Last updated on July 10th, 2019
Here’s a quick and easy upgrade if you’re looking for a project to keep busy during Winter. There’s an old saying that on cars, one quick way to judge if it has as many miles as the odometer claims is to look at the condition of the steering wheel. Something similar could be claimed about the area around a motorcycle’s ignition.
One peeve of mine are bikes that have the ignition area all scratched up from keys banging around. It looks bad, and it’s avoidable. Using cheap carbon fiber vinyl we’re gonna make a custom key scratch protector for motorcycles. This 2017 Kawasaki Ninja 650 (Z650) is today’s victim. Enjoy!
This simple DIY is more of a “Hey, look, you might be interested in this!” type of deal, rather than something you’ll actually need to follow. Mostly it’s for inspiration and as an example. Or if you’re new to modding and are completely unfamiliar with carbon fiber vinyls. Nonetheless, it’s sprinkled with tips and tricks making it worth the read. In any case, if you own a Ninja 650, Z650, or any sport bike for that matter, this is an interesting project to consider.
Also, there’s no need to limit this just to the ignition key area. If your bike has any other zone in need of a cheap cover or a protective film, keep reading – the following is one of the better options to tackle the issue.
What you’ll need
Thankfully, this project isn’t very resource-intensive. I already had everything lying around, including the carbon fiber vinyl as scraps from other projects. Nonetheless, here’s a list of what you’ll need so you can get it all ready first.
- X-Acto Knife – Ahh, the tried-and-tested hobby knife. What custom protector film project is complete without one? Anyway, you probably already have one of these in a drawer somewhere. And remember to use a sharp new hobby blade for the best result.
- Sharp Scissors – If you’re good with knives, you might be able to make do without scissors. But for the rest of us mortals, some scissors help make soft, smooth cuts.
- Carbon Fiber Vinyl – The crux of this DIY. If you don’t like black, or you don’t like faux carbon fiber, you can find it in all the colors under the rainbow. Or in any finish you can imagine. They even have cringe-worthy wraps if that’s how you roll – Who am I to judge? Keep in mind that not all vinyls are made equal – Some have worse textures and finishes than others. Try to choose one with good reviews, and if possible with some sort of built-in air channels for bubble release.
- Self-Healing Cutting Mat – Optional – While not crucial, it’s certainly the best surface to cut vinyl on. It’s just a great project mat in general. And since the mat is self-healing, rumor has it that if you leave a wet phone inside a rice bowl on it, Asian fairies will come and fix it for you overnight.
- Hair Dryer or Heat Gun – Using a heat source for anything but the most trivial vinyl wrap applications is non-negotiable. The results speak for themselves.
- Corner Cutter – When trimming any type of sheet, a corner cutter makes life a lot easier. Don’t kid yourself and think you’ll be able to do better by hand.
- Allen Wrenches – We’ll need a 4 or 5mm allen wrench to remove the fairing.
Custom Motorcycle Key Scratch Protector – Step-by-step
Step 1 – Remove the motorcycle ignition key cowling
First, let’s remove the key fairing to make the protector film install easier. For the 2017+ Kawasaki Ninja 650 (or Z650), remove the four bolts – two in the front, two at the top – using an Allen wrench. Then pull the ignition cover off.
If you’re having trouble removing the fairing, try popping out the circular ignition cover. It sometimes can help. It has three clips, and is easiest to remove when the bottom one is unlatched first.
Step 2 – Make a rough cut and draw out a template model
When making a semi-complicated vinyl film cover like this, rarely does a home-gamer ever get it right the first time around. Let’s take it slow. In this step, just cut out a rectangle bigger than the size you’ll actually need. Make sure to keep spare material around.
Next we’re gonna make a model template before cutting out the final protector film. That way you can remove, reapply and rectify the model as much as you want… and only install the final cut once.
Make a rough model without bothering to be too perfectionist. Stick the vinyl on and trace the bike’s natural contours with a pencil. Then remove it and cut it out.
Step 3 – Apply heat to better test fit your template
No doubt you’ve seen exotic cars with awesome vinyl film applications. To wrap the material around the sharp edges, experience aside, one key component is heat. I know asking your mother or girlfriend for their blower sucks, but don’t skip this part.
Heat will remove wrinkles and make the film a lot more pliable. It’s the only way to get the carbon fiber vinyl to hug the curves, making it crucial for an angular component like this. Working slowly with soft heat and a bit of skill, mold the vinyl to the fairing as best you can.
Wrap it around the part cutting as necessary until you’ve reached a shape you’re mostly satisfied with. If you cut off too much or make a mistake, grab a new piece of vinyl and start over.
Step 4 – Make a good symmetrical copy of your template
Once you’ve trimmed, re-trimmed and finally reached a key protector film that you truly like, make a copy of it.
But first, pick the side you like most – that is, left or right. Chances are your ignition key protector isn’t perfectly symmetrical. For the best results, fold it in half and cut it down the middle. Then use the good side, mirroring it for the missing side, to copy the design to another virgin piece of vinyl. This time you should cut it out as perfect as humanly possible. This is the good copy we’ll be installing. Also, be mindful of the carbon fiber weave’s direction to align it to the bike’s lines however you prefer.
Step 5 – Trim off the sharp edges
Next, trim off the pointy edges and leave them looking pretty.
I don’t know about you, but I always have a hard time cutting soft-radiused corners on vinyls with a hobby knife. With larger cuts, it’s viable to pull out a coin or any similar round object to use as a template to trim around. But with tiny sharp edges like this, that doesn’t work so well. Especially on stretchy textured films like this.
