Cloth Repair - Cigarette Burn Repair

Ever had one of those days when it seems as if you were running in circles and tripping over everything, well today was my day. Man what a day, things went smoothly with my repairs, thank God, but I couldn't hold on to anything and every time I turned around I was either bumping into something (like the edge of doors, ouch!) or tripping over my cords and hoses.

I started my day with a repair on a GMC Yukon, this was a referral from one of my dealers. Nice starting your day off with a pretty major repair, this seat was in pretty bad shape. I did a vinyl repair on the armrest and the seat side, and a small leather repair on the top of the lower bolster, where a small hole was starting. Then dyed the entire leather seat to finish it off. The armrest vinyl repair was kinda a booger but the seat side I had to do something I really don't like to do and that is covering up a seam. But this one I had to, the vinyl was split all the way along the stitching. I can sometimes with thin coats of compound work around this, but this time I couldn't. One little trick I found to give the look of stitching holes after your repair is done is to take a black permanent marker with a fine point and draw dots where the stitch holes were, lay a couple of thin coats of your leather dye to take the sheen out of the ink, this gives the illusion of stitching and really looks pretty good when your done.

Now on to cloth repair - cigarette burn repair, this is a repair that is a somewhat of a temporary repair. I always make this known before I do this type of repair and especially to retail customers. This repair is a cover-up to permanent damage. If the customer wants the cigarette burn to go away, then replacement of the cloth is the only way. So techs be up front and honest before doing this type of repair. Or you will get a phone call from a pissed off customer. I've had dealers tell the customers that this would fix their cloth seat, and have had to feel the wrath afterwards.

The way that the cloth is repaired is with glue and velour fibers colored to match laid over the top of the damaged area. The way it is applied and the areas it done to limits the repair to how long it will last. Basically when you sit on your seat and your butt rubs over the cigarette burn that was just repaired, it rubs the fibers off and eventually your left with a spot, now it's a colored spot but spot non the less. You can see where it was repaired. Now if you have a hole all the way through to the foam this can be a good temporary fix to keep little fingers from poking it and making it bigger or even tear the cloth seat completely.

This is kinda an article for the techs, I don't see a do it yourself on this one.

The biggest tip I can give is to keep your repair area as small as possible, don't spread your flock all over the seat. I've seen some cigarette burn repairs that I've just had to laugh at, the burn wasn't bigger then a pencil eraser and the flock went out about 3" to 4" out from the burn and on top of that didn't hardly match. The least the guy could have done was used a good color match. Getting your color right, as I always preach, is crucial to any repair looking right or just looking repaired. If your color is right and you keep the repair as small as possible will give you a better chance of hiding the damage.

Glues to use are really up to you and what your used to. I use a solvent based glue on all my cloth repairs. The reason for this is time, the water based seems to take to long to dry, and durability. I've used some of the water based glues and the repairs just don't seem to last as long. Not sure if I used the wrong stuff or what, but I like the solvent based better. I use Fabric Tac for my base glue and Elmer's Craft Bond Spray Glue for my flocking glue. It's worked well so far. Now I always topcoat with a velour topcoat to give it a soft feel, this is a must. Other wise your seat will be sticky.

A couple of tools that I keep on hand that help to imitate the grooves and textures in the velour seat is a razor blade and a sewing stitch marking wheel. The razor blade I use for the lines say in Ford truck seats, they have lines in the velour and with a razor blade you can put those lines back in the fibers you've put down. The stitch wheel I use for texture like in headliners or thick napped velour.

Color pencils and markers are another tool that helps a lot on some of those patterns in the cloth seats. I've found the Prang pencils work the best. They are soft enough that when moistened with water, or spit, which ever you prefer, to draw some of the patterns back in. Markers can work to but they are sometimes to bright and just really jump out at you, so kinda experiment and see where the best place to use these tools.

One patterned seat that is pretty easy to fix is the Dodge multi-colored seats, you know the ones in the truck and in some of the cars too. The sides are a darker gray, and the faces have about 10 different colors. But man you can make a cigarette burn pretty much disappear.

