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Detailing and Repairing Auto Interior and Upholstery

As our vehicles age and are used, their interiors are often the first place to really show wear. The exterior may be polished and clean and the engine may run like a top, but inside, they are cracked and faded.

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1967 AMC Ambassador 990 interior

It's possible to refurbish an old car's interior yourself, often without major reupholstering or replacements.

Detailing Your Car

A regular detail (thorough cleaning) of your car's interior is the most important preventative maintenance you can do to ensure that the interior keeps looking good. Keeping the dust and grime from building up too heavily also protects the interior's finish (plastic, upholstery, and trim) from breaking down or becoming stained.

To properly detail, your car should be completely emptied of everything not bolted or screwed down. Remove floor mats, covers, and accessories. Set these all to the side and begin cleaning.

Start with the flooring and upholstery. A strong vacuum and possibly a steam vacuum should be used to thoroughly clean every part of your car's interior. Professional detailers often remove seats to clean underneath as well, but this may be overkill at home.

Using a sponge and appropriate cleansers, every piece of plastic and vinyl should be thoroughly cleaned as well. All parts of the dashboard, trim, etc. should be scrubbed. Pay special attention to the areas that come in contact with people the most: near the floors where feet rub and at mid-level where arms and elbows most often rest. Knobs and dials should also be thoroughly cleaned - use a toothbrush to get to hard-to-reach areas.

Repairing or Replacing Upholstery

Seats often become worn or torn with use. Some items such as sun visors and the like often become worn or faded from repeated exposure to direct sunlight.

Small tears in the seat can usually be repaired with needle and thread. You will usually need an upholstery needle and appropriate (reinforced) thread. The type of knots and pattern you use will depend on the type of upholstery and location of the tear. Iron-on patches for repair are also available to match most common interior colors.

Replacing upholstery is usually done by a professional. Some simple upholstering can be done at home, however. Many simple coverings, such as those on the jump seat backs in a pickup truck, are merely stretched and stapled into place. These can often be re-done at home.

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