How To Restore A Car

How To Restore A Car

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  1. How To Restore A Car

    Auto restoration is part science and part artistic expression.  Just remember to take any and all safety precautions as many tasks in the process can be hazardous.  Proper clothing, tools, and safety gear are essential.  Keep in mind that this is simply a rough guide for the process, many things can change in the course of a project.  

    The best place to start is to choose your car.  Most folks have a particular car in mind.  Some have one they want from their younger days, some want something from before their time, and others prefer more recent models.  Which ever your preference be sure it is something that you’ll want to stick with.  This is a long haul project, and you don’t want to dread going in to your garage or work shop.  When choosing a car you will want to inspect it very carefully.  It must be worthy of the time, effort, and money.  The term that many use to describe a car that is too far gone is "basket case".  However a car that is in too good a condition will not do for a project either.  The up front investment will be higher, and very few people are motivated to tear apart a perfectly operational car.  Middle of the road is best so be sure to do your research.

    Secondly, research is the key before you purchase.  The internet can provide a wealth of information.  If you have your eye on a specific make and model, then find a few forums for enthusiasts of the marque.  Register, check out FAQ’s, and ask questions.  Most car enthusiasts or "gear heads" will be glad to talk your ear off about their chosen hobby.  Be sure to ask about things like the availability of parts for your chosen project.  A restoration can be halted in its tracks by that one part that is backordered.  

    So, now you’ve got some information under your belt, and have a rough idea of what you want.  The next thing to do is to ask your self some serious questions.  "Do I have the space to work on this project?"  "Will this be a bother to my wife/husband/room mates/children/neighbors?"  "Do I have the money to spend on this?"  "Do I have the time?  All of these questions are important.  If the answers do not fit then you may wish to hold off until the circumstances are right.  

    Assuming that all the issues are addressed it’s time to begin.  You’ll want to be certain that your work space is relatively clean, and well stocked with tools and supplies.  Wrenches, sockets, hammer, pliers, saw, drill, air compressor, and a welder of some sort.  More tools may be required, don’t forget to figure in the extra cost.  

    Some are able to drive their project home, others have it hauled in.  Either way once you’ve got your project you’ll need to pick a starting point.  This will vary from vehicle to vehicle.  Roughly it will go like so:  Disassemble, clean, repair, reassemble, paint, detail.  

    Disassembly is a tricky thing.  The temptation is often to dive in and go, however rushing can lead to errors and broken parts.  You’ll want to have some sort of reference for your project.  A shop manual is best, but photos and diagrams will serve in a pinch.  The easiest way to go is to start at the front and work your way back.  As you go along you’ll want to organize and label any parts you remove.  A digital camera is a great way to document the tear down.  Be sure to keep track of each component’s orientation and any attachments to said component.  

    So now you’ve got your car torn down to the nuts and bolts.  You might notice that the collection of parts that used to be a car is rather dirty.  Multiple years of regular use or even abuse will cause crud and mud, and funk to build up in every little nook and cranny.  Clean every thing.  There’s not much of a simpler way to put it.  Each part should be cleaned thoroughly with out damaging it or exacerbating any damage already present.

    During the cleaning process you may discover that some parts are not in as good a condition as was outwardly obvious.  A rust hole in a fender, a dent that the last owner covered over with body filler.  Any of these things are possible and much more.  Often you can combine the cleaning phase with the repair phase.  Some parts, however, will be beyond repair.  At that point replacements will be necessary.  Be sure to shop around for your best price, and don’t be shy about hitting the local salvage yards sometimes you can find things for pennies on the dollar compared to new.

    In some instances  some work may have to be sent out.  Some people have skills with metal, but are not quite as good with upholstery.  Again, you’ll want to figure in any costs of work that will have to be contracted out.  If you’ve got friends or family who are in those lines of work sometimes they will give you a deal or exchange labor for it.  Some will even take the proverbial six pack for the trouble.  

    So you now have a pile of restored car parts, time to make a car again.  Most of the time the best bet is to partially assemble the body in order to paint it.  There are many good books on painting cars.  To summarize:  Take your time, do the best preparation possible, and correct any flaws when the occur. 

    With the body assembled and painted it would be a good time to add the suspension, engine, and drive line.  Here is where many folks have some fun.  If you’re going for a full restoration you’ll want original, or reproductions of original parts.  Others who are just building a car for them selves and don’t have show judges to worry about will often install upgraded components for more power and better handling.  Which ever way you go be sure to use quality parts.  

    Many people save the interior for last and this is often out of necessity rather than preference.  Often components have to be installed and removed multiple times and it helps to not need to remove interior components at the same time.  Again, this is another area that one can have a good bit of fun.  Custom seats, door panels, and head liners are a nice way to spice up your ride.  

    At last you now have an assembled vehicle.  Now, you’ll want to handle those little details.  Polishing and waxing, cleaning out those little bits of carpet from the install.  Checking all of the accessories and electrical systems to ensure that every thing is working properly.  

    Now go for a drive knowing that you did it your self.  No one else will know this car like you will.  As a bonus if anything does go wrong, then you’ll know right away what needs to be done.  Now you know every nut and bolt.  

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