Do It Yourself Upholstery for Cars

Since standard upholstery is mass produced for cars, do it yourself upholstery creates your own look for your car's interior. It also helps you save money. While it requires extra time and effort, a do it yourself approach for customising, repairing or replacing auto upholstery can make your car's interior look much better without spending as much as you would if you brought your car to a shop. Even buying special parts for the job is generally cheaper than bringing it to a professional upholsterer.

Determine the type of material you will use for your car seat's upholstery. Various materials that can be used for auto upholstery include nylon fabric, vinyl, leather and special fabrics like crushed velvet and tweed. Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages, primarily in terms of visual appeal, durability and versatility.

Use a wrench and screwdriver to remove the bolts and screws that hold your car seats in place. Depending on how tight the bolts are and how long they have been in place, you may need to use a breaker bar to get enough torque to loosen the bolts.

Separate the back of each seat from its bottom since these pieces are upholstered separately.

Remove the old fabric from each piece.

Get the materials you will use to replace the old fabric. If you're using a ready-to-fit material, simply put one on each seat starting from the top, side or bottom. Making your own requires basic skills and experience in furniture or auto upholstery. Use the old fabric as your template. For more serious work requiring more than just simply replacing the fabric, cut the new material accordingly, sew each seat fabric together, and then place each set of material onto each seat.

Reassemble the seats by reversing the steps used in to remove them. Make sure all the bolts and screws are secured tightly upon reassembly.

Check for all damage on the upholstery and how many patches you need to make. For simple rips there is no need to remove the entire seat, simply remove the damaged fabric.

Since a rip in the middle of the seat requires a different treatment to one close to a seam, proper cutting of a patch material depends on the kind of pressure that would be likely exerted on the area around the rip where a person sits. Another major consideration is the type of material for the upholstery since each material has its own characteristics. For instance, less porous materials like vinyl or leather can work well with upholstery glues, but there are some fabric upholstery materials that do not hold up well with them.

Use an upholstery glue to allow the material to pull together. Depending on the amount of damage, you may have to use a patch of material underneath the upholstery as well. Glue half of the material and put it under the rip. Begin work on rips on the sides. To tightly secure the material, pull down on one side of the rip, press down on the patch and apply more upholstery glue, if needed. Once dry, apply glue to the other half of the patch.

Use an upholstery patch kit for rips in the middle of a seat. Measure the rip and cut your patch to the appropriate size, making sure that the cut extends to at least 2 inches on all sides of the rip. This avoids the risk of extending the rip through wear and tear.

Slide the patch under the rip and have a hot iron ready. Instead of glue, use heat to give it a stronger bond under pressure. After pulling one side of the patch toward the middle, press it down with the hot iron and wait for a few seconds for the patch to adhere to the material. Smooth out the other side of the material and use the iron on it as well.


Upholstery for cars mainly involves the car interior's seats, which are actually considered to be the car's furniture. Generally, skills in furniture upholstery can be readily applied for auto upholstery by knowing what materials to use and what to do to customise the car's look. Many books and manuals are also readily available to guide both beginners and those with experience regarding a do it yourself auto upholstery job.

Things You'll Need

  • Upholstery glue
  • Auto upholstery patch kit
  • Iron
  • Scissors
  • Screwdriver
  • Wrench set
  • Upholstery material
  • Breaker bar
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About the Author

Rianne Hill Soriano is a freelance artist/writer/educator. Her diverse work experiences include projects in the Philippines, Korea and United States. For more than six years she has written about films, travel, food, fashion, culture and other topics on websites including Yahoo!, Yehey! and Herword. She also co-wrote a book about Asian cinema.