How to Restore a Car Step By Step – Car Restoration Checklist

Restoring an automobile may be as challenging as putting together a thousand-piece jigsaw while wearing blindfolds, or it can be as simple as assembling a few Lego blocks. Everything depends on the level of experience you bring to the table as well as the kind of job you want to undertake.

What we do know for certain is that it is going to require time, a significant amount of time, as well as patience.

Car restoration needs meticulous preparation, a significant amount of study, the establishment of a timeframe, and the determination as to whether the work will be completed by the restorer themselves or outsourced to specialists.

The process of how to restore a car step by step in the proper manner may be made straightforward and easy to follow with the help of our automobile restoration guide. Keep in mind that this is only basic instruction, and it is not something you should follow unless you have done extensive research and have some kind of mechanical experience. On the other hand, if fiddling with intricate engine compartments isn’t your strong suit, we will provide you with other options to choose from.

Does your car have swirl marks? Do read our article on how to remove swirl marks with some easy tips and tricks.

Phase 1 – Planning 

Developing a strategy is the most significant step in restoring an automobile. You will walk away from this with a solid comprehension of the whole process, including how much it is going to cost, how long it is going to take, and how you are going to go about completing it. It’s a terrific chance to see the finished result and plan out how you’re going to get to where you want to go, so you can build the automobile of your dreams. Consider the following:


What is the total cost of the project? First, calculate how much you would like to spend on the whole project, and then use that total to determine how much you will spend on each component of the vehicle. Set aside a tiny bit of additional money in case there are any blunders or unanticipated events that crop up.

It is essential that you do not skimp on specific components since the quality of those components will strongly impact how your final product turns out.


What exactly do you intend to do with the car? Is it a full restoration or does it simply need some simple bodywork to be carried out? The more work you want to have done, the larger your budget should be, and the more time you will have to devote to working on it.


Since your car is going to remain in the same location for a considerable amount of time, you will need to plan where you will be able to keep it, how you will position it so that it is accessible, and where you will place all of its components after they have been taken apart. The best method is to divide the space into two distinct areas: one for the body and the mechanical parts, and another for the electrical components and the upholstery.

Document everything!

It is nearly hard to recall how everything fell apart, thus taking images and video records of everything prior to and during the stripping process is really necessary. Make a list of the components that need to be replaced, repaired, or repainted, and make a note of it on the checklist.

Be careful to identify everything, as this strategy will save you a significant amount of time when it comes to the reconstruction step. This may also be a terrific selling point for potential customers who are curious about the process that was used to do the task.


Make a schedule that details how long this project is expected to take and how much of your own time you are willing to invest in it. You need to be practical with the amount of time you have, and you need to give yourself objectives that you can accomplish. You may simplify the process of restoring anything by dividing the project into four distinct parts: the body, the electrical system, the mechanical system, and the upholstery.

Establish two distinct zones, one for the body and the mechanical components of the vehicle, and the other for the electrical components and the upholstery.

Keep in mind that Rome wasn’t constructed in a single day.

Tools of the trade

Do you have all you need to complete the task, taking into account what you have planned? If you need to buy some new tools, do you think you’d be able to afford them? Borrowing or renting from a friend are also other choices that you may look into. You can think about trading from a friend which might be a convenient option.

Contact the professionals

contact a professional if you want to get your car restored
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It is always a wise idea to get in touch with the specialists before you start tearing things apart. This is true regardless of whether you want to undertake the whole restoration on your own or seek the assistance of a professional. You should write out a list of firms or individuals that you may need to contact, advise them of your project and timeframe, and provide them with the list so that they may prepare everything that you need to be ordered to ensure that there are no delays.

What would be the final product?

You now have the opportunity to plan and see how your automobile will appear after the restoration process has been finished in its entirety. Find ideas for your project by looking through automotive publications, scouring Pinterest, attending car exhibitions, and gathering ideas online. It is a great idea to know the features your automobile is going to have, such as tinted windows, in order to prevent making rash selections at the last minute, which you may end up regretting.

Phase 2 – Get Started

Since all the research and planning has been done, it’s time for you to get your hands dirty.

  1. Have the interior stripped

Keep it somewhere secure and clean, away from the possibility that it may get soiled with dirt or dust. If there is anything that is damaged, hold off on throwing it away just yet since you will need it to use as a comparison when you are purchasing new components. If it needs to be replaced, make sure that you remember to make a note of it.

