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How to replace and install auto carpet

Just as the carpet in a house gets worn out right in front of the door, the carpet in your car usually gets worn out first on the driver's side. Everything stuck to your feet becomes unstuck and embedded in the carpet. Those same feet eventually wear away the plush fibers, leaving only a threadbare version of a once luxurious carpet. Worse is that everything falling from your or your passenger's hands lands on the carpet, if it doesn't first stain shirts or pants or expensive upholstery. That juicy burger with extra mayo and mustard may not have been such a good idea after all. Drops of catsup, bits of fries, tablespoons or gallon cups of soda – whatever kids can spill.

And don't forget dogs. It all adds up. Winter or heavy rains can also bring moisture into the carpet by way of leaks, adding fuel to the fire, so to speak. If things get to the point where no amount of stinky trees hanging from the mirror or under-seat olfactory cover-ups can mask the unmistakable odor of old carpet, then it may be time for an all-out replacement.

Be prepared
The first step in replacing an auto carpet is finding a replacement. Unlike the carpet on the living room floor, the carpet in a car or truck has to navigate over hills and valleys. The automotive floor is anything but flat. The transmission hump, seat mounts, up onto the firewall – an auto carpet has to be molded to shape. Fortunately there are a few companies that make replacement auto carpets. Easy, right?

Not so fast. While replacing the carpet in a car may seem like a relatively simple task, one must be prepared for a load of work. First, everything on top of the carpet must be removed. Seats. Center consoles. Seat belt anchors. Sill plates. Kick plates. Side panels. Rear seats. Electrical connectors. The list goes on and on. After that's all done, pulling the carpet may present even more work. If any rust or corrosion is found on the floor pan it must be repaired, or at the very least stopped with a rustproof paint. Rust never sleeps. Prepping the floor pan may also involve removing crusty old jute padding and whatever other buried treasure that managed to survive under the carpet. Do not remove any tar-based goop from the floor pan unless you're heading out to the racetrack and you enjoy toasty interior temperatures along with lots of noise. These materials are designed to absorb both sound and heat, and they should be left alone. Mark any disconnected electrical connectors with tape or tags.

The job
Here’s a step-by-step look at how to replace the car carpet.

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Step 1: Park the vehicle in a spot that allows full opening of all doors. Set the parking brake. Remove the sill plates.


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Step 2: Remove the bolts that hold down the seats, seat belts and anything else on top of the auto carpet.


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Step 3: Screws and fasteners may be hiding. Find and remove them first before attempting to pull out things that are still bolted down.


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Step 4: Yar, buried treasure! One never knows what might be found. Forty-two cents was better than nothing.


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Step 5: With everything on top of the carpet removed, remove the carpet.


Be careful
Once the carpet is removed, careful and well thought out measuring will have to be done before making the first cut and installing the replacement. This will of course vary with the complexity of the interior. Aftermarket model-specific replacement carpets do not usually come with all the holes and cutouts in them required to put the seats, center consoles, stick shift boots and so on back into place. A good method is to attempt to fit the replacement carpet before making the first cut or mark. Mistakes occasionally happen, but no one is going to accept a carpet return once the first cut has been made.

Careful measuring of the floor pan and original auto carpet and marking the replacement with some chalk is the path to take before making the first cut. Measure it twice, cut it once. Do not use a power drill to put holes in carpet. Two things can happen, neither one of them good. Either the threads will quickly wrap around the bit and the carpet thread will unravel like a wool thread from your grandma's sweater, or the bit will grab the carpet, wrap around the drill, and attempt to take your arm with it. It is most certainly the case that obstacles particular to your vehicle and not mentioned here will attempt to block the path to springtime fresh and luxurious carpet. Replacing an automotive carpet is not an easy job, but with methodical patience it can be done.

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Step 6: In this case, the floor pan was in good shape. No rust.


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Step 7: Vacuum the floor pan to remove any lingering memories.


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Step 8: Use the original auto carpet and floor pan measurements to measure, mark and then cut the new carpet. Better to cut too little than too much.


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Step 9: On-car trimming may be required. Use a sharp utility or carpet knife.


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Step 10: Oil the seat bolts and thread them into the holes before installing the carpet.


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Step 11: Use a stapler to install any plastic guides or clips onto the replacement carpet.


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Step 12: Find the seat bolts by feel. Cut an "X" on the bolt head. Poke the bolt through the carpet. Using a small screwdriver or pick as a drift pin is another method.


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Step 13: Put everything back in the car now that the carpet is in place.


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Step 14: Good as new.