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Dash Mats Are Not Ugly. Get Over It Already.

We’ve all got that person in our life to tell us dash mats are “ugly” … they’re for “old people” … and gloats about the fact their 20-year-old dash never cracks. And you know what, good on those people. The rest of us, though, are faced with some obvious facts and that’s – 1. “no, they’re not ugly” and, 2. a plastic dash is likely to crack over time if we’re not smart about it.

Resale values are too important not to care about this stuff. Drivers all over the county are twigging onto it. And as a car accessories retailer that’s seeing it happen before our eyes, all we can do is tell you why.

Before we get down to it…

Full disclosure: I own one. I’m only 30. I even paid for it (and I work here). I’ve worked in some form of marketing and design for the last decade so have some idea for what works. And quite frankly, I don’t have a problem with them.

I’ll say it — I think dash mats work AND look great. You can say it’s subjective, of course, but mine is a perspective gained from keeping glare out of my eyes. So maybe stop squinting and check out the rest of this article for a more balanced view.

Prove us wrong, prove us right…

Haters. What annoys you so much about our glare-free life? Why can’t the words ‘dash mat’ and ‘good’ be used in the same sentence? Instead of just complaining, prove to us why we’re wrong. Hit us up in the comments.

Lovers. If you’re sick and tired of hearing that one mate rag you out in a whiny baby voice, this is your chance to prove them wrong. Share this article, tag them, and wait for the fallout. At the very least you’ll both get a good laugh. Promise.

The case for dash mats

Dash mats. You either love them or hate them. But you can’t deny they’re crazy good at protecting the dash from damage, guarding resale value, and blocking UV and sun glare.

It’s glaringly obvious

dash mat-side by side glare reduction
Dash mat side by side glare comparison. Photo was taken using the same camera setup and time of day.

The problem with an unprotected dashboard is it’s highly reflective. It’s a plastic right, so not much absorption is going on as you drive around town. As a result, extra strain is put on your eyes and visibility is reduced – yuck.

The first ‘fix’ would be to grab a pair of shades, right? … they’d get the sun out of my eyes. It’s a fair idea, but here’s why it’s wrong …

Dash covers help to stop light that reflects up from the dash, not straight at your eyes. That means unless you rock a set of oversized shades like a gansta rapper, you might be more affected than you think. And let’s not get started on people who a) don’t like sunglasses, or b) have an optical prescription but not the wad of cash needed for prescription shades…

This isn’t an old car problem either…

In the battle for driver visibility, modern cars can be worse. Have you ever noticed how some of the new cars on the road (think Honda CRV, HRV, VW Beetle…) have a wide dash?  Seems to be a catchy design feature. Not a clue why it’s happening. But what we do know is more surface area = more exposure to glare. So not a good thing.

Going without is not all it’s cracked up to be

cracked car dashboard
Cracked vehicle dashboard. Source: carcomplaints.com

Left exposed, your plastic dash is no match under the brunt of the day’s sun. To explain why, things are going to get a bit technical…

A common ingredient used by car/dash makers is a little something called plasticizers. It is used to help soften and shape the dash into the design they need. While it is a required ‘ingredient’ it can create a problem under of sunlight. Here’s how:

  1. Over a period of years …
  2. The sun beams down …
  3. Causing plasticizers (the softening agent) to evaporate
  4. As it evaporates, it leaves a milky film on the windscreen (more on this below) …
  5. And with a dashboard that’s at risk of cracking

Typically, this starts off with a hairline crack but can get nasty if not addressed as cracks widen. A simple google search will show how much cracks are talked out …

google search cracked dash fix
Google search: cracked dashboard fix

Quit crying over spilt milk

We all know the saying ‘don’t cry over spilt milk’; but what do you when your windscreen gets a milky film? Clean it, obviously. But did you know your dashboard is the root cause behind the problem? …

Here’s a hard to read paragraph from the good people at Monash University explaining how this happens:

“Milkiness in a windscreen usually occurs when the polyvinylbutyral layer separates from the layers of glass and starts to return to its original prelaminated state. When this happens the PVB layers starts to become opaque, making it difficult for the driver to see through the screen.”

Source: Monash University Accident Research Centre. Windscreens and safety: a review 2001.

In lay terms, as plasticizers evaporate a hard-to-shift milky film is left on the windscreen. This reduces visibility. A dash mat helps to prevent this by a) coping the brunt of the heat instead of your dashboard, and b) absorbing any gunk that might still come.

16 reasons to take the leap

What a dash mat will do for you

  1. Will prevent scratches. The dash is covered so, tradies, you’re all sweet; go ahead and throw whatever you like on it.
  2. Will stop cracks. Need an explanation? See above.
  3. Will reduce sun glare. Need an explanation? See above.
  4. Will reduce UV.
  5. Will protect your resale value
  6. Will cover up pre-existing damage
  7. Will prevent dulling.

