Stainless Steel Side Vent Covers - Dodge Nitro Forum
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-09-2007, 08:58 PM Thread Starter
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Stainless Steel Side Vent Covers

Spicing up the faux side fender vents

First off you will need to purchase a piece of 3” wide by 3/32” mild plate steel. It is usually sold in 3 or 4 foot lengths at Home Depot or Lowe’s. Take an accurate measuring tape or rule with you to the store. The piece I found was labeled 1/8” but was actually 3/32”. I guess there is not much quality control on these items, which is good for us. Buyers beware! This thickness is needed to match the depth of the groove that separates the perforated vent area and the smooth grain surround on the plastic side vents.

Second you will need to order at least a one square foot piece of perforated stainless steel. What I chose is 22 gauge stainless which has 1/16” holes on 3/32” staggered centers. You could want something completely different. The best place I found to purchase such a small quantity was on the net at This place specializes in small quantities. A one square foot piece costs $30.25, or a two square foot piece is $50.40. I chose to order the latter because I wasn’t sure if I could do the first one without any problems. I found you can actually cut three vents from one square foot so you should be OK with that amount even if you do wreck one of them.

1. Raise the hood and remove the two plastic rivets from the top of the vent. Grab firmly and in one motion pull the vent from the side fender being careful not to scratch the paint. Repeat for other side. Get two gallon size zip lock bags and label one driver and one passenger. Put all the appropriate parts in each bag as you disassemble each vent.

2. Pick either vent to begin work. Flip the vent over so the back is up. Place the vent on a non-scratch surface so you don’t damage the chromed plastic strips. A leather welding glove works very well here, but use what you have. Using a Dremel cutoff tool carefully cut away the melted areas of the chromed strips that protrude through the backside of the vent. These plastic pieces that have been melted were originally about 1/16” thick and 3/8” long. Try to imagine they are not melted and chisel them out with the cutoff tool to maintain as much of the original plastic as possible. You will need it when reattaching the chromed strips to the vent. Take your time here, no one is rushing you. Repeat this process for each strip on both vents.

3. Pick a vent and grab some 2” blue painters tape. It is best to use blue because it is not as sticky as masking tape, but more sticky than purple painters tape and it is easy to get it to re-stick. Looking at the vent outside up, apply two pieces of tap directly on top of the inset vent area. Tear both pieces of tap longer than the inset vent area. If you are careful, you can apply the tap along the long sides of the vent area and not need to cut but at each end. What you want to do here is just tape the raised vent area and not the groove that forms a boundary between the perforated vent and the textured plastic surround. Apply the second piece of tap along the other long side. Using a new razor blade carefully cut each end and the curved corners. Be as accurate as you possibly can here as it will help down the road to limit your grinding.

4. Time to cut your first of two mild steel blanks. Using a rag, spray some Windex or other mild solvent on the face of the 3” wide plate steel and immediately wipe it down. Do this as much as necessary to remove any oils on the surface in an area at least as large as the tape on the vent. Carefully peel the tape from the vent and place the long straight side against one of the straight sides of the 3” plate steel. Firmly press the tape onto the steel. Cut the tape area out of the steel using the best means you have available. I used a jig saw with a steel cutting blade. Be sure to cut the shape out just larger than the tape area and leave enough extra so you can smooth the edges up using a grinder and a file. It is best to put the plate steel in a vise while you cut on it.

5. Using a bench grinder, smooth the edges of the steel blank. As you do this, refer to the original raised vent area, placing the blank over this area to maintain proper fit so you don’t grind away too much or not enough. When all the sides are perfect, repeat step 4 and 5 for the second blank.

6. Examine each of the side vents. Turn them upside down. You need to figure out where you want tabs of your perforated stainless vent cover to poke through and wrap to hold it in place. Notice on the back there are three raised tabs that hold the body clips. There are also two spikes that go into the body for alignment. In addition to all of this, there are raised areas on the back opposite to the shape of the raised vent area. There are four of these about an inch long and stick up about 1/8” off the back. These hold the vent at the proper height on the fender. You don’t want to mess with these or put anything on the back that sticks up higher than they do. You also don’t want to cut them off or wrap your stainless over the top of any one of them. Using one of your steel blanks that you have cut, hold it up to the back of the vent and mark all the locations that you can safely cut a slot in the plastic and put a tab through to hold on the stainless. Mark these areas using a permanent marker directly on your steel blanks. Copy the markings on to both blanks. Both vents are identical, just reversed.

