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HOW TO REMOVE
&
REPLACE SAIL PANELS

Two basic methods of Sail Panel removal and re-installation are described below. Either will work fine. Our personal preference is Method #1 (but it does not work for the '84 Fiero). We suggest you print your method of choice for reference at your work location.


SAIL PANEL REMOVAL & REINSTALLATION - METHOD #1

1. Preparation

We try to provide maximum detail in these instructions. This means lots of words. Don't let the volume discourage you; the task is easy. We describe how to:

  • Remove the sail panel frames from the car (with old sail panels intact; can be done in less than 30 seconds)
  • Remove the old sail panel from the frame
  • Clean and re-paint the frame
  • Install the new sail panel
  • Re-mount the sail panel assembly on the car

For frame removal, work on your car where you have good light and where it is pleasantly warm. You must pry on the sail panel frame and plastic fasteners are less likely to break in warm conditions. You must also look behind the frame when it is partially removed. You need sunlight or a good electric light so you can see what you're doing. Cleaning, painting, and sail panel installation into the frame should be done at a workbench.

Tools required are:

    A. A 12" shaft flat blade screwdriver
    B. Double-sided tape to attach your new sail panel
    C. Solvent to remove the old adhesive from sail panel frame
    D. Rags
    E. 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper to prepare frame for painting (optional)
    F. Can of automotive trim paint, flat black (optional)
    G. Can of auto body primer (optional)

NOTE: To attach the sail panels to the frame, use 3M double sided tape, Stock No. 06384 (1/2" x 0.045" x 5 yd) available from NAPA, Pep Boys, and other similar parts stores. Ask for it by the 3M stock number. (THIS TAPE IS FOR THE NOTCHBACK SAIL PANEL ONLY, NOT THE FASTBACK VERSION. If you can't locate the correct tape we can provide it attached to your sail panels. This way all you have to do is peel off the protective backing on the tape and stick the sail panel to the car. WARNING! In one instance that we know of, use of the wrong tape caused the paint to peel from the back of the sail panel and the panel came loose. Use the recommended tape so you avoid this problem.

Another tape which will work well is 3M Stock No. 03609. This is identical to Stock No. 06384 but is only 5 feet long. This is enough to do one sail panel, but comes up about 16 inches short for two panels.

Fastback Quarter Windows

No, we do not sell quarter windows for the fastback, but we've had several inquiries about the correct tape for installing fastback quarter windows. We own a fastback and we took an old quarter window to our local 3M distributor to match the old tape. Here is what we found:

The tape for fastback quarter windows is 1/2" wide x 3 mm thick (120 mils) Very High Bond (VHB) closed-cell white acrylic tape with adhesive on two sides. The 3M product number for a 36 yard roll is 4959. It is also available in "miscellaneous custom" sizes which means it can be furnished in shorter lengths to customers who purchase large quantities. As of June 2012, a 36 yard roll was listed at $120-$166 (plus shipping) depending on the supplier. That works out to about $1.11 - $1.54 per foot. At tapecase.com you can get a 5 yard roll for about $51 plus shipping which works out to about $3.50 per foot.

If you use the 4959 tape, we cannot over-emphasize the need for cleanliness on both the quarter window and car body where the tape is applied. Although degreaser and water may be enough, we strongly recommend final cleaning with alcohol - isopropyl alcohol on the quarter windows and denatured alcohol on the car body. If your fingers touch any location where tape is applied, re-clean with alcohol. After tape is applied it needs time to reach full strength: about 3 days at 70F, one hour at 150F. If your quarter window does not fit well and tends to pull free, hold it in place mechanically for three days while under the summer sun. The hot sun will both cure the tape and re-shape the window to fit better. Be sure any mechanical devices used to hold the window have appropriate "softeners" so they do not mar your quarter windows.

If your fastback quarter windows fit the car frame pretty well, you may be able to get by using the 3M 08612 Window-Weld 3/8" x 15' round ribbon sealer kit which is under $20. This is a ribbon of soft butyl rubber typically used on windshield installations. We have not used this but have read of others who have done so successfully.

2. Handling the New Notchback Sail Panel

Your new sail panel has a protective plastic/paper sheet on the exterior. We suggest you leave it in place as long as you can. After installation is complete you can pull it. If you pull the protective sheet before it's installed on the car, replace it during installation.

