Repairing and Restoring Car Interiors

hands with essential oil bottle cleaning car upholstery
  • 2-3 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-100
What You'll Need
Dish soap
Cleaning brush
Patch kits

Whether you're trying to sell your old car, fix up a new, used car, or show your wheels a little love, knowing how to spruce up the interior of your car is a must. If you're looking to repair your car interior on a budget, we've got the tips and tricks you'll need. Grab your tools, set aside an afternoon, and flip your car interior.

Count Your Coins

When you're getting ready to restore and repair a car's interior, you need to have a budget in mind. Especially if you're trying to fix up a car to sell it, you don't want to be investing more into the fix-up than you can get out of it when you sell it. Start saving early if you can, and take on a few car DIY projects to save a little change.

Make a list of exactly what you need or want to do with the car's interior and figure out what you can DIY, what you need to buy, and how much each item on your list will cost. If that final number is out of your budget, you either need a larger budget or to cut a few to-dos from your list.

Take a Seat

The state of your car upholstery and seats is important. It's one major area where you can see the wear and tear on a car pretty quickly. If there are stains, rips, dirt, or cigarette burns in the upholstery, they'll be easy to spot.

Start by cleaning the upholstery all over your car. If you have a car upholstery cleaner that you love, use that. If you don't, we've got you covered.

Take a gallon of hot water and mix in a few drops of dish soap, a cup of vinegar, and a few drops of lemon essential oil if you want. Spray your mixture over the upholstery, dab it into really tough stains, and use a brush to scrub it out. We recommend using a medium bristle brush with a lot of tenacity, but that won't wear down your seats and other upholstery.

If you'd prefer a commercial cleaner, you can pick one up on Amazon.

You can use a mini Bistle or ShopVac to DIY clean the seats and floors as well.

If your seats or other upholstery are a little beyond saving, you may need to consider seat covers or new floor mats to clean up the car's look a little bit.

leather car seat with large tears

Scratch That

If there are any scratches on the interior surfaces of your car, you'll want to touch those up too. First, use dish soap and a sponge to gently scrub the plastic and vinyl surfaces in your car. Once you've removed the dirt and oil buildup, you'll be able to see what scratches and dents need the most work.

You can use SEM soap to help minimize and fill these scratches. Make sure to pick a color close to the color of the plastic and vinyl in your car for a seamless match.

If you don't want to pay for SEM soap, you can find interior scratch repair products locally at any hardware store. Just make sure to follow the instructions on the packaging exactly and always wear gloves when you work with these products.

If you need to patch holes, pick a patch kit that matches the color of your material (check out this example on Amazon).

The Devil's in the Details

hands removing plastic car gears casing

After you've addressed the noticeable upholstery and scratch problems in the car, get granular. Make sure to clean out all of the little cup holders, pockets, compartments, and under any seat that is home to an old McDonald's bag or a solo sock. You can use a vacuum hose to clean many of these areas out, but you can also use a cleaning putty.

You can make your own cleaning putty, or you can buy it. This magic little putty gets all of the crumbs that a vacuum can't quite get.

Once you use the putty, wipe everything in the car down, clean the windows, and add your favorite air freshener. Your car will be looking five years younger in no time.

When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commissions at no cost to you.