One thing many auto enthusiasts love to do is purchase older vehicles and restore them to their former glory. There's nothing quite like seeing a once decrepit car, fixed up and gorgeous, burning rubber on the asphalt once again.
When it comes to restoring a vehicle, though, it's not just about what's on the exterior or under the hood. If you really want to make it look great again, you also need to improve the inside, where you spend a majority of your time. That is, you should replace old, stained carpets and seats, clean up the dash or console and even update the setup.
How to Fix Up a Vehicle Interior on a Budget
You don't have to spend an arm and a leg to accomplish all of this, however. There are ways to do it on the cheap so you can use the additional money on the rest of the project. Here are some tips to spruce up your car without paying a fortune.
Replace or Refinish the Center Console
Plastic is pretty cheap and easy to manufacture. That's why auto manufacturers use a lot of it for various interior parts. Often, the plastic parts consist of door panels, kick panels, armrests, consoles, dash sections, seat backs, cup holders, glove box doors, compartments and much more.
The biggest problem with plastic, however, is that over time, it can become cracked, broken, faded or worn. Old plastic sure can make the inside of a car look filthy.
Believe it or not, it can be spruced up easily. With the right tools — and a few extra bucks — you can have the inside of your car looking slick and new.
First, remove the plastic sections that you would like to clean and refinish. Please do not spray or paint anything while it's still inside the vehicle. Not only is this a safety hazard — hello fumes — but it will end up looking worse than if you had removed the piece(s).
Next, clean the plastic with a scuff pad and SEM soap. You can use 180 to 220 grit sandpaper to smooth out scratches, dents and broken areas. Then, use interior vinyl dye to repaint. It's that easy.
If you're having a tough time matching the interior shades of your vehicle, you can head to a paint and body shop to have the right colors mixed. Keep in mind that if you choose a custom shade, you may have to purchase or rent a paint sprayer to apply the dye.
Reassembly is the most tedious part, but if you got this far, you can put everything back together!
Remodel the Door Panel
One thing that happens, especially with older vehicles, is the cloth or fabric on door panels starts to come loose. We already discussed cleaning up the plastic, so you can handle plastic panels in the same way. Fabric, on the other hand, must be dealt with accordingly.
If the existing material is still in decent shape but slightly loose, you can fix it with a hot melt handgun. If you've never heard of them before, think of it as a heavy-duty glue gun. Just apply the glue sparingly and use a squeegee or spatula to smooth out the fabric and remove any air bubbles.
If the fabric is unusable, you can replace it by purchasing sheets of cloth, vinyl or even leather. Leather can be tough to work with, so we recommend vinyl or cloth. That said, it's up to you as to what materials you'd like to use for your interior remodel.
Remember to remove the entire door panel before working with the fabric. It's just easier that way.
Reupholster the Seats and Floor
In many cases, you can keep the stock material from the seats and floor as long as you clean it thoroughly. If it's in decent shape, simply vacuum any dust, dirt, hair or loose filth, and then give it a good steam cleaning. It's important that you take your time while steam-cleaning the fabric. If you rush, you won't get out any of the stains or grime.
We recommend using a water extraction steam cleaner.
If the cloth has been exposed to a lot of wear and tear, you might need to do more than clean it. The seats might have to be reupholstered. If you're not comfortable doing this yourself, you can always look into hiring a professional.
Otherwise, remove the seats from the vehicle and get to work. Carefully remove the fabric or leather from the seats, but make sure to keep it!
Also, now would be a great time to replace the foam underneath the fabric as most of the time it will be worn and damaged. If you do decide to replace the foam, it's best to go with a high-density kind.
Use the old fabric as a guide and cut your fresh sheets down to size. Use a sewing machine to produce good looking seams and articles that fit properly over the old seat frames. It helps if you have prior sewing experience. If this is your first time, you might want to practice before doing a final draft on your new fabric.
It's possible to not spend a fortune restoring a vehicle, especially on the interior. Use these tips, and you’re car will look great on the inside — leaving you more money to fix up the outside exactly how you’d like.