Black Center Pillars on CE

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Introduction

All corolla models with the exception of the CE have black door trim around the windows and on the center pillars. The LE, S, and XRS conceal the body-matched paint that lies underneath with a film adhesive that can be removed by peeling back the sticker. There’s a DIY that already exists documenting how to achieve this, but this one will highlight the exact opposite.

Since the CE doesn’t have the black trim standard, the body color is exposed and essentially breaks up the flow of the windows (especially if they’re tinted). This DIY will show you what you need and how to create your own center black pillars, while keeping the rest of the trim round the windows matched to the body color of the car. Note that this DIY takes a lot of patience and time, but the result is well worth it if black pillars is something you really want.

What You’ll Need

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- Professional-grade Matte Black Vinyl Film
This film is found most commonly on eBay, sold in 10-20 foot rolls made by LG or Avery and very inexpensive. I purchased a LG Chem 24″ x 10′ Adhesive Film Roll here for less than $10.

If you have a hard time locating this film try going to a print shop/sign shop and ask if they have any in stock to sell. The material is extremely durable, resistant to surface scratches and strong enough to adhere to the paint without coming loose over time. It’s a near identical match to the factory adhesive applied on the pillars and door trim around LE/S/XRS models.

- Mat Cutter / X-Acto
- Masking / Painter’s Tape
- Ruler (18 inch or larger)
- A credit card or something with a hard edge (to smoothen out wrinkles/bubbles)

Creating The Pillars

There’s two ways to go about this: the first method is to mask the entire pillar area on both front and rear passenger doors (from the black trim at the base of the window, up to nearly the top of the door frame) and trim off the excess. The only reason why I didn’t use this approach was because I wanted to conserve as much vinyl as possible, in case I needed to redo the pillars in the future. Simple masking and cutting was used at a later point in the process (you’ll see in the pictures below).

The second method (the one I used) is a little more time consuming, but is far more precise and uses a lot less vinyl film.

Here’s what you do:

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1. Using a ruler and x-acto, measure and cut the lengths of the individual center pillars from each door. I recommend that you cut the widths of the pieces slightly larger (from 1/4 to 1/2 an inch), because the excess will be tucked under the door frame / weather stripping.

You’ll end up with pieces like these:

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Each piece is measured to start at the base of the black window trim and run up to the weather stripping at the top of the window.

2. Apply each pillar piece one at a time (should be 4 in total), peeling back a little bit of the paper sheet from the adhesive. I applied each piece from bottom to top, using a credit card edge to smooth it out while it was being applied. Be careful because you will get bubbles and air pockets if you try to just slap it on hoping that it comes out flawless. If you end up with little bubbles here and there, the adhesive can be pulled back only so many times before it becomes unusable and flexed out, so work slow.

3. After all of the pieces have been applied, your doors should be looking like this:

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The black adhesive should only run up to the top of the window, leaving the exposed paint-matched part looking even from the front to the back. (half-inch thick white strip):

Notice how you can still see the body color through the middle of the door trim…not so attractive, so here’s how you get rid of that.

Concealing The Paint Gap

After finishing off the door trim, you’re going to have a paint gap in the middle of your doors. The inner pillar is also paint matched to the car, so you need to apply the same vinyl film in order to conceal the gap.

1. You can either measure out an exact piece of film, or cut enough to mask the entire area and then trim back what’s left. Like this:

2. Mask the area that you intend to trim with painters tape. Using layers of tape is the easiest way to outline your trim area for the x-acto knife (creates a beveled / straight edge). Also keep in mind that it’s not totally necessary to cover the entire pillar area, it’s you choice whether you wrap it from edge to edge or not.

3. Make sure that the alignment is straight. When you close your doors you can pretty much eye how high the black film should go on the inner pillar.

4. Trim the excess vinyl from the pillar using the x-acto and ruler. Caution: I can’t stress enough how lightly you need to run the x-acto knife over the adhesive, because if you press firmly and run it down the pillar you will scratch the paint underneath.

5. Repeat this on the second pillar on the other side of your car.

And you’re done!

The Result

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One of the criticisms I received after completing this was that the door looks incomplete. If you check out the length of the entire door trim, it would take a lot of film to cover the entire area without gaps or pieces put together. I chose to only do the center pillars because I wanted my mirror and windows to flow properly, uninterrupted by the white paint in the center.

As far as durability is concerned, it’s been over 7 months since I originally completed this mod, and the vinyl film is still holding up after going through all kinds of weather changes. No cracks, peels or fades. I’ve even taken them through car washes, driven through the rain, left it out in the sun and they’re still going strong. This mod will get you a near-factory appearance if done with patience, not to mention something a little unique than your usual door trim.

Taken July 2008:

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