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3 Methods for Repairing Leather Car Upholstery Yourself (DIY)

Repairing leather car upholstery DIY instructions

Leather car upholstery adds a touch of elegance and luxury to any vehicle interior. However, repairing leather car upholstery can be an overwhelming task for most luxury car owners. The car leather itself, over time, may tear, scratch, or even crack. Repairing these three common forms of damage can be expensive unless you do it yourself, so let’s look at the proper way to repair car leather upholstery yourself.

repairing leather car upholstery: Assess the Damage & Gather Supplies

Before you can begin any form of repair, it is important to make sure that you assess the damage to the leather upholstery. You may be choosing to start this project simply because you found a recent crack or tear. When you assess the overall damage, you can determine whether or not there are more tears, cracks, or scratches that you can repair at the same time. Keep in mind that many forms of damage can be repaired without a professional, but some larger and more complex forms of damage may require you to seek the assistance of a professional repairman.

Identify Repairable Tears, Scratches, Cracks

Start by inspecting the leather upholstery for any forms of visible damage. Tears are fairly easy to see as they are cuts or rips in the actual leather. Scratches on the other hand may be a little more difficult to see simply because they are only visible on the surface and tend to disappear when you wipe down the leather. Cracks on the other hand are deep splits in the leather that are the result of exposure to the elements and a failure to properly maintain the moisture content of the leather.

Essential Tools and Car Leather Repair Materials

To proceed with any form of repair, including when preparing to repair car leather upholstery, it is important to make sure that you gather all the necessary tools and materials.

  • Leather Repair Kit
  • High-Quality Scissors
  • Soft Cloth
  • Fine Grit Sandpaper
  • Leather Conditioner
  • Color Matching Material If Needed
  • Protective Gloves
Leather upholstery repair for cars begins with cleaning the damaged area

repairing leather car upholstery: Cleaning & Prep

The key to ensuring that your leather repair is successful is to make sure that you properly clean the material and prepare the damaged areas first.

Before Commencing leather upholstery repair for cars:

Vacuum

Start by vacuuming the area with a high-quality automotive vacuum cleaner. Don’t just vacuum around the immediate vicinity of the damaged spot, rather, make sure to remove any form of loose dirt or debris from the entire vehicle. It’s very easy for dirt or debris from the carpet to find its way into the repair area, adversely affecting the repair job.

Clean

Once you have finished acting in the area, you also need to take the time to clean the leather with a soft cloth and some leather cleanser. Any form of grime that’s left on the material can prevent the repair from being successful. Make sure that you avoid using harsh cleansers, as these can damage your leather upholstery.

Dry

Once you have finished cleaning the leather, give it time to completely dry before you begin any repairs. Just like oil and grime, a wet surface can interfere with the adhesion of the repair material. Although the leather may feel dry to the touch, it may still have some residual moisture in the grain, which is why it is crucial to give it plenty of time to dry out thoroughly.

Kits for repairing leather car upholstery are good for minor damage

repairing leather car upholstery: Repair Techniques

There are several different types of damage that you may need to repair. Each form of damage has its own specific techniques to ensure a successful repair job. Here we’ll step through three methods to carry out leather upholstery repair for cars depending on the type of damage: tears, scratches and cracks.

Fixing Tears

Tears are one of the most common forms of damage to leather, which can often result from something accidentally puncturing the leather upholstery.

Prepare Patch From Car Leather Upholstery Repair Kit

To fix a tear, you will need to use a piece of leather patch from your leather upholstery repair kit. Make sure to prepare a piece patch that is slightly larger than the tear itself.

Apply Adhesive

Next, you will need to apply the adhesive to the underside of the patch and the edges of the tear. Make sure to follow any instructions that come with your leather upholstery repair kit, as you may need to allow the adhesive to tack up before you can proceed with the next step.

Attach Patch

Once the adhesive has properly tacked up and is ready to use, you can then press it down firmly over the tear. You want to make sure that the repair patch evenly covers the tear on both sides and that there is a sufficient amount of adhesive to prevent the edges of the patch from curling up.

Allow to Dry

The adhesive will need time to thoroughly dry. Since all leather upholstery repair kits are designed differently, it is important to pay close attention to the product instructions, to ensure that you allow sufficient time for the adhesive to dry completely.

