Restoring damaged and creased leather car seats. 

Trying to restore old leather car seats without loosing their feel and patina and ending up with that just painted look.



These leather seats were a spare set. They were from a Rover P5b and had been painted.They were used to experiment on using a commercial bought kit as a basis.

In the end they were good enough to replace the originals which will also be treated. The paint was thick and brittle,it had cracked in many places. This is the back of the drivers seat.The leather surface was stiff and hard,it was impossible for hide food to penetrate the paint layers and soften the leather.

Some seams had started to split,these were repaired using a curved sailmakers needle using the original holes. The leather was sewn wet to soften it and the thread (an incredibly strong sailmakers twine) was rubbed with candle wax to help ease it through the leather.

The first thing to do was strip the excess paint off to allow the leather to breath and let the new dye to penetrate.Some of the original connolised finish was removed but most is still intact.

The seat was rubbed with thinners on a soft rag,working quickly so the thinners did not soak in to the leather. The best thing to use is a good kitchen roll.

The seat was then cleaned with an alcohol based cleaner and water using a soft scrub brush then abrasive pad and 1000 grit wet and dry paper.This left the seats dull,with patches of the original color visible,the leather is now more supple.

The cleaning and should be changed as soon as it discolours or it rubs the old finish back into the leather.

This damage was typical,cracks and creases in the paint that covered the seats but the damage had not really penetrated into the leather.Like the seat back the excess paint was removed and the seat cleaned two or three times,rinsed between each cleaning and dried. A very careful rubbing down with wet and dry removed most of the damage.The leather became much softer,dye was rubbed in the scratches,three applications dried between each one.

A clean piece of cloth is used to apply the die,a small,soft artists brush can be used on deep scratches.

The cuts and scratches are now very hard to see but the seat is ready for the first of the light sprayed coats.

A deep scratch on the front seat squab had penetrated the leather surface but had not gone through so the leather was still intact.

The area was cleaned first with thinners,then an alcohol based cleaner followd by a water rinse.A toothpick removed the paint and debirs from the bottom of the scratch.The cleaning process was repeated untill all the paint and dye had been removed from the damage.

 A water based flexible filler was used to repair the damage. A very fine layer was pushed hard into the leather to key to it.

A second thin coat was applied after the first had cured and after a further twenty four hours another coat was worked into the original damage and the area surrounding it.

A very fine rub with wet and dry removed any nibs.

The same water based dye was built up on the repaired part of the seat using a soft cloth. Four thin coats were applied with a days drying time between each.Only the first coat can be rubbed hard into the leather,if subsequent coats are applied by rubbing they tend to soften the coats underneath.

The leather is now much more flexible but the cured filler is ablle to stretch and bend with it.

The seat squab is now ready for the first sprayed coat.

The leather on the front of the drivers seat was very hard and thick with what seems to be a cellulose paint. The paint was partially removed with thinners.The leather was then carefully smoothed with wet and dry (1000 grit) used with soap as a lubricant.Most of the paint was removed and the leather was then washed,cleaned with alcohol and water rinsed and dried then the process repeated.

Dye was then worked into the surface,each coat was allowed to dry for a few hours then another coat applied. The dye is water based and dries slowly,the first coat was applied sparingly and rubbed in hard to key to the leather surface.Subsequent coats are applied more gently.

The leather was left much smoother and far more supple the 'grain' of the leather is still visible. The seat will be given a few more mist coats to help blend in where the repairs have been made.

Unless the previous coats are completely dried the next coat tends to lift them.

The water based dye was rubbed into the cracks.This was allowed to dry then the process was repeated. A third application was rubbed into the whole seat and this was repeated a few times allowing the dye to dry off well between each coat.

Most of the damage has become more difficult to see,the spray coats will be very fine mist coats using undiluted dye and a conventional gravity fed spray gun.

The seats still have a few marks and creases but are over forty years old.

The seat will now be left for a couple of days before being sealed with a wax based sealing compound.

Time taken was around 12 hours for each pair of seats spread over a couple of weeks. Total cost well under 100,with enough material left to do a second pair of seats. (The solutions have a shelf life of six months)..

The final result after sealing.

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