How to Repair Tears and Cracks on Car Seats, Part One

Got a crack or tear on the seat of an older car?  Unless you’re driving an original XK series Jaguar, it’s unlikely that you want to have the seat reupholstered by a professional -it’s just too expensive. Fortunately, we have some good news, you may not have to. With a little patience, the average DIYer can do a passable seat repair. All you need is a little guidance on how to do it, such as from an article like this!

Setting Expectations

For starters, let’s acknowledge that if you do a leather repair yourself, the repaired crack or tear will never be completely hidden. No matter how good you are, your repair will still be slightly visible. Frankly, if you want your car seat to look like new, you’ll have to take it to a professional upholstery shop -and pay big money.

Tears that Are Not on a Seam

In this article, we will deal with cracks and tears that are not against a seam. These are rips and cracks on the flatter, more open sections of a seat. With this sort of tear, we will have access to the back of the seat material on both sides of the rip. To repair this sort of damage, you want to glue a piece of fabric underneath each side of the rip and hold the rip closed while the glue dries.

Let’s start by making sure that you have material on either side of the rip to glue to. In most cases, this will be obvious, but in some situations, you’ll need to verify you’ve got enough room. A quick and easy way is to take a butter knife and make sure you have at least ½ inch of space on either side of the rip for the patch material underneath to glue to.

Selecting Patch Material

It is important to choose a suitable patch fabric. A piece of canvas or some other heavy-duty cloth is perfect. Got any old uniforms around? The important factor is that you want some woven cloth that will absorb glue well but thick enough so it won’t stretch or warp under pressure. If the color of the patch material is similar to your seat material, so much the better.


There are many suitable adhesives to use for gluing a patch under a seat tear. The important characteristics are that it is easy to apply, water soluble for cleanup, and remains flexible after its dried. Our experts at Patrick Volvo of Schaumburg, a local Volvo dealer in Schaumburg, IL say that professional upholsterers use special water-based adhesives that meet these requirements but set up quickly. Many DIYers find the good old Elmer’s school glue works just fine.

The Procedure

This section requires a little creativity. In order to make a good repair, you need to slip the fabric patch under the seat rip and apply sufficient glue to the edges. This usually requires holding the seat material up just a bit with your butter knife, and then squirting glue underneath.

The next step is where a little creativity is needed. Somehow you need to close the gap and put a weight on the whole section until the glue dries. Many people use smooth, clean rocks, metal dollies, or something that is reasonably heavy with a curved surface.

So, after the glue is applied, close the gap as much as you can and then put the weight on it. You may want to duct tape the whole structure together but be careful not to attach duct tape to parts of the seat where it might pull off some of the colored surface.

When the adhesive is completely dried, release the pressure and admire your progress!

Filler and Coloring

If your patch is successful, you might want to consider filling the remaining gap and coloring it. Various companies sell kits which enable you to mix colors for vinyl and leather repairs. Getting a close match is difficult, but you can get pretty close.

There are companies (such as those below) that sell pre-mixed bottles containing an exact match to your car’s seat color. The colored medium is often of the heat-cure type. The technique is much like ironing. The challenge, of course, is to heat the patch enough to cure the material without overheating the surrounding seat material.

Suggested Vendors

Online specialty retailers such as Leather Magic, MagicMender and LeatherWorldTech have kits for about $50 that come with a bottle of pigmented leather paint. They stock hundreds of pre-mixed colors to match almost any production automobile seat. That may well be worth the cost in order to avoid the aggravation of trying to mix and match the seat leather from basic colors.

In our next article, we will look at repairing tears that butt up against a seem on a car seat. A little extra work is needed to repair this sort of tear.

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