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How To: Install a Chevy/GMC Truck Dash

Project Overview

In this video you'll see how to replace the dash pad, trim and vents in your 1981-1987 Chevy/GMC pickup truck.

Project Difficulty
Estimated Project Time
2.5 hours
Required Tools
  • Cordless Drill
  • Flat and Phillips Screwdriver
  • 1/4" Drive Socket Sets
  • Trim Removal Set

Video Transcription

Hey Guys, I'm Kevin Tetz working with LMC Truck to bring you guys some technical information and how-to videos that we hope we're going to make your truck restoration project go even smoother.

In this video we're going to show you how to replace the dash pad on your 1981 through 87 GM pickup, so why would you need to replace the dash pad? I've got a prime example check this out.

Now we're obviously changing the color of our interior to black from maroon so our dash pad needs changed out or painted anyways. But look at this. This is one of those inexpensive dash covers it's been silicone in place and it's covering cracks in the existing dash and it itself has cracked up and broken. So strike 2, the dash pad needs replaced. But check this out as well...The vents, they're sloppy they're just worn out. Its 1987 thirty-plus years and it's just time for a change so we're going to walk you through it.

Replacing the dash pad is pretty straightforward and we'll walk you through that. But in case you need air conditioning ducts or hardware that's all available in the LMC Truck catalogs including defroster ducts and the bezels to make it look brand new. You can also get a bunch of different versions of the gauge bezel all the accessory brackets including a high-performance gauge package that requires no cutting or drilling you just got to wire it into your existing senders. Now you probably won’t need every single thing we've got laid out on the table but it's nice to know that LMC Truck has everything that you’d possibly want to restore or refurbish or even customize your existing dash. Now let's talk about tools.

You can do this job with simple hand tools...a couple of different flavored screwdrivers and a quarter drive set standard and metric if you've got'em. I always like a cordless drill. If I've got a straight shot to screw, it just seems a little bit of time. Now this plastic pry set, this comes in handy for a lot of interior projects and LMC Truck has this in their catalog. All in all I give this two and a half out of 5 on a scale of difficulty. It’s a bunch of screws, some of its fiddley but it's not that hard. Let's get it done.

We've got about 12 screws, some radio knobs and a couple of little fasteners to get rid of. Just keep track of your original fasteners. Remember where they came from. Step 1 in replacing the dash pad is removing the instrument bezel. Make sure you keep track of the screws you removed since they're different lengths and they need to go back where they came from. This is the fiddly part, you don't want to get crazy. You want to make sure your knobs are free and that you don’t break anything. And, remember how you take it out because it goes back in the same way. Keep track of them. And that should be all we need. Don't forget to take your protective film off when you put your logos in place. The spring steel retaining clips for the new dash are sold separately if you need new ones. And there is a little bit of a technique to installing them. They slip in, this one lower tang here...slips into this slot and you push down at the same time as you twist. Alright, then, the back end slips into the other groove and that provides a spring steel tension to hold the front of the dash in place along the windshield.

Alright, we're going to install the bezel next. We've preassembled a Silverado emblem and the vent pops into the bezel before it goes in the dash. Keep this in mind you want to test fit your vents into the dash. Sometimes it can be a little snug, you want to make sure it's free moving, ours is not, so we had to trim a little bit off the other side, I'm going to trim some of this side as well. I'm using a very sharp brand, new single edge, razor blade. I set my vent in and take a look and see where I need to trim and its right across here. It's important to use a sharp, sharp blade want to just stay within the opening. Also keep in mind that you're not ruining your new dash. The bezel is going to cover all of this up you're just trimming for clearance. Just don't let the blade getaway and don't cut yourself. Now we'll do a quick test fit to see where we're at. We've got good clearance and a good fit now we can pop the vent into the bezel itself. There it is, now we're ready. Now we can install our bezel into the dash. We're getting closer...

Now before we start putting a bunch of brand new parts on our old dash, there's a little bit of housekeeping we're going to do starting with a clear lens cover for the factory gauges and this is available from the LMC Truck catalog as replacement but ours just looks a little bit dusty and I think it just needs cleaned up so we're going to give that a shot. First thing we're going to do is use a glass cleaner on both sides and a clean microfiber to clean the dust off this thing. Now, I'm going to use a very mild polish, and again, another clean microfiber very important to use gentle pressure and a polish not a compound. You don't want to scratch the plastic and it's not very strong. It won't hold up to a whole lot of abuse. Alright I'm going to call this a successful failure because we cleaned it up, it looks much better but we can see some scratches that are permanent. So we're going to put this back in, since it's easy to remove we'll just hit up to get a new one.

Alright, a couple of screws and this trim piece, which is the wrong color, comes out easily. We've got a color correct black one to go in its place. You can't put this in with the dash in place, so now is the time. You also have the option to color change these pieces or even your dash pad if it's in good shape with ColorBond spray which is available in several different colors. We're going to replace our headlight pull switch. If you've ever been frustrated by this, or ever wondered how...I'm going to show you. First you've got to get access to the switch itself. In this truck it's easy by removing this vent. Now, this little tab right here, this button is a release tab for the shaft of the switch. You've got to reach in there and fidget. Press it, alright, you'll get the feel for it you'll feel it when it's ready to come out. Re-install the new one. Just push it in and we're ready. That is two minutes and it's worth doing. Perfect.

After doing a quick test fit of the dash, there is one more thing that needs to be trimmed. You always want to test fit things first before you commit to it and this flange right here is just part of the molding process and we just need to trim it off. Alright...give that a shot. You want to remember how you removed the dash so you can put it in the opposite way. We've got a duct here that's got to go in first. Just go easy and slow, take your time. Nice fit there...good across the window edge.

Alright, we're in. All you've to do here is drill the hole in the pad and make sure the screw lines up with the clip. Since this corner of the dash is just kind of floating I went ahead and drilled another screw hole there just to hold it in place so we don't develop a rattle down the road. We're good.

Before we put our bezel in I've got another AC vent and I've got this one here to compare to the old one to make sure I've got the vent in the correct way and we're good to go. Have patience installing your instrument bezel. Go slow and be careful, line up the ducts if you have an AC truck and placing the shifter in first gear will give you a little bit of extra clearance as well. There we go, now here, in hindsight I should have waited to put the light switch in after the bezel went on, but just so you know if you're in my position and you forget, you can do it both ways.

Alright so I'm going to use my awl to line up the other tops screw and put one in on this side to hold it in place. There we go, we've got to drill the holes in the corner of our bezel. I'm going to use a real light touch. And lastly, the defrost grille...There.

Replacing the dash pad in your vehicle is like the crown jewel of your interior. It makes such a difference. And we hope we've passed on some good tips to help you with your dash replacement or interior projects.

Don't forget to look through the LMC Truck catalogs or go to and get other ideas for products that make your restoration even better. I'm Kevin Tetz, thanks for watching.