If you find yourself playing arts and crafts with vinyl wraps with any frequency, consider trying out a Corner Cutter. It makes quick and neat work of rounding off the corners like in this scenario. If you don’t have access to one, than just be as careful as you can and hope for the best. It doesn’t have to be perfect anyway.
Step 6 – Clean and prep the surface using Adhesion Promoter
Now that we’ve got the final version of the carbon fiber vinyl protector, it’s time to do some surface prep. Needless to say, the first step is to fully remove any dust or debris using microfiber cloths. Or even better – Lab Clean Room Wipes. You don’t want lint, dirt or fibers trapped under the vinyl to create any visual defects.
After that, it’s time to prime the surface for semi-permanent vinyl installation. Whenever you need a pressure-sensitive adhesive to stay put, apply this beforehand – 3M Adhesion Promoter. It does wonders for long-term application. Keep in mind it’s not glue. It’s more of a cleaner that leaves the surface tacky. Just clean the base surface with an alcohol wipe, and apply the liquid with a brush or wipe until it evaporates. Normally I use and refill smaller 3M 94 10ml Primer bottles with the stuff for convenience. I use it in abundance throughout my projects, and it hasn’t let me down yet.
However, take into account that it makes repositioning a lot harder, as you’d expect. And it might damage some delicate plastics so test it first. You don’t have to apply it everywhere – only on the corners or edges where vinyl lift is likely.
Step 7 – Stick ‘er on!
Now the moment of truth – the final installation. Using heat as an aid, line it up and stick it on. Make sure to not trap any bubbles in the process. Nonetheless using the sharp knife to carefully poke them can help fix any. Also, on edges like the rear end, use the scissors to make a relief cut as you fold the vinyl around.
Depending on the quality of the vinyl protector film you have at hand – and whether you used the adhesion promoter or not – the corners might still peel off. In this scenario it isn’t likely, but if on your motorcycle, the corners still lift up, apply a dab of superglue. Just on the very corner, and only if it’s in a non-visible or inconspicuous location.
Step 8 – Reinstall the fairing
Don’t grab that six-pack just yet! Before calling the job done, we need to reinstall the fairing.
Pop it back on and install the screws. Keep in mind that the top screws are shorter than the rest of the panel screws. If you want to be extra sweet to your bike, apply Thread Locker to the screws to avoid loosing them to vibrations.
Admire your work!
Done. I Hope you like yours as much as I like how it looks on mine! Now you’ve got your own custom key scratch protector to ward away the scuffs and scratches!
By the way, if you like the little titanium-colored screws I have installed, you can see them in my N650 Mods List. Sure, it’s a gimmick, but it does look nice, doesn’t it?
But what about a scratch remover?
Okay, so let me guess – you didn’t end up here because you were looking for a preventative motorcycle key scratch protector. You’re here because you already scratched the crap out of the ignition and now you’re looking to fix it. Well, it happens to the best of us.
On one hand, if you use the vinyl key protector method shown above, you can easily cover the old scratches so they’re no longer visible. If you’re looking to sell your motorcycle yourself, that’s one sure-fire way to avoid giving another discount. Once applied, it looks as good if not better than stock so there’s no real reason to remove it.
On the other, if the scratches are in some area where vinyl isn’t appropriate, then you’re probably looking into a scratch remover repair. In that case, the first step is to clean, detail and polish your motorcycle – I’ve got a good guide for that, too. Once that’s taken care of, you can better examine the real extent of the damage. Depending on where the scratches are, the options vary. If metal or chrome is what’s scratched, try metal polish – it does wonders to obscure scratches.
Other areas are more complicated. For light scratches on non-painted plastics, Headlight Polish can occasionally be a good option. For superficial paint scratches, a Scratch Remover is the first weapon of choice. Nonetheless, scratch removal is always a bitch so make sure to work slowly and use your head.
Regardless, preventing the damage is a lot easier than fixing it. If your bike has any scratch-prone areas, you’re better off addressing them now with a protector film before that happens.
For even more protection, use a key protector “wallet”
‘Remove Before Flight’ keychains are awesome, but they aren’t very useful. If you really want to keep your keys safe – both the bike from them, and them from the world – get an anti-scratch motorcycle key cover. While riding, keys have a habit of vibrating all over the place. That if they don’t get caught on something and lost altogether. If you want to make sure your bike’s ignition fairing cover is extra safe from scratches, get a prophylactic for your keys like the one I have above. To boot, the carbon fiber fabric matches the key protector!
Likewise, if you only have one or two keys left for your bike, don’t be dumb and get a copy now before you actually need it. Key blanks for the Ninja 650 aren’t that expensive, and any locksmith will cut them for you for under 5 bucks in a few minutes. You wouldn’t believe how many people end up needing a new 150 dollar ignition just because they didn’t think of getting a 5 buck replacement key before they lost the original.
That’s it! I hope you enjoyed it. Sure, this is probably one of the most trivial projects you can do to a bike, but it’s the details that matter. And small customizations like this are what add up to make your motorcycle unique. If you want to see what else I’ve done to this bike for more inspiration, check out my Ninja 650 Upgrades List. There are plenty of other DIYs for this bike in there.
Anyway, thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this how-to, subscribe for similar content in the future! Or share it with your friends – there should be some buttons around here somewhere. Either helps me keep this site alive. In any case, I hope you found it useful. If you’re looking for some more interesting projects right now, take a look here for a few others: