This is definitely not a quick fix or a temporary fix that I’m going to talk about today. This is the way that I repair leather on a daily basis that has been worn or cracked.
There are so many different ways that a leather seat gets worn, the usual spots are the bolster on the lean-back and the outer panel or center panel of the seat bottom. Some of which have had sizable holes that depending on where they are positioned can be fixed with a low heat leather repair compound and an under-patch.
Now before I start any leather repair project I mix my water based leather dye. I look around the seat side for a clean spot to get a good match, if there isn’t a clean spot then I make one. Two reasons I mix my leather dye prior to starting and that is for one to make sure that I have the leather dye on board with me, which I always stock every night so I know I will, but you never know, and for second I want to make sure I get the color right before I start. Color match is a big thing to me, nothing looks worse then a bad color match. In fact you can ruin a seat if the color isn’t right, by not getting your color exact you won’t achieve the natural look of the leather seat and the interior of the vehicle. When mixing I always look around the vehicle to see the color scheme and make sure that I have a good match. Test your leather dye on the seat side, put a dab, dry it, if it disappears then your good, if not tint.
Once we have our leather dye mixed the right color with the appropriate amount of cross-linker, flex additive, and flat additive if needed, it’s time to clean and prep the leather seat. This is a very crucial part in the process and should not be taken lightly. If the area is not clean, prepped, cracks filled and leather primer applied then the leather dye will not adhere properly and you have a mess. So clean like mad.
First you take a spray bottle with a mild de-greaser mixed with water, a scrub brush, a scotch brite pad, and a towel and get to scrubbing. Spray the top portion of the seat first, scrub with the brush, then the scotch brite pad, and wipe it down. Pay close attention to the creases and the upper and outer edges of the seat, it has to be clean. Now move to the seat bottom, clean the front and the sides too, scrub it good, you don’t want to be putting leather dye over dirt.
After you have scrubbed the seat with the de-greaser, grab your spray bottle of prep solution which is a mixer of alcohol, acetone, ammonia, TSP substitute, and water mixed equally, and scrub the seat again with your scotch brite pad, this will remove any more goo left behind and prepare the leather for dye.
Once your leather seat is clean you can now get a little better picture of what kind of damage you have to the seat, the dirt gives you a false idea to the real damage, most of the time it’s not as bad as you first thought. The dirt makes it look worse.
Wet sand the damaged areas with 240 grit sandpaper and your prep solution, this will remove any ruff edges and you will notice the dye will lift and start to mix with the solution and fill and seal some of the cracks and worn areas on the leather seat, this is a good thing, use it. This gives you a smoother area to work with which means less filler to be applied, always remember less is better. So get the leather as smooth as possible. In the cracked areas if you fold your sandpaper and use the edge to sand the cracks and make them look more like a natural crease it helps. Now sanding with the solution, spray and sand until dry, the dye will start to kinda ball up a little, just keep sanding lightly until smooth, you want to use this dye as a filler too.
Once sanded apply a thin coat of grip base, or sticky primer to the seat with a wet paper towel and wiping it over the entire leather seat. Basically where your going to dye is where you need to prime. This will seal off the worn and cracked areas and give you good adhesion promotion for your leather dye.
Let’s chat a bit about the areas needing leather repair. The cracked areas depending on how deep they are will depend on the type of leather repair compounds to use. If the areas are pretty bad then I usually go for the low heat compound, but if not then I will use an air dry leather repair compounds. I have so many different types of compounds I use depending on the severity of the damage, it would be impossible for me to go into each. But one thing I try to keep in mind and that is to keep the repair area as small as possible and as smooth as possible, don’t glob your compounds on, thin layers curing between. Sanding in between the coats will help to keep things smooth and prepare for the second coat. Try using in some cases a 400 grit or even an 800 grit, this helps from lifting the compounds you just put on. When sanding low heat cured leather repair compound cool with your chill bar first, otherwise it will lift it. Cleaning as you go, always prep between coats of compounds, even a little bit of grip base between coats too and always after your compounds before dye is applied. Never hurts to dye as you go to see where your at in your leather repair, if you look good then finish the seat off and blend your leather dye over the rest of the seat. If not keep going, never just settle for ok, always go for perfection nothing less. Patience is a must, don’t get in a hurry or it will show, and in some cases hurrying your compounds will only cause you to take more time fixing your screw ups, so take your time.
Dyeing the leather seat takes finesse, start by dyeing the upper portion then work your way to the bottom and then out. This keeps from dragging your hoses across the fresh dye. Remember to dye lightly, drying in between coats with a hair dryer. Light thin coats, makes for a better job in the end trust me. When dyeing, a little hint use a plastic license plate or a piece of card board to slide down between the seat belt latch and the seat and use another one for a blocking card to cut down on your over spray.
Once dyed, it’s time for your topcoat. Top coating is a must to finish your repair off, that’s the way it’s done at the factory, dye then topcoat. This seals it all off and gives you more wear in the end, and thats what you want is a repair that lasts. I like to add a little slip additive to my topcoat to give the leather seat a softer and more natural feel. Check for over spray spots, and wipe them off by spraying a little prep solution on a towel and wipe it off, don’t leave a mess of over spray with your nicely repaired leather seat.
The seat should look new. If you did your job right, if the right dye was used, and the right steps were followed in your process to repair worn or cracked leather you should have a leather repair that will last for years to come and a happy owner of that leather seat.