Properly maintaining the passenger areas of your car is vital both for the maximum enjoyment of travelling and retaining their full resale value. We spoke to leading European trim experts, Allon White Sports Cars of Cranfield, Bedfordshire, shares a few appropriate trade secrets:
Older hides need to be kept clean and well-fed. Oil-based dirt can be carefully removed with white spirit. Common stains can be tackled with sparing quantities of warm water, after which the leather should be thoroughly dried. The use of such products as washing-up liquids should be avoided, as their saline can draw out the natural oils and prematurely age the leather. Once clean, the leather should be fed with Connolly hide food or other such proprietary product. The container should be heated with a hair dryer so an even layer can be achieved. Any unwanted build-up on the seat can easily be removed by localised heating and rubbing with a soft cloth. Once cool, the surface should be thoroughly buffed.
Early cars may well have had their seats connollised. This process of ‘painting’ leather to restore its colour was originated by the now defunct leather supplier Connolly, but has become a generic term for such treatment. Care is needed when cleaning seats that have been treated in this way, as inadvertently removing the coating can make the items look worse rather than better. While wholesale DIY painting of leather is not recommended, localised coating can come in handy for touching up the piping, squab bolsters etc that suffer the most wear and tear. Once the seat concerned is clean and the colour matched, the appropriate dye should be carefully stippled-in. Rubbing the surface with a finger will help achieve the gloss effect common in older leather. Smaller areas, especially on black or brown leather, can be successfully treated with boot polish. The container should be preheated with a hair dryer so the polish will readily soak into the damaged area. Once buffed, the repaired section will not be a problem to clothing etc.
This should be kept clean and prevented from getting too cold in winter. Once it’s cracked or faded, there is not much one can do other than retrim accordingly. There is no point in using leather food etc, as the material is not porous. Small areas can be touched-in with the appropriate colour of leather paint, boot polish or indelible marker.
Wood veneers are prone to attack from the sun’s powerful rays. The best way to prevent problems is to keep the relevant area clean and covered whenever practical; especially if the car concerned is likely to remain unused for some time. The most common problems are cracking or fading of the top surface – ie lacquer. Minor deterioration can sometimes be overcome as follows:
- Fine scratches can removed with a fine grit paint polish
- Small discoloured areas can be touched-in using carefully matched model paints and a fine brush
- Boot polish can also be handy for restoring very small areas. The colour needs to be matched with care, and pre-heating the polish will help it flow onto the crack or blemish concerned. Once buffed, it will not come off on hands or clothing
Once wood facias, door cappings etc are beyond the type of minor reparation described, they will need to be removed, stripped and professionally re-lacquered.
The types of plastic employed in car interiors are prey to the effects of UV radiation, and once cracked or faded there is little one can do to restore them. To save them from deterioration, they should be kept fresh with a mild proprietary cleaner and away from the sun’s rays as much as possible.
High traffic areas such as sill kick plates are prone to scratching. As a deterrent these should be regularly cleaned with a soft cloth. If necessary, the offending parts can be professionally stripped and re-lacquered. Any ongoing problem can be largely prevented by coating vulnerable areas with Defendall (or similar protection film), a rubbery, transparent product used by specialists like Allon White Sports Cars to protect any metal parts (interior or exterior) that are exposed to regular abrasion, bombardment with stones, gravel etc.
When carpets become wet, they should be removed, hung vertically and allowed to dry naturally at room temperature – using a heater will cause them to shrink. The foot-wells should be thoroughly dried before the carpets are replaced; absorbent paper is good for this, but newsprint should be kept away from light coloured carpeting, as the ink can rub off and stain. A proprietary trim cleaner should be used for individual marks, while oil and grease stains can be removed by careful use of a brake/clutch cleaner.
Prevention is always better than cure and time spent keeping car interiors clean, dry, and free of harmful abrasives (eg road grit) and extended periods of sunlight will pay dividends.
Bigger problems are arguably best left to the professionals, and that’s where companies like Allon White come in! See www.allonwhite.co.uk for further details, or call them on 01234 750205.