Just like new

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The current economic climate may have you rethinking your plan to upgrade your ride, at least for now. You were going to replace that old jalopy, but as long as it's still getting you to work on time, you can put up with it for another year or two, right?

Those final few thousand miles don't have to be painful, though. There are several ways to turn that old beater into a comfortable ride that's (almost) as good as new, without breaking the bank.

Clean it out

The first step to restoring your ride to its former glory is to clean it. It sounds obvious, but keeping dust to a minimum can do wonders for the interior of a vehicle, and make you feel better about driving it. Keep a plastic grocery bag handy - that will help you resist the urge to toss empty Coke cans in the backseat. As for dust, it's an easy fix - a moist towelette dispenser runs just a few bucks.

Freshen up

Your car is never going to feel new as long as it reeks of BO and stale cigarettes. First, assuming you've rid your car of empty White Castle bags, roll down all the windows and drive around the block a few times. Then head to the nearest auto store and pick up some new-car smell in a can; a spritz or two will put your ride in its proper olfactory place. You can also spruce up the interior with a fresh tulip in the cup holder, and nothing says class like a dancing hula girl on a dashboard.

Wash it off

A nice wash and wax is paramount to your car's image. The dirt, salt and grime that suffocate a car's exterior during the winter lead to a filthy, worn-out look. A standard wash costs just a few bucks, and full-service places usually run $15 to $20. If you're ambitious, break out the hose and bucket and have a little one-on-one time with your old gas-guzzling buddy. A nice healthy shine goes a long way.

Crank it up

Investing in a new sound system will instantly increase the enjoyment level of your old car, especially if you've run out of cassettes to feed that tape deck that seemed high-tech in 1994. iPod-ready stereos start around $100, or take it a step further and splurge on satellite radio. Both options are mere pennies compared to the cost of a new car.