How to Replace the Carpet in Your Corvette

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Plan Your Project

Corvette Carpet
Lay out the carpet unrolled for several days to give it a chance to "relax" and flatten out. This is especially important with carpet kits that have a waxy underside designed to take the shape of the surrounding metal. Photo by Jeff Zurschmeide

There are many reasons you might want to replace the carpet in your vintage Corvette, including restoration to factory original specs, but the main reason to replace carpet is usually that it has gotten wet and mildewed, or mice invaded your car and stunk it up, someone once put house carpet in it for fun, or it's just too shredded for continued use. But no matter what the reason, you have to get that old carpet out of the car before you can put in a new carpet kit.

While you're thinking about pulling out the carpet, it's also time to order up your replacement carpet kit. Any of the big online Corvette stores will have it, and you can often find a good kit on ebay and save a few bucks - but remember that on ebay you're kind of taking your chances with the fit. The Corvette stores have to stand behind their products so they tend to be better kits. Order the carpet for your year and specific Corvette model - in some years the kit is different for manual vs. automatic cars, and of course, different for convertibles vs. coupes.

You will also want to make sure you get the right color code for your car.

For some years of Corvette, you'll have a choice between loop carpet and cut-pile. Loop was the basic interior on base model cars for many years, while cut-pile was offered as an option. Later cars all use cut-pile. Personally, I like loop carpet better as an indoor-outdoor kind of material well-suited to cars, but the choice is up to you. Just note that if your car came from the factory with loop and you upgrade to cut-pile, you could lose concours points for the change.

When your carpet arrives, take it out of the box and lay it out. You want to give all the creases a chance to relax so the carpet lays better when you install it in the car. Leave it out (preferably in a warm place) for a few days before the installation. This also gives you a chance to take a good look at it and notice any potential anomalies.

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Remove the Old Carpet

Corvette Carpet
Here's the floor of the Corvette with no carpet installed. It's a good idea to wash the floor with Pine-Sol or Nature's Miracle to remove odors and mold spores. Photo by Jeff Zurschmeide

For this process, you'll need a philips screwdriver, 1/2-inch socket and rachet wrench, and you might want to consider gloves and a respirator mask - depending on how gross and moldy the carpet looks. Let your common sense be your guide!

When you go to pull the carpet, start by removing the seats. There are four 1/2-inch bolts at the four corners of each seat. The seats come out easily. You'll notice the seat belts disappear under the carpet. Take a moment to inspect them and decide if they need to be replaced at the same time. If your reels are working well, there are businesses that will re-web your belts at a fraction of the cost of new belts. But since most vintage seat belt reels are in terrible shape, you can also buy new Corvette seat belts at a reasonable price.

Next, you'll want to remove the door sill trim panels, and some of the panels around the foot area (kick panels) and around the console. These differ from year to year, so use your shop manual and common sense to figure out what to pull.

Most carpet is glued down - especially replacement carpet. You might have to give it a good tug, or even scrape scraps off with a knife, but each piece should come out easily and in one piece. Try not to inhale the dust, but marvel at the amount of crud under the carpets! Put the old carpet straight into the trash - it's done.

Finally, now is the time to wash your Corvette's floorboards with some Pine-Sol, Lysol, or Nature's Miracle. This stuff will all kill odors and mold/mildew spores that may linger. Give the area a good vacuuming, too.

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Install the Trunk Carpet First

Corvette Carpet
Here's the trunk area - note that depending on your year of Corvette, you may have a light or other features that will require you to cut the carpet to reveal. Photo by Jeff Zurschmeide

Begin installing your new carpet in the trunk area of your Corvette. You are likely to need some spray adhesive as well as a tube of weatherstrip adhesive to get everything to stay where you want it.

It's easiest to start here because you've got the seats out of the car already and you can kneel in the seat area and really get back in there and work. Depending on your year and model, you may have a light back there that you'll need to accommodate. Put the carpet up against the light in the position you want, then mark where to cut the carpet. Precision pays off in results, but it's not the most critical place, so if you make a mistake don't take it too hard.

You should also plan to replace any sound deadener pads at this time. The old ones are sure to be decayed.

You may also need to trim the carpet at the front of the trunk where you encounter the door trim, seat belt mounts, and the lids for the storage and battery boxes. The seat belt shoulder harness mounts are generally just holes that need to be cut to reattach the belts. You will also need to mark and cut smaller holes if your Corvette includes the straps to tie down the T-tops in the trunk area.

Get the trunk carpet secured and let the glue dry before you move on to the storage bin lids.

