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How To: Install Door Panel & Trim

Project Overview

In this video we're going to show you how to install a door panel and trim in a 1981 through 1987 Chevy or GMC pickup truck.

This project is not difficult. On a scale of 1 to 5, it's about a 2, and the project can be completed in an easy afternoon.

Project Difficulty
Estimated Project Time
4-6 hours
Required Tools
  • Knife
  • Phillips Screwdriver
  • Plunge Router
  • Cordless Drill
  • Trim Removal Tool
  • Trim Removal Set

Video Transcription

Hi, I'm Kevin Tetz working with LMC Truck to bring you some great technical and how-to information on how to work on your truck projects. In this video we’re going to walk you through the process of replacing interior door trim panels in a 1981 through 1987 Chevy or GMC pickup. Now to me this truck doesn't seem like it's all that old but thirty years have gone by since this vehicle rolled off the assembly line and that's an awful lot of time for general wear and tear or broken parts to happen. Let's take a look.

Now this truck is actually all original and it's not in that bad a shape but we’ve got sun damage on the panel here...there's been some kind of a crazy repair here on the pull and the door handle, well it’s failing and the switches they're corroded up. Down here, the carpeting, well it's coming loose and it's moisture damaged and wrinkled up. Now this project is not difficult. On a scale of one to five it's about a two. And you can restore the interior of both door panels in an easy afternoon. The good thing is that there's replacement parts for everything that you're seeing right here... let's go take a look.

Now the door trim panels come in different colors. We're staying with black because that's our new interior color. If you've got a basic truck where you can install this right out of the box. It's got a factory looking grain and it's a very accurate panel. By the way, the inner window seal comes attached to the trim panel already. But look at the score lines if you got a loaded up truck LMC Truck makes it easy and we'll talk about that a little bit later on. Now it's probably not likely that you are going to need every single piece that we've got laid out here on the table. However, if you're starting with the project that's a bare door shell or a vehicle that been stripped down or if you even want to upgrade your vehicle to a full load package. It's nice to know that LMC Truck has got every single thing that you'd ever hope to need to restore your project.

Now, let's talk about tools. You're going to need some kind of a knife to cut with, a Phillip screwdriver, I like to use a reciprocating saw, and a cordless drill, real basic stuff. This is from my toolbox but you can also get some pieces from LMC Truck such as this trim removal tool and this trim removal set. They're made from heavy-duty nylon there's lots of different shapes that allow you to safely remove clips and fasteners without breaking them and do it without scratching the paint. And it all starts with tearing our door down to see what it is that we need. Now this is the wrong way to remove these trim caps. Ours were broken and glued on so it didn't matter how were moved them. But the proper way is to push them from the outside end with the small thin tool, release the clip and gently pivot them back just remember not to force anything. The Nylon pry tools are nice to have on hand for plastic because they have a little give to them and won't stress the plastic that might be older and brittle when disconnecting power window switches make sure your battery is disconnected so you don't ark off any contacts and blow a fuse or ruin a switch. That's where a non-conductive pry tool helps as well. Just keep in mind that these parts are old and need to be handled with care.

