If your car is looked tired and faded and a new model is out of the question, there are plenty of ways to give your car a low-cost makeover.
Cars take a lot of abuse - not just from us, but our passengers, pets and the objects we transport in them. Add to that the extremes of weather thrown at our cars and it's no wonder they need a little TLC every now and again.
Roll up your sleeves for 10 ways to transform your car…
Top 10 car makeover tips
Start by getting rid of everything you don't need in your car. Ask yourself questions like, do you need 10 CDs in your glovebox or an ice scraper in the passenger door bin during the summer? Now blitz the car for litter. Sweet wrappers, coffee cups, tickets, loose change, tissues, receipts - you name it, most of us have all or some of these offending items lurking somewhere in our cars.
Hopefully there's no litter left and precious few items to clutter your car. Now it's time to remove the mats and get vacuuming. If your mats are tatty, treat your car to a new set - you won't believe the difference they make and they can cost from as little as £5 in discount stores. Lighter stains on fabric seats and carpets can generally be moved with a little household carpet cleaner and a damp cloth, and choose a hot day to clean your seats so they dry quicker. You'll need a special cleaner if you want to spruce up your leather seats. There are plenty on the market and they cost from just £5.
If it’s been a while since it was last washed, it might be a good idea to start with a high pressure wash at a service station. It will also blast mud and other muck from the wheels and wheel arches. Otherwise, a good old fashioned wash with a sponge, cloth and car shampoo, followed by a thorough rinse will do the trick. If your car’s paintwork is looking tired, once it’s dry (microfibre towels are great for speeding up the process), start rubbing with a colour restorer such as T-Cut. You need to cover every inch of the bodywork, but the result is well worth the effort. Finally, finish off with a wax to protect the paintwork.
4) Scratches, dents and dings are inevitable the older a car gets.
You can tackle minor bodywork damage yourself, but it’s best to leave more serious problems to the experts. You can probably rub out hairline scratches with T-Cut and other colour restorer, but deeper ones and small dents will need to be sanded, filled and, primed and painted. Get a dent or scratch repair kit, follow the instructions and your car could flawless. As a stopgap, nail varnish can be used on minor damage with exposed metal to prevent it from rusting.
5) A nice set of wheels can give your car instant kerb appeal.
Alloys are easily scuffed, while steel wheels often look worse for wear. When cleaning, use an old scourer and toothbrush for the difficult-to-access areas and if plain old detergent won’t clean them up, you will have to resort to a special wheel cleaner. The front set of wheels is the trickiest to clean because they suffer from baked on brake dust. Household items including white vinegar, cola and even squeezed lemon juice are recommended on the internet, but you might take that with a pinch of salt. If all else fails, you can spray paint your wheels. Get special wheel paint and follow the instructions. It’s especially important to mask the tyres themselves. You might also want to spruce up your tyres. If you've ever looked on a used car forecourt, you're sure to have marvelled at the jet black, shiny tyres on the cars for sale. For less than a fiver you can buy a can of tyre cleaner that does the same job.
6) Windscreen, windows and wiper blades need regular care and attention.
If they are not cleaned, a film of grime will build up and it will affect visibility, especially when it’s raining and you also have to contend with condensation. Clean your windows regularly with a clean microfibre or lint-free cloth and a bottle of window cleaning solution. Vinegar, that household staple, is also good as an additive. To clean your wiper blades, simply wipe them with a clean rag dipped in hot, soapy water. After you clean off the soap, wipe the edge of the blade with white vinegar.
7) The Appearance
Faded interior plastics and exterior bumpers and trim are a sure giveaway of a car's age, especially if it's been kept outside and exposed to the elements. Thankfully, restoring plastic to its former glory is a fairly easy job. There are dozens of sprays and creams available, none are very expensive and it can really lift your car's appearance. You might also want to try the peanut butter method. Yes, it sounds unlikely, but it works. Top tip: smooth not crunchy!
Headlights take a hammering from the elements so it's no wonder that they deteriorate over time. No matter how clear the plastic was when new, it will become foggy and dim your view at night over time. You can go and buy a headlight restoration kit (usually a polishing compound and sealant), but you should try the toothpaste method first. Simply apply some paste to an old toothbrush and thoroughly clean the once opaque lenses. Now wipe off and polish, and with any luck it will be squeaky clean and clear. Put a thin layer of car wax over the lenses and shine well for a protective layer to help stop it happening all over again.
9) Nasty smells
After thoroughly cleaning the interior of your car, it should smell as fresh a daisy. If not, you can buy car deodourising spray, or you can try something more natural like leaving a small bowl of coffee grounds in the car overnight. On a day-to-day basis, invest in a pleasant-smelling air freshener (some hang from the rear-view mirror, other can be stuck somewhere rather more discreetly). Some people keep a box of fabric softening dryer sheets in their car - apparently they keep your car smelling like laundry for months.
There are various ways to boost your car's horses, including fitting a performance air filter and exhaust. You could also pay a few hundred quid to have your engine remapped, which involves a mechanic hooking your car up to a computer and tweaking settings for things like throttle response. However, one of the best methods for helping your car run in tip-top condition is to simply take good all-round care of it. Read How to keep your car running at peak performance.
You'll use up a lot of elbow grease and it could take as much as a day to give your car a makeover, but hopefully you'll think it's worth it. You may even fall in love with your car all over again...
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