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How to Repair Leather
Keep in mind, our products are designed with the professional technician in mind. However, there are some who feel adventurous and want to try to do it themselves. While there is nothing that replaces years of experience, good common sense and some 'how-to' articles could take you a long way. There is no 'one way' to do it, either. Ususally, based on the experienced technician's prior knowledge, experience, and discretion a good choice can be made regarding how to do the repair. Here we are going to try to cover a few ideas how leather seats can be repaired.
Typical leather repair steps include:
1.) Prep Leather
2.) Repair Leather
3.) Prime Leather
4.) Dye Leather
Step1: Prep Your Leather
Prepping your leather before repairing or dying your leather is very important and often times gets under-estimated. The purpose of prepping your leather is to remove the oils, dirt, and grime and open the pores of the leather. If leather is not prepped properly, leather repair products and leather dye could start to peel up due to the lack of adhesion. A badly prepped repair job could give the impression of a bad repair or bad repair product.
What Can You Use to Prep Your Leather?
Let's talk a little bit about these products:
Leather Prep is the first prepping agent that generally comes to mind. It has a strong odor and works very well as a prep.
DDT, also known as Doc's Dirt Terminator, is an EXCELLENT leather prep alternative. Made in house, we have been able to formulate a good leather prep that does the job well and is more cost effective for the customer. DDT can be used also in carpet and cloth seats to remove stains. It is definitely a great product to keep stocked in your kit.
How do you know when your leather has been prepped properly?
We like to call it the famous TAPE TEST. Put a piece of tape on the prepped area, if it comes off too easily then it is not ready; however, if there is a good grab between the tape and the leather, your leather is ready for the next step.
Step 2: Repairing Your Leather
Naturally, repairing your leather depends much on the nature of the repair. One important determining factor depends much on the extent of the repair work needed. For instance, is the color worn from the leather and the underskin is showing? Are the cracks deep cracks? Do the cracks go through-and-through the leather or are they just deep cracks? These factors can determine which products you will use to repair your leather seats.
For the best and more complete guide to doing cloth, leather, and vinyl repair work yourself. Buy Mobile Madness Book and CD.
Here are some things to get your started:
1.) Worn Leather - Color has rubbed off, but no holes: the idea here is to use a product that will seal the leather so that the worn area doesn't get worse and begin to develop a hole. Products you use include: The Answer, Leather Bee. Technician's pick: Leather Bee, The Answer, . Consider, if the area is a high wear area and the original color rubbed off, it only makes sense that you would want to be able to use a product that can withstand that heavy wear area once again. Leather Bee is great to seal worn leather, offer flexibility and durability, and prevent having to use as much dye to cover the repair area. The Answer is great to seal the areas of the leather where the color has rubbed off and the suede of the underskin is showing. The Answer is used similarily to the Leather Bee in this sense except the Answer is clear. For someone starting out who may have little to no experience, it is usually recommended to choose a product that is a little more forgiving, like Leather Bee.
2.) Deep cracks in leather; but no holes: Using your palette knife to spread the compounds into the cracks, here are some leather repair products you could use to alleviate the deep cracks in your leather from getting worse and becoming holes: Leather Bee, Deep Leather Fill, Leather Cream Fill, Leather Soft, These are all air dry products. The benefit to using Leather Bee, is that you can order it in the color you need so that it cuts down how much dye you will have to use once you finish repairing your seats.
3.) Holes in your leather seats: This is where it can get tricky and more costly. The old-faithful repair method for repair seats often times required a heat cure. A heat cure requires a heat gun or hand held torch and grain pad to make the texture/grain impression. This also takes experience knowing how hot you need to get the compound for the proper curation time. If not heated long enough or cured well enough, the repair will come up. If you get it too hot and let the heat hit the leather outside of the area where the applied compound is, you chance shrinking your leather in the spot where the heat hits. Some holes may need a mesh. Some holes may need an underpatch. Technician's pick: Best Friend, Original BullDog. Best Friend is a thicker and great filler for holes; OBD (Original BullDog) is known for its strength and flexibility. OBD is also a low-heat cure product - best for leather repair if you need to use a heat repair compound. Technician tip: Fill holes with Best Friend - cure. Follow with a few coats of OBD - cure OBD between coats. Then to help with the coloring process and additional strength and flexibility - rub a coat of Leather Bee over finished repair.
Step 3: Prime Your Leather - Preparing It for Leather Dye
In one word: AMIGO
One of the best waterbase leather primers - AMIGO is your best friend!
