Take care of the carpeting in your car

Don't take your car's carpeting for granted. It serves an important dual purpose: The carpet blocks out both noise and cold.

It makes the car's interior look and feel comfortable.

If the carpeting is badly soiled, worn out, or torn, consider a replacement job.

New carpeting can be professionally installed, of course, but you can do an adequate job yourself if you're properly equipped and have an afternoon to spend with your car. Here are some buying tips to help you select carpeting and professional installers, plus a step-by-step guide in case you want to tackle the job yourself:

Carpeting for your car is available in three general styles: preformed, precut, and ``sheet or roll'' broadloom.

Preformed carpeting is exactly like the carpeting that came in the car. It is heated and molded to fit perfectly around the seats and over such inside structures as humps and floor wells. It also has a special backing to assist in adhesion and noise reduction. Due to its quality and ease of installation, preformed carpeting is your most expensive alternative.

Precut carpeting is simply precut to fit in your specific model car. Precut padding, installation materials, and a close adherence to installation procedures are generally required in order to get a proper fit.

Broadloom carpeting is exactly like what you'd order for your home. While it is the hardest to form and install in a car, broadloom carpeting is probably the most economical and readily available choice. It also has good wear and insulating qualities and, in most cases, does away with the need for padding.

New-car dealers who sell your make and model of car represent the best source for both carpeting and professional installation. Usually, you can order either preformed carpeting or an automotive type of broadloom; in turn, the dealer will also handle the installation himself or will sublet the job to a local upholsterer or trim shop, if you wish.

When ordering, check directly with the parts-department manager to see what color options and styles are available. You should have a choice of regular loop-pile carpeting, which is often standard in many new cars, or plush-pile carpeting, similar to the shag carpeting which is often used in vans.

As for price, the automotive-broadloom type is your most economical buy at the dealership. You'll pay anywhere from $100 to $125, or more, for front and rear carpeting, padding, and installation by an upholsterer or trim shop.

The installation charge represents about 25 percent of the overall cost and is worth every penny. A professional installer will mark, cut, sew, and trim the carpeting so it looks as if it had just come from the factory.

If you're willing to pay between $200 and $250, including installation, for the best-fitting carpeting you can get, order the preformed kind. Just remember to give your dealer the extra lead time. Preformed carpeting is ordered direct from the factory -- and this takes time.

Preformed and precut carpeting, as well as installation materials and instructions are available through some automotive specialty magazines and direct-mail catalogs. You'll find listing upon listing of carpet options in the J. C. Whitney catalog, available at many newsstands.

The listings generally are well detailed, giving everything from a complete description of the carpeting to the year and model of cars for which it is available. Some cover pre-1960 models right up to the latest cars.

You can buy standard carpeting for the front, say for under $25, and at the same price for the back; or you can buy both as a set at a slight discount.

For a set of custom-fit carpeting, you'll pay more.

You can even order carpeting for your trunk or rear seat shelf. The alternatives are endless. Naturally, you will have to pay close attention to feature details and ordering instructions to avoid any mistakes.

First of two articles on buying and installing new carpeting for your car. Next: How to do the job yourself.

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