It’s possible to spend just 10% of a car’s value to double its resale price. Here’s how...

While recently sprucing up a rather tired and neglected 14-year-old station wagon for resale, it dawned on me how many significant improvements you can make to a car without spending much money. If the vehicle in question had been sold in its tatty condition, the best offer I would have received from dealers would have been R15 000.

Instead, with some work, I realised that figure could jump to R30 000. I therefore set out to see what I could achieve for just R1 500. Task number one was possibly the most rewarding I have ever had the pleasure of completing...

1. DIY dent removal
Total cost: R0,00 

There was a large dent in the roof where a boisterous child had climbed onto it and altered the aerodynamics with one jump. Thinking that I may have to try a kitchen-sink plunger to suck out the dent, I first opened the door and gave the roof lining a whack with my hand. To my surprise, it immediately popped back to shape. Now, if only all car jobs were that easy. If this doesn’t work, try the suction trick; if the metal is deformed, it’s going to need panel beating.

2. Sort out the seats
Total cost: R129,00 

Next job was the seats. These were in good shape but dirty. I scrubbed them but soon realised that it wasn’t making much difference, so I bought a set of basic seat covers in black, grey and blue to mask the stains.

3. Polish the headlamps
Total cost: R0,00

Moving to the front, I spotted a pair of jaded headlamps. The polycarbonate had spent many years subjected to bright sunlight and was unsafe. A lamb’s wool pad fitted to an electric drill and some polishing with burnishing paste returned the sparkle. This did take some time, though.

4. Check the tyres
Total cost: R500,00 

The spare tyre was brand new, so I intended to replace the tyre in the worst condition with this. However, when I removed the wheel, I realised that this tyre was so worn out on the inside that it would have to be ditched. It wasn’t useable even as a spare, so I had to buy another tyre.

Tip: Never judge the condition of a tyre by looking at the outer tread. Many cars exhibit a negative camber, meaning the inside of the tyre takes a greater load and wears more than the outside.

5. DIY basic service
Total cost: R627,00

I decided to do a basic service. The oil cost R300, and new oil and air filters R327 combined.

6. And some body filler
Total cost: R75,00 

This model has plastic wheel trims with a centre badge held in place by the wheel nuts. The wheel trims had some damage but, after I was unable to find matching replacements at a scrapyard (even non-matching used examples would have cost me R150 each), I resorted to some polyester body filler, emery paper and a can of silver spray paint to improve the appearance.

7. Clean the rear lenses
Total cost: R4,00  

Lastly, I noticed the dirty rear lamps. I removed three screws from each side, detached the lenses, unplugged the globe cluster and saw that everything was covered in a layer of dust. Cleaning the globes and washing out of the lenses with soapy water did the trick. This is a logical – and important – job on older cars because dust does eventually creep into all lenses.

I also spotted a hole in one lens where extra dust was being drawn in. Some silicone sealer and a piece of plaster tape to smooth the surface did the trick and I finished it off with a spot of red paint. A globe of incorrect wattage required replacement and the interior lamp needed a new festoon globe. Luckily, I found one among my hoard of (sometimes useful) junk. The lugs were partly snapped off, so I had to use some quick-set steel epoxy to get the fitting to stay in place.

Tip: Always take an expired globe with when you want to buy a new one. This double-filament item should have its bayonet pins offset both in depth and angle. Someone was too lazy to obtain the correct-spec globe and had forced an incorrect unit to fit.

At R165 under budget, after my repairs the car appeared presentable and more befitting its low-ish mileage. Doing some basic repair work is a great way to increase the value of your car, even if the labour takes up hours of leisure time...

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