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Recarpeting Your Storage Bin Lids

Corvette Carpet
You can unscrew and remove the little bins and the lid assembly to replace the small pieces of carpet in the lids. Here's the area with the lids and bins removed. Photo by Jeff Zurschmeide

Corvettes of the C3 (1968-1982) era have storage bins behind the seats. These bins also hold the jack and lug wrench and the battery. There are three button-release hinged lids on the cover for this area. Each lid has a captive piece of carpet on its surface, and your carpet kit should have included three matching pieces of carpet for installation.

Begin the replacement process by pulling the entire area cover out of the car. This is accomplished by opening the bins and undoing several philips-head screws around the perimeter of the cover. The entire assembly should lift out in one piece. You can then remove the cardboard bins from underneath to reveal the jack and lug wrench, the battery, and the driveshaft tunnel.

TIP: This is a good time to clean and vacuum out the bin and battery area, which accumulates dust and lint as your car ages. You may also want to neutralize any battery acid crystals which have accumulated in the battery compartment. You can get the spray neutralizer at any auto parts store for a few dollars.

Take your lid assembly to your workbench and remove each carpeted lid plate from its frame. They come out with a #1 philips screwdriver and several perimeter screws. You can also remove the release catch and button assembly from each lid plate with your screwdriver. Carefully remove the carpet piece and match it to the carpet piece of the same size from your kit. Note that one piece is larger than the other two.

Overlay the existing carpet on the new piece and use your shop knife to cut a new hole in the carpet sections for the release catch and button assembly. Use your adhesive spray to attach the new carpet section to the lid and reassemble.

When the lid is reassembled, you can install the bins and the lids back into the car. It should fit snugly and capture the edge of the other carpet pieces for a neatly trimmed installation.

Install the piece of carpet on the vertical panel between the seats and the storage bin area. This will likely require some weatherstrip adhesive where it wraps over the top and down towards the bins. Position this piece so that the bottom end comes just to the floor. The cutout for the driveshaft tunnel should disappear behind the parking brake console trim.

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Install The Front Carpet

Corvette Carpet
You'll need to use a knife to cut holes for the seat mounts. I use this shop razor, and then poke a thin screwdriver into the first hole while I cut the second - putting a screwdriver in each hole helps keep the carpet in place. Photo by Jeff Zurschmeide

The largest pieces of carpet go under the seats and extend forward into the footwells. These pieces are also the most visible, so it pays to get them done right.

If you plan to install any non-standard heat shielding, now is the time to put it in. Corvette floors can get very hot!

Each of these pieces is form-fitted. The piece with extra plastic scuff pads goes on the driver's side. You will need to trim this carpet around the outboard kick panel that covers the stereo speaker on each side of the car, and also where the carpet meets the door sill panel on each side.

TIP: If you got a high-quality wax-backed carpet set, you can use a heat gun or a hair dryer to warm the wax to get the best possible fit.

Test fit and trim each piece of carpet before you lay down any adhesive. You also need to cut holes (generally an X-shaped slit works just fine) at the four holes where each of your seats mount to the floor. You may also need to cut slits for the seat belt assemblies to come through on the outboard side, and a hole to mount the seat belt receiver on the inboard side.

Making the holes for the seat mounts can be difficult if the carpet wants to move around on you, and you don't want to glue it down before you get these holes made, because it can be difficult to find the holes if you can't reach under the carpet!

The trick here is to make the first hole, and then stick a slender #1 philips screwdriver through the carpet and through the hole to hold it in place. Then make sure the carpet is flat and positioned correctly and cut the second hole. Insert a second screwdriver to hold the holes in alignment. Do the same thing until all four holes are cut and lined up. Then you can glue down the carpet, remove the screwdrivers and mount up the seat.

Repeat the process on the driver's side. Note that you may also have some small carpet pieces that fit along the center console in later-year models.

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Replace the Trim

Corvette Carpet
Lay the carpet into the footwells and make sure that you get it tucked up at the front. The kit fits well and is already contoured to go snugly into the space provided. Photo by Jeff Zurschmeide

To finish up the project, replace all the trim pieces you removed. At this point, it's often helpful if you ordered a complete screw kit for your interior! Old screws are often rusty or discolored - and that's assuming no one replaced them with completely wrong wood screws at some point in the car's life!

You can get complete interior screw kits for every year of Corvette. They don't cost much and the convenience and pleasure of nice new screws is well worth the price.

You may want to leave the Corvette's windows open for a while - new carpet generally has some volatiles in it that outgas for a while, and the glue you used will definitely smell a bit! But take a step back and admire your new interior - replacing the carpet definitely improves most older cars quite noticeably.

Finally, if you plan to replace any door panel trim, now's the time.