Once the new panel is installed you can clean it with soap, water, and a soft touch. If it becomes lightly scratched there are rubbing compounds to remove them. Rubbing compound for plastic is available from Eastwood Company at 800- 345-1178. We have read that scratches can be removed with toothpaste such as Crest with baking soda, but we have not tried it. We have had good success with "Scratch Out" by Kit, available at Wal-Mart, and NOVUS plastic polish. If you get deep scratches in your panel, learn to live with it or get new panels. (See SAIL PANEL CARE for more information.)

3. Removing the Existing Sail Panel from Your Car

We recommend you remove the entire sail panel frame from the car with the old sail panel mounted in it. You CAN do all the work with the frame on the car, but you stand an excellent chance of paint damage unless you have the proper adhesive solvent (3M General Purpose Adhesive Cleaner, Part No. 051135-08984 or similar). If you want to leave the frame on the car, read the two excellent procedures by Phil Stevens and John Hinkle at the end of this section. Also read the notes from Dave Poulin and Bill Cade under the "References" section. (Both Dave and Bill left the frames on their car and describe the procedures they used.)

Sail panel frames are held to the car body with hidden fasteners at three locations behind the frame and tucked under the rain gutter at the top. Starting at the lower rear corner of the frame, measure up the sloped edge 3.5 and 11 inches and make a light, removable mark on the edge of the frame at each location.

About 3/4 inch inside the edge of the frame at each of these spots are the first two fasteners. These fasteners are metal clips on the '84-85 Fiero and plastic on '86-88 Fieros. Starting at either the upper or lower corner of the trailing edge, pull up the frame with your fingers if you can. Sometimes a credit card or similar non- marring tool will be enough to get you started. On '85 Fieros, lift firmly but slowly at each clip location on the trailing edge until the fastener pulls loose. On '86-88 Fieros, lift at each fastener location until the stem of the fastener is visible. Use a hook-shaped piece of piano wire behind the stem of the fastener and pull gently toward the rear of the car as you lift the edge of the sail panel. The wire hook will help depress the locking tab in the fastener so it pulls loose without damage. (Thanks to Greg Matthews for this tip.)

Dennis LaGrua of Neshanic, New Jersey, has the following suggestion to help remove sail panels: "I tried Method #1 and it worked fine. I pried the back bottom edge of the panel up and away with my fingers and grabbed on to the two rear fasteners with a 12" long nylon tie. Nylon ties are not only strong they won't scratch the car very easily." (Good idea. Thanks Dennis.)

If you are not able to pull the frame with your fingers, fix a piece of thin cardboard or duct tape on the car body at the frame-to-body junction next to each hidden clip. This helps avoid paint damage when you pry off the frame. Get a prying device like a screwdriver to lift the frame loose.

When you have the screwdriver under the edge of the frame next to a fastener, pry gently until the fastener pops loose ('85s) or until you can reach the fastener with a metal hook. Work back and forth between fasteners so you don't pull one completely loose before you start the other. It may take some tugging before they "pop", but they will come loose, and usually without much difficulty. At this point you can see the fasteners are metal on the '85s and plastic with small "gripper" posts that fit into holes in the body on the '86-88s.

Even with all your care you may break a fastener. If you do, the GM part number is 20628364 (for '88 cars) but has been discontinued. You can get new ones at the Fiero Store (fierostore.com).

If you do break a fastener or find your old one no longer holds tightly, here's a terrific tip from "The Ogre" (Dave Lane):

"The clip posts are made with a center flap that is almost impossible to reach to release. ['86-88s only.] If you don't release it the tab either splits or tears off when you pry them up. The tab is only attached by the tip of the post. I took out a number of them today at a local wrecking yard and nearly all of them were wrecked. None of them would hold the panel down tight again. If you see a sail fastener that looks like rabbit ears, or the tip has split, it's shot. There is a cheap fix and it's better than any type adhesive if you ever need to get back under the panel. You also won't have to worry about clamping it down while the glue sets. Head to your local auto parts store and in the trim fasteners, usually located with nuts & bolts, look for "Body-Tite" fastener # 45810. It is a Ford fastener used to attach some bumper parts. Trim off one side of the top a bit so that the stalk fits fully into the sail panel slot. The head of the fastener is big enough that it will stay put by itself well enough to not fall out of the slot while you work. The fasteners come 2 to a pack, and are about a $1.30." [Thanks Dave!]

