Whether a classic or simply a runaround vehicle, it is best to tackle the restoration of a used car in a methodical manner. Restoring a car to its former glory can be a rewarding venture, and it is possible to do much of the work singlehandedly.
It is worth investing in a Haynes manual specific to the model as this contains detailed instructions on all elements of maintenance and repair. There are also plenty of general and precise tutorials online providing tips and advice. Try articles like this and model-specific forums.
Seats, Trim and Gauges
A good place to start a restoration is the interior. Give it a thorough vacuuming and clean all surfaces and controls. If any of the gauges are not working correctly, check the fuses first, as this is a simple fix. Should replacing a fuse not rectify the problem, it may be necessary to seek the help of a mechanic. If the seats aren’t in great condition, seat covers are a cheap option, although reupholstering could be considered. Alternatively, check with local scrap yards to see if any replacement seats are available.
Addressing Rust and Tyres
Next, it is time to check the exterior. Following a good wash, examine all doors and panels for rust. Rust is very common and should be addressed to prevent it worsening. Minor rust can be sanded and covered with touch-up paint. Larger areas may need to be cut away and new sheet metal welded into place. Seek assistance from a mechanic if required. Inspect the tyres and replace in pairs if the tread is not deep enough.
Obvious Faults, Fluid Levels and the Engine
Finally, look over the engine and underside of the car in case there are obvious faults like holes in the exhaust. Check all fluids, draining and replacing as necessary. When starting up and running, listen for unusual noises, as these can indicate worn parts or other problems. Use the Haynes manual or hire a mechanic to overhaul the engine.