transparent. This vinyl is commonly available for replacing boat windows, camping tents, etc. and is of optical quality. There are also rigid plastic, optical quality sheets that can be cut to size with a table saw or small hand saw. This type of vinyl sheet can be found at marine/boat supply or repair shops, giant hardware stores like Yardbirds, or on the 'net. Cost is about $9-$12 for a 3-foot sheet.

Anyway, I bought the vinyl sheet, a small tube of BOND 634 vinyl cement ($3.45), and a disposable utility knife (.80 cents). Here's the operation: I cut out the original vinyl window, then traced the shape onto a large sheet of tracing paper to make a "template"; I taped the tracing paper on top of my new sheet of vinyl and used the utility knife (you can also use scissors) to cut out the new window, allowing an extra 1/4" all around. I then used the knife to scrape off the 1/4" of old vinyl on the soft top where the OEM window had been hot-glued around the window hole. This was the hardest part, I'm referring to the rubberized-vinyl 1/4" "frame" or border around the rear window, where the window is hot-glued to the soft top (next time I'll used a scraping tool).

I then ran a thin line of the vinyl cement around the outer 1/4" of the new window and placed it in the hole; the cement sets quickly, within an hour or two. Here's how I replicated the 1/4" rubber "frame" that borders the window and covers the "seam" where the new window was glued-in: at the hardware store you can easily find rolls of textured vinyl tape, the type that is commonly used in bathtubs and on steps to prevent slipping. It comes in a variety of widths, I bought a strip about 8' long and 2" wide ($1.95/ft.). It actually isn't available in black, so bought the clear/transparent tape, then spray-painted it black, with that black "rubber" spray paint, used for putting a rubbery grip on hand tools etc. ($2.95 at the same hardware store). I again used my template to craft the 1/4" rubber "frame" or border that covers the seam where the new window was glued-in. Since the vinyl tape is only 2" wide, I composed the frame/border from four pieces (top, bottom, left, right, like a picture frame), glued them together, let it set, then spray painted with the black "rubber" paint (three coats). The "frame" was then glued on top of the new window around the seam/border. It looks like a single, oval rubber frame, you cannot detect that it's four pieces after spray painting.

So, total time for this project, including shopping for the supplies, was about 20 hours, a full weekend. Total cost was about $35. Now that I've tried it once, I think it could all be done in a single, full day. And how does it look? PERFECT! Totally stock, clean and gorgeous! It was fun, and saved me about $500. It's like having a new car.

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11 May, 2003