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How to Restore Your Car’s Interior

Restoring your car’s interior is the simplest way to command a higher price when selling. Whether you’re planning to sell or just want to spiff up your daily driver, here are some ways to restore the interior of your car-without making a costly trip to the repair shop.

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Refreshing Your Car's Interior

Refreshing Your Car’s Interior

You can recondition the plastic and vinyl on your car doors, dash, seats and console areas, or do it all, including the carpet, velour and upholstery. You can recolour 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).

Tools and material required for this project:
– Dust mask
– Rags
– Safety glasses
– Shop vacuum
– Wrench set
– Lint-free cloth 
– Masking materials
– Nitrile gloves
– Nylon bristle brush
– Respirator 
– Scuff pads
– Carpet cleaner
– Plastic and leather colourant
– Plastic and leather preparation spray
– Plastic and vinyl clear coat
– Plastic and vinyl colourant
– Plastic and vinyl soap
– Plastic adhesion promoter
– Vinyl preparation spray

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Reconditioning Your Car Interior: Before & After

Reconditioning Your Car Interior: Before & After

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 and SEM makes products to repair and refurbish plastic, vinyl, velour, leather and carpet. When applied properly, the flexible coloured coating won’t chip, flake or fade.
SEM makes refinishing products in more than 50 colours, so get the colour chart from a local dealer and match colour chips to your carpet and plastic parts. This process isn’t designed for changing colours in your car. You’ll get the best results by choosing colours that are as close as possible to the original ones.

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Restoring Vinyl and Plastic: Step 1

Restoring Vinyl and Plastic: Step 1

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 colour 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.

Start by applying 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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Restoring Vinyl and Plastic: Step 2

Restoring Vinyl and Plastic: Step 2

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.

Spray on several light coats of colourant, allowing 5 to 10 minutes between coats. Let the colourant dry for 24 hours before using.

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Restoring Carpet and Velour: Step 1

Restoring Carpet and Velour: Step 1

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).

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Restoring Carpet and Velour: Step 2

Restoring Carpet and Velour: Step 2

Mask off all areas you don’t want to recolour, and cover the seats and carpet with a tarp to protect against over-spray. And, if you’re colouring the carpet, consider removing the seats rather than masking around them-you’ll save time and get better results.

Apply colourant to the 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.

Check out more do-it-yourself car maintenance tips!

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