How to Restore Car Seats

Updated March 23, 2017

A car's interior and seats can soon start to show signs of wear and tear. Some people, such as classic car collectors and restorers like Wayne Carini from Chasing Classic Cars television show, believe that original upholstery should never be repaired or replaced. Instead, it should be preserved, in its existing condition. For regular vehicles and their owners, restoring seats can mean having the seats professionally reupholstered or simply covering them with fabric seat covers. If you have leather seats, however, they can benefit from a simple home restoration that is easy to accomplish.

Remove the seats from the vehicle if they require extensive cleaning and restoration. Skip this step, however, and restore the seat(s) in place if the restoration there is manageable.

Vacuum the vehicle's interior thoroughly, using a nozzle attachment to pick up any material lodged in the seams or seat joints.

Wipe the seats over with a rag or sponge dampened with warm water to remove any obvious grime. Stubborn dirt can be removed by using a dampened soft bristle brush and a proprietary leather cleaner. Use the brush in a circular motion. Allow the seats to dry thoroughly.

Examine the seats carefully to identify worn and fragile spots. Use fine 600-grit sandpaper to gently remove any imperfections. Wipe again with a damp rag after sanding, and allow to dry. If the seats appear stable and in good shape, they will withstand further processes such as dying and conditioning.

Apply a test sample of a liquid leather product, such as Repair It All website's Leather and Vinyl Repair Kit, to an unnoticeable area to test for colour match. Most liquid leather products come with a toner that can be added to the product to alter the shade. If you are satisfied with the colour achieved by the product, continue to apply evenly over the seats, according to the product manufacturer's instructions. A sponge is a good tool for application. When dealing with cracks and creases in the leather and areas where the surface leather is completely worn, dilute the product by 30 per cent and rub into the affected areas. Perform this process gradually. Apply a light coat, then further coats as necessary, to achieve the best result.

Finish the restoration by applying a leather conditioner, once the seats are completely dry. Ideally, allow at least 24 hours after having applied the liquid leather. A conditioner will enhance the richness of the colour and give the seats a nice sheen. Use proprietary leather products that will not rub off on clothing or skin.


Shoe repair, leather and car detailing stores are good sources for leather cleaning supplies. Ask a local car restorer for advice and tips. if you show a genuine interest to learn, you may get some useful tips from an expert.


Be patient when using a liquid leather product. These take time to achieve a good colour match. Ensure that you are completely satisfied with the colour match, prior to applying the liquid leather to noticeable areas of leather.

Things You'll Need

  • Sponge
  • Rags
  • 600-grit sandpaper
  • Leather cleaner and conditioner
  • Liquid leather
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About the Author

Helen Harvey began her writing career in 1990 and has worked in journalism, writing, copy-editing and as a consultant. She has worked for world-class news sources including Reuters and the "Daily Express." She holds a Master of Arts in mass media communications from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.