What to do when your car starts looking a bit… worn?

I’ve had my little Hyundai Accent since graduate school.

We paid cash for it new and it’s a great little car.  It’s had batteries and tires replaced and other sorts of mildly expensive routine repairs, but for the most part it’s been remarkably stable.  Well, there was that time a couple years after we got it where we smashed in the front and had to get stuff replaced, but after that it was as good as new.

It still looks mostly fine on the outside.  A few tiny dents and scratches, but no rust or missing paint or big dents or anything.

The inside, on the other hand, is starting to look 70s-style bad.  The glue is coming unglued on the fabric on the doors, leaving it hanging loose.  No tears yet, but I can see them in the future if we don’t do something.  Everything that gets touched regularly is coated in a brown-grey grime.  And then there’s dust and crumbs and other sorts of detritus.  It could use a good cleaning.

Before I let DH at it with a glue gun, any suggestions?

27 Responses to “What to do when your car starts looking a bit… worn?”

  1. Chelsea Says:

    I’d suggest taking it to a full-service car wash and having them do the works. We do that at the end of each winter to get rid of the snow/salt gunk and it makes a huge difference in the way the inside of the car looks.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Car washes do interiors? Do they fix the glue too?

      • Rented life Says:

        Yes good car washes do interior detailing. That will clean everything up. Not sure about the glue though.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Who knew? (Well, obviously you guys did.)

      • Chelsea Says:

        Don’t know about glue, but I’d call and ask. I get the impression that our car wash would do just about anything you’d pay them for.

      • Rosa Says:

        You’re not the only one who didn’t know. I asked for “car detailing” for Christmas and my husband thought I meant I wanted pinstripes painted on it. He’s apparently never had a car cleaned. I did it mostly myself this summer and as soon as we’re back from our epic summer road trip I’m gonna go pay big bucks to get it cleaned. Once every 14 years, we can afford to pay $100 and tip something big for how generally disgusting it is.

  2. hollyatclubthrifty Says:

    If you do DIY with a hot a glue gun, I would like to make a request for before and after pictures.

  3. Alicia @ Financial Diffraction Says:

    My car is in relatively good shape, but it’s definitely seen better days inside. There happens to be a hole (about an inch diameter) in the drivers seat from a hungry, nesting squirrel. That one bugs me the most because there isn’t a heck of a lot you can do about it. Salt, and dirt can generally be removed with a bit of effort. A hole in the upholstery, and padding – not so much.

    • Angela Says:

      You could get seat covers to cover the upholstery. My family loves to put sheepskin seatcovers on their car seats. They warm up quickly against your body in the winter and you can take them off to wash them!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        The main problem with our upholstery is that the side panels are unglued and are flapping instead of stuck on the door. Other than serious crumbs, the seat upholstery is in pretty good shape.

  4. Dana Says:

    I have the same problem with the side panels in my car. I used fabric glue to replace one of them and it worked well. That was quite a while ago and now I need to do the other side panels. It wasn’t hard but am feeling lazy about it so I haven’t done it.

  5. chacha1 Says:

    uh, cleaning is definitely recommended. LOL even an old car looks better when it is clean, sez the one with the 19-yr-old Accord. If there is not a detailing service in your town, there are surely impecunious college students who would attack it with some Simple Green for a modest fee.

    Some of those interior bits and pieces, like side panels, are pretty cheap to replace. I was looking online for parts for mine, because the “wood” escutcheons around the inside door levers are starting to get loose. I may end up leaving that to the Honda shop, though, because after 6+ years of the automatic door locks not working maybe it is time to just get the stuff Fixed. I don’t know enough about cars to know whether the escutcheons can be replaced without disassembling the whole door. With Hondas, things tend to be kind of … intertwined.

  6. plantingourpennies Says:

    The googles would make me inclined to try this: http://www.amazon.com/3M-38808-Headliner-Fabric-Adhesive/dp/B004MEBENM

    I assume if it works to keep fabric attached overhead it would also work on the doors…

    But thank you for the reminder to be grateful for my non-fabric interiors even during the hot summer when I am occasionally annoyed by them… I’m having flashbacks to sitting in my parents’ station wagon in the early 90s and having tiny bits of foam, lint, dirt, and gawd only knows what else fall in our eyes and mouths every time one of the kids would reach up or over and touch the drooping fabric of the ceiling and doors.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      oho, that looks very promising! And it’s a spray like all those websites with the broken 3M links were talking about. (All the make sure you get this 3M glue and not this other 3M glue, or I tried this 3M glue and it worked for 3 months and then stopped working again, but this one has stayed working for a year, etc.)

      • Practical Parsimony Says:

        That glue is a spray and toxic. I ended up with chemically induced bronchitis in the ER from breathing it in a huge room, an upholstery class where the instructor refused to open the windows. I would use a tube of glue.

      • Jenny F. Scientist, PhD Says:

        All solvent-borne things are toxic, because all solvents are toxic. (Water included – if you try to breathe it.) I would use it in a large, open, well-ventilated/breezy area, and maybe wear a N95 mask.

  7. Ree Says:

    Having grown up with a father who restored cars (for drag-racing) I know something about this! I recommend having a car wash do what’s usually called “detailing” on the inside. There are also people who will come to your house and do this – find them online, esp. Craigslist. In NC, the cost was $80 for the inside and outside of a compact car. Our little Nissan Sentra is 18 years old and my husband dribbles coffee in it every day and we have two kids. Hard to tell, believe it or not.

    For the outside, if you’re ever interested, check out Griot’s Garage for a paint cleaning set that involves clay. http://www.griotsgarage.com/product/paint+cleaning+clay.do

    It will do amazing things for the finish, though it involves a lot of elbow work. You will be so shiny!

  8. First Gen American Says:

    I am jumping on the detailing bandwagon. Does wonders. Used it once to get smoke smell out of a new to me used car.

  9. What did we get for Christmas? | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] DH got the interior of my car detailed!  It is no longer scuzzy at all [update:  except the tip of the emergency brake– I’ve […]


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