How to Repair Cracked Leather Car Seatsby Alexander McMillin
Leather seats are a highly desirable option on a new car. Leather on a used car, however, can be a problem. Unless the car is in mint condition, the leather will inevitably show wear and perhaps have faded. This is especially true of the driver's seat, for obvious reasons. However, there are products on the market today that will clean, recolor and patch up leather until it is in near showroom condition. With the right equipment and a little elbow grease, you can repair your leather seats yourself and skip the expensive trip to the professionals.
Items you will need
Glue Made for Fixing Seems
400- to 800-Grit Sandpaper
Liquid Leather Product
Remove the Seats
Remove the seats from your car and place them in an enclosed, clean location. Removing the seats will make it much easier to get at the nooks and crannies, and doing the work in a clean place will ensure the seats do not pick up any dirt or get damaged by the elements.
Once you have removed the seats, it's time to clean them. Vacuum them with a handheld unit on low power. When you've removed all of the dirt and fast food crumbs, pour a small amount of leather cleaning product on a new microfiber towel and wipe the seats down in a circular motion. This will remove dirt and any mysterious residue that has accumulated on the seats over the years.
Use a soft brush together with the cleaning product for particularly bad spots. A toothbrush will do nicely, as long as it hasn't already been used on someone's teeth.
- Clean the seats with isopropyl alcohol to remove any residue from the cleaning product. This chemical will not damage leather. Allow the seats to dry completely.
Don't use water or any heptane- or hydrocarbon-based solvents to clean your seats. They will damage the leather.
Examine the Seats for Imperfections
Look closely at each seat and note the imperfections. Fading, scratches and small holes are the most common problems. Large holes may require a trip to a professional leather restorer. Run your hands over the seats and feel for any roughness, which may be caused by holes or scratches. Also note any separated seams, as these will be fixed in the next step.
Repair Separated Seams
Mending separated seams is surprisingly easy. Buy a bottle of liquid made specifically for the job. This is essentially a specialized kind of super glue. Don't use normal super glue, as it is too harsh for leather. Carefully glue the seams back together in accordance with the instructions on the bottle of liquid. Allow the glue to fully set and cure before you move onto the next step.
Sand Rough Spots
Gently sand rough spots -- usually caused by holes or scratches -- with 400- to 800-grit sandpaper until they are smooth. Any rough spots will prevent the liquid leather from being applied properly.
Ready the Liquid Leather
Purchase a high quality liquid leather product. This is designed to fill in cracks and small holes. It also reverses discoloration and fading. It is very important to match the liquid leather to the color of your seats.
Use the toner -- included with high-quality liquid leather -- to alter the color of the product until it looks like a match. Apply a tiny amount of the liquid leather to an inconspicuous part of the seat, perhaps the back of the seat near the bottom. If you have a match, proceed. If not, continue trying until you get the color exactly right. Any discrepancy will show up to a surprising extent.
Apply the Liquid Leather
For cracks and small punctures, dilute the product with two parts water to one part liquid leather. Wipe it into the imperfections with a sponge. Allow it to dry for roughly 60 seconds, then wipe it off with a moist microfiber cloth. The liquid leather will wipe off the good leather, but it will settle into the cracks and imperfections.
For discoloration, apply several coats of undiluted product and dry it with a hair dryer. It may take up to five coats before the discoloration is gone, depending on how bad it is. You may want to apply a top coat diluted to four parts water and one part product. This will make the color richer and deeper.
Apply the Leather Conditioner
Let the seats sit overnight to ensure the liquid leather is completely dry. Rub leather conditioner into the seats and let that dry as well.
Store your car inside to prevent the interior from fading.
Things You'll Need
- Dish soap
- Scrub brush
- Terry cloth
- Scouring pad
- Denatured alcohol
- Paper towels
- 240-grit sandpaper
- Blow dryer
- Leather prep (SEM Leather Prep)
- Leather water sealer (Thompson's WaterSeal Sport Seal)
- Leather dye (SEM Classic Coat)
Alexander McMillin is a writer and longtime gearhead living in the automotive mecca of Los Angeles. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Florida Gulf Coast University. McMillin's blog on cars, Los Angeles, and millennial angst can be found on his website, alexandermcmillin.com.