Plymouth Valiant / Duster / Scamp and Dodge Dart / Swinger Seat and Carpet Removal
After 35 years, the carpet has gotten smelly in our 15,000 mile Valiant, possibly because the original owner was a heavy and sloppy smoker, and the ash has gotten buried deep into the carpet. Here are some tips on seat and carpet removal.
1) Use a Phillips screwdriver and remove the seat belt covers. Get a short 13/16” socket and remove the
seat belt anchors — all four of the ones showing from the back seat. I advise doing this first because it’s the place where you are most likely to get stuck. I used a breaker bar but didn't really have to. It's a good idea to use a torque wrench when you want to replace these bolts, because, well they're seat belt bolts. (Our 1974 had shoulder belts but that's just one more anchor.)
This might be a good time to go out and get new-old-stock or reproducton seat belts. In any case, make sure you do not lose the plastic washers.
2) Remove the back seat lower cushion (push in at the base, on each side, towards the trunk - lift up - repeat on the other side. You might be able to feel
where the catches are before you start, which saves effort.) That holds true on Plymouth Valiant, Duster, and Dart; it is probably true for other Dodge and Plymouth cars, too.
Wes Moeller wrote, "Try pushing down, then back, and then see if you can pull the front upwards. I usually put my weight on the seat with my knee while I'm pushing." Mitch wrote, "use the wooden end of a hammer handle and put it under the seat (there are two latches holding the seat down in the front) and the push the clamp back for each one. Seat should lift out after this." (It’s much easier after the first time.)
3) Remove all chrome door sills and such around the perimeter of the carpet.
4) Remove the two front kick panels (they are attached with a single long screw). There is fiberglass sound insulation on the other side which can be disposed of if desired, in sealed plastic bags. This is moderately nasty stuff though less nasty than modern fiberglass house insulation as far as I can tell. The only reason to toss it, though, is because it’s hard to get back in place, or at least it was in my Valiant on the driver’s side. I find most sound insulation in the later Valiants pointless — it accentuates the wind noise, and makes repairs harder.
Gently loosen the carpet at all points and gently free it from the front and then pull it to the back. At this point you can take it out and clean it.
6) If the jute gets wet, it takes a long time to dry — Ben Deutschman said at least one full hot summer day in full sunlight.
If you take it out, since it will probably not be amenable to removal and reinstallation, you may need to replace it with regular indoor carpet padding (of appropriate thickness) so the carpet will fit properly back in the car. As it happens, we chose not to reinstall the jute, and the carpet seemed to fit acceptably. At some point in the future we might replace it with carpet padding or Dynamat.
7) We tried steaming with a hand steamer, which kills bacteria and mold but doesn’t really clean much. Our neighbor, a car service manager, recommended using a GI brush (tile brush on a stick) with dish detergent, then rinsing with a firm stream from a garden hose. We tried that and moved to a relatively soft brush because the stiffer ones got stuck in the carpet and did not work as expected. This worked surprisingly well. Before you start, if the jute has been coming off the carpet, you may want to carefully separate it entirely, put it back into the car, and then clean the carpet itself.
8) When you've finished cleaning the carpet to the best of your ability, let the carpet dry in the hot, hot sun for a day or so. Baking in the sun kills mold and mildew, but it may fade the carpet (though probably not too much in just a day).
A custom molded replacement carpet starts at $120 plus shipping (make sure you get one with a custom backing), but there have been complaints about proper fit, so if you can clean your existing carpet, try that first.