How to reupholster car door panels

Written by jenny carver
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How to reupholster car door panels
A door panel that could be reupholstered for a new look. (interior panel of car door image by JoLin from

The upholstery on your car door panels can take a beating. From shoes with dirt and mud scraping against them from climbing in and out of the car, to the arm rest becoming used and worn, door panels may need to be reupholstered. Door panels can also be reupholstered with a new or different type of material just to change the look inside the car.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • New material
  • Spray adhesive
  • Flat screwdriver
  • Philips screwdriver
  • Cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Razor blade

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  1. 1

    Remove the door panel from the door completely. Remove all screws, pull the panel away from the door and disconnect any wiring from behind the panel. Lay the panel on a flat surface using cardboard as a cushion so the panel doesn't get scratched.

  2. 2

    Pop out any inserts from the door panel. This includes the armrest, door handle insert, storage areas and window and door lock control panels. Some of these inserts can be covered in the new material, but some, like the window and door lock controls, will remain as they are and then be reinstalled over the new material.

  3. 3

    Pull the old material off of the door panel and inserts that will be reupholstered. You don't need to remove the old adhesive from behind the material. Lay the new material over the panel and inserts and use scissors to cut it to fit. Leave at least two inches of extra material all the way around the edges.

  4. 4

    Work with one part at a time. Lay the material on top of a part, fold it in half so that you see the underside of half of the material and half of the part is exposed. Spray a moderate amount of adhesive onto the part. Spray a thin coat of adhesive on the material. Wait a full minute for the adhesive to become tacky. Carefully fold the material back over onto the part and begin smoothing it out, starting at the centre and working towards the edge. Repeat this step for the other half of the part and material. The material can be lifted up again and pressed back down to smooth wrinkles, but this must be done within a two minutes of spraying the adhesive.

  5. 5

    Replace the inserts back into the door panel once all inserts and the panel have been covered in material. Use the razor blade or scissors to trim out any holes that are needed to replace screws or parts. If a hole is needed to place an insert into the door panel, start in the centre of where the hole needs to be and make a small incision in the material, making it bigger as needed.

  6. 6

    Leave excess material on the back of the panel and inserts. This ensures that the front of the door panel looks finished and the corners or edges won't start pulling back or exposing the plastic underneath. The excess can be folded and tucked behind the panel as you reinstall it on the door.

Tips and warnings

  • Almost any material can be used for door panels including fabric, leather, vinyl and suede.
  • Don't spray adhesive in an enclosed area. Work in a well ventilated, open area.

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