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Upholstery leather/cloth/vinyl repairs

Number three in a series of DIY Small - Medium Area Repair Techniques (S.M.A.R.T.)

Why do we need to do it / what we are trying to achieve

Next to the condition of the wheels & paintwork, the interior is another area of the car which ‘ages’ it. The materials are subject to constant use (and abuse), and can wear, tear and holes etc can appear making the car look very shabby.

Unfortunately, many of these repairs use trade-only products – I will try to advise using alternatives (where available).

Our car’s seat covers serves 2 main purposes;

  • To provide a comfortable place to sit
  • To enhance the appearance of the vehicle

The principle is that seat damage can be minimised and the original shape/appearance maintained from a normal viewing distance.

It is also an opportunity to prevent further damage caused by inherent weaknesses.

If the seat contains an airbag, please exercise caution if you are stitching a tear together.

What you will need; a strong, quick – acting adhesive, some backing material (such as scraps of vinyl), scrap cloth/foam for packing out the repair, a sharp pair of scissors.

If it is a tear in the material (cloth & leather/vinyl), I would suggest the following action;
1. Fill the gaps with material (cotton wool, cloths, etc) this will ensure that the seat fabric has something to support it.
2. I would then use something as 'backing' material - it has to be non-absorbent (you want the glue on the surface, so it makes contact) - it can be a scrap piece of vinyl (for example).
3. This material (once it has been cut to size) is then fed through the tear, and positioned so it is central to the tear (you want the bridge flush with the rest of the seat – so adjust the packing material as necessary, and test fit until you are happy).
4. Superglue would then be applied (sparingly) around the inside edges of the tear and the seat material lined up so as to meet - the vinyl is acting as a bridge - allowing a greater contact area (therefore more strength) – light pressure should then be applied until the material has bonded.
5. If the seat material is cloth, you also have the option available to hand-stitch (as opposed to using a bridge), but naturally choose a thread which closely resembles the seat material, and stitch quite loosely to avoid ‘bunching’ the fabric. This is also useful if the cloth has frayed or is in an area of high stress (i.e. edge of the seat).

If it is a hole (caused perhaps by a cigarette) which can’t be joined back, then (where I would have coloured fibres to fill the gap, and get a pattern if it’s a cloth seat), or to make a mould to get the grain back on the leather/vinyl – there is another option available. That is to unobtrusively cut away what is required from a compatible (but unseen) part of the seat and use that as above (i.e. it can be treated as a tear). You must ensure that it is a piece of excess material (that won’t cause further tears (or be visible). In addition, you will need to cut away (as little as is needed) of the hard edge of the burn hole to get a good repair edge for bonding and appearance purposes.
If you don’t want to use that method, I believe that kits are available from the major chain car accessory shops – but I haven’t used them.
This will give a satisfactory result, if care & patience is given to the task. Remember, you may still notice where the repair area was (the curse of the owner/repairer), but the casual onlooker/passenger/purchaser may not.

Hope that you find this article useful.

Paul :)

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Paul - I'm going to take these posts and turn them into proper FAQ articles for you. I'll then link to them from the side menu for better exposure

Thanks again - excellent posts...
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