Car Interior Repair: Helpful Tips for Restoring Your Car’s Interior

Updated: Jul. 07, 2023

Make your car new inside again with these car interior repair tips.

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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.

Tools Required

  • Dust mask
  • lint-free cloth
  • masking materials
  • nitrile gloves
  • nylon bristle brush
  • Rags
  • respirator
  • Safety glasses
  • scuff pads
  • Shop vacuum
  • Wrench set

Materials Required

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

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. The following are Larry’s auto interior repair tips.

Get the right materials and prep the vehicle

It makes a big difference

materials Family HandymanSeveral 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 and 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

Match your colors

prep Family Handyman

SEM makes refinishing products in more than 50 colors, so get the color chart from a local dealer and match color chips to your car’s 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.

Project step-by-step (5)

Step 1

Auto interior repair: Vinyl and plastic

Soap and scrub

Soap Family Handyman

Apply SEM Soap to vinyl and plastic surfaces and scrub with a scuff pad. Put extra effort into textured and recessed areas. Wipe the surface with a clean, damp, lint-free cloth and let dry.

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Step 2

Spray and wipe

Spray Family Handyman

Spray Vinyl Prep on vinyl areas and wipe off the residue in one direction with a clean, damp, lint-free rag. Then spray Adhesion Promoter on plastic surfaces and let it “flash.” Wipe off with a clean cloth. Let dry.

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Step 3

Add colorant

colorant Family Handyman

Spray on several light coats of colorant (Color Coat is shown), allowing 5 to 10 minutes between coats. Let the colorant dry for 24 hours before using. It’s important to buy the correct “plastic adhesion promoter” with the kit, so take a minute to watch the training video at 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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Step 4

Auto interior repair: Carpet and velour

Spray, scrub, dry and vacuum

carpet Family Handyman

Spray Plastic & Leather Prep on the carpet or velour and scrub lightly with a nylon bristle brush as you continue some auto interior repair. Let dry and vacuum.

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Step 5

Apply, brush, dry, brush and vacuum

brush Family Handyman

Apply colorant to the interior carpet or velour and immediately brush in all directions with a nylon bristle brush to keep the fibers separated. Let dry. Then brush again and vacuum. 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. Check out these 46 awesome car detailing tips.

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