How to Restore a Car

By Contributing Writer ; Updated September 15, 2017
Restore a car.

If you have an older car that you love, but it’s starting to show wear and tear, you may be able to restore it. The amount of work involved depends on the kind of work it needs. If the body is solid, the restoration process may only consist of a new paint job and replacing the seats.

Determine the areas of the car that need restoration. If the car’s floor has rusted, take out the seats, mats and carpet. Cut out the rusted metal and weld in a new piece. If you see rust on a door or a panel but the rest of the body is solid, buy the door or panel at a junkyard and then paint the car.

Replace the seats if the current ones are torn or dirty and cannot be cleaned. Depending on the car’s model, you may be able to find used seats in good condition. Another option is to have the seats upholstered. Order parts online at sites like Discount Body Parts (see Resources).

Paint all exterior moldings with black spray paint. You can order new ones if you prefer, but spray paint is a good way to save money. Replace the headlights. Order new mud flaps, or spray-paint them.

Detail the engine to make it look new; use a degreaser like Autoglym Engine & Machine then spray it off. Some areas may require multiple applications of the degreaser.

Spray all vinyl parts in the engine compartment with Armor All, and then wipe it off with a towel. The vinyl will look shiny and new. You can use Armor All on the exterior moldings, on the tires and on the dashboard. If the dashboard is cracked, you can order a new one or buy one at a junkyard.

Consider replacing the grill if it’s cracked. If it's in good condition but looks dull, spray-paint it with black paint. Some car enthusiasts make modifications by adding spoilers and replacing the bumpers.

Tip

Take a picture before taking off any parts to ensure that you put them back correctly. Drive to a car wash and apply the engine degreaser there. Use the power wash (it has more pressure and you’ll get better results) to spray it off. Keep resealable plastic bags near you and put any screws you take off in a bag. Label the bag so you know where they belong.