Do It Yourself: How To Repair Leather Car Seats

With some special tools, a heavy-duty sewing machine and some instructions, you can fix a torn, ripped or scratched leather seat and save the money you'd spend on professional reupholstery.

You don't necessarily need an upholstery service just because you have a tear in your leather upholstery - you might be able to do the repairs yourself. For instance, if the seat is ripped at a seam, you might be able to remove the cover from the seat and repair the seam. You'll need a heavy-duty sewing machine with large needle and heavy thread. Or, hand stitching the seam can be done, but will be challenging, since pushing a needle through genuine leather is difficult, to say the least. Removing the cover from the seat often requires the removal of the seat itself, from the vehicle. After getting the seat out, you'll have to disassemble it, separating the seat from the back. You'll notice that the seat cover is secured to the metal frame of the seat by a hog ring-type of hardware. This is a semi-circular, metal ring that is inserted through the leather, and then bent into place around the frame, using a hog-ring tool. This tool looks similar to pliers, but instead of teeth, has a groove on each side for the hog ring to slip into during attachment. Pliers can be used to hog ring your fabric back onto the frame, but it is difficult to keep the ring from slipping from between the teeth of the pliers. Use a screwdriver or other implement to pry open the hog rings, and then remove the fabric from the frame. Turn the fabric inside out and re-stitch the torn seam.

If the torn place is severe, and not on a seam, you'll have to remove the fabric from the seat, remove the bad panel, and cut a new one. Finding a supplier of leather, who is willing to sell a small piece might be hard, but ask around at some local upholstery shops to see if they would sell a yard or so of leather. If they don't have the type you need, you might have to order it and many places require that you order a minimal amount of yardage. And, the upholstery shop will probably add on additional fees to cover his profit and the shipping expenses.

Using a one-sided razor blade will help you take the seat apart, but be careful not to slice into the welt or another part of the fabric. After removing the torn panel, cut a new one, allowing enough extra to take a 3/4" seam. If the panel is on the seat, start at the back middle. If it's on the back, start at the bottom middle. Fold your new piece of fabric in half and make a notch. Now fold the seat cover or back cover in half and notch. Align the notches and sew first one half, then the other. This assures that the panel will not slip out of position while sewing.



If the welt is torn, you can sometimes purchase this at an upholstery shop or an upholstery supplies store. Department stores with large sewing sections may also carry the welt, but make sure it is the plastic-type and not the fiber-type of welt. If the welt is torn, chances are the fabric around the welt is also torn. Remove this entire piece, using a razor blade or scissors. To cover the welt, wrap a 1/2" wide piece of leather around the welt, and sew as closely as possible to the welt. A special welt foot is available for industrial sewing machines and without it you might find that your welt is being smashed flat as you sew. After wrapping your welt, sew the welt back into position, starting with the middle back or middle bottom, and doing half of the seat or back, then the other half.

If you trust your sewing implicitly, you can attach the welt, welt wrap, and fabric all at once. Wrap the welt with the 1/2" wide strip, then place it under the presser foot with the seat or back where it originally was. Sew all pieces at once, making slices in the welt wrap, when going around curves. This makes it easier to shape the welt when turn corners and keeps it from having a "pulled" look around curves. To make the slices, just cut from the edge of the welt wrap, to just up next to the welt. If you sewed the welt wrap on the welt before attaching it to the seat or back, make sure you do not cut any stitches while making the curve slices. When preparing to put the cover back on the seat, you can normally just lay the seat cover on the foam of the seat, and hog ring it back into place. For the back, these covers usually slip over, making it harder to re-cover. To help, spray the foam and the inside of the leather cover with silicone spray. This will make it much easier to slide the back over the foam covering.

If you simply have no way to sew and re-cover a car seat, you can try the kits that are on the market today which include a plastic substance that you mix with tint to match your leather, then spread on and let dry. This product is okay for small areas, but is often noticeable in a large area. And, unless your leather is white or black, there could be some problems mixing just the right shade, causing the leather to look worse than it already did.

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