Breathe New Life into Your Old Junk Car with Simple Renovations

Written by: Nicholas Brit
Automotive enthusiasts, car buffs, and mechanical “gearheads” enjoy transforming street rods, classic cars, muscle cars, foreign cars, and other heaps of junk from literally nothing. Many people would have trashed the vehicle at the local junk yard ages ago; however, these car nuts make the effort to rebuild, restore, and renovate these abandoned “basket cases,” which are often found in open fields, old garages, barns, junk yards, and the less trodden roads. These “basket cases” may no longer have their aesthetic appeal from when they were first sold off the car lot. Oftentimes these beaters have unidentifiable missing parts that only a true enthusiast or collector would recognize. While state municipalities and city ordinances have enforced laws that forbid drivers to use certain junk cars, there are steps that can be taken to restore them to an operational and aesthetically appealing state. Simple Exterior Renovations The first thing people notice on any car is the way it looks on the outside. If a car enthusiast plans on restoring a junk car for the purpose of auctioning or selling it on the market, then it better have an aesthetically appealing exterior or buyers will ignore it. This usually entails more than a simple paint job. In fact, a full restoration may involve stripping the entire car down to the bare metal, remove every body panel from its frame, and sandblasting traces of old paint or rust from the vehicle's surface. If the rust has taken over a body panel or fender, then the restorer may need to weld in a new piece or replace it altogether. Next, the restorer will coat each body panel with a gray epoxy primer before repainting them in the desired color. Restoring the exterior does not end with repainting the vehicle. In fact, a restorer generally considers replacing all of the vehicle's door handles, windshield, rear-view mirrors, gas cap, bumpers, hood latches, tail lights, head lights, license plate lamp, and any existing insignias. Fixing Dents in the Body Restorers support the claim that junk cars have dents and dings in just about every exterior part of the car. OK, maybe that was a little exaggerated; however, we have all found an unexpected dent in new vehicles from time to time. A car usually incurs a dent from a runaway shopping cart, careless driver, and even a disgruntled co-worker. Asking a local body shop to fix these dents can run a fortune; therefore, there are steps to take to fix these dents without further damaging the car. Before getting started on this project, a restorer should purchase a dent pulling kit, dolly, and a metalworking hammer. The first step requires locating the center of the dent and then drilling a hole with a 1/8-inch drill bit. Next, push the dent pull tool through the newly drilled hole and then pull on it to flatten the dent. Use the metalworking hammer to push out the dent toward the front, while firmly holding the dolly against the back of the dent. If necessary, open the trunk or car hood to reach the back of the dent. Mount a medium grit disk to grind the paint down to the bare metal and then fill the area of the dent itself with a quality body filler. Wait for the body filler to completely dry before sanding the area. Use six coats of automotive primer on the area, making sure to allow plenty of time for each application to dry in between rounds. Use sandpaper to smooth any existing scratches left from the primer application. Re-sand and re-paint the area until obtaining the desired smooth surface. Give Your Car a New Paint Job Restorers will obviously consider repainting the junk car to give it a new life. Paying a body repair shop to re-paint the vehicle can get expensive, especially if the original color is hard to obtain. Anybody can repaint their car with careful preparation and proper application. A restorer should carefully clean the car of all dirt and grime. Next, apply a good wax and degreaser to the vehicle's surface to remove all leftover residue. In addition, remove all obstructions that will not need painting to minimize the need for masking, such as lights, door handles, car grill, windows, and bumpers. Use a dual-action orbital sander to blast all of the old paint away. This will make the new paint adhere better to the vehicle body. Examine the vehicle for any damaged areas that need replacement parts and then repair as needed. Lastly, use masking tape, plastic, or newspaper to protect areas that do not need a layer of paint, which may include windows, the interior, the antenna, and rear-view mirrors. Wipe down the car of all residue from sanding and repairing. To begin the painting process, spray the car with a good primer to allow the new paint adhere to the car. Sand the