Project F-250: Cleaning Up the Interior

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Update by Tom Suddard to the Ford F-250 project car
Feb 26, 2020

We had a dream: Own a truck that could tow a lot while only spending a little. And, after nearly a year of searching, we scooped up this V10 Ford F-250 for the dirt-cheap sum of $3300, then spent a week and $1000 fixing all of the little issues that kept our find from being a usable truck.

With those minor problems fixed, there was still one (big) issue left on the table: the interior. 

No, it wasn’t horrible, and we put a few thousand miles on the truck without doing anything. But it wasn’t great, either, and the problems were easy to explain: This 20-year-old truck smelled bad, and it looked like, well, a 20-year-old truck.


Actual Damage

We fixed the easy part–actual, physical damage–first. Fortunately, we were lucky here: The only tear in the entire interior was limited to a 2-inch spot on the driver’s seat bolster. To keep it from spreading, we sewed it up with a needle and upholstery thread. Is this how a professional would fix the problem? Absolutely not, and anybody looking would notice our repair, but it’s better than doing nothing. After 10 minutes of sewing, our truck now had rip-free upholstery.


The Nasty Part

We’d run out of sanitary things to do, so we donned the vacuum and rubber gloves and went to work. Normally we’d remove the carpets from a car for this step, but we were short on time and had another project in the shop, so we skipped removing the interior. 

Spoiler alert: We found the smell. It was dog food. So so so much dog food. As far as we can tell, the previous owner would feed the dog by pouring a bag of kibble throughout the truck every day, never picking up the extra bits and pieces. We spent three hours with a vacuum and an assortment of tweezers, plastic picks and scrapers, gently removing every last piece of kibble from the F-250’s interior. We found some other odds and ends, too–including batteries, pens, food wrappers, and an entire smoke detector wedged in the rear seat mechanism. Neat! 

Once the vacuuming was complete, we borrowed a carpet cleaning machine and went to town. After another few hours of work, we had a bucket of black wash water and a truck that was as clean as it was going to get. 


Did It Work?

So, did the cleaning work? After allowing the truck to dry in the sun for a day, we reentered and took stock. Fortunately the smell was gone, which made sense considering all the dog food we’d removed. And the carpets now looked pretty good, too. We’re not talking new-Lexus clean, but definitely presentable for an old truck. 

The seats, though, were a different story. They were now clean, but the upholstery had seen better days, showing bald patches in the cloth from nearly two decades of adventures. We were worried about keeping it clean, too, since a light gray interior isn’t the best choice for something we’re going to be using to assist our greasy car hobby.

We briefly considered replacing the interior, but couldn’t find anything better for less than the amount we’d paid for the truck. Plus, we knew another stock interior wouldn’t stand up to our abuse.

Why not just do nothing and leave it good-enough? Call it pride, call it stupidity, call it a waste of money, but at the end of a long race weekend we like to settle into an interior that isn’t threadbare for the 10-hour-drive home. 


Floor Mats

To save our carpet, we ordered a set of WeatherTech FloorLiners. At $189 for the set, these aren’t the cheapest floor mats in the world, but past experience has shown us that they’re indestructible and fit perfectly. The set for our truck was no exception, and even matched the OEM gray interior almost exactly. Bonus points to WeatherTech for even offering mats cut to fit our floor-mounted, four-wheel-drive shifter, which is a somewhat-uncommon option on our truck. 

After slapping these super-fancy floor mats in our truck, we considered the carpet fixed, and moved on to the rest of the interior. 


Seat Covers

With our carpet protected, we moved onto our seats. And we went in with a simple ultimatum: NO SEAT COVERS. Why the hate? Because we’ve had too many cars with torn seats and cheap covers on top of them. We’ve found that best they look like you’ve accidentally drunk-shopped the interior accessories aisle at your local Pep Boys, and at worst they fit so poorly they’re dangerous and keep the seat from locking in position. 

Then we talked to Covercraft Industries, and they promised that their seat covers were different. They offered a set of their Carhartt PrecisionFit custom seat covers for our F-250, and after confirming a few details, like our front seat headrest style and rear seat split, a big Covercraft box arrived in the mail. These covers promised a factory-level fit and finish that would “Make your seats Carhartt tough!” They’re water-resistant, too, which will make us feel better next time we get in the truck after loading a car during a monsoon.

Our first clue came when we started installing them: We’d set aside about 10 minutes to put them on the truck, but immediately realized that these weren’t like what we’d experienced from Pep Boys. Instead, we spent nearly two hours pulling, stretching, tightening and threading, and even removed the rear seatback from the truck in order to latch things on appropriately. It wasn’t hard work, but it felt much more like reupholstering the seats than like covering them up. Everything fit perfectly, with the exception of the center seatback/console cover, which was designed for a slightly newer cupholder design than our truck has. 

And all that pulling and stretching paid off. The result is a truck that feels like it was reupholstered in way nicer fabric, and as an added bonus we gained a bunch of additional storage pockets, too, including seatback pockets that our truck didn’t originally have. And while we hate to gauge durability based on initial feel, these covers feel like they could survive a nuclear blast–or a decade’s worth of junkyard runs–without looking any different afterward.

Those initial impressions were confirmed by a few thousand miles of driving, too. We haven’t had to tighten or adjust anything, and the fabric still looks brand new. When we do spill something on it, it wipes up like magic with a shop towel. 

Of course, there is one downside, and that’s the price. There’s no easy way to say this, so we’ll just say it: A set of these seat covers for all six seats in our truck retails for $862. That, too, is a far cry from the $100 seat covers we’ve tried in the past. But considering our truck feels brand new inside, we think they’re worth the money.



Another $1000 gone, another day’s worth of work, and our truck was finally starting to turn into something. The list of fixes required by its classified-ad heritage was now complete, and our investment totaled about $5000. Did we still get a deal? Absolutely: We now have something nicer than any other $5000 truck on the market, and can move onto the fun part: Turning this into the ultimate tow vehicle.

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View comments on the GRM forums
AWSX1686 GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
2/26/20 9:10 a.m.

The Carhartt seat covers are a good tip, something I definitely want to keep in mind for my truck!

Paul_VR6 Dork
2/26/20 12:40 p.m.

I pulled my wrecked cloth bench for those exact seats, it was a giant upgrade and like you guys I wasn't going to spend the 1500+ people want for the King Ranch leather setups. The Carhartt covers look very nice.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
2/27/20 8:32 a.m.

Comment about the factory jack - test using it to make sure it will actually work. My Dodge came with a similar jack and even at full extension the jack was not big enough to raise the truck (or even reach a jacking point under an axle).  Why would they provide an inadequate jack?  Who knows...

bobloblawslawblog New Reader
2/27/20 3:24 p.m.

I would be awfully surprised to find out you couldn't have just reupholstered the seats for the $900 and effort you spent on those seat covers, potentially even a good bit less. I'm sure they're durable and they look better than many other seat covers I've seen, but sheesh, you could have nice, durable fake leather interior for less than that.

Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard GRM+ Memberand Director of Marketing & Digital Assets
2/27/20 3:54 p.m.

All of the upholstery kits I found started at about $800 before any installation, and that's for leather-trimmed vinyl, which I hate. These weren't nearly as difficult to install as actually reupholstering the seats. 

Agent98 Reader
5/20/20 10:51 p.m.

Any residual smells get an ozone generator $99 on amazon, plug it in close up.the truck for an hour the residual smells will be gone. AC and fan on full blast during this time.

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