5 Value For Money Ways To Spruce Up Your Car This Festive Season

David Foo
29 Dec 2020
 

5 Value For Money Ways To Spruce Up Your Car This Festive Season

To me, this is a no brainer. If people can queue for hours to drop a couple hundred bucks for new Yeezy sneakers, they can spend $34 a month more for better - much better tires. 

The holiday season is in full swing and it's the time where we start to catch up with our friends, family, and old colleagues. Because no one is really travelling this year, consumer spending on other luxuries seem to have increased, with fine dining restaurants supposedly booked out till the start of next year - And why not? After all, nobody is going to be splashing a few grand on airfare and a holiday, nor will they be splurging at the factory outlets in Johor anytime soon. While most people would usually be refreshing their Instagram pages more often during the holiday season with photos of holidays, staycations, new luxury purchases, and dinners, perhaps this year we could refresh our IG pages with some work done to our cars. 

Singapore is a pretty tough place to maintain a car’s aesthetics in my opinion. We get a lot of rain, which means our cars are usually in this semi dirty state which is the culmination of a day of rain, and a few day’s worth of dust and debris. It doesn’t help that we do have plenty of road works happening on a day to day basis, exacerbated by a fair number of gravel spewing, dirt dripping commercial vehicles plying the roads on a daily basis. Tree sap is also a common issue here in Singapore due to the amount of trees in Singapore that line our open air car parks. Once on your car, if not cleaned off in a timely manner, the tree sap actually permanently leaves a mark in your car’s clear coat, which looks unsightly to say the least. Lastly, the blistering sun really puts a toll on your car’s rubber trim, windshield wipers, and leather interior - causing them to look drab and faded even if your car is relatively new. Poorer made interior components can also end up feeling sticky and “melted” under prolonged extension under Singapore’s unforgiving sun. Obviously, there are a million ways to spruce up your car, and would likely require a fairly big budget. But for today, we are looking at 5 high impact ways to easily and effectively spruce up your car - So even if you just do 1 of these 5 things, your car will likely feel significantly more refreshed. 

Exterior Paintwork:

Dressing up your car’s paintwork is a no brainer here, but specifically, what can we do to ensure our cars continue looking pristine? There are camps of car owners in Singapore who spend quite a bit of time and money to send their cars for exterior detailing on a regular basis. This usually includes washing, claying, polishing, and then coating with either a nano-ceramic, glass coat, wax coat, or hydrophobic coat. While the effects of the detail are undeniable, I do feel that they cost just a little bit too much money, and don’t always represent good value for money. On average, work done with a reputable detailer will likely set you back at least $400 for an entry level detail, with prices possibly rising to over $1,000 for a more detailed session. From personal experience, car detailing can be a real money pit in the sense where if you do not follow up with maintenance details every 3-4 months, your $1,000 detail is going to waste real fast. And keep in mind, these maintenance sessions cost money too. Chances are, whatever scratches or swirl marks you polish out during these detailing sessions will return fairly quickly once you enter your weekly petrol station car wash. So unless you are a detailing junkie who has the time to self wash your car with a two bucket system, use different wash mitts, own a foam cannon, and use things like iron removal sprays on your bodywork, I would not suggest spending your money on car detailing. It is a short lived endeavour and your wives will not appreciate it. 

If you however, are like me, and find mediocre standards of car cleanliness and shine quite acceptable, then I would suggest viewing things from a slightly different angle. The reality for people like us, is that we will eventually send our cars to the petrol station car wash, and we will eventually forget to wash the tree sap off our car’s clear coat, and we will eventually miss a car wash and allow brake dust to cake our rims and rotors. If this is the case, then perhaps we shouldn’t bother detailing the car at all, and should rather just send our cars for an overcoat spray every 2-3 years or better yet, a car wrap every 2 - 3 years. For the same, basic color applications, overcoat sprays start from $1,200 and involve a new coat of paint of the existing color, followed by a new clear coat, which is essentially enough to bury any unwanted paintwork damage from the last few years. A china made wrap, which starts at around $1,600 and comes with varying warranty durations, depending on where you go. You won’t really need a warranty if you’re going to reapply a new wrap every 2 years though, would you? The beauty about car wrapping is that it acts as a mask to your actual paintwork. I have previously met people in some circles who would wrap their brand new cars, and then change the wraps every couple of years when the existing wrap has taken some damage from the elements. It almost feels like they are driving completely new cars each time they do the wrap. 

