Tips to Restore Your Car's Interior

Make your car new inside again

Want to get top dollar when you sell your car? Dealers know that spiffing up the interior of a used car is the best way to command a higher price. Whether you're planning to sell your vehicle or just want to freshen up your daily driver, we'll show you how to slap the shabby off your vehicle's interior. It's neither hard nor expensive, and you'll be amazed at just how new your car's interior will look.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Rejuvenate your car's interior!

You can recondition the plastic/vinyl on your doors, dash, seats and console areas, or do it all, including the carpet, velour and upholstery. You can recolor just about everything in the interior. If you vacuum and shampoo your vehicle ahead of time, you can complete the whole rejuvenation process in a single weekend (allowing for drying time between steps).

Meet the expert

Larry Trexler is the National Trainer and Technical Service Manager for SEM Products. He's been “hands-on” in the auto body repair and restoration business for 27 years.

Larry Trexler, National Trainer and Technical Service
Manager for SEM Products
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Get the right materials and prep the vehicle

Several companies make reconditioning products, but we chose SEM because it's the brand most professional shops use. Plus, it's available at many auto parts stores and online sources (such as vinylpro.com and tcpglobal.com). SEM makes products to repair and refurbish plastic, vinyl, velour, leather and carpet. When applied properly, the flexible colored coating won't chip, flake or fade.

We asked SEM's restoration expert, Larry Trexler, to show us how the pros recondition vinyl, plastic, carpet and velour. For instructions on restoring leather, visit semproducts.com.

Match your colors

SEM makes refinishing products in more than 50 colors, so get the color chart from a local dealer and match color chips to your carpet and plastic parts. This process isn't designed for changing colors in your car. You'll get the best results by choosing colors that are as close as possible to the original ones.

SEM offers a wide variety of colors, so you'll most
likely find yours.
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Vinyl and plastic

It's important to buy the correct “plastic adhesion promoter” with the kit, so take a minute to watch the training video at semproducts.com to determine the type of plastic you have in your car. Adhesion promoter helps the color coating “bite” into the plastic. You'll also need the manufacturer's cleaner and prep materials, scuff pads, a nylon brush, masking materials, nitrile gloves, a respirator, eye protection, and clean, lint-free rags.

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Carpet and velour

Prepare the vehicle by vacuuming and cleaning all surfaces with household cleaners. Shampoo the upholstery and carpet and let everything dry completely. Then move the car outside to a shaded area and roll down the windows (the coatings have a pretty strong solvent smell).

Mask off all areas you don't want to recolor, and cover the seats and carpet with a tarp to protect against overspray. And, if you're coloring the carpet, consider removing the seats rather than masking around them—you'll save time and get better results.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Dust mask
  • Rags
  • Safety glasses
  • Shop vacuum
  • Wrench set

You'll also need a lint-free cloth, masking materials, nitrile gloves, nylon bristle brush, respirator and scuff pads.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

  • Carpet cleaner
  • Plastic and leather colorant
  • Plastic and leather preparation spray
  • Plastic and vinyl clear coat
  • Plastic and vinyl colorant
  • Plastic and vinyl soap
  • Plastic adhesion promoter
  • Vinyl preparation spray