How to repair car upholstery

Written by contributing writer
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No one likes to see rips, tears or hole in the car upholstery. Generally, the sight conjures up images of coughing up a lot of cash to manage a costly repair job. The good news is that many of the holes that appear in upholstery are somewhat minor and can be repaired without the use of a professional. Before you spend a lot of money on upholstery repairs, try these steps.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Patches
  • Upholstery thread
  • Upholstery or canvas needle
  • Vinyl repair gel

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  1. 1

    Examine the upholstery. How you proceed will be impacted by the type of material used for the upholstery repair. Know whether you are dealing with vinyl, leather or a woven fabric blend.

  2. 2

    Determine the nature of the problem with the upholstery. Tears must be handled differently from holes created by cigarette burns. Knowing whether you are dealing with a rip in the material or a burn hole lets you narrow your focus on possible solutions.

  3. 3

    Thread the needle. Use thread that is strong enough for use with upholstered products. Also, the needle should be durable and slightly curved rather than a simple sewing needle. You can find upholstery needles at many fabric shops. In a pinch, you can go with a curved canvas needle purchased from a marina.

  4. 4

    Begin sewing the torn area. This is most easily accomplished with a simple “X” stitch. A stitch of this type is a crisscross design that creates the appearance of an X. Make sure to place the stitches closely, since this will strengthen the overall hold of the stitching.

  5. 5

    Apply a small amount of upholstery gel over the stitching. This step is generally recommended for vinyl and leather only. Use a patch that has a similar grain to indent the surface of the gel. This will help to create a pattern that will soften the appearance of the stitches.

  6. 6

    Allow the gel to set. When done, the rip or tear should be completely sealed, ensuring the torn area does not continue to expand. The hardened gel will help to protect the stitches and prevent any stretching that could create a new rip in the immediate area.

Tips and warnings

  • While there are a lot of kits on the market that claim to repair rips in car upholstery to the point that they are not noticeable, this is rarely the case. Save your money and repair the small blemishes yourself for a fraction of the cost of these kits.
  • This process is intended for use on small tears or rips only. If the torn area is more than a few inches long, chances are that the upholstery must be replaced, or at least patched and covered with washable car seat slipcovers.

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