Headlamps and Windshield:

In Singapore, our cars run into quite a bit of debris every day. You may not realise it, but as you are driving along on the expressways, there are actually quite a lot of small debris specks that kick up into the air, for you to plough your car’s nose straight into it. The result? - small pock-marked dinks on your headlamps, windshield, and front fascia. Don’t believe me? - Take a torchlight and shine it straight onto your headlamps, windshield and front fascia to see for yourselves. The worst part is, as the debris settles on your windshield, we have the tendency to kick up our windshield wipers to get rid of the dust. What we are actually doing is dragging these small specks of debris across the windshield with our wipers, causing very small, but eventually noticeable scratches, especially under light. 

Over time, our windshield and headlamps start to turn “foggy” and yellow and that really makes the car look twice its age. So if you are looking for a quick detail that won’t cost too much money, check out those glass polishing services that help polish out the glass bits on your car, especially the headlamps and windshield. Do this, and your car will look instantly revitalised, maybe even new. Glass polishing services aren’t overly expensive and start from as little as $60 at some places and should not exceed $150. These glass polishing services are also commonly packaged into your various tiered car detailing packages. If you just want to do the glass polishing services, you will need to look for the detailing workshops that sell that service as an a la carte item. 

Tyres and Rims:

Kerb rash is a pretty common sight among Singapore cars, seeing as Singapore is an urban driving environment with plenty of kerbs and raised platforms lining our roads and carparks. One or two dinks won’t really change the image of your car - but over the years, after you have built up your own little collection of kerb damage, it can really sour the look of your ride and make it look dull and undesirable. Worst still, it can make you look tardy or incompetent as a driver. Another contributing factor here is when people don’t wash off brake dust often enough, and it builds up all over the inside of your rims. This can be very unsightly. 

Short story is - why not consider a change of rims the next time your tires are due for a change. It can really brighten up the overall aesthetic of the car, and if you upgrade your rims to a larger size, it can represent one of the most high impact, and low cost ways of getting your car to look a little bit sportier (if you compare cost against bodykitting for example). If you aren’t looking for performance specification rims, and are just looking for something that looks aesthetically pleasing, there are plenty of taiwan manufactured rims on the market which are available for as little as $800 for a set of 18 inch rims. Pair this with your choice of tire, and you are looking at anywhere between $1,400 to $1,800 for the whole set. Personally speaking, I would invest in a better set of tires as the cost impact over the duration of its use is negligible, especially if you consider that many tire shops now provision for 12 months 0% interest installments to be made with your credit cards. For illustration, a $1,400 set with installments would cost you about $116 per month, while a $1,800 set with installments would cost you $150 a month. And mind you, the figures I’ve quoted for the $1,800 set would allow you to fit a set of Michelin PS4s to your car. To me, this is a no brainer. If people can queue for hours to drop a couple hundred bucks for new Yeezy sneakers, they can spend $34 a month more for better - much better tires. They will travel longer, improve fuel economy, and the ride improvements over cheaper tires is more significant than you think, especially on 18 inch sizes and above. 

Interior

We spend most of our time with our cars, seated in the cabin of the car, and thus, it makes perfect sense that the interior can be one of the most abused portions of our car, and also the one that will make a big impact if it is refreshed. One might argue that spending money to detail your car interior may be an ever bigger waste of money than say wrapping the exterior or getting new wheels, as strangers won’t be entering your car cabin to scrutinise it. However, I am of the opinion that spending the money to detail your interior is actually a pretty good idea, because interior maintenance, unlike exterior maintenance, can largely be done yourself. After spending the money to detail the interior, you can quite easily, and cost effectively maintain the condition of that detail by owning a few simple products. You would not require specialised equipment like a Rupes polishing tool or “baking” lamps which you might need for exterior maintenance. All you need are some good quality cloth, a set of brushes (boar hair preferably), and a set of leather, vinyl, rubber cleaners that preferably come with a UV protective coating, so that your dashboard doesn’t fade when you leave your car in the sun. 

