How to Restore Auto Upholstery

Written by brenda priddy
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How to Restore Auto Upholstery
Restoring a vehicle's upholstery takes years off of the appearance of the car. (seat belt receptacle image by Albert Lozano from

With frequent use of any vehicle, the upholstery will become worn, stained and torn. One alternative to replacing all of the upholstery inside a car is to restore the upholstery with easy-to-find tools and materials. Both cloth and leather upholstery can be restored to a like-new appearance. Restoring auto upholstery is a time consuming process, but worth it in the end.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Ratchet set
  • Phillips and flathead screwdrivers
  • Steam cleaner with upholstery attachment
  • Upholstery stain treatment
  • Carpet cleaner
  • Box fan
  • Upholstery patch
  • Velour fibres
  • Fabric adhesive
  • Glue
  • Small clamps
  • Carpet dye
  • Soft bristle brush
  • Carpet adhesive
  • Leather cleaner
  • Soft cloths
  • Leather patch kit
  • Leather glue
  • Leather conditioner

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    Cloth Upholstery

  1. 1

    Disconnect any seat belts attached to the car ceiling with a ratchet. Unbolt the seats from the vehicle interior and remove them from the car. Pull out any worn or damaged carpet from the vehicle floor.

  2. 2

    Steam clean all upholstered parts of the vehicle including the door panels and headliner. Clean the upholstery once with a stain pre-treatment cleaner, then once with a regular cleaner and follow with a rinse cleaning of pure water. Dry the upholstery by placing a fan near the upholstery and blowing air on it until it is dry.

  3. 3

    Repair any holes in the upholstery with an upholstery patch. Cut a patch that is 1 inch larger than the hole or tear on all sides, and glue to the underside of the hole. Spray a small amount of fabric adhesive over the patch and cover the patch with velour fibres. Allow the upholstery to dry for 2 hours.

  4. 4

    Pull any sagging fabric on the headliner tight toward the edges of the headliner. Place a small amount of glue near the edge of the headliner to hold the fabric in place. Clamp the fabric in place with a small clamp until the glue dries.

  5. 5

    Spray carpet dye over all of the upholstery inside the vehicle. Work the dye into the fibres of the upholstery with a soft bristle brush. Allow the upholstery to dry for 2 hours.

  6. 6

    Spray the vehicle floor with carpet adhesive. Replace the vehicle's carpet back inside the car. Install the seats back inside the car.

    Leather Upholstery

  1. 1

    Clean the leather with a soft cloth and leather cleaner until the cloth comes away clean.

  2. 2

    Cut a leather repair patch that is one inch larger than any rips or tears in the fabrics on all sides. Slide the patch under the tears and glue the patch to the underside of the original leather.

  3. 3

    Fill the patch to the level of the original leather with leather filler. Allow the filler to dry for an hour. Work dye into the filler to dye the filler to match the original leather.

  4. 4

    Condition the seats with leather conditioner until it is soft and supple. Continue to condition the leather once every six months to prevent additional leather tears.

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