7. Now the tricky part. The part you can’t mess up. Place either vent outside up on a flat surface. Using more painters tape, apply the tap along the sides of the vent just to the outside edge of the groove. Using the marker and the appropriate steel blank, mark on the painter’s tape where you need to cut through the groove so the stainless steel can wrap to the back side. Lay the steel blank to the side. Using the Dremel cutoff tool again, cut in the groove just enough to allow the stainless steel tab to poke through to the back side. If you need to plan to err here, plan to err on the side of the original vent surface. As you make each cut, you will have to flip the vent over and cut from the backside to even everything up. Do this for each tab you have marked on the steel blank, and then repeat this for the other vent. If you cross the groove and cut on the outside in the textured grain of the vent surround, you are out of luck.

8. Now for the fun part. Perforated stainless steel. One side is smooth; the other is slightly rough where the steel was punched. Make sure you get the smooth side out. To do this you need to keep track of which side vent you are working on to get the steel blanks facing the correct direction. Using the two steel blanks and two ‘C’ clamps, align the blanks parallel to the perforations, one on top of the stainless and one below. Allow enough excess stainless to stick out on each side of the blanks so you can wrap about ½” to ¾” through to the backside. When you get the blanks aligned how you want them, clamp the blanks together sandwiching the stainless in between. Cut the stainless using tin snips making sure to leave the before mentioned ½” to ¾” extra larger than blanks. Repeat this step for the other vent, but plan on making only one at a time. Do not remove the ‘C’ clamps until you have completely finished the vent covers. You will find it necessary of move the location of both clamps from time to time, but only loosen them one at a time.

9. With your sandwich of parts, use tin snips to cut your tabs into the excess edge of the stainless. Be careful not to cut all the way to the blank. Stop cutting about 1/8” from the edge of the blank. On the four corners of the blank, cut the stainless almost all the way to the corners. This will be necessary to allow the stainless to bend around the blank and not bunch up at the corners. You will understand this more as you work with the material.

10. Keeping the ‘C’ clamps in place, put the blanks with the sandwich of stainless in a vice with one of the long edges up. Again, check to make sure which side you are working on so you bend the correct side of the stainless over the back blank. Using a small tapping or ball peen hammer, begin working the stainless around the edge of the blank until it forms a 90 degree bend at the edge of the blank. Using a pneumatic cutoff tool cut off the excess stainless everywhere except for your tabs. Don’t cut those tabs!! Don’t worry if the edge is a little rough at this point, you can clean up the edge later on a bench grinder or use a file. Repeat the process for each of the four sides of the vent cover. With the tabs sticking out the back, it could get a bit difficult to find a way to put this in your vice as you change sides.

11. Clean up the back edge of your new perforated stainless steel vent cover using a bench grinder and various flat files until the stainless is ground down level with the back side of the blank. Remove the ‘C’ clamps. The front blank will fall away. The one the stainless is wrapped around will most likely be stuck on from all the pounding of the stainless and the grinding on the back edge. While this blank is still stuck to the stainless, it would be a good time to clean up the surface with a wire brush. If you have a bench grinder mounted brush, it works extremely well. Lightly buffing will leave a nice sheen on the stainless and get rid of the flash on the back side of the blank that makes the two stick together. If after brushing the blank is still stuck to the stainless, tap the blank with your hammer until the two loosen from one another. Repeat steps 8 through 11 for your second stainless cover. Make sure all along the way you have the right side out on the stainless.

