Are you a car owner who doesn’t feel good and excited looking at your car because it has become old? It can happen to the best of us, especially if you are just starting out in life. I remember the first car I bought was a used ’99 Chevy Cavalier. It was in fairly good condition, but being fresh out of college meant maintaining the car wasn’t one of my top priorities. Subsequently, my old car became an embarrassment whenever I took my girl out on a date. The easier option here would have been to get rid of the used car and opt for a new one. But that’s when a good friend of mine, who happens to be an auto mechanic, suggested some tips that would make my old babe look just like new. So, here I will be sharing those tips, that will surely help all of you who want to be proud of their car, and are looking for ways to spruce up an older car.
Okay, I do agree that in order to turn back the clock the direct option is to replace all the broken/faulty parts. Now, this option can set you back anywhere between a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand bucks. For those who can’t afford that much, don’t worry. Even if your budget is low, you can make your old car look new by following the money saving options mentioned here.
First and foremost, no matter how old, banged up, or rusty, a really clean car is always going to look better than a car that is covered in dust and dirt. So, a thorough wash is a nice way to get started. A point to remember here, much like us humans, the condition of a car is always judged by looking at its exterior. In any case, that is the first thing visible while looking at a car. Hence, when going for a car makeover we shall work on the outside first and then on the inside.
Remove Dents and Repaint
The car’s paint is its protective shield against the elements, but as time ticks by all sorts of nicks and scratches appear. Being the first recognizable and visible part of the vehicle, our first objective is to make the exterior look as new as possible. This can be done by spray painting a fresh coat (starts from $1500). No matter how tempted you are to paint your car, you shouldn’t try it unless you have some professional painting experience. Else your car will probably end up looking worse than it is. Also, a banged up car with dents is an eyesore. A professional dent removal job can restore the original curves on your car. Now, a 1-inch dent can cost you anywhere between $50 to $100.
Money Saving Option
If your car has minor scratches, you can touch them up with paint pens ($4 to $20) that you can find for sale at most automotive supply stores. But be sure to get exactly the right color. Although paint pens can do a good job covering up small scratches, they are not meant to cover large areas. Likewise, for small dents, try a DIY dent-removal kit that is available on the market. But remember such kits are effective only for small dents, and might require some skill. The kits can cost anywhere between $20 to $150.
Unlike glass headlight covers used in older cars, plastic headlight lenses turn yellow and become foggy and look worn out after as little as three or four years. UV radiation from sunlight turns them yellow or cloudy, which can also become a potential safety hazard. The end result is that this makes your car look old. Getting a new pair of eyes will surely lighten up the look of your car, not to mention the better illumination at night and in foggy conditions.
Money Saving Option
Use cleaning kits (around $20-25) specifically designed to clean plastic headlight assemblies. The best ones will contain a cleaner as well as an UV protector. It is not necessary to remove the headlights from the vehicle to clean them. You don’t need special tools or skills, either. The entire cleaning routine may take around 30-45 minutes, but the result is better looking and brighter headlights.
New Set of Wheels
One of the most neglected part of a used car is its wheels. Since it is an old car, tires are bound to wear, and rims tend to rust and accumulate dust and dirt. Opting for a fresh set of wheels will surely lend a new look, not to mention the other benefits of using fresh tires. Upsizing or choosing larger wheels can go a long way in changing the look of the car. Larger wheels are instantly noticeable and also provide certain benefits like a better grip and a smoother ride. You can also opt for alloy rims to complement the look of your car.
Money Saving Option
Use a tire cleaning and dressing kit ($20-80) to give your tires and rubber trim an exceptionally brand new look. Why opt for expensive alloys when plastic hubcaps look just the same. Sleek looking plastic hubcaps (around $30-100) can give your car a sportier look and even become your personal style statement.
Change Floor Mats and Carpet
Carpets get loaded with ingrained mud, sand, and debris that cling to our footwear. Coffee or soda spills can also stain the carpet and ruin the nap on it. Floor mats and carpets really take a beating and can become worn out after a reasonable amount of time. Luckily, most auto stores sell floor mats and carpets ($30 to $100 for 4-piece set) in a variety of colors and styles to fit your fancy.
Money Saving Option
Excavate all the trash splayed all around and vacuum the entire floor. Use a carpet cleaner spray ($5 to $20) to remove tough stains. Soak the mats and carpet (if wash-proof) in warm water for half an hour and then shampoo them thoroughly.
Change Seats and Upholstery
Foam could lose its form over the years and this might end up being uncomfortable. Have it replaced and invest in a good back rest and neck-pillow. Seat covers are relatively inexpensive, easy to install and are one of the most dramatic ways to impact the interior. Perhaps best of all, they come in thousands of colors and fabric combinations. Seat covers can be ordered with emblems or logos on them, so you can even show off your team spirit or school pride.
Opting for car seat covers in the preferred choice of material and color can add a dash of color and style to otherwise drab interiors. If your upholstery is in relatively good shape, then opt to wax and buff the seats using a good wax polish ($5 to $20) and a portable buffer attachment. A little bit of elbow grease is sure to bring about a marked difference to the look of your car interior.
As time goes by, the plastic on the dashboard and steering wheel becomes dull and may need replacement. The glass on the speedometer might have scratches. Knobs, switches and indicating lights on the console also cease to function properly over time, and may require replacement or repair. If worn out, you may even choose to get a new customized steering wheel, or replace certain sections of the dashboard if they are cracked or damaged beyond repair.
Use a dashboard cleaner fluid ($10-40) and a microfiber cloth to wipe the surfaces clean. Do not directly spray the fluid on to the surfaces as they tend to leave a stain. Use small brushes and cotton swabs to clean hard to reach spots. Coating these surfaces with UV protector is a good way of ensuring that the dashboard and console are protected from cracking up or getting discolored due to prolonged exposure to sunlight.* The prices given above can vary according to location and availability.
Some More Tips
✔ Use deodorizers that eliminate odors from mold, smoke, and other causes, rather than merely masking them. You can also try eliminating odors from the air blowing ducts by spraying odor eliminator into the system’s air intake.
✔ Bluetooth integration, navigation systems, video monitors, DVD players, and a host of other gadgets lend a snazzy look and feel to the car. Moreover, all this stuff can be installed in just about any car or truck, regardless of its age and condition.
✔ Clean and polish your car’s windshield (and other exterior glass) with plain water and old newspaper. Unlike soft cloth or paper towels, newspaper doesn’t leave lint.
✔ To help restore a license plate that is beginning to rust, spray it with a good anti-rust (like WD-40) and wipe with a clean rag. Not only will this eliminate light surface rust, but will also prevent the plate from rusting further.
✔ While using water and soap to clean under the hood, be particularly careful to keep water away from electrical connections like the fuse box, cable junctions, and the large electrical connectors near the battery.
With just a few supplies and a little bit of elbow grease, shaving five years off the look of your car isn’t that difficult. It is still much better than coughing up a few thousand bucks for a brand new car. What’s more, making an older car look like new can pay dividends, worth up to 50 percent more than a car which is just fairly maintained.