Trim Excess

If you did not cover the patch completely with adhesive, some of the patch material may have curled up along the edges. If you notice this happening, you’ll need to use your scissors to trim off any excess patch material and create a neat and clean finish.

Repairing Scratches

Scratches are another form of common damage to leather upholstery, and repairing them is slightly different than repairing a crack or tear.

Sand the Car Leather

Start by lightly sanding the scratch area with the finest grit sandpaper you can find, to smooth out the edges of the affected area. This will play a crucial role, as it provides microscopic grooves for the filler to adhere to.

Apply Filler to Repair Car Leather Upholstery

Once you have finished lightly sanding the scratch area, you’ll want to use a tack cloth to remove any residual dust that was created during the process. Once you have removed any residual dust from the surface, you can then use a small amount of the leather filler to cover the scratches. Chances are your kit came with a little spatula that will help you to evenly spread out the filler material.

Dry and Sand Again

Give the filler material plenty of time to completely dry per the product instructions, then sand the area again. This time when you sand, your goal is to blend it or feather it in with the surrounding leather. Do not simply work along the edges, however, make sure that the entire repair area is smooth and consistent so that it matches the rest of the leather upholstery.

Treating Cracks

Treating cracks is very similar to treating scratches, just that cracks are generally a lot deeper and can often go completely through the material and some locations.

Fill Cracks

Just as you did with the scratches, you will want to lightly sand along the crack, to give the leather filler something to adhere to. Wipe down the surface to remove any residual dust, then using the spatula that came with the leather upholstery repair kit apply the filler directly to the crack.

Smooth Out

Do your best to ensure that the filler is as smooth and level as possible. Although you will be feathering in the filler material later in the process, the more effort that you put in at this point, the easier will be to sand later.

Allow to Dry

Make sure to give the filler plenty of time to dry, as noted in the product’s instructions. If you begin sanding the filler before it has dried completely, you may damage the repair and have to start over from the very beginning. Keep in mind that when working with cracks, the filler material is generally thicker than it is when working with scratches.

Sand the Newly Repaired Car Leather Upholstery

Once the filler has thoroughly dried then you can begin to lightly sand the repaired area and blend in seamlessly with the rest of the upholstery. Pay close attention to the edges, as you attempt to the feather in the filler material to create a seamless repair.

repairing leather car upholstery: Finishing Touches (Optional)

After you have completed your repair car leather upholstery project, you may want to consider some of these finishing touches to enhance the appearance as well as the durability of your leather upholstery.

Color Matching

Select Colorant

Chances are, that although you selected a color-specific repair kit, that may not be a perfect match to the surrounding leather. If the repaired area appears a little bit lighter, you should use the colorant provided in the repair kit to help you match it to the original leather shade.

Apply Colorant

With the help of a sponge or applicator, apply the colorant in very thin layers allowing each layer to dry before the next. If the color still has not matched after the first application, then repeat the process until you have a seamless blend.

Applying Leather Conditioner

Choose Conditioner

Chances are if your leather has cracked, then it may not have been treated with the proper leather conditioner. Make sure to select a high-quality leather conditioner suitable for use in the automotive industry. This will help to protect and maintain that finish for years to come.

Apply Conditioner

Using a clean, soft cloth, apply a small amount of conditioner to the upholstery, not just the repaired area, but all areas. Rub it in gently and evenly, focusing on dry or faded areas.

Buff and Protect

With the help of a clean cloth, buff the conditioner into the leather upholstery, making sure to wipe down the entire piece of upholstery. If you are working with a seat, then chances are you will also want to use the conditioner on the remaining seats in the car, to ensure that the entire interior matches.

Final Tips on Leather Upholstery Repair for Cars

Avoid Excessive Heat or Sunlight

After you have repaired and conditioned the leather upholstery in your car, make sure to avoid exposing it to direct sunlight or extreme heat. Although most kits provide UV-resistant materials, they can still fade faster than the original leather.

Regular Maintenance

As always, it’s important to implement a regular maintenance routine when dealing with leather upholstery. This routine should include regular cleaning and conditioning every few months, as this will help to maintain the upholstery’s moisture levels, and prevent further scratches and cracking.