If you can take off your dashboard in its entirety with the instruments still attached, do so; if not, take it off piece by piece, being careful to identify the positions of each wire as you go.

  1. Remove all wiring

Because things may become fairly muddled once they have been taken apart, it is essential to mark all of the wirings. Be sure to make a note of any cables that are broken and in need of replacement.

  1. Take out the transmission and engine gearbox

It is imperative that all fluids be drained out first in order to prevent making a mess. Using an engine crane will be a great idea since it will make this whole operation simpler and more efficient. It is imperative that you not only photograph each stage of the process but also remember to mark all of the wires as you remove them from the engine.

  1. Remove external panels

This includes clips, trims, wings, and bumpers. Take special care not to damage any of the clips since it might be difficult to obtain and install replacements for them. First, remove the hood and trunk lid carefully, followed by your doors. When doing so, be sure to scribe around the edges of the hinges so that it will be easier to remount them afterward.

  1. Remove Window Glass

Windshields on old automobiles are often secured with a rubber seal; however, this seal tends to dry up with time, which causes it to become less effective. It is recommended that you use a Stanley knife to cut through the rubber seal to remove them since it is quite unlikely that you will be reusing the same ones.

If you want to use the windows again, be sure to safely store them.

  1. Remove or protect the headlights

Before you reinstall them, you should see a professional for a UV Protected Restoration if they have lost their luster and are starting to appear dingy.

  1. Place your car onto the rotisserie

This step might be challenging, particularly if you do not have access to a rotisserie. If you do not have access to one, you may remove the rear axle and place the body on a few jack supports.

  1. Remove everything underneath

Take out the front and rear suspensions, along with the steering rack, brakes, and anything else that may be attached. Be careful to make a note of what needs to be replaced and what needs to be repaired.

  1. Apply powder coats

Powder coatings provide a surface that is smoother and more durable than paint, and we advocate using them on any readily removable metal element that isn’t rusted. This includes axles, wheels, and metal bumpers. You also have the option of sending them to a company that specializes in powder coating, cleaning, and stripping.

  1. Order replacement parts

Spend some time ordering any necessary replacement components or getting in touch with any of the experts on the list you compiled during the planning to make the necessary preparations for order replacement. Make a list of the items you need and attempt to get them all from the same place if you want to simplify and reduce the cost of the whole operation.

Phase 3: Getting Read For the Paint Job

Now comes the fun part, when you get to transform that ugly rust bucket into something that everyone will be talking about. It also indicates that you are going to have a lot of work to accomplish. This is where all of the preparation work, including (1) stripping, (2) sanding, (3) priming, and (4) painting, will be done.

  1. Strip off the paint

Blasting or acid dipping the whole shell is the most efficient technique to remove the paint, but you will likely need the assistance of a professional for this step. In any other case, you may choose between three different do-it-yourself strategies for removing the paint.

Even though it takes an exceptionally long amount of time, your best alternative is to use an electric grinder with a wire brush.

Sanding away all of the paint is your second choice, although it might be difficult to reach between cracks.

The use of a paint stripper is the third alternative available; however, this approach might result in a great deal of mess and is not nearly as efficient as the other two approaches.

  1. Remove rust and dents

The process of dealing with rusty components may be fairly laborious, but there are three different approaches you can use.

The best solution, which is also the most costly, is to cut out the rusted areas and replace them with newly welded steel. However, this approach is not always possible. You may opt to do it yourself, which will take around the same amount of time.

Alternatively, you may replace all of the detachable panels, including the doors, bonnets, boot lids, and spoilers. The main difficulty associated with this is trying to track down uncommon components.

It is possible to do a rapid repair by removing the rust and then treating it, but this strategy will simply postpone the inevitable and should be avoided.

  1. Sealing underneath

Undersealing not only has an attractive appearance, but also creates a protective layer that is long-lasting and resistant to the effects of ultraviolet light. This layer shields the surface from damage caused by chips, scratches, rust, and corrosion, as well as excessive temperatures.

  1. Things to do before painting

Before we get to the painting step, you will be responsible for the filling, priming, and sanding stages initially.

