Install your own car carpeting

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

If you're looking for the fastest, perhaps cheapest way to install new carpeting in your car, then consider getting broadloom carpeting at a carpet house and doing the job yourself. An expert will tell you how much you need. He'll have a wide selection of patterns and colors from which to choose -- and his prices should be very competitive. You'll pay less if you can get a carpet remnant instead of a section that is cut from stock.

From here, all you need are a sharp carpet knife, contact cement, a few common tools, and plenty of patience and perseverance. Since home-oriented carpeting is not pliable, it won't form over humps or into floor wells as smoothly or as easily as automotive precut or preformed carpeting. Nevertheless, experts agree that you can get presentable results if you handle the job with care.

Your old carpeting will be used to cut a new pattern and should be removed as carefully and as completely as possible. At the very least, keep the leading edge intact so you'll have an accurate outline from which to work.

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To free the carpeting, first remove the screws from the seal plates which are located just inside your car doors above the rocker panels.

The front seats come out next. This is done by removing the nuts or bolts atthe base of each seat. You'll find that adjusting the seat all the way back, thenforward, will give you a better angle at the fasteners.

(If your car has shoulder-strap seat belts that run through attachments on the sides of the seats, the attachments will have to be removed to get the seats out. To do this, carefully twist the loop portion of the attachment. Then remove the screws which hold it in place.)

Next, remove the back seat by lifting it up and out.

Now remove the carpeting by pulling it down from under the kick panels and by working it over or around the seat-belt connectors, floor consoles, the dimmer switch, and other obstacles. Again, exercise care so as not to destroy the leading edge.

Loosening the screws along the kick panels will help to free the carpeting there, if you can't get it out smoothly with a strong, gradual pull. Finally, remove and discard the old padding.

Position the old section of carpeting over the new material, flatten it down with books or other makeshift weights, and start cutting the new pattern. Cut the outline first, leaving from three-quarters to an inch extra margin around the leading edge so you end up with a pattern that's slightly larger than necessary.

The opposite holds true for making die-cuts that go over the dimmer switch, seat-belt connectors, and other obstacles. Try to be as precise as possible when cutting these from the old pattern, even if it means making slits or cuts smaller than necessary.

You'll find it much easier to remove excess carpeting, during trimming and fitting, than to have to add carpeting to fill in a hole that was too big or slightly offcenter.

Dirt, rust, and moisture on the floor will damage new carpeting. Therefore, before installation locate and repair leaky windshield seals and other areas through which water seepage might occur. Then, dry the wet surface with a hair blower, sand any rusted areas, and vacuum everything thoroughly. As a final protective measure, apply a primer coat of paint or a rust preventative to all floor surfaces.

Position the new pattern in your car. For proper fitting, center the carpeting over the hump, then work toward the sides, and finally toward the front and rear.

Heavy books and other makeshift weights will keep the carpeting pressed against the hump and floor as you form the carpeting into the floor wells, around the seat and seat-belt connectors, over the dimmer switch, and up around the corners. If the carpet buckles in some areas, follow this procedure to eliminate the problem:

Cut the carpeting in the corner that is nearest the buckle, overlap the two halves until the buckle is gone, and trim away the excess until the two halves fit perfectly together.

Once you're satisfied with the carpeting's initial fit, start trimming away any excess so the carpeting fits snugly around any floor obstacles, then trim the outside edge so it can be comfortably tucked under the kick panels and seal plates.

To prevent the carpeting from shifting around later on, use contact cement and glue the carpeting to the floor in these critical areas:

In the center and on the sides of the hump.

On the curved areas around the floor wells.

Up under the dashboard behind the brake and accelerator pedals.

Behind the cut halves where you got rid of a buckle.

On the leading edge of the carpeting that will be tucked under the kick panels.

For maximum holding power, the contact cement should be applied to both the back of the carpeting as well as to the spot on the floor where it will be glued down. When this is done, you can complete the job by reinstalling the back seat, front seat, shoulder-belt-guide loop attachment (if removed), and seal plates.

Finally, consider buying a set of quality rubber floor mats. Besides protecting the new carpeting from feet, they will add some extra weight to help break in your new carpeting so that it feels as good as it looks.

Second of two articles on buying and installing new carpeting for your car.

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