Get the Love Back: A Beginner’s Guide to Vehicle Restoration

There are all kinds of vehicle restorers out there – and as a blast cleaning company, we’re lucky enough to meet a lot of them! Some are seasoned veterans at the restoration game, whereas some are complete newbies.

Restoring a vehicle is a really rewarding pursuit, especially if it’s a vehicle that means a lot to you. Maybe you’ve not had the heart to part ways with your beloved first ever motor, but you don’t know where to start in restoring it to its former glory and getting it back on the road.

If this sounds familiar, this article is for you. Here are our 5 easy to follow (but admittedly less easy in practice) stages to getting back behind the wheel of your pride and joy.

1. Take Stock of the Situation

Firstly, take a thorough look at the vehicle and make a note of any areas that need attention. Start with the bare essentials – does the engine still start up? Are there any missing or broken components? How have the electronics fared? As you’re probably already aware, moving parts can corrode over time rendering them useless, and batteries can go flat alarmingly quickly when the vehicle’s just sitting around.

Next, turn your attention to the appearance of the vehicle. Are there any problem areas on the bodywork? Any rust around the wheel arches? Any areas of filler that you’re aware of? Do you need to strip/repaint the bodywork at all? Are the windows scratched or chipped anywhere? Will any purely decorative components like door or wheel trims need replacing? Also look at the interior – do the carpets, door trims, roof fabric, or seat upholstery need attention? How comfortable are the seats to sit in? Are there any signs of mould, damage, or wear to the fabrics and upholstery?

2. Making a Start

Next, get a mechanic to check out the vehicle from a modern safety and efficiency point of view. They may point out deeper mechanical or electrical issues that aren’t obvious from first inspection.

Your mechanic may also be able to advise on bodywork and internals, depending on their experience with restoration. Remember that you can always come to a cleaning company like us (hint hint) for advice about stripping away coatings and how to deal with rusted or filled parts. If the upholstery needs work, now is also an opportune time to reach out to an vehicle upholsterer to get an idea of cost in that regard too.

After you’ve chatted with the experts, chances are you’ll have an idea of how much work, time, and money is involved – and indeed whether the project is financially viable. When you’re budgeting, always include a contingency budget for when things go wrong; that’s when – not if! The restoration game is frustrating at times!

If money is tight, are you going to do some work yourself? What work are you going to outsource? Do you personally have the right tools and expertise? Keeping jobs in house may decrease monetary spend but will certainly eat up time. Carefully consider how much time and money you have spare to spend on the project and whether the desire to get your faithful old motor back on the road is really worth the effort and outlay.

3. Stripping it Back

If you’re able to make the budget work, then it’s time to actually crack on and make a start! But before you start to strip the vehicle back, take extensive photos of the bodywork, components, and interior. Not only is it fun to keep a log of your vehicle’s progress, clear “before” photography can be useful to mechanics, bodywork specialists, and upholsterers to get an idea of the starting condition of the vehicle.

Now it’s time to get to work. Do you want to paint the vehicle at all? If it’s been lying in wait for years, the paintwork may well need freshening up. If you’re hoping to repaint, we recommend getting the existing paint stripped so you can get a good working knowledge of the body’s condition. SBL always provide photographs of any possible problem areas following cleaning, giving you a heads up to potential future bodywork issues.

When blasting a whole shell and panels, we generally ask that all upholstery and internal components are removed, leaving a bare shell, doors, and panels.

4. Starting to Rebuild

Once you’ve got a nice, clean shell, it’s time to paint it. Some restorers like to choose colours from the vehicle’s original selection, whereas others like to choose something totally unique. But once the paintwork is complete, it’s time to reattach any removable panels, the doors, the boot, etc.

Next, it’s time to start putting the mechanical components back together. Depending on your knowledge and experience, you could do this yourself or use the services of a mechanic. If in any doubt, we’d recommend working with a professional – especially if you noted any tricky mechanical issues when you first checked the vehicle over.

Once you get the car’s mechanical and electrical components working, it’s time to turn to the interior. Depending on the condition of the original interior upholstery and whether you had to substantially damage it in order to remove it, you may simply want to give it a thorough clean, or get it fully/partially replaced.

Exterior – done. Mechanics – checked. Interiors – complete. This is the most rewarding part – seeing all of your work come together! But we still need to sort out a few bits before you can get out and about.

5. The Home Stretch!

Once your pride and joy is back looking its best, it’s time to get the paperwork in order.

If the car has been registered as off the road through a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN), you’ll need to tax it again. You can do this using the online portal. According to this guide, when you tax a SORN vehicle, its SORN status is automatically cancelled.

But before you get your vehicle on the road, you still need to get it insured and MOT tested. If you’ve misplaced the vehicle’s logbook (known as a “V5C”), you can apply for a new one through

Once your vehicle is taxed, insured, and MOT’d – it’s time to get behind the wheel!

But before you get carried away, there are a few more logistics to think of. Firstly, where are you going to store the vehicle – especially in winter? If you don’t intend to use it every day, you might want to schedule in a spin a few times a month just to keep the battery in good condition and keep the mechanical parts from seizing up.

Take stock of any problems that your specific model is susceptible to, and indeed any issues that became apparent in the restoration process. Though it makes sense to budget for general maintenance anyway, you may want to put money and time aside to keep your particular vehicle’s own foibles under control.


Wherever you are in your restoration career – from novice to expert – Soda Blasting Ltd can help. We’re a trusted provider of various blast cleaning methods – and restoration enthusiasts ourselves! Every component that comes through our doors is treated with the same care that we’d treat our own belongings. We love it when a restoration comes together! Call us today on 0800 774 7632 for your free quote.