primed area to even out the finish with a sanding block. Apply a second coat of primer and sand it with six hundred-grain sand paper for a smoother finish. Remove the masking materials and then wash the car of any dirt, grime, grease, or any other material. Re-mask the car and then reapply as needed. Finally, spray the base coat of paint by keeping the spray gun perpendicular to the targeted area. Keep the spray gun approximately ten to twelve inches from the area for even coating. Spray the top coat of paint and then let the vehicle completely dry. Fixing Window Mechanisms & Replacing Windows Restorers may want to replace any broken windows or its corresponding mechanisms. Luckily, this aspect of the restoration process does not pose too much difficulty. If the junk car has a broken window, then the first step would be to remove the largest pieces of glass from the window frame and interior. Vacuum all pieces as necessary. The next step would be to remove the door car using an applicable screwdriver. Consult the car manual for specific instructions on which tools to acquire for the job, or contact a professional who can offer assistance. Draw a rough diagram of the door and then tape any necessary screws or bolts to it as a future reference when reassembling the door. Remove the weather stripping from the top of the door; however, do not remove the lift or motor mechanisms. Vacuum any hidden pieces of glass wedged on the inside of the door and weather stripping. Replace the weather stripping as necessary. Examine the location of the clips and brackets that hold the window in the place. Align the new piece of glass with the opening in the weather stripping, and then carefully ease the glass into the door's channel. Watch the lift mechanism closely and remove any obstructions. Slide the glass into place until it locks into place. Test the window to make sure it is working properly. Simple Interior Renovations Even if the car looks good on the outside, it may have problems with how it looks on the inside. For instance, it may have torn upholstery, dislodged gauges, a cracked dashboard, and discolored carpeting. Interior restoration depends on the overall condition of the car. This means that the restorer must evaluate the car and determine what it needs, such as new seats, switches, gauges, and sound system. A complete restoration may involve completely vacuuming the car, replacing the car seat upholstery, removing and thoroughly cleaning the inner door panels, glove compartment, and sun visors. If worse comes to worse, a restorer may need to replace these parts to make it look more aesthetically pleasing. Reupholstering Car Seats Restorers will likely have to reupholster the vehicle's car seats. In fact, it does not take long before the upholstery starts to wear out. It usually calls it quits before the engine dies. Therefore, a restorer will likely purchase new fabric to replace the old seat covers, a process known as reupholstering. Restorers should do this themselves, otherwise professionals will charge them astronomical prices. The first step to reupholstering car seats involves identifying the type of seats installed in the car. For instance, a car may have bucket or bench seats. Use the appropriate tool to remove the bolts fastening the seat to frame. Gently take the old fabric off the seat frame; however, do not remove the ruined upholstery. Try to keep it in place as a market to create a new pattern for the seats. Place the new fabric around the seat and then use a staple gun to fix it to the bottom and around it. Replacing the Dash A restorer may have to replace the dashboard in their junk car. A car's dashboard endures harsh sun exposure, which may lead to fading and even cracking. A restorer has no other option, other than to replace a cracked dashboard. Before getting started, the restorer must disconnect the battery to prevent an injury or damage to the car's electrical grid. The first step in replacing the dashboard requires removing the steering wheel, glove box, instrument cluster, air vents, and all corresponding screws and panels. It is vitally important to unplug all connections to the instrument cluster and completely remove them. Remove any bolts or screws holding the dashboard in place. Slowly dislodge the dashboard from its housing unit. Do not break the plastic taps or other parts that remain inside of the car. Remove any parts from the old dashboard and attach them to the new dash. In addition, remove the vehicle identification number (VIN) and affix it onto the new dashboard. Install the new dashboard onto the car. Try to have somebody nearby to help with this step. Finally, assemble the dashboard in the reverse steps that the old dashboard was disassembled. Connect the battery and troubleshoot everything accordingly.