The purpose of Amigo is to create adhesion of your leather dye to your leather and repaired area. This can be wiped on. It will dry shiny and a little sticky. This is good because this is part of the adhesion you need to increase the grip of your waterbase dye on your seats to prevent color wear. Amigo is also EXCELLENT for use on steering wheels.
Step 4: Dye Your Leather
Once your seat has been properly prepped, and repair is complete if needed, and you have applied your Primer - then you are ready to begin your dye process. First, the hardest part, figuring out which color you need for your leather dye project. You can go to the Classic Waterbased Dye category to find a list of makes of cars. By clicking the make of your car, you can go in and open the color chart to select your color. This may SOUND easy, but colors are not always accurately depicted on a computer monitor. Some have asked if it could be printed but it would still not be able to accurately capture the exact color match. These color charts are helpful when researching by make and model, but not full proof. You can call the office at (337)678-2114 for any assistance you may need in this regard. Ideally, mailing us a small piece of a sample of your leather that can sometimes be found underneath the seats can be sent to us for a perfect color match. No doubt, the color from under the seat will be the color of the leather when it was new. It is possible that the leather you are dying could be discolored for a number of reasons due to wear and age. Sometimes, customers have sent us a seat belt cap to match the color to as well, in which was sent back to them along with their order.
Once your color selection is made, then you need to ask yourself if you want to get it in an aerosol or a premix.
What's the difference between an aerosol and a premix?
Most people are familiar with an aerosol. An aerosol is your leather dye in a can ready to spray. An aerosol contains approxiamately 3-4 ounces of dye in each can. Aerosols are designed to spray just the right amount of dye out with that perfect sprayed texture. Aerosols are definitely convenient and easy to work with. It definitely increases your level of comfort in dying your leather if you are new to this kind of work or have never done it before. The down side is, it can get costly if this is something you plan on doing for more than just a few projects. That is why we have created an alternative to get a bigger bang for your buck.
Alternative to aerosol is a Premix with a Preval Sprayer Unit. For those who do not have their own detail gun to spray leather dye from, you can purchase the Preval Sprayer Unit along with your Premix. This allows you to attach your premix to a propellant to give you the same resulting effect of an aerosol. Often times, it is wise to get more than one Preval Sprayer Unit for larger jobs. Premix is the leather dye color of your choice that is ready to use; just put in your detail gun or use with Preval Sprayer Unit. It is more cost effective to get a 4 oz Premix and Preval than 1 aerosol. The difference in price is not much for those who are just needing a can or two, but for those who are needing more cans because of a more extensive project. It becomes more cost effective to get a Quart of Premix, preval sprayer units, and bottles for the prevals then to buy 5-6 aerosol cans.
For the Experienced Technician. You can opt to add to your premix certain additives to make it more appealing or more durable. For instance, it is a good idea to add Forgiven Crosslinker to your premix to increase its durability. Some choose to add additive likes Slip-Ayd to eliminate friction and create a more natural feel, or Flex-Ayd to increase flexibility of the leather dye, or Flat-Ayd to give the dye an even lower gloss/matte luster.
After choosing whether your prefer an aerosol or a premix and have your color selection, you are ready to order your products and start your project. Once you are ready to dye your leather, it is good to remember to use light coats. Dry inbetween coats with a hair drier. Repeat as necessary until you receive the coverage you need to finish your dye work. Once you have done this, and your leather dye is dry, you are ready for your final step.
Step 5: Applying Your Topcoat - Protect Your Dye Work
After you have completed your dye work, you are ready for your topcoat. A topcoat is very important in order to preserve durability and extend the life of your dye work. After all, you don't want this hard work to go to waste and you want it to last as long as possible. Like the leather dye, you have basically 2 options: Aerosol or premixed dyes just wipe on. Naturally, a premixed dyes will give you more product for your cost, but the aerosol offers you the convenience of that perfect spray if you don't have a detail gun to put the non-aerosol topcoat in. Your Aerosol topcoat is called Killershield. It comes in Matte, Satin, and High Gloss. Your non-aerosol topcoat is called Shields Up. Shields Up basically comes in Matte and Satin. The Preval Sprayer Unit can be used along with the Shields Up as well. Satin in both cases being the most popular choice.
You won't need as much topcoat as you will leather dye in most cases. 1 can of Killershield could definitely provide enough coverage for 2 whole front seats if not more.
Note: All prices in US Dollars