A lot can be said about a car just from the look of the front end. If you’re looking to ditch those boring vertical or horizontal plastic slats for something that really stands out, there is an easy way to get that sporty wire mesh look without having to shell out the cash to buy a full grill. Here is a solution that will look amazing but not break the bank. I was able to achieve this by using a piece of rain gutter guard for keeping leaves and sticks out of gutters. It measures 7" Tall X 36" Wide, making it plenty large enough for most grills but for larger grills a different material will be needed. I found the gutter guard I used at a local home improvement store for about $3, it was already coated so rust wont be an issue.
Project time: 3-4 hours
What you’ll need
• Wire mesh rain gutter guard $ 3
(Local home improvement store)
• Contour Glazing putty $ 13
• 2 Part Epoxy
(Any will do, I used Gorilla Glue 2 Part Epoxy $4)
• 4 inch black zip ties >$2
• Eastwood Straight Cut Tin Snips
• Flush cut, wire cutters
(Heavy duty scissors may work)
• Sand Paper
o 100-150 Grit
o 220-280 Grit
• Pneumatic die grinder or dremel
• Burring bit
• Cut off wheel
• Razor knife or exacto knife with fresh blade
• Aerosol Spray Paint of Choice (Eastwood 2K Aero)
• Flat blade screw driver
• Needle nose pliers
• Soldering Iron may be needed depending on specific grill*
• For a more professional job Eastwood Hot Stapler Plastic Repair Kit
The first step is to remove any trim or emblems you will be reusing and do not want to get damaged. For this grill I removed the center emblem using a flat blade screw driver to release the clips holding it in, I also removed the outside trim which was attached the same way as the emblem. Next I used a cut off wheel and tin snips to completely cut out the center section of the grill. I made sure to not remove too much material and damage the plastic inside of the grill, it could have caused more problems later. By doing this I just wanted to remove the bulk of the plastic, this isn’t the final cut so you do not need to go crazy with being exact.
This particular grill had its own set of challenges because the areas where the horizontal cross pieces where is now hollow which will need to be filled later.
To remove the remaining pieces of the horizontal slats I used a pair of fine flush wire cutters, these can be purchased at your local hardware store. I use these because the cutting jaws are very sharp and are great for precision work like this. be careful though because the blades chip easily so plastic and thin copper wire are about all these can be used for. try to cut as close as you can while using the wire cutters, it will save time later when sanding.
Using a pneumatic grinder or dremel with a carbide bit or a grinding stone, remove any remaining plastic. You want to take it down slightly below the surface, this will allow you to achieve a smooth finished surface once you fill the areas.
To deal with the openings left from the hollow cross pieces I used my Eastwood straight cut snips to remove a flat piece from the old plastic to be cut into triangle shapes to fill the openings.
To attach them to the grill frame I first put a piece of masking tape on the inside, the tape will hold the pieces in place. I used a soldering iron to melt the plastic back together, this way there is only one material in use. Using some form of an epoxy is always an option but you run the risk of the glue not having the ability to be sanded if it were to run on to the clean side.
With both sides now melted together the inside of the grill frame must be addressed. I tried to cut the filler pieces as close as I could to minimize the amount of filler needed. I chose to use Eastwood Contour Glazing Putty, although some of the crevasses were a little deep the structure behind them was strong enough that I didn't have to worry about the filler cracking. When applying filler to plastic make sure to roughen up and thoroughly clean the area, the filler needs something to attach to or else it will flake off. Something to watch out for when using the Contour Putty is that you can easily put too much hardener in since so little material is used.
Once the filler is on it only takes a few minutes for it to harden enough to start sanding. Using 120 Grit sand paper slowly remove the filler until it closely matches the original shape of the grill frame. I then used 280 grit paper to level off the filler to exactly match the shape of the grill. I was able to achieve this with only one pass of filler but in some cases another layer of filler and a second round of sanding will be needed to get the finish you want.
To make the wire mesh easier to work with I laid it over top of the grill and using my snips I roughly cut the shape of the grill. Doing this allows you to visualize what the grill will look like.
After trimming off the excess mesh I used the zip ties on the top and bottom to temporarily mount the mesh into position. Before using the zip ties I reinstalled the grill trim to make sure everything was set in position, in my case the grill frame did twist slightly. If I had mounted the mesh without putting the trim back on the final alignment would have most likely been off and the grill may not have fit correctly.
On the top side of the grill drilled small holes along the top edge and used the zip ties to mount the top permanently to the grill frame. Although some may say it looks tacky to have exposed zip ties the location these are in relation to where it will be on the car makes them nearly impossible to see without looking up on the grill from the ground. The zip ties also give the mesh two different types of adhesion to the grill frame, chemical with the epoxy and mechanical with the zip ties.
It's close to completion, only a few more steps! Now that the grill is held in place on the top and bottom the sides can be bent in to lock in the position of the mesh. To do this I cut the over hanging mesh into 2" wide sections, this helps to bend it around any complex curves the back side of your grill may have. Depending on your specific grill smaller increments maybe needed to form around the frame.
With the mesh bent around the grill frame it is time to attach the sides, a general purpose 2 part epoxy will work in this situation since it will not be the only way the mesh is attached. Along the bottom edge I put a drop of epoxy every couple inches to attach the mesh. The construction of this grill made the bottom edge difficult to work with but the epoxy is more than strong enough to keep it in place. The epoxy set time was only 5 minutes but I let it cure for about 20 minutes before removing the lower zip ties.
In order to paint the grill trim needed to be removed as well as the outside edge needed to be taped to cover the trim mounting holes. After two coats of matte black spray paint and about 2 hours dry time the trim can be put back on and your sporty wire mesh grill is complete! Its up to you if you want to put the emblem back on, but if you like that clean de-badged look it's done.
A project like this does take a good amount of time but in the end it is all worth it. Aftermarket grills can cost several hundred dollars and most of the time they are made of inferior materials. Doing it yourself not only saves a ton of money, it also allows you to make your grill the way you want to and not have to settle for a generic design.