Not everyone can afford a new car every few years. And then there are old cars that only look old, but have plenty of useable life in them. Most of us see boredom set in after a few years of driving a car, and just a few simple, inexpensive fixes, can make your old car feel new all over again.
Here are 10 tips to make your old car feel like new again, without having to spend a lot of money. These tips are assuming you have a mechanically sound car that is regularly serviced. Also read: How to remove paint scratches from your car?
Clean it up thoroughly
There is nothing like a squeaky clean car to bring that smile back to your face. Go to a smaller, independent garage for a thorough wash, targeting all the nooks and crannies of the car. Most authorized service stations just do a quick wash of the car. Focus on areas like the underbody, wheel wells, engine bay etc. Get the interiors of the car dry cleaned and vacuumed cleaned if possible.
Fix scratches and polish it
There are ways in which you can get rid of minor scratches on the car. If you have bigger scratches and dents, consider getting a touch-up job done on the car, instead of a complete repaint. Once that is done, use a good quality glaze polish to buff it down and top it off with a good wax polish. Work in a schedule where you can polish your car once a month to maintain the sheen. If you are the adventurous kind and want slightly different looks, consider using masking tape or light graphic stickers in strategic areas to make the car look different. Also read: Do you really need Teflon coating for your car?
Restore the dashboard
Dashboard plastics tend to fade and become dull with age. To renew this, there are many dashboard waxes and silicone polishes available, that will soak into the plastics and renew their shine. If the steering wheel is looking worn and old, consider getting a leather wrap steering cover that will make it look good. Remember, the dashboard is the area of the car you are going to be looking at the most, so if it looks good, you will feel good.
Care for your tyres
There are good quality tyre polishes available that make the tyres gleam like they are new. Use these regularly (once in two weeks) to keep the tyres looking great. Even if you have ordinary steel rims, good looking tyres will make the wheel look attractive. If you have a bit of spare cash, you could invest in a set of alloy wheels as well – either used or new, to add to the looks of the car. Or if you don’t want to spend that much, just get the rims spray painted (rims tend to get scratched quite easily) or add a good set of wheel covers. Also read: Alloy wheels buying guide
Restore headlamp and tail-lamp lenses
Headlamp lenses tend to fade with age. If you can afford it, replace the headlamps once every five to six years, to keep them looking and performing well. Otherwise, you can get the lenses buffed as well to restore them partially. One home remedy is to use toothpaste and a sponge to clean them up, as the light abrasive action of toothpaste works well on Perspex lenses.
Care for the seats
If your car does not have seat covers, consider investing in a set after a few years. This immediately makes a huge difference to the interiors. Or you could swap seat covers every four years or so. You could go with a complete new theme for the interiors. Some upholsterers will even colour match the door pad inserts and floor mats for you. For seats that have lost their foam, an upholsterer can add foam to the covers or even pad the seats.
Fix rattles and squeaks
In inexpensive hatchbacks and sedans, one of the problem areas with aging is in plastic rattles. With age, the lower grade plastics used in some of these cars tends to warp and rattle. Replacing entire door pads or dashboard is going to be an expensive affair. Instead consider sound damping material or better still – try yoga mats. These can be cut and stuck inside door pads, under the bonnet, inside the boot lid, inside the roof liner and under the carpet. It will help counter plastic warping and add sound damping to the car.
Upgrade the infotainment
Just like you would keep upgrading your mobile phone every few years, consider upgrading the car’s infotainment system as well with newer technologies emerging. Bluetooth, reverse cameras, touch screen systems, GPS navigation units are all systems to consider if you are bored with your older music system. Speakers too can be upgraded with the music system if you have the budget for it. When installing a new system though, consider using a completely new wiring kit for it instead of relying on the car’s older wiring.
Check the suspension
Over the years, cars with coil spring or leaf spring suspensions tend to sag, as the springs lose their tensile strength. Along with regular replacement of tyres, the suspension should also be checked. Bushes and shock absorbers need to be regularly replaced and if the car has seen plenty of load carrying duties, the coil springs or struts should also be changed if they are worn. This makes a huge difference to ride and handling. In some cars, you could add a strut brace (a rod that connects the top of the suspension towers in the bonnet) that will prevent the body from flexing (due to metal fatigue) and will make the car handle better.
Switch engine oils
As cars age, it is prudent to keep the engines well lubricated. If a car has been running mineral oil for most if its life, it would be a good choice to switch to a semi-synthetic. An oil grade change along with filter and plug replacements will keep the engine performing at its optimum even after years of use. (Of course, you also have to pay attention to the clutch, brakes and engine management system as well). Also read: Guide to car engine oils – synthetic vs mineral oil