This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's book, 101 Projects for Your Porsche 911. The book contains 240 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to changing your brake pads. With more than 650+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any Porsche 911 owner's collection. See The Official Book Website for more details.
One of the most common problems with the older Porsches is that the dash pad cracks, fades and separates after years of exposure to the sun. There are a few ways to prevent this, but few original owners thought to keep the dash pad protected from the sun.
Replacement of the dash pad is not cheap, and it's not easy either. New dash pads (if still available for your year 911) typically cost around $600 or more. Used ones in decent condition are very difficult to find, and still fetch prices around $300-$450 depending upon the year or color. The best bet is to find one of these used ones, install it, and then take care of it by keeping it out of the sun.
The first step in replacing your dash pad, unfortunately is to remove the front windshield. The dash pad cannot be replaced with the windshield in place. The lower part of the windshield seal tucks over the edge of the dash pad. It's nearly impossible to get the dash in and out without removing this seal, which means removing the windshield. For more information on removing the windshield from your car, refer to Pelican Technical Article: Glass Removal.
Once you have the windshield out, things get a bit easier. The dash pad is attached to the chassis of the car using two different types of fasteners. The rear of the dash pad is held in using small plastic clips, similar to the ones that hold the door panel to the door. The other fastener is an embedded stud, which protrudes through the sheet metal of the chassis and is secured with either a metal or plastic nut.
The consistency of the layout of the mounting studs and plastic clips on the dash pads has varied over the years. Sometimes, even if you order the correct dash pad for your year 911, you might find that the studs and clips are located in the wrong places. The dash pads for the very early cars (1965-68) are no longer available. From 1969 through 1975 the dash pads all had a center speaker vent that was separate from the dash pad. In 1976 the speaker grille disappeared from the top of the dash pad. In 1977, a center air vent was added and remained there until 1986, when the dash pad was redesigned again, this time without the small plastic clips that attach it to the top of the dashboard.
The difficult part of removing the dash pad is that the fasteners can be difficult to locate, and it's also hard to tell if they are the snap-in type or the embedded stud type. Early dashes up to 1985 had these plastic snap-in retainers, but the later style ones used on the Carreras (1986- and up) used a dash pad that only had studs. Refer to the photo in this project for the locations of the different types of fasteners. Access to the nuts that hold the dash pad can be difficult to get to as well. You will need to remove most of the gauges from their holders (see Project 88 for details on removing gauges). You also might have to remove the glove box and the radio. Depending upon how big your hands are (no kidding) you may have to remove a few more items as well such as vents or hoses.
The good news is that the nuts that secure the dash pad to the chassis are usually not on very tight, and in most case can be removed simply using your hand. This of course will be the case for all of the nuts except for the one that is the most difficult to reach (Murphy's Law).
Another thing in your favor is that if you are removing the dash pad from your car, then chances it's already in less than acceptable condition, and a little bit more wear and tear from the removal process won't really matter. There is a good chance that you will mess up or damage the dash pad when removing it, so beware if you are planning on reusing it. During the process of removal, you will most likely learn where all the difficult to reach fasteners go, and the particular tricks to reach them. Make sure that you don't accidentally unplug or pull on any wires or hoses located behind the dash - it can be a huge pain to troubleshoot dashboard electrical problems.
To detach the small plastic clips that hold the rear of the dash pad, gently pry up or pull on them. The clips should pop out of their mating holes in the top of the dashboard. Don't be too concerned if one or two of the clips become separated from the dash: it's easy to reglue them back on later.
Installation of the new pad is pretty easy, compared to the removal process. Simply take the new one, and line it up properly with all of the holes for the embedded studs. Then snap down the rear of the pad, making sure that all of the plastic clips seat properly into the top of the dashboard. Attach the nuts to the ends of the embedded studs. In most cases, finger tight is usually tight enough. If you over tighten the nuts on the dash pad studs, then you might pull them out of the dash pad, or worse, deform the pad itself.
After all of the clips are attached, and the studs are tightened, then it's time to reinstall your windshield: not one of your easiest jobs. For more information, see Pelican Technical Article: Installing Window Glass, and remember to have patience during the install.
The best method to shield the dash pad from the sun is by using a prefabricated cover that is fitted to the dash pad. There are several different types, but my personal favorite is the one manufactured out of velour. It looks slick, and it does an excellent job of insulating against the heat of the sun. There are a few other types of covers available as well, and which one you use is subject to your individual taste. The important thing to remember is to make sure that you use the cover to protect your new investment from the heat of the sun.
The dash pad is held on with two different types of fasteners. One type simply presses into the top of the metal support (shown by yellow arrow), where as the other is actually an embedded stud in the pad itself (green arrow). If you are performing this for the first time, the most difficult part of the job is figuring out which fastener mates to which hole.
This photo shows the location of the studs (shown in white) and the plastic press-in fasteners (shown in yellow) on a 1973 dash board. Various changes occurred throughout the years, but for the most part, most of the fasteners have remained in the same place. Use this photo as a guideline for where to look for the studs that hold your dash pad onto your car.