Installing Side Moldings
on my Nissan Leaf

April 3, 2012

Mark D Larsen

Deflecting Dingbat Dings
(Click to enlarge)

I will admit that one of my pet peeves is when people carelessly throw open their car doors in parking lots, striking the vehicle next to them. Whatever happened to the basic courtesy of “doing unto others...”? I could never put a ding in someone else’s car like that, and then just drive away with a clear conscience. Yet many times I have returned to my vehicle to find just such a dimple glaring at me from one of its doors. I deem such inconsiderate jerks “ignoranuses”, i.e., both stupid and assholes.

It is, I concede, impossible to avoid such damage entirely, but I wanted to at least try to reduce the number of potential dings to my spanking new Leaf by installing protective side moldings along its sides. I had read about other Leaf owners taking these precautions in the My Nissan Leaf Forum. They had ordered moldings specifically designed for the Nissan Leaf from the sporTwings online store. As soon as I knew that my Leaf’s delivery was imminent, I ordered a set in its matching “Glacier Pearl” color (Nissan paint code: QX1 tricoat).

On the Level
(Click to enlarge)
The first challenge to install the moldings was to determine where Leaf’s doors were the widest, and thus most prone to dings. Many forum members claimed that, by holding up a stick vertically against the side, 26" high seemed to be the widest point. However, one forum member posted that his vertical stick indicated 29" instead. I therefore wondered if perhaps the sticks others had used were not really vertical when measuring, but perhaps slightly leaning to one side or the other.

To assure that my yardstick would indeed be straight up-and-down, I attached it firmly to my level. I could then place the contraption next the Leaf, right in front of the gap between the doors. With the level’s bubble indicating a completely vertical position, I could determine which inch was the very closest to the vehicle. You can see the result in the photo at the left: the yardstick was touching the door at a height of approximately 28".

Most forum members had then installed their side moldings at the designated height, parallel to the ground. However, one forum member was wary of this solution because the ground might be uneven or a tire a bit underinflated. It then occurred to me that, even if the ground were completely even, a horizontally “flat” position might not aesthetically match the car’s own lines.

Looking at the Leaf from the side, I decided that the straight opening running along the bottom of the doors established the most crucial horizontal baseline for the car’s looks, as indicated in yellow in this illustration:

That line certainly looked parallel with the ground, but... was it? To be absolutely sure, I decided to check its height in the back and the front. I measured a spot right in front of where it starts to curve up toward the rear. I then measured a spot 41/2 feet (54") from that position forward, at a point just below the ‘E’ in the “Zero Emissions” logo. I must admit that I was surprised by the results, as show below:

My eyes had fooled me! That line was not flat, but was 11/4" higher in the back than in the front. According to my calculator, this means that, for every inch farther back along the car, that door line rises 0.02314815 inches higher. Okay, then. I could use that formula to determine parallel points up above, where the side moldings should be mounted. I decided to use 281/16" for the height where the front door opened, and calculate the same 54" from there, i.e., 35" forward (dropping according to formula), and 19" backward (rising according to formula). Here are the results:

I could now mark those spots on the car. In the photo on the left below, you can see that I designated the 54" length on the floor with my tape measure, and then set the level yardstick contraption at the front to determine where 271/4" high was on the door.

Up We Go
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Mark’s Mark
(Click to enlarge)

In the photo on the right above, you can see where I marked that spot with a dry erase marker, easily removed afterwards. I then moved the contraption to the rear position and similarly marked its spot at 281/2" high. Finally, I marked the spot where the door opens at 281/4" high.

At this point, I wanted to see what the side moldings would actually look like when mounted at that height and very slight angle, just to make doubly sure I wasn’t making a horrible mistake by not using a horizontally flat line. I therefore stuck some small rolls of blue painters’ tape on the back of the moldings to temporarily hold them in place, as shown below on the left.

On a Roll
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Look Before I Leap
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I could then position them right above the marked spots, as shown on the right above, temporarily stuck to the Leaf in that position. It looked great to me! I then pressed a long, straight strip of blue tape along the bottom edge as a guide for the permanent installation, shown on the left below.

Stuck Up
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Pickup Line
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After pulling the molding back off, the small rolls were still stuck to the Leaf, as shown above on the right. I easily removed them and was now ready to permanently install the side moldings above the long, blue tape. I thoroughly cleaned above it with some rubbing alcohol, and prepped that area with the small tube of “bonding promoter” that came in the package with the moldings.

Now a word of warning! For reasons not entirely clear, the moldings have slightly thicker adhesive pads at their outer ends than along their length, with separate pieces of removable tape. Those small pieces are “connected” to the longer strips with a bit of green masking tape, as shown below on the left. I naïvely assumed that, while removing the longer strips, the green tape would cause the small pieces to also come off. Not so! I discovered that the green tape simply came off with the long strip, and left the small piece on its adhesive. Damn! Now I had to pry back slightly on the end, use a razor to carefully lift up a corner of the small piece of removable tape, and then pull it off with a pair of needle nose pliers. Whew!

Fooled Me Once
(Click to enlarge)

Done Deal
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I learned my lesson there —and pass it on to you. To avoid making the same mistake with the other ends, I first curled up a corner of the small piece so that, as I got closer to it while pressing the molding into place, I could grab it separately and pull it off with the longer strip. Above on the right is the side molding now permanently mounted above the blue tape on my Leaf.

I removed the blue tape, and backed my Leaf out of the garage to survey the fruits of my labor. That fruit tastes pretty sweet, as shown in the photo below on the left. The side molding looks just as “horizontal” to the ground as the line along the bottom of the doors, even though, in reality, they now both rise very slightly in a parallel line from front to back. Go figure!

(Click to enlarge)

It’s a Hit!
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The proof of the pudding, however, is whether the side moldings would help protect my Leaf from at least potential dings to the widest area of its doors. I am very happy to report that such is the case. I pulled my Leaf back into the garage, and opened the passenger door to see where it would strike against the garage wall. As you can see above on the right, the side molding touches the wall in precisely the right spot. Bingo ding go!