Larry Simms advises that Body-Tite #45505 (a clip used for hood insulation on Ford, GM, and Chrysler cars) will also work and may be easier to find. It requires a "little surgery" to use but works great. Thanks Larry!

Both Body-Tite parts mentioned above (45810 and 45505) are available at rockauto.com for $1.44 a pair, plus shipping.

After you have popped the first two fasteners, pull the trailing edge of the frame away from the body about two inches. Look behind the panel at a spot which is even with the front edge of the sail panel and 2.5 inches up from the bottom of the frame, right behind the triangular Pontiac emblem. Look carefully (it's dark in there - use a good light) and you can see a u-shaped metal clip that attaches to the sail panel frame. The metal clip is force-fit over a vertical bar of the plastic frame. The other end of this clip attaches to the car body which you can't see. Fit the blade of a long screwdriver between the end of the clip and the frame and give it a twist to dislodge the clip. At this point the frame may fall off, so be prepared. If it does not fall, the panel frame is STILL attached to the car by the opposite end of the clip you just loosened, so don't try to pull the panel directly from the car.

Pull the trailing edge of the frame away from the car body so the clips do not rub on the paint and then pivot the bottom of the frame toward the front of the car. Use the top of the frame as an imaginary pivot point. This allows the frame to come loose from the remaining clip and from the top where it is tucked under the car roof. The bottom metal clip stays fixed on the car and the trailing edge clips remain fixed to the frame. Examine the bottom clip carefully to understand how the panel is attached. You must reverse the procedure to re-mount the frame. The two clips which are on the trailing edge of the frame are removable. Don't lose them. If you have a second sail panel frame to remove, now is a good time.

Take the frame assembly to a workbench.

4. Removing the Old Sail Panel from the Frame

Removing the old sail panel and adhesive is the most tedious part of the operation because the factory adhesive is tough.

If your old sail panel is cracked, remove it with whatever tools you have at hand such as screwdrivers or putty knives. Do not damage the frame in the process. If your old sail panel is whole and you want to salvage it, good luck. We have found all old sail panels to be brittle and firmly stuck. For removal we suggest a putty knife. Start at the front edge of the sail panel (at the "vent" in the frame) and cut the adhesive with the sharp point of the knife. Work under the old sail panel as far as you can without prying on it. A little lacquer thinner or acetone will soften the adhesive, but it's not much help. Your putty knife probably can't reach under the entire span of the sail panel and you must start prying somewhere. Good luck!

When the old sail panel is off remove the remaining adhesive on the frame. Removal can be difficult without the proper solvent. We have tried gasoline, WD40, alcohol, mineral spirits, paint remover, acetone, lacquer thinner, denatured alcohol, and MEK. Only the latter four work. The best choice is to use a citrus-based adhesive remover such as "Desolvit" or "Oops" which are available from home improvement stores. If acetone, MEK, or lacquer solvent are used, place some on the adhesive and quickly cover it with thin plastic sheet (from a plastic bag) which slows evaporation and allows the solvent to dissolve the adhesive. After a minute or two remove the adhesive quickly with a scraper before the solvent evaporates.

Paul Vargyas (Northern Illinois Fiero Enthusiasts) reports good success using a carpenter's wood chisel for removing the adhesive from his old sail panels. Walt Graham in South Carolina says he found it easy to remove adhesive with lacquer thinner, steel wool, and a razor blade scraper. Phil Stevens of Des Moines, Iowa, reports that 3M General Purpose Adhesive Cleaner, Part No. 051135-08984, is perfect for this chore and will not harm the car paint. (See Phil's procedure at the end of this section for removal of sail panels without removing the frames from the car.)

Troy Patterson of Washington, DC, is an accomplished body man and he suggests using an "eraser wheel" in an electric drill to remove the sail panel adhesive. It is fast and does not harm the surface. This is an excellent idea. The eraser wheel by 3M is available at auto paint stores, NAPA, and some chain auto parts stores for around $11-$12. It will last a long time and is just the right tool for removing old decals, too.