The lower carpet is its own template for drilling the holes in the new one. Hold it steady for an accurate location and use an awl or sharp screwdriver to mark the screw locations in the new panel. Then use a 1/8" drill bit to enlarge the holes for installation. The pocket sits almost exactly in line with the armrest support. So we're just going to center it up...mark my corners, just for future reference. Now we can start cutting. This 8-1/2 x 11 sheet is conveniently almost exactly the same size of their trim pocket to serve as a base for a template. That's just about perfect. Now we transfer the template to the door and mark and drill the holes. Make sure your pattern and template is flipped the right way so your pocket is right-side up. Start with an eighth-inch pilot hole then in large the bottom holes to just smaller than the size of the push pins for the storage pocket. This will secure the pocket just like the factory did. Now we're going to make the square peg fit in a round hole with an eight-page bit and just kind of making corners. You want to go easy on this...take it slow. Work a little at a time. That's what you want, nice and secure. Be careful when you're marking your holes that you don't go through both sides of the pocket. And I want to say as well if you're using an original panel just replacing the pocket you don't need to go to the step of creating these anchor holes again. But we're using new we want to dress it up like the original we're ready to go. Now our pushpins line up perfectly into the holes we've drilled through our template. Now I can't show you but you're going to hear those push pins are now perfectly located, there we go. Now all we’ve got to do is run screws through the top and we're installed. Right out of the box this panel is ready to install if you've got a basic truck. But if you've got a Sierra or Silverado with a trim package on it here's how to make that work. All the cut lines for the switches and handles their already molded into the panel. The round is for the window crank for a manual window this is for the left and right window switch this is for your door lock switch this score line here is for the bezel for the actual door handle itself. There's all kinds of holes and markings here for your trim piece that we’re going to put in everything is visible, everything's marked and you've got a 100% chance of getting the components in the correct place.

Our switches sit right here in the trim panel and I always like to make a corner drill just so I don't over cut. Rather than the saw we found that a rotary plunge tool works great for ABS plastic which has a tendency to melt back into itself with the saw blade. Obviously you're openings on have to be perfect which is good in my case just make sure that your spring clips on the sides of the switches themselves have enough material to grab onto to get a good bite. First, we scored the pre-marked lines on the back side of the panel then the plunge cutter cuts the center allowing for some leverage. Finally, we used the pliers to break away the plastic on the scored line. And that gives us the clearance we need for the new bezel. Perfect, look at that. The deluxe trim panel needs several mounting holes drilled in the door panel and like we said there are all clearly marked from the back. But there are some slots that need opened and the plunge tool works great for these as well. Speed nuts hold the trim piece in place and are installed onto the plastics studs on the backside of the trim which sticks through the newly drilled hole. The new arm rest pad is installed before the panel goes back on the truck and is held in place with the steel clip on the backside of the panel that slips over the stud. A long 3/8 socket works great for installing the clip. All right, now we're ready to install the trim panel back on the door.

Now the interior door handle was still functioning on the truck but look the chrome is pitted the stop is bent and the rubber stop is gone. And it takes this tiny little E-clip that if you ever lose your messed up and it's difficult to install so we're going to use a new one from LMC Truck that has a nice zinc coating. The stop is in place and it's got its own clip that you're not going to have to reuse that E-clip and it makes it much easier to install so we’re just going to use a new one. We're replacing the push pins in the Trim panel with new ones from LMC Truck. Since ours were dry rotted and one actually broke while removing the panel.

Reconnecting the window and lock switch is simple. We recommend installing the keepers just like the factory did so these are new as well. Here's a new clip for the bezel. So the last step is to just replace the panel but since we're in here and our clips are dry rotted and old anyways, I'm just going to replace them with new units that we got from LMC Truck. The fit of these panels is excellent and reinstalling the screws was easy since the holes lined up perfectly with the ones in the door shell. The armrest gets anchored to the support from the outside once the panel is on.

Alright, so the very last step is the door pull but, as you can see it's in a different color. Don't worry there's a very simple solution we can show you how to color match this in just a couple of minutes. Now to color change the door pulls were not painting them we're using ColorBond spray which actually provides a molecular bond between the spray coating itself and the part. And I'm a painter. I like to go one step further make sure my surface is perfectly clean so I'm going to give it a quick wipe down with acetone and make sure that I'm absolutely sure that there’s no contaminants on the door pull. As with any spray coating several medium to light coats are much better than a few heavy ones. Let that sit a couple minutes throw it on there.

There we go...And what an amazing transformation over what we started with a crusty worn out parts that were on this truck. We hope we passed on some great tips so that you have an easier time restoring or replacing your interior trim panels. And don’t forget you can always go through your LMC Truck catalog or go to for more ideas for products and accessories and upgrades to make your truck project he even better. For now I'm Kevin Tetz. Thanks for watching.