According to the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), there are literally thousands of specialty parts that can give an older vehicle a completely new appearance. Whether the goal is to create a one-of-a-kind masterpiece, or simply to give a vehicle a fresh, new look, a few simple steps is all it may take.
Start with the interior. There are countless products available to update the inside of a vehicle, including aftermarket control knobs and steering wheels, seat covers, wood grain or carbon fiber instrument panels and dash kits. It's easy and inexpensive to get a new cover for a steering wheel, or you can spend a bit more to replace it entirely with a more sporty or luxurious one. Custom steering wheels come in a variety of shapes and styles, and are available in different materials such as wood, leather or high-tech plastics.
Similarly, seat covers are relatively inexpensive, easy to install and are one of the most dramatic ways to impact the interior. Best of all, they come in thousands of colors and fabric combinations. Like floor mats, seat covers can be ordered with emblems or logos on them, giving consumers the ability to show off their team spirit or school pride.
For those who want a new look for the outside of their car or truck, consider a new grille, taillight surround, bumper, hitch, ground effects kit or other exterior product.
Wheels and tires, both of which are among the most popular vehicle accessories, instantly update the look of a car or truck. Prices, styles and finishes vary greatly, so your options really are unlimited.
If your vehicle is a few years old, you may want to consider modernizing with new mobile electronics. Bluetooth integration, navigation systems, video monitors and DVD players can all be installed in just about any car or truck, regardless of its age.
Don't underestimate the impact that a good cleaning can have as well. Wax and car-care science has progressed to the point that there is a restoring program for almost any type of finish. Car-care companies have even designed power polishing tools that attach to any portable drill, so it takes less elbow-grease than ever to get professional results.
If your paint is damaged beyond hope, automotive paint companies offer a color palette far beyond the bland metallic treatments manufacturers usually use. Another option rapidly becoming popular is vinyl wrap, which looks like paint and applies like vinyl. It comes on rolls in a variety of colors and patterns, and when properly applied, does not damage the original surface. If you decide you want a change later on, simply peel it off and lay on a different wrap. It costs less than a custom paint job and the possibilities are endless.
Installing many types of restyling parts is designed to be simple, and can often be handled by anyone who approaches the job with reasonable care. But for best results, more involved makeovers -- such as those that require paint or bodywork, or replacement of components that have safety-related features, such as seat assemblies -- should be done by professionals who have the tools and experience for that kind of work.
To locate products or professional installers in your area, check www.enjoythedrive.com, a consumer site produced by SEMA. The site contains information about specific automotive specialty equipment and the latest products, as well as information about how to connect with qualified expert installers.