Bill Kittner of Ellenville, NY, passed on the following idea which is a real winner if you have access to a steamer:

"Using a Jiffy steamer, the panel[s] freed right up from the frame. Even takes most of the double sided tape off. Tad more scraping is required with a razor. Sure beats taking the frame off & on again. Thought I'd pass that along for those who can use or borrow a steamer. I had the panel off in less than 3 minutes."

It is IMPERATIVE to remove all traces of adhesive remover, wax, silicones, etc. from the sail panel frame where the double-sided tape is applied. First remove all traces of old adhesive. We use a plastic scraper, denatured alcohol, and terry cloth rags to do this. Then wash 2-3 times with detergent and water (we like Greased Lightening). Then rub the taped area with denatured alcohol. After this the paint on the frame is usually in poor condition. Sand the outer portion of the frame where necessary with 400 or 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper. We recommend you mask the area inside the perimeter of the frame (under the sail panel) so there is no chance of new paint not adhering well to the double-sided tape. Prime the frame if you have sanded past the original primer, wipe it down with a rag soaked in isopropyl alcohol, let it dry, and spray paint the outer frame with black trim paint. Let it dry per instructions on the can before you try to install the new sail panel.

Our favorite trim paint is Plasti-Kote #616 "Bumper Black" from Pep Boys. (This paint may also have a different name depending on how it is marketed. Just look for part number 616.) Mar-Hyde #3811 is also a good choice if you can find it. There is a picture of a Fiero on the Mar-Hyde can. Other paints that work are Plasti-Kote Satin Black Ultra Enamel No. 1103, and Dupli-Color Trim Paint, Black No. TP70, from WalMart. There are probably many more paints that will work.

5. Installing the New Sail Panel

In most cases the new plastic panel will not conform perfectly to the frame. This is due to temperature changes, pressure due to shipping, or "relaxation" of the plastic during storage. This means slight pressure may be required to fit the new panel in position. Moderate finger pressure is sufficient. Take care not to scratch the new plastic. At this point you should still have the protective sheet in place.

There is a potential problem with the black paint on the back of the sail panel coming off onto the frame. This has occurred only once that we know of. It happens because the paint on the sail panel is new and not fully cured (which may take weeks). The problem occurs when the center of the sail panel rubs against the center of the frame with changes in temperature and flexing of the car. We aren't sure exactly what to do about the problem since we've seen it only once. We suggest putting a piece of waxed paper between the sail panel and the frame. The waxed paper would of course be inside the boundary formed by the tape. A 1" piece of double-sided tape might also work.

The original factory installation used double sided tape and we STRONGLY suggest its use. The OEM equivalent is 3M double sided tape, Stock No. 06384 (1/2" x 0.045" x 5 yd) available from NAPA, Pep Boys, etc. Ask for it by the stock number. (See the WARNING note in Step 1.)

Place the tape in about the same location as the original factory tape. Then place the sail panel in the frame. When you remove the protective film from the tape, be careful. Once the protective film is removed from the tape you generally get only one chance to position the sail panel correctly because the tape sticks firmly and quickly. Paul Vargyas suggests a "dry run" be made prior to pulling the film from the tape and we strongly endorse this practice. This will help you position the sail panel perfectly when the film is removed and will highlight any possible errors in the sail panel (we're not perfect).

Troy Patterson had a great suggestion; peel back only 1" of the protective film on the tape (all 3 sides) and let it stick out from under the sail panel so you can grab it, then gently position the sail panel in the frame. With just a small amount of adhesive exposed you can remove the sail panel and re-position it if necessary. When it is in the right place, just pull on the loose pieces of protective film to expose the rest of the adhesive. Excellent idea!

When applying sail panels using 3M double-sided tape, be sure to observe the following precautions:

a. Make sure the temperature of the tape and frame are between 70 and 100 F, but not in direct sunlight. Direct sun may cause the sail panels to warp. The adhesive in the tape needs to 'set' and hold the panels firmly prior to exposure to hot sun.

b. Clean the contact surface of the sail panel frame with isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol). The area where the tape is applied MUST be absolutely clean and dry. If you used a citrus-based adhesive remover, tiny amounts can remain. This stuff is absolute death to the double-sided tape. Make SURE the mounting area is CLEAN! CLEAN! CLEAN!

c. Press the sail panel firmly over the tape locations until it stays in position. If you find the panel pulls away at any location, use pressure to hold the panel in place for 24 hours. The temperature should be above 70 F (see below). It is best to have the frame off the car in this instance. If you use a clamp for this procedure, use a "softener" under the clamp to avoid marring or denting the sail panel.

