How to Restore Your Car’s Interior [UPDATED]

Cars, like any machine, can wear out over time. Usually, we often see the engine and transmission break down first when it comes to old vehicles. However, even the interior can give up especially when you’re not maintaining it.

torn leather


Some of the symptoms of a beaten car interior include torn leather, moldy dashboard, smelly interior, and brittle seats. There can be so many more problems, and you might encounter these if you’re not careful. While restoration of car interiors are standard work for repair shops, it’s better that you know how to restore car interior yourself!

Things to Keep in Mind: Tips and Tricks

Before hitting on the steps on how to restore your interior, it’s good to have a grasp first on the fundamentals of restoration. Here are a few tips that you should keep in mind:

Never Restore Without Cleaning

Cleaning is always the most important chore to do when it comes to the interior. Sure, you might get excited over new fabrics, but clean the surfaces first. An untidy car will be damaged even more if you try to restore it as it is.

The Fabrics and Colors Make a Difference

Whether you’re replacing plastic, vinyl, or leather, the important part is to get the color and material right. Your car comes with primary and secondary layers of color and material. Thus, follow these to avoid making your interior look tacky and nonmatching.

Use Cheap Items to Make the Interior Look Expensive

Our last tip is probably the most important. Since the idea here is to save money, this is how you should approach the problem. Invest in cheap items below $20 that will make a huge difference.

That can be adhesives, colorants, glues, and liners. We’ll discuss it more below. The idea here is that these are little hacks that solve most of your car’s problems. Using a sleek suede fabric to cover up a cracked dash is a good example of this.

What You’ll Need

A car’s interior requires a lot of items. However, the good news here is that these are cheap and readily available at your local warehouse store. If you invest in these tools and materials, you’re bound to get better results than compromising!


  1. Rags
  2. Face mask
  3. Vacuum or upholstery cleaner
  4. Wrenches (optional)
  5. Bristle brush (ideally you want this to be nylon)
  6. Cutting tools such as box cutters and scissors (optional)


  • Upholstery cleaning agent (Car shampoo and soap would do)
  • Plastic, vinyl, and leather colorant
  • Vinyl, leather, and plastic preparation spray
  • Plastic and vinyl clear coat
  • Plastic adhesion promoter
  • Fabrics (Used for patching up cracked surfaces like our example above)

The Steps

Step 1: Plan the pimping all the way

planNow, before you just start pimping your car interior, you need to plan the whole process step by step. Determine first which things you want to change or decorate. Observe and estimate if you have enough space on your car to fit all the “aesthetic” things in your vehicle.

You wouldn’t want to waste that adorable pair of speakers or those cool dashboard decals just because you miscalculated the space in your car. Moreover, this can also help you keep track of your progress and not get sidetrack when you start.

Step 2: Again, give your car some good cleaning first

Whether or not you decide to clean up your car from the inside to the outside or vice versa, what’s important is not skipping this step. Pimping up your car interior without cleaning it first is just like dressing up nice without taking a bath first.

You can start by either cleaning your car upholstery or replacing them altogether with a new one. Upholstery cleaning agents, vacuum or upholstery cleaner and the like are highly encouraged when accomplishing this task.

the man cleaning the car seat

As for the non-upholstery parts such as the dashboard and car doors, you can just use a leather shine or a leather colorant and preparation spray. If you can find those leather shine sprays that already have active cleaning agents in them, that would also be more convenient.

That can allow you to multitask: cleaning and at the same time restoring the vibrancy and shine of the non-upholstery parts.

Step 3: Clean the carpets

The carpets are also an important part of pimping up and restoring your car interior. A clean upholstery won’t look as clean if the carpets seem to be a little dirty. If you can’t restore your carpet’s appearance with just a brush and a cleaner, then you might as well replace it with a new one.

dirty rubber carpet in car

Ideally, you can replace it with something that also matches your car upholstery. But then again, this is optional. Make sure to shake off first the carpet (even if it’s a new one) to remove dust or any fabric bits.

Step 4: You can now start “pimping” up the interior

Now, here comes the fun part. You can start by adding whatever decals you want to add to the car ceiling or the car door interiors. However, be careful not to add too many decals.

Too many decors inside the car can give the illusion that your vehicle is stuffy or cramped. Adding new speakers, players and other things can also come in next. However, make sure that whatever you add has been carefully measured to fit into the built-in slots in your car.

Lastly, would be the stick shift and the stirring wheel. You can choose to add decals on them or add a cover or grip to them. Aside from being aesthetically pleasing, adding a cover on your steering wheel also helps improve the grip for added comfort while driving.

Wrapping it up

Car interior restoration doesn’t have to be complicated. If you’re aiming for a well-rounded, simple, and clean interior, then you won’t need to shed extra money. You can achieve all of these principles through effort, research, and a good set of tools.

With that said, always remember that you can prevent this from happening. Extra care and daily maintenance can go a long way to sustain your vehicle’s inside charm. However, if the problem presents itself, our steps and tips will guide you to get a hold of the basics.

Hence, just don’t forget to get the necessary tools and materials when restoring your car. If you found this article helpful, feel free to share this with your fellow car owners! Good luck and remember, a loved car means a long-lasting car!

Steven K. Galloway