What a dash mat won’t do for you

  1. Won’t need to be reapplied every six months. It’s set & forget kinda thing …
  2. Won’t block your de-mister or audio system
  3. Won’t slip around. Just use the Velcro to hold it down
  4. Won’t prevent air-bag deployment (when indicated)
  5. Won’t shrink or fade
  6. Won’t stop dust from falling. They’re good, but they’re not that good. You’ll need to vacuum it up like normal
  7. Won’t give up protecting you. They last a lifetime
  8. Won’t cramp your style. Choose from a variety of colours
  9. Won’t film up your windscreen. Need an explanation? See above.

Need more convincing? Read on…

Will it reduce glare all hours of the day?

Yes. But if you’re driving at sunset or sunrise, expect less protection. Since the sun is lower during these times i.e. shining directly into the car and not so much down onto the dash, your eyes will still cop a beating. Nothing a dash mat can do about that, unfortunately.

It’s about that shape, about that shape…

Is there a difference between a moulded and non-moulded dash mat? Yes. While both styles of cover will fit your make & model, there are some differences.

moulded dash mat vs non moulded dash mat
Moulded VS Non-moulded dash mat

Moulded

A moulded dash mat comes rigid and pre-shaped to your dashboard i.e. the dips and contours of the cover are visible right out of the packet.

The two types of moulded mats include one that has a hard/fibreglass style backing and one that doesn’t. Those who sell the hard backing would say it helps to retain shape over time. Those who don’t have the hard backing argue it’s intentionally designed to prevent scratches caused by a hard underside and to absorb film caused by degassing (if any).

While we do sell the moulded cover without a hard backing, our feeling is either type is probably OK to use. Our rationale for this is pretty simple – our customers don’t talk about it. No customer has EVER said they’re making the switch from a hard-backed cover to one without. Equally, they haven’t said they would buy if it came with a hard backing. This makes us believe there isn’t a significant benefit either way.

Non-Moulded

A non-moulded cover is not rigid and arrives flat out the packet. This style of cover will rest over the shape of the dash, typically using stitching along designated contour points to create a tight fit.

Which is better?

You could argue a non-moulded cover isn’t as a good as moulded since the latter is little more exact. But we’d argue the choice is more of an aesthetic one. Both will fit great. It just depends on the type of material you prefer since each type is synonymous with a particular material type. For example, carpet is typically moulded while velour is commonly non-moulded.

Material Types

All quality dash cover materials perform the function of reducing glare. The key difference then in selecting a cover material is the look.

Carpet

A carpet dash mat is easily one of the more popular dash cover choices. They’re a durable short-pile made from glare reducing fibres. They come in a variety of colours. To clean, you’ll need a vacuum.

Velour

Velour has a softer look and feel compared to carpet. To clean, use a dry cloth.

Suede

Suede also has a soft look and feel. To clean, use a dry cloth.

Colour Types

dash mat colours charcoal grey beige brown blue
Common dash mat colours: Black, Charcoal, Beige, Brown, Blue

Dash covers come in a variety of colours to suit the look of your vehicle interior. Common colours include black, charcoal, beige and brown. Since most cars coming out today have black or charcoal interiors, there should a colour to sit nicely in your vehicle.

A word of caution on colour types: a colour match is super hard to do. So when buying a dash cover, expect that your colour of beige or grey to very good, but not a 100% colour match.

Aftermarket vs OEM

There isn’t a great deal of OEM dash mats on the market. Those that are are commonly manufactured by aftermarket, rebadged, and then sold at the dealership. Because of this, there isn’t a comparison to make between the two, other than price. And on that front, dealer sold mats do come out on the high side. Surprise, surprise.

Based on our online search, a dealer sold mat could cost you anywhere up to 20% more* than cover sold through us. This price excludes any applicable shipping costs you pay through the dealer.

At fitmycar.com, shipping is free.

*Vehicle prices found include Hyundai Tuscon RRP $87 and Kia Carnival RRP $78.75. All prices in AUD. Excludes any applicable shipping costs. Online search conducted February 12, 2018.

Not sure what aftermarket or OEM mean? Check out the article we wrote about aftermarket & OEM car mats.

Dash Mat Installation

Here’s how to install a dash cover in quick time.

Will a dash mat hinder airbag deployment?

These days dash mats are made with safety in mind. That means the area surrounding the airbag will be either cut out or include a neat slit to allow for airbag deployment.

Bonus safety tip you never asked for, but can’t do without

Ever had a passenger put their feet on the dashboard? I know I have. But after watching the video below I’ve quickly changed my attitude. The video demonstrates how much damage is done to legs positioned on the dash during a car accident.  Watch and share this, people.

Thoughts?

Do you still hate dash mats? Tell us why in the comments. Alternatively, are you loving the #glarefreelife? Share the love in the comments or share this post to poke the bear.

Looking to buy?

We’d love to help you find a mat that fits your car perfectly. Check out the dash mats for your vehicle by visiting our online shop and searching by your make, model, body, and year.

Luke Samuels

Luke is the Marketing guy at FitMyCar. He's been writing & selling stuff online since the day he got his licence to drive and despite a lack of taste in cars, he's managed to work in one automotive role or another for half his working life.

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