How to Restore Vinyl in a Car

by Michael G. Sanchez

Vinyl -- especially if it has been neglected for a long period of time -- is very susceptible to damage, particularly from UV exposure. Cracks, discoloration, brittleness and peeling are all common issues. While prevention -- via regular cleaning and conditioning with vinyl-specific products -- is ideal, there are effective techniques for restoring and reconditioning damaged automotive vinyl. The correct approach depends on the current condition of your vehicle's vinyl and what specific problems you need to fix.

Repairing Holes & Tears in Vinyl

Products such as 3M's Leather and Vinyl Repair Kit and Master Caster's ReStor-IT Leather & Vinyl Repair Kit -- available online and at most auto parts stores -- make repairing rips and tears surprisingly easy, even for first-timers.

Using a Vinyl Repair Kit

A vinyl repair kit typically contains fabric patches, liquid vinyl in a variety of colors, an adhesive, a heat transfer tool and a selection of texture pads. The first step is to attach a fabric patch under the tear or hole using the adhesive. The liquid vinyl is then applied on top and allowed to dry. To complete the process, the dry liquid vinyl is heated up using the heat transfer tool and "texturized" using the texture pad that most closely matches the texture of your upholstery.

Deep Cleaning

There are numerous products available that will help you effectively clean your car or truck's vinyl interior. Popular products include 3M Leather & Vinyl Cleaner & Restorer, Meguiars #39 Professional Heavy Duty Vinyl Cleaner and Pinnacle Leather & Vinyl Cleaner. These products are applied using a clean cloth or chamois and then rubbed briskly into vinyl surfaces. Once your vinyl is clean, applying a vinyl dressing is the next recommended step. Products such as Trophy Vinyl & Leather Dressing, Meguiars D171 Water-Based Dressing and Griot's Garage Vinyl and Rubber Dressing will give your car's vinyl a shine and help protect if from damaging UV rays.

Recoloring Vinyl

Even after being thoroughly cleaned and conditioned, older vinyl may still look somewhat dull. If this is the case for you, recoloring your vinyl is an option. Several manufactures make paint specifically for vinyl surfaces. Currently available products include Duplicolor Vinyl & Fabric Paint, SEM Leather and Vinyl Paint and Rust-Oleum Fabric & Vinyl Paint. Begin by thoroughly cleaning the vinyl surface with wax-and-grease remover. Apply thin coats of paint to the clean vinyl. As with any spray-paint job, be sure to let each coat dry completely before beginning the next.

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