If your interior has already been heavily neglected for some time, and is beyond the revitalisation that interior detailing would bring, then you can also consider redoing your entire interior. And by redoing your interior, we mean changing out your leather seats, and possibly even doing a dashboard wrap. By changing out your leather, you can change the color to create a more premium feel in your cabin, and you can also have your pick of materials and stitching patterns on your leather seats. Depending on your choice of specification, leather rewrapping jobs for your seats can cost as little as $800, with the price increasing as you select more intricate patterns, better grades of leather, and if you choose to wrap other parts of the cabin such as the door panels. As with car tires, it is not uncommon to find 0% interest credit card installment plans for such services and if you work out the cost over a 12 month period, the impact on your cash flow would be negligible (if you own a car, I am assuming that $100+ a month in payments for new leather seats is negligible to your cash flow). If you use your new leather seats for the next couple of years, this could actually be one of the most value for money car improvements you could spend on, and one which you won’t have to spend too much additional time or money to maintain. Another aspect of interior enhancement that you can consider, if that of interior wrapping. This isn’t particularly new, but it also isn’t particularly well publicised and therefore not very common. Just like in exterior wrapping, there are a variety of interior wraps that come in different finish effects such as carbon fiber, different types of wood, different types of leather, and many others. The wrappings can be applied to most of your interior panels provided they aren’t too soft (your regular dashboard would count as a wrappable surface). The only surfaces that might prove to be a bit of an issue would be if your dashboard is fitted with ultra plush leather (like in a Lexus), in which case, you probably won’t want to cover that with a wrap as well. With these few little aesthetic upgrades, you could be quite the happy camper in the cabin of your car, and your friends and family will surely appreciate how it has revitalised the entire look of the cabin. The cost of wrapping the interior will vary - some workshops do this with pre-cut sets suited to a specific make and model, while some are custom cut on the spot (the former being the cheaper option). 

Accessories

Much like tires, fitting new accessories onto your car can help to snazz up the outlook, and many of these do not necessarily cost an arm and a leg. To explain my position, I have never been a fan of car modification, especially if the modification is aimed at converting your entry level ride, to look like its race specified premium siblings (think 316 with an M3 body kit), along with all the fake badging (RS, AMG, BMW M). I think it is tacky, lame, and perhaps worse of all, a poorly thought out decision - Because the people who don’t know anything about cars, won’t know what the fake badges are supposed to mean anyway, and the people who would pay any attention to such badges, would see through the disguise immediately. It is essentially a no-win situation for those who do it. And seriously, de-badging your car doesn’t help one bit. Because the act of debadging your car is in itself alluding to the fact that you don’t drive an actual M3 or RS4 or C63 AMG. If you did, you’d leave the badges on. 

That being said, I don’t have an issue with car modifications that aim to beautify, but not to deceive. So, if you’ve tastefully added some bodykits to the car, changed your exhaust layouts, and added a nice big set of wheels armed with ultra high performance tires, but have refrained from re-badging or de-badging your car, I think that is all well and good. In fact, I appreciate a driver who takes the time to make their car more aesthetically pleasing. It shows a sense of pride in their car ownership at the very least. On that note, there are few key accessories that I feel can really help to enhance the aesthetics of the car, without costing too much money. The first item is a set of chrome exhaust tips. Most stock exhaust tips are quite functional, and can look a little unsightly after a few years of use. This is where a simple nip / tuck to include a set of chrome tips can greatly enhance the overall image of the car. You do not necessarily have to get a larger exhaust tip diameter, and you can even keep it the same diameter as your stock exhaust. If you visit exhaust specialists and ask to fit chrome tips on the car, the entire process will take less than 30 mins, and cost less than $250. If you are adventurous enough, and want to try to buy these chrome pipes on Aliexpress or Lazada, you can too - and there are huge selections for you to choose from. On average, these would cost about $50 to $80 a piece, and you’ll likely be charged about $40 to $60 labour to get them welded on at a workshop. Just a little bit of savings - but a fun process nonetheless. Other inexpensive car accessories that can instantly add a different dimension to your car’s look, are chrome door scuff plates, a set of metal pedals (or covers), and a matt chrome wing mirror cover. All these items would cost you less than $150 to purchase from China, and in some cars, can even be changed out on your own. Original branded parts would easily cost 4 times the amount and are probably not worth the money for just an aesthetic upgrade. Keep in mind though, that sourcing for these parts are made a lot easier if you have own a common car model. Aftermarket producers of such accessories typically make products that are higher in demand, thus you will find plenty of parts made for common cars like the Audi range of cars (especially the A3, A4, A5, and A6) and the BMW range of cars (especially for the 3 & 5 series). If you drive something like an Open Insignia, then good luck finding a whole lot of accessories for your car. 


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