How To Fix Cracked Leather
This is a hard one for me to put out there for the average person to read because a lot of the products I use in my leather repairs are sold for professional use and if you don't know how to use them properly you can make a bad thing look like a really bad repaired thing. It's taking me a long time to master the craft of leather repair, it's something you can't just learn by reading this article. But I wanted to help out those of you who need a helping hand with that worn leather seat.
So, with that said I'm going to give you what I call the "quick fix". A temporary fix to get you by until the car is sold or you get enough money to do it right. Now I'm not going to give you some substandard way of fixing your leather seat, remember I do this for a living and from time to time I have been asked to do the "quick fix" to get someone by. Although I don't like doing that for the people I do work for. To me thats my name and reputation that is on that repair, but when someones in a pinch you got to help them out.
This is a seat in a 2003 Ford F-350 from a customer of mine that I fixed. If your seat looks like this it's not gonna take much to make it look a lot better then that.
Supplies.... you will need some stuff before you start this project and most of them you can get from your automotive paint store.
- Denatured alcohol - used for prep
- sandpaper - used for prep and sanding of cracks in leather 240 grit and 400 grit a couple of sheets of each will be good.
- 1 aerosol can of Sem Plastic and Leather Prep - if not available not really necessary but nice to have. helps to open the pores of the leather to help the adhesion of the dye.
- 1 aerosol can of Sem Classic Coat or Sem Sure Coat leather dyes (if you get the sure coat, it's waterborne and is a lot more flexible and more like the finish already on the leather and will not dry the leather out). But most auto stores only carry the Classic Coat which will work, just don't load the dye on, the more chance for it crack later. Now take the vehicle with you or something to match the color, if you ask the guys at the auto paint store they can probably find the right color for you.
- A sealer of some sort is needed to seal the raw leather before you dye it but not always necessary. If available Thompson Water Seal will work, or a leather sealer like Leather Tac this will help the dye adhere to the raw leather and help to smooth out some of the rough leather. Another trick is glue, but it needs to be a flexible glue and one that does not contain silicone. If you can get leather glue from your local craft store that would be perfect. Glue will seal the leather and lay down the rough leather.
- 1 can of a plastic adhesion promoter, I like Bulldog easy to use and it works
- terry cloth towels
- paper towels
- soft scrub brush
- Scotch Brite pad - green one is fine
- latex gloves
- hair dryer - helps speed things up a little
Clean the seat thoroughly before you start. Mix a small amount of mild soap ( Dawn dish soap ) and warm water in a small bucket. Dip your scrub brush in the solution of cleaner and scrub the seat from top to bottom, making sure to get down in all the crevices of the seat, wipe the seat clean with the terry cloth towel. Now take the Scotch Brite pad and dip it in the solution and scrub the seat again, this time scrub in small circular motions, this step not only finalizes the cleaning process it also scuffs the dye on the seat to give the new dye something to adhere to. In some instance dye will come up when this step is done, don't worry because your going to dye it anyway. Wipe the seat clean with a towel. Next, wipe the seat down with the denatured alcohol on a paper towel, while the alcohol is wet wipe behind it with a clean paper towel, to remove all the goo and silicon that will keep the dye from sticking to the seat,
Once you have cleaned the seat thoroughly, it's time to work on the cracked or worn area. Take a strip of your 240 grit sand paper and dip in the cleaning solution and wet sand the area where the cracks are, you will see the dye start to lift and move around while you are sanding this is a good thing, move that dye into the cracks and use it as a filler. Wipe the area with your towel and see if the area is smoother, in cases where there are cracks is where I use leather fillers to fill in the cracks, but this is the "quick fix". Now dry the area with a hair dryer if available. Getting the cracked area as smooth as you can get it will help to hide the worn area and make your repair look better.
Now if you the Sems Leather Prep use it now, follow the directions on the back, pretty simple, wipe on wipe off. If the area is still a little rough use the glue with your figure and rub it onto the rough area and smooth it out, let dry and sand it smooth. Seal the area if you can by wiping the sealer with a paper towel on the area.
Time to dye. Use a small piece of cardboard to use as a blocking card for the over spray. You will have some over spray so cover the areas with an old sheet, like the console and seat belts. Spray the seat with the dye holding the can 12 to 18 inches from the seat, using short swooping burst, don't just start spraying away. Spray light coats, letting them dry between (use the hair dryer). You can sand between coats, if there are still some rough areas. In some cases if the cracks aren't filling in, you can spray a heavier coat over the cracked area and rub it into the cracks with you hand. Two to three coats of dye should be sufficient. Spray the whole face of the seat to blend the color and make it look more uniform, remember short bursts and light coats. Now hopefully at this point you should be seeing a good looking seat.
This is what your seat should look when your done, granted I am a professional and I use all of the top of the line products, so yours may not look this good but it should be close.
Let dry for a few hours before you drive, but be careful, only sit on them if you have to. Optimal drying time is 8-10 hours for the dye to cure out totally.
The last step is to condition, I can't stress this enough. Leather needs to be conditioned to keep it soft and flexible. There are several types of conditioners that are great to use, one I recommend to all my customers is Lexol, it's created by a company that deals in just leather products. Just pick a good one and make sure you put it on, it will finish your job and make your seats feel and look great.
Hopefully this helps you in you leather repair adventure. If you have any questions about your leather repairs don't hesitate to contact me, there are so many different situations that have so many different ways to fix them. It's really hard to put it all in one article. So join my forum or email me with your questions on how to fix cracked leather.