There is always filling to be done after welding. To seal the metal and provide it with a good key, fill in any gaps that may exist, and then apply an etch primer. If you want a smooth professional finish that is free of dust and dirt particles, you need to make sure that the panels are wiped off at each phase of the process.

Primer should be sprayed onto the shell.

Sand the primer lightly using sandpaper with a grain of 500, taking care not to remove too much material since doing so will need you to start the process all over again.

Find a good painter who specializes in automobiles.

  • After painting, make any necessary repairs to any defects. Sandpaper with a grit of 2000 should be used to remove any paint runs or dust particles, and then the surface should be repainted while taking care not to go too far.
  • Shine up the vehicle. Perform some thorough detailing on your vehicle with a machine polisher. Have a look at our post on how to polish your automobile for more information on how to give your car the attention and care it needs.

Phase 4 – The Engine

During this phase, you will have the opportunity to demonstrate your mechanical prowess.

Engine swap or upgrade?

Are you intending to do a rebuild or an upgrade on the engine? You will need to determine which components will be replaced based on your budget. To minimize the risk of any further leaks, you should at the very least consider replacing all of the exterior seals and gaskets.

While the engine of your car is out, you should also think about whether or not you want to repair the timing belt and the water pump for your peace of mind. Replacing these components may be fairly costly and time-consuming. The intercooler, fuel pump, and turbo are all additional components that should be taken into consideration.

When looking for a new engine that has low mileage, you should be sure to complete your homework if you are going to be doing an engine exchange. As a result of the high risks involved, we strongly advise that this step be handled by a qualified expert.

Get the engine checked

If you are doubtful, you should have a professional examine the tolerances, check the bearings for any signs of wear, and inspect the worn valve seats and valves.

Remove and replace the auxiliary parts

Turbo, radiator, coolant pipes, brackets, air conditioning pump, power steering pump, and alternator, are all examples of components that might fall under this category. After they are finished, you may give them a finishing touch by using wrinkle paint, chroming, or powder coating.

Mount the engine

Either you will need to manufacture new engine mounts or purchase new ones in order to use modern engines.

Hook the wiring up

We believe that all of the wirings from Phase 2 have been tagged and recorded by you! If it’s a show vehicle and you’re going to want to conceal your wiring harness, you’ll need to figure out how you want the wire to be routed. It’s possible that splicing it will help the process go more quickly, but if you want to avoid diagnostic issues in the future, be sure you understand what you’re doing

Fire it up!

It is time to test the functionality of the engine now that it has been mounted and wired. Make a list of anything that is failing to function as it should and needs to be replaced.

Phase 5 – Reassemble

It’s time to put everything back together now that the body has been newly painted and the engine is operating without any issues. It is best to begin with the mechanical components and work your way up from there.

  • Put your braking system back together.
  • Refit your gasoline system
  • Adjust both the front and back suspension of your vehicle.
  • Install wiring. Using a voltage meter, do as many checks on the dashboard instruments as you can.
  • Put in the engine, and then install the transmission.
  • Set up the ventilation and air conditioning.
  • Replace the windows, as well as the rubber, front and back windscreens, and other screens.
  • Replace the exhaust system, the headlights, the taillights, the door glass, and the door handles, as well as any other external trimmings that need it.
  • Reattach the doors and the trunk cover.
  • Installing the inside trim, which includes the carpet, the headliner, the seats, and the accent pieces

Phase 6 – Have a TEST DRIVE!

Considered by many to be the most crucial step of the project. You’ve finally arrived at your goal after enduring several sleepless hours, weekends spent toiling away in the garage, sweat, and tears along the way. There in front of you, like a dream come true, is the vehicle of your childhood fantasies. When you open the door, you are immediately overcome with the indelible fragrance of a brand-new automobile.

Keep a watchful eye and an alert ear out for any little problems that can become obvious once you begin operating the vehicle. Check that everything, including the radio, the air conditioner, the heating, the brakes, the lights, the windows, the dashboard, and any other dashboard instruments, is in good working order.

Let’s go for a drive now.

The Bottom Line

Here in this article, we have given you a detailed account of how to restore a car step by step and what needs to be done if you want to restore a car. This includes six stages as discussed above and you need to go through each of them carefully and as per the guidelines we have given. If at any stage you feel you need some guidance you may feel free to contact us for your automobile project.

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