Melting dashboards and a stalling '90s compact sedan

Our tech guru has the answers
by Ferman Lao | Mar 22, 2013

I really hope you guys can help me out. You see, my Toyota Camry's dashboard has melted due to extreme heat. My windshield has no tint and I sometimes forget to put up the windshield foil cover when I park.

The dashboard now feels very sticky and when I leave the car under the sun for a long stretch, I can actually rub off some of the dashboard's rubber coating surface when I touch it. It also has several scratches from accidental hits from fingernails and such. The bottom of the windshield foil cover has also scratched it (yes, the dashboard is now that soft).

I'm afraid to apply anything on it as this might just make its condition worse. My last option is to use a dashboard cover to hide the scratches and prevent the dashboard from getting further damage. My concerns with this option are:

1. Where do I buy a good and decent-looking dashboard cover for my car? (My dashboard's color is black.) I'm based in Davao but I would consider buying it in Manila and then just install it myself.

2. Would this get in the way of the passenger airbag?

Please feel free to offer any other suggestions. I desperately need help.

Rowell Chong



Hi, Rowell. Your letter didn't say which Camry model you have, and I can't recall which Camry model had that kind of dashboard finish.

However, if the rubberized coating is what I think it is, you can actually remove it entirely by rubbing it away to reveal the substrate underneath, which should be of a different material. It won't be as soft to the touch as the rubber-like surface you removed, but it will get rid of the tackiness and perhaps scratch the need for a dashboard cover. That kind of finish is also found in Mercedes-Benzes from the late '90s to the early 2000s. It tends to become tacky and greasy after several years. I don't think it is due to heat. I've had other things with the same finish that were never exposed to heat, but the same deterioration occurred. Alcohol seems to work in quickly removing it, although you might want to test it on a small area first.

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If you need to find a dashboard cover, you may consider DashShield, a popular one that was marketed some years ago and was available practically anywhere. You might want to look it up online to see if it is still around.

Regarding the passenger-side airbag, it's best to ask Toyota about it. But I don't think it will be a problem as long as the dash cover doesn't block the slit on the dashboard where the airbag deploys.


I've been an avid reader of Top Gear Philippines since 2011. Now, I regularly wait for the new issue every month. I also collect back issues I missed when I still wasn't hooked on the magazine.

I'm definitely a fan of the Old School section (cheers, Mr. Subido!) because I own a 1978 Ford Escort coupe, which I'm still restoring after more than a year now. But that's not the reason I'm writing this letter. It's about our family ride, a 1995 Honda Civic ESi with a B16A lump inside.


We bought it in 2004. I'm the third owner, but my father uses it often. It drove quite well aside from minor maintenance problems here and there. But now it's driving me and my wife crazy. It would stall when I'm in first and second gears! Is it the fuel injector, fuel pump or ignition? Or could it be the catalytic converter, as some forums suggest? I also haven't used the A/C for quite some time now because it makes the problem worse.

Also, do fuel injection cleaners really help? I've been using Petron XCS since 2009, so I don't think there's a problem with my fuel. The car has had three or four so-called mechanics and no one has fixed the problem. Please help me before I lose my mind and sell my very first car. Thank you very much and more power!

Jun Doe


Hi, Jun. Thanks for the feedback. It's always good to hear from our readers.


At the moment, I can't be sure of what is possibly causing your problem, but I'll enumerate a few possible causes that you might want to have checked:

1. Have someone hook up a fuel pressure gauge and monitor the fuel pressure when the engine is running. Typically for the Hondas, the fuel pressure should be about 40-45psi when the engine is at idle with the vacuum line to the fuel pressure regulator removed. With the engine running (and car moving), if it falls below 30-35psi, then you would want to look at your fuel pump and filter.

2. Another possible cause is either a vacuum leak somewhere in the intake system or a soon-to-fail idle air controller (that's the generic name; Honda calls it an IACV). I suspect, however, that it's a vacuum leak problem more than anything else. But without checking on the car, there's no sure way to tell. A vacuum leak can be caused by a failed intake manifold gasket, a cracked hose on the intake tract after the throttle body, or anything similar.


3. Another possible cause could be a failing electrical system. This one is also a bit hard to isolate, but a qualified electrician should be able to determine if there's adequate grounding in your car's electrical system.

Fuel injection cleaners somewhat help, but if the engine has high miles on it (over 150,000km), you might just want to send the car to a shop that can test, clean and calibrate them.

I hope you find the tips helpful. May they aid you in solving your car woes.


Best regards,

Ferman Lao
Technical Editor


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