Monthly Masterclass: Interior Maintenance
From the day your car left the factory it’s been rotting. The sun began the process of drying out and fading your roof covering, upholstery and carpet. Pollution joined it in its assault on your motor, the oxidation process slowly taking its toll on the gleaming paint. If you live near the ocean, that played its part too, salt water droplets damaging your car’s factory rustproofing. In winter, when salt and chemicals are frequently doused on the roads, your car was under attack from above and below, as its own momentum literally sandblasted the underside with salt and chemicals.
Even when it was just sitting at home, it was deteriorating. Damage of nearly every kind you can imagine can occur that way: rubber begins to rot, upholstery to mildew, metal to rust, precision-fit internal engine parts seize up, wiring short circuits, paint blisters, fibreglass cracks, chrome pits, brakes lock up, batteries die. Many vintage car owners wait patiently for spring, anticipating touring the country again, only to roll out the car when the weather warms up and find that its condition has deteriorated exponentially.
Sounds depressing, doesn’t it? Depressing – but not inevitable. We’ve already talked you through the best ways to maintain the bodywork and mechanics of your vintage motor, and now we’re going to tell you how to look after your interior too. Here are a few tips to keep your classic car in top condition.
Car interiors tend to be subjected to just as much abuse as their exterior surfaces, yet they’re often neglected when it comes to caring for the car. Not so very long ago, the state of the nation’s car interiors actually made the news because such a large percentage harboured levels of dirt and bacteria that were potentially harmful to human health. This means that cleaning is essential, and it’s important that you know how to clean the interior surfaces of your car, including leather and fabric seats and trims, carpets and mats, plastic and vinyl surfaces and glass.
Most car interiors are only cleaned once or twice a year, and the rest of the time dirt and grime is dragged in off the street, sticky messes are deposited by children, bacteria is brought in by pets and all manner of other nasties are deposited through sweating, coughing and sneezing. In addition to the dirt and bacteria deposited by the occupants, the interior of the car is subjected to degradation by exposure to the sun’s rays, and the effects of regular variations in temperature and moisture content. Over time, porous surfaces like vinyl and rubber begin to dry out, making them increasingly brittle and putting them in danger of cracking and splitting. The sun’s UV rays further degrade these surfaces, resulting in fading and further damage. Large variations in moisture content, especially during the winter months, promote the growth of mould and mildew, which can cause musty, unpleasant odours.
You can see now why cleaning is essential, but before you start, you need to understand what you’re doing – it’s a far more complex task than you would imagine. If your interior has one or more of the following problems, you’ll need a valet to fix them for you: badly stained carpets or fabrics, obvious mould or mildew, unpleasant musty odours or strong tobacco odours. If the state of your interior is not severe enough to warrant enlisting a professional, then make sure that you use appropriate products to clean and protect it accordingly. Small amounts of water or other liquids can cause stains as the substances can react with residues left over from the manufacturing process, so avoid shampooing and making your upholstery wet.
Caring for Leather
Many classic cars have leather upholstery. The sun takes a severe toll on leather seats, and constant use and friction deteriorates them still further. The best way to care for them is to keep them clean and treated with a good leather cleaner and conditioner. Nice, supple leather will last much longer and look much better. It’s also a good idea to have UV filtration added to your windows. Look for new types of window film like 3M Crystalline which offer clear, no tint coverage but still manage to reduce the incidence of UV light entering your car.
Most damage to leather is caused by ordinary wear and tear, but there are a few simple tips that can help to avoid it. Firstly, watch what you wear, and what the people getting into your car have on - studs, zippers and metal buttons on jeans are enemies of leather seats. Secondly, always leave your dog at home when you take your vintage car for a spin, or else invest in some seat covers. Thirdly, watch what you put on the seat – sharp, heavy objects in particular should be avoided.
If you store your classic car in the garage over winter, there are a few simple steps that you should be following in order to ensure that it stays in perfect condition in preparation for its next outing.
1. Clean all of your car’s nooks and crannies. It is important that you allow several days for your car to completely dry out before you lock it away, or else you risk trapped water causing a lot of damage over the winter months.
2. Vinyl and leather treatments should be applied to soft trim, and a protective coating should be applied to interior and exterior chrome and paint.
3. If your garage or storage space is humid, place a product like baking soda, which will absorb moisture, in the luggage compartment, as well as inside your car. This prevents moisture from taking hold on your fabrics and trim, eliminates the stale smell inside, and reduces the possibility of rust forming under carpets and mats.
4. Many luxury cars utilise rubber drain tubes in the luggage compartment to drain water from the rear vent system to the underside of the car, so take a look to see if yours is one of them. These tubes often crack as they grow older, meaning that the water can begin to drain directly into the trunk if left unattended. Be sure to check yours, as this is a major cause of rust.
5. Open the doors, windows and boot and spray dry silicon spray on the all weather stripping to keep it from bonding to the doors when the vehicle is stationary for a long period.
6. Place some mothballs inside the vehicle. Place them in a container rather than the car itself, and don’t allow them to touch it. If you don’t like the smell of mothballs, use a deodorant bar of soap cut into small slivers and place them in open containers inside your car. Some people recommend spreading dryer fabric softener sheets inside and around the car instead, as the scent is easier to tolerate when you have to air out your vehicle come spring. Rodent traps can also be a good idea to ensure that rats and mice aren’t tempted to have nibble of your upholstery.
7. Depress the clutch and lock its position with a 2 x 4 pressed against the clutch and the front of the seat cushion or seat frame, as clutch plates often stick together in storage.
8. Leave the hood and a couple of windows ajar, as this will allow free air circulation and limit any moisture problems.
Follow our advice and your interior will remain as fresh, clean and unmarked as the day your car rolled out of the showroom.
Monthly Master Class: Mechanical Maintenance