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Leather Seat Restoration

Updated on May 9, 2011

Before Photo of Seat

Photo of the seat before it was restored
Photo of the seat before it was restored
After the restoration
After the restoration

Professional leather restoration can make old tired leather look new

This leather seat is obviously in dire need of some restoration. This is the typical result of years of hot sun and little or no care.

You can see by the photo that the leather is in terrible condition. Aside from the three cut through the leather the rest of the seat is surface damage. That means the leather is still intact it merely has damage to the factory finish.

After a few hours a leather restoration expert can make even this old tired seat look new.

Cleaning the leather car seat

After the leather is cleaned
After the leather is cleaned

Cleaning the leather before restoring it.

This seat is really dirty, obviously.

So the first step in the restoration process is to clean the leather.

First you want to use a diluted multi purpose cleaner and a soft plastic scrub brush and scrub the entire surface of the leather seat. Pay special attention to the seams, holding them open while scrubbing out the dirt.

Use a clean shop towel to remove the dirt. Keep cleaning the leather with the multi purpose cleaner until there is not dirt on the towels when wiping.

Second, you want to remove any oils and waxes from products like Armour All. To do this I use acetone on a cloth and quickly wipe down the surface. Make sure you get into the seams as well. Some of the color might come out of the leather with this cleaning but it is ok since the entire surface is being redone anyway.

Allow to air dry or use a common hair dryer to accelerate the process.

Repairing the rips

Holding the repair flat
Holding the repair flat

Repairing the rips in the leather

There are three rips that need to be patched before the rest of the surface can be restored.

I am going to use thin strips of swede to make sub patches. This will hold the leather together and allow the surface to be filled.

Cut the swede about twice the size of the rip and round off all the corners. Insert the patch into the rip and adjust the position so the leather lines up properly. The leather glue I use bond very quickly. I have about 4 seconds to apply it and get the leather in the right spot.

Use a flat block to hold the leather flat while the glue bonds.

FIlling the surface cracks.

The right side is completely filled. This is a demo so it will show "before - during - after"
The right side is completely filled. This is a demo so it will show "before - during - after"

Restoring the leathers surface

With the rips repaired it is time to fill the entire surface of the leather seat with leather filler. Leather filler is a compound used to fill the cracks and wrinkles that develop in the leather as it ages. The leather filler remains pliable and bonds solidly to leather. 

Filling the leather is much like applying drywall mud, just on a far smaller scale. I use a small oil painting trowel and apply thin layers of leather filler, starting on the edge of the seat furthest from me and work towards myself.

It is important to get the filler as smooth and uniform as you can. It will be lightly sanded at the end but the smoother you can apply it the better.

This seat took four separate layers of leather filler before I was pleased with the surface being ready for the next step.

Once the filler is completely dry it can be lightly sanded with 320 grit sandpaper. Be rather gentle to avoid damaging the surface.

Finishing the Leather Restoration

The final stage is to add some grain to the finish and restore the color.
The final stage is to add some grain to the finish and restore the color.
Adding Grain
Adding Grain

Finishing the leather restoration

With all the cracks and rips filled and sanded the surface is ready to be finished. This means restoring the original color and adding some grain to the surface to mimic the surface of leather. The filler makes a completely smooth surface and that is not how the original surface was.

Using an airbrush and a colored leather dye the surface grain can be re-created and the look of the finished color coat will be so close to the original finish it will be undetectable by anyone.

Restoring the finish requires many coats of grain allowing each to dry before applying the next coat. After many coats the surface will start to look more like real leather.

A final dusting of dye will complete the color restoration and the last stage will be to add a protective coat. This will also control the shine of the finished leather and add a UV protectant so the surface can withstand the conditions.

Leather Restoration >> Before - During - After

Before Leather Restoration
Before Leather Restoration
During Leather Restoration
During Leather Restoration
After Leather Restoration
After Leather Restoration


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

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    • TotalHealth profile image


      6 years ago from Hermosa Beach, CA

      Wow! Awesome hub. I always thought the entire seat had to be re-covered.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Very hard to find a cheap restoration,you just giving an idea for cheap leather restoration,thanks

    • JerseyGirl profile image


      8 years ago from Jersey Shore

      Thank you for publishing this Hub. Its great and gives great detail and info. Can't wait until you finish. Thanks ;)


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