According to 3M, full adhesion strength of the tape is not reached until it has cured. Curing time depends on temperature. At 70 F, curing time is 72 hours. At 150 F, one hour. Full adhesion strength is not necessary to hold the panels in place for driving and on a warm day the car can be used immediately after sail panel installation. If panels are installed on a cold day, use of a hair dryer to warm the panels moderately for 15-30 minutes is recommended prior to driving.

At one time we suggested the use of silicone-based RTV sealant as an alternative to double-sided tape. Due to possible adhesion problems, we no longer recommend this.

6. Re-Installing the Sail Panel Assembly

Take your completed sail panel assembly to the car. If the two trailing edge clips have been removed from the frame, re-install them on the frame now. Make sure the base clip is still on the car and not distorted. Tuck the top edge of the frame under the roof, then position the bottom clip at its retaining tab on the frame. This is a little tricky because you can't see much of the clip location. Push the frame toward the back of the car until the clip is fully seated. The clip is fully seated when the u-shaped portion of the clip lines up with the vertical bar on the inner side of the frame. Use your long screwdriver to fix the u-shaped portion of the base clip onto the vertical bar. (This may not make sense until you have your work in front of you.) Locate the posts of the rear clips over their holes and push them home. If the fit is too loose for your taste, get some new mounting hardware as mentioned above. Then pull the protective plastic and CAREFULLY buff your new sail panel.

Dennis LaGrua also had the following comment which is well worth noting:

"For reinstallation that front panel clip can be a bit hard. The first panel went back in 1 minute. The second one gave me some trouble. I took the panel in the house and used Whiteout (correction fluid) to outline the front panel mounting tab. This made it easy to see and align when putting the panel back on. I looked into the panel vent slot and positioned the white edge of the tab so the clip fitted over it. Another 2 minutes and the panel was in."


Finally, here is a terrific method for sail panel installation with the frames on the car, courtesy of Phil Stevens in Des Moines, Iowa:

The Phil Stevens Easy Sail Panel Replacement Method

The passenger side sail panel on my silver Formula cracked very badly all of a sudden and actually shattered along 8 or 10 different lines. It was really a mess.

I acquired two new sail panels from Paul McKibben who was kind enough to deliver them to me at the First Annual...maybe last...all Fiero Swap meet at the Fiero Factory in Toney, Alabama. To simplify things I ordered them already taped.

When I got home I donned a pair of gloves so I could keep from cutting myself and armed with a dull putty knife, removed the existing passenger side sail panel which was very brittle. I worked the putty knife down along the existing tape and although the brittle panel broke several times, just slid the blade along the tape and worked the old plastic panel loose.

The panel removed, I then chose the 'secret ingredient' (3M General Purpose Adhesive Cleaner part number 051135-08984; available at O'Reillys Auto Parts here, and at any good auto body supply store in quarts for about $8.00) and dribbled some of it on the remaining tape residue. The adhesive solvent is paint and vinyl safe and can run on your paint without harm. The can carries the standard legal disclaimer about "testing it in an inconspicuous place" and you might want to do that to be sure your paint is O.K. but if it's anything like my factory paint you should be fine. I had even repainted the trim around the sail panel with Mar-Hyde trim paint only 3 weeks ago and the solvent did no harm to that fresh paint either.

The adhesive solvent is quite volatile and evaporates quickly so it is necessary to drip it on the adhesive residue then quickly run the dull putty knife over it before the solvent evaporates. It took several applications to remove the tape and adhesive residue but by working with the solvent in one hand and the putty knife in the other it is an easy job to scrape it all off. When it is nearly gone you can wet a rag and wipe the last traces away. Once the old tape residue and adhesive is gone, wipe the area with a dry cloth, wait 10 seconds or so for complete evaporation of the solvent and tape the new panel in place. I used the same dull putty knife to press against the protective paper on the sail panel and seat the new tape well.