Last edited by MyBluNITRO; 06-09-2007 at 09:01 PM.
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-09-2007, 09:05 PM Thread Starter
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Act 2

12. OK, hiccup in the process. I got my vents back from paint. The paint filled in a lot of the groove, so I’ve had to grind down the back edge to only about 1/16”. This might be a good idea for anyone doing this as it makes assembly a whole lot easier. The stainless cannot stick up above the plastic surface of the vent. It has to be flush. The reason for this is to allow you to put the chrome strips back on easily; otherwise they will not have enough plastic sticking through the back to re-melt in place. Test fit your stainless into place. Make sure it doesn’t bind anywhere and if it does address the problem now.

13. Using a permanent marker, hold the stainless in place and hold the vent up to a light source so you can see the light from the backside and mark all of the slots that will have to be cut in the stainless so the chrome strips will fit back into place. The left and right side vent are different here. The holes are in different places on the left and rights sides, so you can’t use a template for the right one on the left side. Using a cutoff wheel on the Dremel tool, cut the slots into the stainless. Make sure you remove the stainless from the plastic vent before you cut these slots. I found out the hard way you don’t want to leave them on there. (I made a slight boo-boo on the painted plastic of my driver’s side vent, but I’ll live over it.)

14. Once you get the slots cut, you will want to wire brush the stainless again to clean up all the areas that you just got hot and turned blue. Once this is done, you are ready to install the stainless on the vents.

15. Press the stainless back onto the vent. Using ‘C’ clamps and one of the plate steel vent blanks, tighten the plate down hand tight. Check to make sure the stainless is really flush with the plastic again. If it is, flip the vent over and bend the tabs down.

16. Put the three chrome plastic strips back on the vent. It is going to take getting physical with one hand to hold them in place while you secure them with the other. What I used to re-melt the plastic was a soldering iron with tips designed to cut plastic. This tip is wide (about ¼”), flat and very thin.

17. Reassemble the vent to the Nitro. Enjoy.
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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-09-2007, 09:09 PM Thread Starter
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Completed vent!

Here is the completed vent.

I used the Dremel tool quite a bit. I also used a vise and a bench grinder with a wire brush.

Bench grinder:

Other tools included:

I hope at least one other person decides to do this. They really do look unbelievable good, if I do say so myself!
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-11-2007, 01:21 AM
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Your side vents came out fantastic!
.... But even more impressive is this detailed, organized, well-written step-by-step "How-To", complete with photos!

Excellent contribution, thank you

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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-15-2007, 11:59 AM
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How much would u charge for a set? =)
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-15-2007, 07:08 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by k-nitro
How much would u charge for a set? =)
The number of hours necessary to produce these covers would not be a good investment for either of us. This is why I provided a how to for anyone wanting to duplicate my work. It is only worthwhile to someone willing to put forth the time required to make them. Also, I would not want to risk damaging your side vents during the installation process. Only the owner should be the one cutting on their vents, that way if they are damaged, the owner is responsible for replacement or having to live with the damage.
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-18-2007, 11:23 AM
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This should be stickied. I am sure lots of people would be interested in doing this for themselves.
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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-27-2007, 02:00 PM
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or just buy the chrome overlays which i plan on doing...
If you used a screen why wouldn't you leave the back plastic off so they actually work as functional vents?
I really like the way they look! but thats 2much work 4 me
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-27-2007, 08:28 PM Thread Starter
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The sides of the fenders are not open to anything, including the interior of the fender. It is just sheet metal behind the faux vents, painted body color. If it didn't look a little too goofy, you could just remove the faux plastic vent and leave it off the vehicle. There are some push on clips behind the vent cover that push in slots in the fender. These have to be in place to provide stability to the plastic cover. It would not be worthwhile to try to make these vents functional.

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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 09-28-2007, 08:49 PM
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Thumbs up You Have Great Patience!!!!

Your Specific Job You Did On Your Nitro Vents Kind Of Tells Everyone That You Have Great Patience, A Pro In What You Do, Are Willing To Share Your Ideas With Others For Free And Able To Work With Very Tedious Items. Anyway, I Think That You Did A Great Job! Thanks For The Pictures, Brings Everything Together.

Mcnabb In Louisiana.............

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