Hey guys its Mike – The Interior Guy here with some more great tips for your Automotive Interior Repair needs. Long time no posts huh? Its been totally crazy here at the Warren Ranch with training, taking care of biz, and fun family activities, but had a great summer with business and personal, and I hope you all had the same.
Well to start out with I want to welcome a couple of new peeps to the list of Automotive Interior Trainees I’ve had the honor to train. First is a gentleman from Virginia Beach, Virginia…Reuel Atkinson, he’s already a tech down there but just needed a little refresher and learn some new techniques to give him more guaranteed repairs. He spent 3 days with me and we covered a lot of material thru those days for sure but I know when he left he had a whole new outlook on his repairs. He’s an extremely picky guy like me so we got along great, lol.
Secondly but not least for sure is my guys from Delta Sonic, and a big shout out to my yankee buds, John and Scott…what a hoot of a time we had as well as a lot of learning and hard work. John and Scott spent the full 2 week session with me and are taking there excelled skills back to the Chicago and Buffalo, New York areas. I have to say I was extremely proud of these guys when we got done. I had them in la la land for the first couple of days with all the information I had thrown at them, but by the third and forth days they were itching to get in there and work. In my program I ease these guys into the repairs so when they do the repair they are knowledgeable enough with the products and how they work that they can do a repair with ease from start to finish, so I understand their itch, lol, but like I’ve always said…patience, patience, patience, that is probably the most important thing in this business. By the last days of training with John and Scott they were champs for sure. In fact they probably didn’t even need me there for some of the repairs at the end…
Well now that we’ve gotten the intros out of the way, lets get down to business…
Cracked Leather Repair and Conditioning the leather with Fatliquor before you repair. Ok first I want to talk a bit about cracked leather repair and then the application of the fatliquor because they kinda go in congruent steps so…
I’ve struggled for years with cracked leather and how to sand and eliminate as much of a crack as possible. The reason is to have not to add too much filler or even none at all. I’ve come up with a pretty good trick I want to share with you today that i think will save you time and your customers leather as well.
It’s a lot like the previous posts of wet sanding leather with my prepping solution, which by the way I’ve kinda eliminated in the prepping of leather due to pH problems and I’ll explain that here in a minute.
Now cracks in the leather start in the top layer of urethane and migrate thru to the leather and thats where we’re gonna start is breaking through that top layer and expose the leather underneath. The reason for this is to eliminate the cracked coating and to soften the edges of the cracks in the leather making them look more like a creases then a cracks.
To do this I use a mixture of 60-40 Acetone and Denatured Alcohol with a piece of 120 grit sandpaper. One thing to I will say when doing this is to be careful not to drip the solution onto other parts of the vehicle because it will leave a spot or remove the finish, so take a towel and hold it close and be careful!
Now take your sandpaper and a squeeze bottle of your mixed solution and pore a little of the solution onto the cracks and immediately start sanding, you’ll notice the coating smearing around and as the solution dissipates the coating will smooth down into the cracks and ball up and sand away. Do this until the coating is all but gone. Leaving a little in the cracks to lessen the need for filler. You’ll now be left with a raw spot on the seat and probably if the cracking isn’t to severe, no cracks at all. Otherwise the cracks will be smoother on the edges. I’ve found that in a lot of cases that just a light sanding with the solution is all it takes to rid the seat of cracks. But of course there are those really bad cracks, and those you need to be a little more delicate with due to there’s usually not much leather left. Just don’t sand to far with it and bust through. I’ve found folding the sandpaper into a roll and sanding the cracks helps to smooth them out even further and sometimes out all the way.
Once you’ve gone over your cracked areas with your solution and 120 grit, you might go back over the area with a 240 or even 400 grit sandpaper to smooth it out even more, making a nice area to start your repairs and coating of the leather.
Once you’ve sanded your cracks down and before you even do any repairs to the leather how bout conditioning the leather and making it nice and soft again?
