Eight Ways to Maintain a Like-New Appearance for an Older Vehicle

There's only so much you can do to keep your car looking new. Regular trips to the car wash and the occasional tire shine can keep the big surfaces looking clean, but some components will nevertheless show their age over time. The road, the sun's UV rays and normal wear and tear are going to take their toll on your car's cosmetics.

Faded moldings, cloudy lights and missing trim can quickly strip the shine right off a freshly waxed car. While many owners simply accept the effects of aging, there are a few simple things you can do to affordably restore your car to its former glory. And you probably won't even have to set foot in the car dealership to get replacement parts that look exactly like the originals.

Here are a few common problems you can address to give your vehicle a second life.



Replace that floppy visor for a better looking interior

With all the grabbing, twisting and turning they're subjected to, it's no wonder sun visors seem to wear out faster than a lot of other interior pieces. Typically, it's the swivel mounts that give up, but visors can also get damaged by all the things we clip to them and can look tattered just from everyday handling.

New sun visors are a quick and inexpensive way to tidy up the interior appearance while restoring an important safety feature. Don't forget to check the mounting clips while you're at it. These are usually the first part to break and take just a couple minutes to replace.

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replacement wiper arm

You'll be surprised at the difference new wiper arms make in the overall appearance of your vehicle.

You have probably replaced windshield wipers that lose effectiveness over time, but what about the wiper arms themselves?

Most modern windshield wipers have metal arms finished in black paint. As the vehicle ages, that thin layer of black gradually wears away, leaving the bare metal exposed and vulnerable to rust.

Replacement windshield wiper arms freshen up the appearance, eliminating the mix of black, silver and rust on the original. This is a simple, inexpensive fix that usually can be done with just a couple tools in a few minutes.


missing knob

Did you know you can replace your missing knobs? | Dorman Products

Have you lost the knobs on you radio or heater controls? Missing knobs not only make the interior of your car look pretty shabby, they also take away practical functions.

You might be surprised to find out you can buy replacement heater control knobs and radio knobs for many vehicles without ever stepping foot in the dealership. They're even made to look like the originals so your passengers will never notice.


console lid

Get rid of that worn elbow spot with a new center console. | Dorman Products

With their plastic hinges and latches, center console lids are some of the most common pieces of interior trim to wear out and break. Many people don't realize you can buy replacement console lids that match the factory interior color and materials without having to order them from the dealership.

A new console cover will give your older vehicle a fresh look and give you back the comfort and convenience of the armrest. Most console lids can be replaced with basic hand tools in a matter of minutes.


Black plastic windshield and window pillar moldings fade out from exposure to the sun, and plastic trim conditioner doesn't always bring them back to life. Cracked trim can become loose and fall off, degrading the overall appearance of the vehicle. No amount of conditioner can fix broken plastic.

There are identical replacements available for many of these parts, which usually clip into place. Components even retain the same color and texture as the rest of the interior to blend in seamlessly.

On pickup trucks, the bed rails sacrifice themselves to prevent damaged paint that could lead to rust. Replacement bed rail covers snap into place to add a new layer of protection while updating the appearance of the truck.


headliner clip

Don't let a billowing headliner keep you from riding in style. | Advance Auto Parts

Fabric on the interior roof of your vehicle starting to lose its grip? It's OK — it's inevitable in time, especially if the headliner retainers fall out or break.

Fortunately, you can purchase exact replacement headliner retainers to secure the fabric again seamlessly. These retainers are categorized by the year, make and model of the vehicle, and even the exact position of the vehicle, so you can find the exact one you need.


missing side mirror

Broken or missing mirrors are unsafe and unsightly. | Dorman Products

It happens. Someone bumps your car in a parking lot and you come out to discover a cracked mirror. You live with it, assuming it's going to be an expensive repair.

Actually, the glass itself can be replaced, without removing or replacing the whole mirror assembly, and without having to call an expensive repair service. Just get direct replacement mirror glass that's already cut to fit and look like the original glass for your specific vehicle. This simple, do-it-yourself fix keeps an otherwise spotless car from looking neglected.


cloudy headlight

When restoring cloudy headlights isn't an option, consider a direct replacement assembly. 

Polycarbonate headlight lenses often become clouded with age, severely limiting their performance in the dark, and not looking so great either. Moderately clouded lenses can sometimes be reconditioned with one of the many headlight repair kits available today, but if they're badly damaged there's no bringing them back.

Fortunately, you can usually get direct replacement headlight assemblies that look and shine just like the originals. You would be surprised how dramatic a difference a new set of head lamps look, both from an appearance and an effectiveness standpoint.

The same goes for tail lights and your third brake light in the center of the vehicle. In fact, externally mounted brake lights often weather faster than the vehicle's taillights. Moisture can intrude, causing them to fail. Third brake lights are available for many vehicles and are often a quick replacement.

Of course, these are just a few examples of the replacement products you can find to affordably restore your vehicle's former glory. Have another part of your car or truck that's looking a little shabby? Let us know in the comments below so we can help you find a solution!

Last updated February 6, 2020