Another one thats pretty easy is the Cadillac headliners and post covers. The light titanium matches perfectly, I usually don't have to tint it at all and you can hide the areas pretty well. The headliner material they use has a thicker nap to it, so repairs hide nicely.

Another thing to keep on hand is automotive carpet padding, the wool stuff. I use this for filling in the cigarette burn holes that are all the way through. All you have to do is cut a little off and stuff it in with your tweezers, it fills nicely and is soft enough to feel natural. One thing to keep in mind when putting a filler in the hole is not to get to much so that the cloth pooches up, keep it level. You can trim the carpet padding pretty easily. Give yourself enough room for your glue and flock.

Now as far as the material that has come out on the new vehicles on the market today, well, it kinda sucks, to be real honest. It's that tightly woven stuff that stains like crazy, and as far as repairing it, well good luck. I've had some success but not really happy with some of them. You can't really imitate the cloth nicely. The headliners I think are the worst, but really its all hard to make things hide. One thing I've found is to take your can of spray glue or a bottle and roll it over the repair to smooth it out, seems to hide things better. You can use your stitch marker sometimes too, to help with the pattern in the material, like headliners.

Your atomizer is basically your tool that makes the cigarette repair work. It puffs the velour fibers out onto the repair area to give you the best lay of the material to make a repair area almost disappear before your eyes. I use the one with the glass jar and squeeze ball, but I did get one of the plastic ones the other day and can't get the damn thing to work right. Not sure if I'm working it right or I just got a broke one. My supplier sold me on it, he said it was the bomb, so of course I bought it. If any of you have any suggestions let me know on how to use the thing. But I like my glass one, it's the one I learned on, so of course it's my favorite. I've never used an electrostatic gun, I never really thought I needed such an expense for such a temporary fix. But I've heard of guys having pretty good luck with them though. One thing with your atomizer is humidity, they will clog up if theres too much humidity in the air. Blowing them out a little with your blow gun helps to clear them out, just blowing them out with your mouth will only ad to the problem of moister. But doing a cigarette burn repair in a humid environment can be very frustrating, it just doesn't work sometimes. So doing a cigarette burn repair on a rainy day is sometime not gonna happen.

Well I hope to have a better day tomorrow, and hope things go well for you too. Cigarette burn repair can be a good temporary fix and a profitable one too, but always keep in mind to get your color right and keep your repair area SMALL.

Comments

Hey Mike,
I just came across your site today and have found it pretty interesting. I also am in the business and it is neat to see how other people handle various repairs. As far as cigarette burns go, have you ever "patched" the damaged area using the same fabric from a hidden place in the vehicle? This is the technique I use and have had great success. I had to laugh, because while some flock jobs I have seen aren't too bad, many are the ones you described in this article, flocking way more of the seat then needed. We re-do many of these.

Ross,
I have haven't tried that before, but sounds really interesting. How do you attach the piece of material you cut out? Do you sew it in or glue it in? Let me know what kind of technique you use I'm very curious!

Talk to you soon,
Mike "TIG"

I glue it in. Cut out the damaged area, usually in the shape of a square. Try to leave the foam if possible. Cut a piece of fabric from a hidden place in the car. Sometimes there are hidden folds, otherwise the back seat is usually a good place. Remove the foam. Cut a new piece to fit the hole, cutting just slightly oversized while trying to match any pattern. Apply fabric glue to the hole, making sure to get some on the edges. Carefully apply the new piece. Dry and touch up with color pens if needed. Thats the basic technique. Sometimes you have to add foam to the hole if the burn was deep. A carbide tipped scriber and some small sharp surgical scissors help the process. It takes some practice but in the end its very satisfying.

That's awesome! Thanks for the info on repairing a cigarette burn by the trim and fit method. I'll try this on my next job. Again thanks for the information!

Talk to ya soon,
Mike - The Interior Guy