The solution we used has dried the leather even more then it was before and really we’ve kinda untanned it as well. So by adding a fatliquor to the leather we replenish what we have lost and gain the nice supple feel back into the leather again and yes conditioning the leather prior to repairs can make a world of difference to your finished product.
Something I was never taught and I’m sure not many of you have heard of this either. What I’m talking about here is adding a fatliquor to the leather before you coat the leather or even do repairs.
Fatliquor is a softening solution added to the hides after the tanning process to make the hide more supple, soft and flexible. Since we’ve stripped some of these oils away we need to put them back.
All I do is pore a little on to the cracked area, rub it in with my finger or even a towel if I’m working in a larger area and let the leather just soak it up. I’ll usually go mix my colors or do another repair while that soaks in, it doesn’t take long depending on the humidity, but I can also speed up the drying time a bit with a hair dryer.
The fatliquor will not compromise any of your coatings as long as it is dry to the touch.
I was taught this by Pamela Delegomez with Leather Solutions. She’s an IICRC Leather Trainer and although I haven’t had the honor of meeting and training with her yet I did get a chance to talk with her over the phone about this and she recommended I do this with all leather repairs. It will not only soften the leather but also help with the repair process by adding moisture back into the hide hence giving you a better ending product.
Once you’ve fatliquored the seat your now ready to seal the area off and proceed with your leather fillers if need be. A lot of times after the sanding process with the Acetone and Denatured Alcohol solution I won’t need to fill at all, this solution will basically melt many of the smaller cracks away and all that is needed is a coating of color and I’m done. It really has saved me time and made my repairs look a lot better and last longer.
Always keeping in mind cleaning the area from any sanding debris before proceeding with sealing, filling, and coating, will assure the best of adhesion with any job.
Remember me saying earlier that I’ve eliminated my prepping solution in my leather repair process. Well I’ve done this for a couple of reasons, one the pH was just to high and I think was messing with my coatings and I found the process I use now is just yielding me a better result.
I’m using a pH balanced cleaner now to clean the leather first which I highly recommend you check this stuff out. I get it from the Chemical Guys, its their Extreme Leather Cleaner and it does clean extremely well which I was impressed with and does not harm the leather nor hamper with any of my leather repair process.
So by using this cleaner I’ve eliminated my pH problem, which now I don’t have to neutralize before repairs, and helping the customer down the road by not using a harsh cleaner on their leather. I still do recommend you neutralize after using any high pH cleaner though.
One aspect of my prepping solution was opening the pores to the leather so the coatings would bite better, well I’ve gone to the Acetone and Denatured Alcohol to do that now with amazing results. The Acetone opens the pores like in my solution, but quicker and better, and the Denatured Alcohol melts the surface a bit giving me a better adhesion for my coatings as well as the Acetone, both tack the surface up very nicely. You can also use, which I also recommend, is Viper Products Leather Prep, works a lot the same.
I do this right before I spray and wipe my coatings in. Then proceed as I normally do finishing the seat off with my color and a nice topcoat of clear to give that nice finish feel.
Just like anything in this business, less is always better, this goes for the Acetone and Denatured Alcohol mixture as well as the fatliquor. Adding too much of either can cause damage to the underneath glues, seat heaters, foams, as well as the leather. So don’t go hog wild with your Leather Crack Repair and fatliquoring and end up damaging what your trying to repair. Use very little fatliquor to moisturize because remember there already is fatliquor in the leather, actually water will soften better, but again watch how much due to mold and your repairs. It’s all a balancing act when it comes to Leather Repair for sure and with all the factors taken into aspect its hard sometimes to find that fine line of perfection.
Good luck with all your Leather Repairs guys and feel free to comment or email me with any questions you may have. I’ve temporarily deactivated my forum due to an incredible amount of spam. So its emails and comments for now. Thanks everyone for all your support…
My next adventure is the Mobile Tech Expo in Tampa, Fl. in January so hope to see y’all there!!!