Kenriko’s Wraps

As much as I love my new Tesla Model 3, there are a few cosmetic things that cried out for modifications. And given that I wasn’t able to even drive the car for its first two months due to an injury, I spent much of that time making various “improvements”. Many of the mods are in the form of vinyl wraps, described below.

I searched the internets for options and finally settled on the vinyl-wrap kits from Kenriko, sold on Amazon.com. He’s a guy with a day job, so there are some delays in his updating Amazon’s inventory as well as fleshing out the options such as different materials (matte black, carbon fiber, etc.). The kits are very reasonably priced, all below US$30. Kenriko is very active (and responsive) on the Tesla Motors Club forum.

Center Console

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Center Console

I began with the center console. Like almost everyone I’ve spoken to, I found the stock glossy black finish to be  a disaster. It shows every fingerprint, scratch and speck of dust. I considered carbon fiber and other vinyls, but ended up going with Kenriko’s Avery 900 Matte Black kit. (See his installation video.) Why the Avery matte black? Kenriko says (and he’s right) that the 3M M12 Matte Black scratches very easily. The Avery product (in this particular case) is more durable. But my main reason is that it looks so good with the dark Alcantara upholstery. It’s a DIY wrap, but I cheated. I had Juan Gomez install it when he wrapped the exterior of the car. Juan does a much better job of this than I do.

Door Switches

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Door Kit with Yellow Button

After getting the car back from Juan, I decided to tackle the door switches myself. For this one, I bought Kenriko’s 3M 1080 Matte Black kit. (Installation video.) Yeah, I know I just wrote that 3M Matte Black scratches, but it seems okay on the door switches, which aren’t as vulnerable or obvious as the center console. After installing the wrap, I decided to swap out Kenriko’s door-open buttons for glossy yellow vinyl. I originally hand-cut the pieces using Kenriko’s originals as templates. More on this later. (Original post with more info at https://goo.gl/c7Kuva.)

My Own Vinyl Cutter

Not only does Kenriko sell kits on Amazon.com, he also uploads free, open-source templates to github in both .ai (Adobe Illustrator) and PDF formats. You can easily download the PDF versions and then hand-cut your own materials, but some of the cuts are small and tricky. For best results, you’ll want a true vinyl cutter. Also consider that the cost of the vinyl is almost as much as buying one of Kenriko’s complete kits, so if you can live with the materials he offers, you’re better off just purchasing his kits.

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Silhouette Cameo 3

I decided I wanted to do more of this type of modification, so I decided to dive into the world of vinyl cutters. After a bit of research, I settled on a Silhouette Cameo 3 cutter. Yeah, I know US$200+, plus the materials — I could do all of this for far less by just buying kits. But hey…I didn’t say any of this was rational!

I then purchased a variety of vinyls including:

The standard Silhouette Studio software, which is free with the cutter, won’t open Adobe Illustrator or PDF files. For that, I upgraded to the Designer Edition. That’s US$49.99 if purchased from Silhouette, but I discovered you can buy it from Swing Design for US$20 less. The PDF files work fine as-is, but at the time I wanted to tackle the next project (door sills), Kenriko had only uploaded the Adobe Illustrator file to github.

Not wanting to pay monthly for Adobe Illustrator, I downloaded the free, open-source app, Inkscape instead. For my iMac, this also required X11, so I downloaded and installed XQuartz. At first, I tried opening the .ai files in Inkscape and saving as SVG files, then opening those in Silhouette Studio. That resulted in some scaling errors. Instead, I ended up exporting to PDF from Inkscape and opening the PDFs in Silhouette. Scaling correct!

One of my first self-cut projects was to replace the little yellow door-opening buttons (see above) with ones that have cleaner edges.

Door Sills

Armed with my trusty Cameo 3, I was ready to tackle the next project: door sills. Kenriko did the hard part, designing a template to cover the front-door sills with cutouts for the “MODEL 3” text. But I wanted two things he didn’t offer: Matrix Black vinyl — Carbon Fiber is more popular, but I like the matrix look better — and red lettering.

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Front Door Sill

I downloaded Kenriko’s template in Adobe Illustrator format. I then made two versions: One just as Kenriko made it for the Matrix Black overlay, and another for the Gloss Dark Red vinyl that covers the full area but is just a bit undersized: about 2mm all around. I exported both in PDF format, opened them in Silhouette Studio, then cut the vinyl. The Matrix Black is quite a bit thicker and tougher than the red vinyl, so I had to run a few tests to get the settings right.

