There are so many different types of automotive leather seat repair, all with different situations and applications. There are holes, scratches, gouges, cuts, scrapes, worn or cracked, and just down right grungy looking leather seats. I think I got them all covered, well in this article we’re going to talk about how to repair a small hole in a leather seat lean back, for those of you who don’t know what a lean back is well it’s the upper part of the seat.
Now when I say small this can apply for a tear up to 1 1/2″ to 2″, probably might go a little bigger, but lets not push it, if it needs to go to the upholstery shop for an insert then that would be better then a crappy looking leather repair on something that probably wouldn’t hold anyways. When in doubt, insert it.
Prepping a seat is the key to success in any leather repair, and a lasting leather dye job. So, prep the whole lean back, and while your at it just clean the whole seat, why not, but you don’t have to, with your prepping solution removing all grease, dirt, and grime. You need a clean surface and a well prepped area to work with. When I prep, I use a solution of rubbing alcohol, acetone, ammonia, and a small amount of TSP substitute, with water in a spray bottle. Spray the seat with the solution and scrub with a scotch brite pad to scuff the leather seat for leather dye adhesion and remove any grime that’s on the seat, then wipe clean with a clean lint free towel. Once your clean, apply a grip base primer to the seat, I usually in most cases will dye the entire lean back when I do a repair or the entire seat, but sometimes it’s not necessary, so you may not need to prime the whole seat, but do clean the seat good this cuts down on the amount of leather dye used and the ending result will be a premium leather repair.
Now to the hole. Lets say it’s in a V shape, just for example. Like where you’ve gott’n out of the seat with something in your back pocket, ouch! I know the feeling, back in college I had a 1986 Mustang SVO, very rare and nice car (man I miss that car) and I got out to go to class with a pen in my back pocket and ripped about a 2″ V shape in the seat, I about puked right there, and of course at the time I didn’t know anything about leather repair. But now I do and here it is.
Sand the area around the tear with a 240 grit sandpaper, this gives a little more for the low heat compound to grip to. Take a piece of underpatch material and slide the under patch under the tear with a pair of tweezers, allowing about a 1/2″ on the inside all the way around. I usually cut my patches in a circular shape, it makes it a little easier to slide under. You can use different types of under patches, I like the kind that is coated on one side with a heat activated glue.
Now take a drop of leather glue and spread a thin coat on the patch on the underside of the leather repair area. If the leather will lay down smoothly and match up then great, but sometimes it just won’t. In this case we will use combo of the glue and your low cure leather repair compound and smooth a small amount over the patch then lay the leather down. Spread a small amount of low heat compound over the area and smooth it out with your pallet knife, remembering to keeping your area as small as possible, the smaller the better. Now heat the area with your heat gun, hold the heat gun out away from the leather repair and slowly move it into the repair area, this will give you just a little more control of the heat, you don’t want to burn and shrink the leather. The idea is to cure the compound and get it to adhere before you cook the leather, it’s a skill thing, practice makes perfect. Once the compound is cured immediately press the grain pad in your palm onto the repair, don’t press to hard, but firm.
At this time using a wet paper towel apply a small amount of grip base to the repair area and dye with your color matched water based leather dye. Dry thin coats of dye, not wet. Then reapply and smooth out another thin coat of compound. Heat again and grain then dye, get the idea, what you are doing is building the repair up. Thin coats of compound applied and cured then reapplied, are much better then one thick coat. Once you have it built up and looking nice, blend the repair into the rest of the seat if needed, by applying thin coats of leather dye to finish it off. Drying between coats of dye with a hairdryer, and one great tip is rubbing the leather dye with your hands to force the dye into the creases of the leather helps a ton, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. I say that but I’m allergic to rubber gloves, it bites, so I come home every day with dye all over my hands, it’s a pain, but I love the work and the job looks better with a little bit of love rubbed on those leather seat repairs. After the dye is cured, apply a top coat of satin or dull leather clear top coat mixed with a bit of slip additive added for the soft feel. Dry the seat thoroughly, then apply your leather conditioner to finish and give the seat the juice it needs and a great feel and look for you.
Now there are so many other variations to this fix, sometimes I will have to use an air dry leather repair compound over the top of the low heat compound to smooth out the leather repair. Sanding it with a 400 grit sandpaper until it looks right. You can also turn your air down on your paint gun until little droplets are coming out to give it a textured look, drying between coats. Texture coatings, can be used, but if you do it right the gun effect works great. When I do a leather repair I won’t give up until it looks perfect. Patience is a virtue, right. Don’t get in a hurry, this will only frustrate you more and then you really got issues.
Leather repair is a craft and profession. The dyes and compounds I use are top quality and are made to last. Giving you a lasting leather seat repair, and comfort knowing you have a leather repair that will last and look great for years to come.
I hope this was some help to you, in the coming months there will be more articles like this one but on different situations on leather repair, liked I talked about in the first. There are so many different ways that a leather seat can be damaged, we spend a lot of time in our cars and well “sh$$ happens”, right. So check back to see my next article on automotive leather seat repairs. If you have anything you would like to ask feel free to shoot me some comments on Leather Repair – How To Repair Torn Leather Seat.