How to Dye Your Auto Carpet: Car DIY
Is the carpet in your car faded or stained? Does it now clash with your new seats or repainted exterior? You can re-dye the carpet to its original color, spray on a different color or install new carpet. It depends mostly on how much time, money and effort you want to put into the project.
Clean it thoroughly
Unless you already know you’re going to replace the carpet, the first step is to clean it thoroughly. I just used a vacuum on the 1981 Celica in the photos here. That’s not good enough because everything else depends on how clean you get the carpet fibers. If you own or want to rent a really good wet shop vac, you could do this step yourself, but it might be wisest to have the local carwash shampoo the carpet for you. The video demonstrates this part well.
Watch a Pro Clean and Dye Auto Carpet
Dyes are not designed to change the color, or not by much. They can restore and darken (but never lighten) the color that was there. They soak into the individual carpet fibers. It is important to brush the carpet every which way in order to work the dye down to the “roots and scalp.” The video starts to demonstrate dyeing a dying carpet at about 4:40.
The before and after photos here of black carpet show some difference, but not as much as there should be. I didn’t follow these instructions because I hadn’t written them yet. I used the wrong kind of coating simply because it was what I had on hand. I also did the brushing wrong. No need to elaborate.
High-quality carpet dye
Coatings can make a somewhat greater color change than dyes can, but they have their limitations. And if you’re changing the color by much, you need to be sure to go all the way to every edge and surface, which means removing the seats at least, and maybe the whole carpet.
SEM and other companies make spray coatings specially designed for carpets. This is not any ordinary rattle-can paint! And it's not the kind that's "for vinyl and fabrics;" it's for "vinyl, fabrics and carpets."The small print on the back of the SEM can has instructions that aren’t necessarily intuitive, so read the fine print. After a two-inch column of how to use it on vinyl and flexible plastics, it gives different directions specifically for carpet. I won’t go through all of it here, but here’s my paraphrase of the part after the cleaning and preparation:
- Spray a light coat. Immediately brush in all directions.
- Wait 3–5 minutes. Repeat step 1.
- Wait 5–10 minutes. Brush again in all directions to ensure no fibers are stuck together.
- Vacuum it.
New kits or cut-your-own
If you’ve decided to be thorough enough to remove the
carpet, then new carpeting is often more cost-effective than dyeing or coating
it. Laying new carpet, however, has its own challenge, and that comes to
fitting it. When re-installing the carpet, it will tend to pull or wrinkle if
you stretch it too much or too little when bolting something back down. This is
true whether you are re-installing the original carpet or replacing with new
carpeting. It helps a lot, though, if the new carpet is molded in the shape of the floor-pan.
Buying a kit
that is pre-cut to fit your make, model and year of car should come close
to fitting, but there are often inaccuracies, holes that need to be cut or
lined-up, etc. Some kits are easier to work with than others, so it is wise to
check the online DIY forums for your make, model and year to find out their
recommendation. Google e.g. [diy forum camry]. After you’re into a forum that
looks promising, you can specify the year, seat configuration, etc. that might
pertain. Prices are about $145-$200 for the passenger compartment, even less for some two-seaters.
It is cheaper to go down to the upholstery shop (or online) and buy carpet
by the yard, starting at about $35. Auto carpet
differs from household carpet, so be sure to ask for the right kind. This will
be cheaper than the kit, but you have to overlay the old one as a pattern for
cutting. The decisive factor may be how many edges need to be finish-stitched,
which is more likely in the trunk than on the floorboards. If all edges get
tucked under door sills and trim panels, it’s a lot easier—you don’t have to cut
too accurately or stitch it. But watch out for compound curves that aren't as easy with flat carpet as with molded carpet.
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