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Rear Door Sill

No, there isn’t normally a door-sill plate on the rear doors. This is a Kenriko “extra”.

What’s Next?

I’ve got at least two more wraps in the works: I want to cover the wood dashboard strip in Matrix Black and portions of the steering wheel in Matte Black, like the center console. I plan to wait for Kenriko to upload templates for these mods, since he does all that work with more care and patience than I’m likely to use. I plan to update this post once I’ve got those done.

 

Red Brake Calipers

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Front Rotor and Caliper

I’ve always liked the look of bright red brake calipers behind good-looking wheels. Even before I got my Tesla Model 3, I knew I wanted red calipers. I researched the options and found these:

  • Unplugged Performance offers a complete replacement for rotors and calipers for $9,000. Beyond my budget.
  • T Sportline in the Los Angeles area will paint them for you for $1,200. Still more than I wanted to pay. And I don’t live near L.A.
  • EVANNEX sells a set of red caliper “covers” for $290. They look okay, but it’s a weird way to get the results. And even still a bit pricey.
  • ForMyTesla.com offers a DIY kit of epoxy paint and decals for $79. Now we’re talking! (Their website is a mess. As of writing this, I could only get there via ForMyMercedes.com since the ForMyTesla.com link wasn’t working at all in my browser. Others don’t seem to have a problem with it however.) Note that if you don’t want the “Tesla” decals, you can buy the exact same kit for 1/2 the price at many places.

Needless to say, I went with the least expensive option.

Of course, any project like this is nothing more than an excuse to buy tools, and in this case the tools cost well more than the project itself. In my case, I needed the following to do the project. All but the last were found at the local Harbor Freight store:

Total for the project: $288.18 plus shipping and sales tax. Same price as the EVANNEX option and I end up with (a) better results, and (b) tools I will use in the future.

The jack adapter is very important. There are only four specific points at which you can jack up your Tesla Model 3 unless you want to start removing panels from beneath the car to expose suspension points at which you can support the 2-ton vehicle. Even then, those would be the “unofficial” points at which to lift the car. Plus, without a full lift or jack stands, I prefer not to work underneath a jacked-up car. You might be able to lift the car from one corner high enough to place a jack stand under the other point on the same side, but even then I’d need four jack stands and three more adapters. So I decided to do one wheel at a time.

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Front Wheel

Here are the steps I took:

  • Chocked the wheels on the opposite side.
  • Used the breaker bar to loosen the lug nuts.
  • Jacked up one wheel using the adapter.
  • Removed the wheel.
  • Used the spray cleaner provided with the paint kit to clean the caliper.
  • Masked off areas not to be painted such as the disk, pads, dust cover, etc.
  • Mixed 1/4 of the red paint and the epoxy “activator” using disposable eye droppers and a paper cup, neither of which are included with the kit, which is designed to be mixed and used all at once. You can use it for two hours before it cures.
  • Painted a first coat using a disposable 1″ foam-rubber brush (the kit includes just one brush).
  • Waited 15 minutes, then applied a second coat.
  • Waited two hours, then installed the decal.
  • Sprayed a protective coating (to keep the decal from rubbing off during washing) using some stuff I had in the house.
  • Reinstalled the wheel.
  • Waited 24 hours before driving.

The jack adapter has a magnet that holds it in place to the frame of the car. That’s great, but it’s too easy to forget about it after you lower the car. I solved this by attaching it to the jack using a piece of string so that when I remove the jack, the adapter always comes off with it.

[Note: I think the jack adaptor is a great thing to keep in your car in case you need roadside service, etc.]

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Rear Wheel

The kit from ForMyTesla.com was excellent. Good quality materials, good instructions and a fair price.

Because of the two-hour wait before re-mounting the wheels, this takes eight hours, plus the 24-hour wait before driving. Or spread it out over two days like I did. It’s actually less than one hour of work time per caliper.

Oh yeah…what about that red logo on the wheel hub? First of all, these are the standard 18″ wheels with the aero covers removed. I added Tesla’s Aero Wheel Cap Kit for $50. Then I finished it off with the red T-logo decals from Tesla Pride ($9.75 from Amazon.com).