Time for the first panel: 20 minutes start to finish. Since I was now more 'experienced' and confident I replaced the drivers side panel in 15 minutes. I was careful with the putty knife and didn't even scratch the newly sprayed Mar-Hyde trim paint I sprayed on 3 weeks ago.

This was so easy that you really competitive types could replace the sail panels with new shiny ones to dress up for a show ! I'll bet Paul would be glad to furnish you with several pairs for each of your summer's shows. (BIG GRIN)


The John Hinkle Sail Panel Replacement Method

I left the sail panel frame attached to the car and needed no touch-up paint or repairs to any finish and incurred no damage to anything.

Here's the trick to simple ten minute sail panel removal.

I went to Lowe's and bought a plastic 1-1/2 inch Warner Flex Putty Knife. I took a razor knife and scored the plastic putty tool about 3/4 inch and slowly heated the plastic tool until it softened somewhat. While it was still soft, I bent the putty knife end until it made a "L" shaped blade bent forward at the bottom. I then cooled the putty tool under cold water. The result is a one-piece tool with a right angle at the bottom. It has just enough flex to slide under the edge of the original sail panel affixed to the car. Simply slide the plastic putty knife along the edges of the original panel. It tears through the factory tape and allows the original sail panel to come free. I had one cracked panel which did break into some smaller pieces, but the undamaged factory sail panel came off in one piece. Now remove the old tape residue and apply the new panels.

It doesn't get much easier than this. I have no body work experience and was making arrangements to have a body shop do the switch out because I was afraid I would break something or leave scratches.


SAIL PANEL REMOVAL & REINSTALLATION - METHOD #2

(courtesy of Alan Ritter, St. Louis, MO)

Note: Jack Gunsett has some photos of this method at this link: http://www.frontiernet.net/~jgunsett/SPReplace.htm

For this method of sail panel removal you need access to the inside of the space frame. To do this you move the rear interior trim piece so it is out of your way and remove a single 11 mm (7/16") speed nut from the post that holds the center bottom of the sail panel to the space frame. You then lift OUT on the front part of the frame so the stud clears the space frame and press the frame toward the rear of the car. Pressure plus a quick smack or two with your hand will pop the rear edge free from the clips, which you can then remove by prying, but from the forward part, where the paint is going to be covered by the sail panel.

Removal is a modest pain.

Put seat full forward, seat back tipped all the way forward.

Remove 1 Phillips screw from interior trim piece at the door frame.

Remove shoulder belt pivot (#47 Torx)

Loosen interior trim by pulling forward and bend it inward out of your way. (Not necessary to remove totally)

You'll see a 3/4" hole in the B pillar. About 3" inside this hole is a 11 mm sheet metal nut which holds the stud from the quarter panel window. You'll need a 6" extension on your ratchet, and it's very difficult to find the nut because it's at an awkward up angle from where the hole is. Find it with your finger, remember where, then grope with the socket until you connect. If you have a 11 mm DEEP socket, much better (or a 7/16" nut driver). The stud is pretty long for a standard socket. And DO NOT drop the socket unless you want a mysterious rattle for the rest of your life. [There is an access hole at the base of the B pillar if you do drop the socket.]

Remove the 11 mm (7/16") nut, being VERY careful NOT to drop it when you pull the socket back through the hole.

Walk around to the outside of the car. Spring the quarter panel window about 1" outward at the front edge, JUST ENOUGH so the stud clears the hole in the B pillar.

Shove the quarter panel window BACK towards the REAR of the car, and it'll pop off the two snap-fit clips that hold the rear edge. You may find this step to be counter-intuitive, but it works.

To reinstall the window, you'll need to CAREFULLY pry out the two snap fit clips from the B pillar and pre-install them in their receptacles at the rear edge of the quarter panel window. Align them with the holes in the sheet metal and smack them home with the heel of your hand. The first time you do this, you'll notice you left something out of alignment where the window engages under the rain gutter and you'll have to take it off again and start over.

Then reverse the process above, reinstalling the sheet metal nut and putting the interior back together.

Also, there's a nylon snap fit that holds the top edge of the interior trim to the B pillar. CAREFULLY pry this out of the B pillar and pre-install it in its hole in the panel BEFORE you try to reinstall the panel.

Clear as mud???

This process really is a pain, but once you've done it a couple of times, everything EXCEPT the nut hidden in the B pillar is a piece of cake.