Car servicing: How to make your used car look younger

Car service guide: How to make your used car look younger

Over time, your used car will show signs of age. In this blog post we will be giving you a few tips on how to roll back the years and make your used car look as good as new. We have plenty of experience in rejuvenating used cars for both ourselves and our customers in our car service and repair centre and have picked up a few tricks along the way. So, if you want to make your car look a few years younger, read on.

Car service tip 1: Change your number plates

A dirty and deteriorated number plate is instantly noticeable and can make your used car look much older than it actually is. Cracked plastic, water damaged edges and general scuffs are a tell tale sign that the plate is getting tired. Replacing the beaten up number plate for a nice new one is one of the best ways to tidy up your cars appearance. 

When you replace the number plate you generally have two options. You can stick the plate onto the car with some strong double sided adhesive or you can use screws. If you're going for the latter option make sure to use colour coded screw covers for the best finish.

If you want to spend a little more, a private registration is a great way to hide a cars true age. One of the main reasons for this is that number plates are an age identifier. This is most noticeable in the current AAXX AAA format whereby the XX represents the year your car was produced. Switching to a private plate removes this and makes it harder to tell a cars age.

an aged plate on a used car next to a new one


Car service tip 2: Restore faded trim

The trim on older used cars is often faded from a brilliant black to a horrible light grey colour making it appear worn out. The reason this happens is because plastic contains a number of oils which over time are degraded by the menace that is UV light. Trim generally doesn't come with a clear coat unlike painted parts of the car and has very little protection from the sun.

Luckily there are a number of ways to bring back that factory black shine. The easiest of which is using a good back to black or trim restoration product. You can also treat the faded plastic with heat to bring it back to black too, for this you will need a heat gun or similar device. The trick here is to slowly move the heat gun over the plastic and watch as it darkens (being very careful of course!). 

If your car has chrome style trim its common for the thin coating to begin to peel. In this instance it's easier to simply replace the trim in question which is usually a simple task with parts readily available. 

Faded black trim on a used car next to restored black trim

Car service tip 3: Restore your head lights

Most modern headlights will have a plastic cover which, just like your trim, is degraded by UV light. Over time your crystal clear headlights will become a hazy yellow colour and add years to the appearance of your car. This yellow hazing is not only ugly but can also lead to MOT failure if the lights ability to work are impeded.

Yellow haze can be difficult to remove however it's not impossible to restore some clarity. We generally use a machine polishing tool to clear up the plastic covers and the difference is night and day. If you don't have a machine polisher or are unsure on using one then sand paper and a restoration compound can be equally as effective if not as fast.

If you're unable to restore your lights then a new set may be the way forward - be prepared to pay for it though as some headlight units can be very expensive even on an older used car.  Whatever method you choose to go with, your car will look much younger than before.


New headlights next to old ones

Car service tip 4: refurbish your wheels

Wheels are one of the most visually striking parts of any car and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and designs, ranging from the basic steely to more intricate alloy designs. With the wheels being so close to the road, they're prone to all kinds of deterioration including lacquer peel, curbing and discolouration. Luckily all of this can be repaired. 

The first step to reducing your wheels tired appearance is to clean them thoroughly with a strong decontaminant. This should include the back of the wheels if possible and if you're able to remove them do so. Once the wheels are clean and you can asses the situation you may decide that they need some refurbishment. Depending on the wheels and your skill level this can be done at home or professionally.

If you have steel wheels with a cover the easiest thing to do is simply replace the wheel trims with new ones and if you have the time it doesn't hurt to rejuvenate the rusty steel wheels with a coat of black or silver paint.

If you have alloy wheels you will need to have them professionally refurbished in most cases as while you can do this at home it is very time consuming without the proper tools. A refurbished set of alloy wheels will make a car look much newer than before and be well worth the investment.

If you are going to refurbish your wheels at home make sure to do it properly. This means taking the tyres off each wheel, sanding the surface, repairing the curb damage and then applying a few coats of good quality paint as well as clear coat. A bad job will just make your car look tacky and possibly worse than before.

Bonus tip: Replace the centre caps for that extra fresh look.


An old wheel next to a new one

Car service tip 5: Clean the exterior

Keeping your car clean should be considered regular maintenance and plays an important part in making sure your car looks its best. There's a whole world of information on car care but for now we are going to keep it simple.

You should aim to wash your car at least once a month and make sure to clear away any build up of dirt or debris. The main places to consider here are the wheel arches, the bottom of the windscreen and anywhere else that  dirt will build up and sit. Washing your car regularly will help prevent rust which can age a car very quickly and push the value down.

One of the worst offenders for damaged paintwork on a used car is actually bird droppings. If left unattended it will eat through your lacquer and leave the paint looking cracked or deteriorated. As soon as you notice bird droppings you should rinse it off with water before very carefully using a soft cloth to finish the job.

A very clean BMW 528i

Car service tip 6: clean the interior

When we receive a used car as a part exchange our valet will often spend a fair amount of time not only cleaning the outside of the vehicle but also the inside. This always ensures that the car looks its very best and reduces signs of aging where you're likely to notice them the most. A fresh interior is not only a more comfortable place to sit but also helps to keep your car looking newer for longer. 

Start with a thorough hoover of the vehicle making sure to remove as much dirt as possible. You should also use a small brush to remove dirt buildup from small areas like between window switches and joins in the plastic trim. Once you've hoovered the car you should look to clean the interior trim as well as the seats which can become dirty and worn out over a cars lifetime.

Looking for a used car?

We have been selling quality used cars in Southampton for three generations and can find you exactly what you're looking for. If you're looking to change make sure to contact us on 02380 229 297 or via the contact page on our website.

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