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Old 08-29-2010, 08:13 PM   #1 (permalink)
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2010 Prius Wheel Cover Heat-Shrink Mod

The 2010 Prius comes with alloys that have 10 spokes, supposedly to lighten the wheels. Toyota then designed a plastic wheel cover to improve the aerodynamics, but there are still holes in the cover (can you say "marketing?").

I wanted to make smooth covers for the wheels, so I bought a 16" teflon-coated pizza pan at Walmart. But my better half nixed that idea based on how it looks (go figure), so I decided to try a plastic coating. I wanted something that would be easily removable and return the looks to stock should I decide to sell or trade the car sometime in the future.

I bought a heat-shrink storm window kit at Lowe's for about $8.50. There should be enough material in the kit to do 2 cars. I took off the wheel cover and cleaned it, then set it over the plastic material. I used a marker to draw a line about 1" outside the cover on the plastic and cut it out with scissors. Then I applied the double-stick tape to the back side of the cover, removed the tape backing and stuck the plastic onto the tape. I then used a hair dryer to shrink the plastic, removing any wrinkles (too bad this doesn't work on humans!).

This stuff is so transparent it doesn't even look like there's anything on the cover. I'm sure the plastic will show up when it gets some dirt on it, though. I'm considering painting the plastic. What do you think I should go with: 1) same color as the car; 2) bumper chrome; 3) aluminum; 4) something else? The plastic very smoothly transitions all of the areas of the cover together, making the surface almost completely flat. I think this is a better setup than the pizza pan as the pan sticks out about 3/8" further and has lumpy transitions at both edges. I don't know how durable the plastic will be, but it was cheap and will be easily reversible if the plastic gets damaged.

Attached are some pics of the process, the materials, and the results.

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Name:	Edge View of Cover With Heat Shrink in Place.jpg
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Last edited by Patrick; 08-29-2010 at 08:20 PM..
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Old 08-29-2010, 08:35 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Nice idea. I was just installing some of that window film in my fridge - it's very transparent plastic, but not very durable. It's very thin, and susceptible to punctures and tearing once shrunk.

Here's a picture of body-colored wheel covers. I don't think you could pull it off on a red car.



If the window film doesn't hold up, you could use it as a mold for a fiberglass wheel cover, which could then be painted a dull aluminium color like the stock wheel covers.
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Old 08-29-2010, 08:59 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Patrick,

What a great idea. Nicely done.

As too a tougher film, I can think of two alternatives:

In the R/C aircraft world, built-up wings are frequently covered with
Monokote, a heat shrink film that comes in solid colors, transparent,
metal flake, etc. I'm quite sure it would be more tear resistant than the
window wrap.

An even tougher film is "boat shrink wrap," the stuff that's used to winterize
boats. It is really thick and tough. So much so that it might pull a wheel
cover out of flat if you're not careful when shrinking it. The stuff comes in
white and clear that I know of, but you rarely see the clear. Hopefully you
could paint this stuff with one of the new plastic paints in a spray can.

Right about now folks are thinking about winterizing thier boats. Some are
getting a early jump on the process so boat shrink wrappers may be at work
in marinas near you. If you ask around you may be able to pick up some
scraps or buy the small amount you'd need.

Google "boat shrink wrap" for more on this.

Good luck to you.
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Old 08-30-2010, 04:01 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Try this:

1. YouTube for "PETG" and "vacuum forming" videos, see how to do this in your kitchen with shop vac, etc., for cheap.

2. Use convex (outer) surface of pizza pan as a male mold, and make some thermoformed/vacuum formed duplicates of clear PETG plastic. That's the clear plastic used in 2 liter soft drink bottles and all sorts of stuff we use daily. Other thermoplastics would work, but probably not as tough and easy to work as PETG though.

3. If you want matching color, spray the inside surface of the PETG pans. Comes out uber-smooth and professional looking.

Got good & reliable attachment method yet?

You could install for highway trips, leave off around town if wifey objects for aesthetic reasons. With clear, though, a casual observer would not notice the clear smooth cover over the stock wheels or covers. Brake cooling could be an issue in stop and go traffic, hence the suggestion for highway use at speeds where aero drag is at issue.

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