Leather Repair – How to Repair a Worn Leather Steering Wheel

I wrote a post a while back about how to repair a worn leather steering wheel and have gotten a lot of traffic to it but to be honest with you it’s what I call a quick fix, not a good permanent fix like what a person really needs in this business. So today I’m gonna write it a little different and give the right way to repair a worn leather steering wheel.

All the leather in today’s vehicles are being dyed with a water based dye. It’s not only safer for the environment, which we all know is really big right now, but it’s also more flexible and better for the leather itself.

My last post I wrote I gave you a quick fix using a solvent based dye. Now I’m not saying that if you were in a pinch that using a solvent based would be a bad thing, but like I said it’s a quick fix, nothing you would really want to do for a customer that’s expecting a long lasting repair.

The basic’s are the same as far as the use of a drop cloth to avoid over spray getting on the instrument panel, and the prepping is kinda the same too. But what I’m here to do is to show the right way to do this.

So with that said here we go.

After you’ve put your drop cloth behind the steering wheel, wrapping it around so that no over spray will get where you don’t want it to, take a scotch brite pad and my prepping solution and clean the leather steering wheel really good making sure you get the back of the steering wheel too. Nothing bugs me more the to see a steering wheel that has been repaired and all they have done is repaired the front. When you look through the windshield from the outside what do you see, umm the back of the steering wheel, so clean all the way around.

Once you have it clean, it’s time to address the wear that has been done to the leather.

If the leather has frayed then that frayness (not sure if that’s a word but it fits) needs to be sanded down smooth. You do this with a combination of the use of different grits of sandpaper, dry and wet sanding, and the use of leather filling compounds.

What I will do is start with a heavier grit, 240 usually but sometimes even a 120 to get there a little quicker. Wet the paper with my prepping solution and start sanding. The prepping solution will break through the dye that is already there and actually smear around bit, use this to your advantage, it kinda works as a filler and helps to smooth things out quicker. Sand until it becomes dry. Then move up to a finer grit like 400, and do the same. If it’s not as smooth as you want then move up to an even finer grit sandpaper like a 600. At this time you can still use the wet sanding technique or you can dry sand it, this will depend on the amount of damage your dealing with.

Once you have the area fairly smooth, you need to seal the leather with your water based grip base, this will not only help your compounds to stick better but make your repair easier to work with and last a lot longer in the end. I do this by taking my grip base in a small squirt bottle and put a small amount onto a folded wet paper towel then wiping it over the leather steering wheel.

After you have sealed the leather it’s time to break out your leather repair compounds. Now I have found that applying it with your finger is the easiest then trying to use a pallet knife, kinda hard to curve your pallet knife around such a tight curve. Compounds that I use the most on leather steering wheels is the old Leather Crack Filler or I’ll use Viper Products Leather Extreme Fill. Both work really well with applying it with your finger and both stay put really well too. I mostly use the Leather Crack Filler first then if I need to fill smaller imperfections then I’ll use the Leather Extreme Fill. I’ve found that the Leather Crack fill just works the best, it sands out nicely as well as stays put when sanding too.

The biggest thing to remember in repairing a worn leather steering wheel is to get it as smooth as possible, the less amount of leather repair compounds you use the better. It’s just less to go wrong later and you have a better chance of the dyes sticking in the end.

One other tip I can give you is on the Chrysler leather steering wheels and it’s on these only I have found this. Not really sure why they do this but they do. The dye actually balls up and makes the steering wheel look really rough. You can sand this if you want but I have found a better way of dealing with this without wearing your arm out trying to sand the dye down smooth. Take a terry cloth towel and some lacquer thinner and rub the dye off with the lacquer thinner soaked towel. This will take it right down to the leather and make it nice and smooth. Sometimes you will have to sand a bit after wards to get the raw leather smooth but you will surprised at the time and energy this will save you. Once your done you can fill and seal the raw leather then dye to match.

After all the imperfections are sanded, filled and smooth, you will need to prep the leather for dye. I will wipe the leather steering wheel down with my prepping solution careful not to rub the filler out then apply another coat of grip base. This ensures the dye will stick and not come off later down the road.

Now it’s time to apply your water based dye to match.

You can do this a couple of ways, either wipe it on or spray it on with either a paint gun or a preval. I almost always spray my dyes, it just seems to look better in the end and less dye is wasted, but that is totally up to you. I have found it’s easier to also run the vehicle while your dying the leather steering wheel because you can position the wheel where you need it and your not trying to dye with your gun upside down. Remember the back of the leather steering wheel too 🙂

Some people after dying will stop and call it good, which is OK because the dyes I use are ready to spray and really don’t need anything else. But I like to topcoat all my dyes with a clear water based topcoat, to me it just gives more of a barrier to wear and makes the repair last longer. I use a low gloss topcoat applied with a spray gun just like the dye.

Now I still don’t stop there either…This is a little trick I came up with kinda on my own. I found that some of the leather steering wheels after being repaired and dyed just felt dry and didn’t look natural. What I do is apply a water based leather conditioner and then I apply a leather wax or chap wax. What this does is not only restore the oils lost in the repair process but make the leather steering wheel look and feel factory. The wax also protects the leather from water and lotions that may get on there later. It just makes the leather look and feel new again!

Products that I use in all my repairs are from one of I think is the best on the market, Viper Products. I have used a lot of different products in the past and have found Viper has a higher performance dye and compounds then any other I’ve used before. So go check them out, I really think you will be impressed!

Well I hope this helps more then my last post on how to repair a leather steering wheel. Just remember to take your time when doing any repair and use a water based dye on the leather, not only is it safer for you and everybody else but I promise you it will look better in the end and last a lot longer which is what you wanted in the first place.

How to Remove Stains in Leather Seats

You left the car window down or the sunroof open and there’s a water stain in your car’s leather seat….or your girlfriend spilled here red wine in your leather car seat on a night out on the town….or your kids decided they were a soon to be artist and tried their techniques out on your leather car seat with a pen, arrggg. Got kids myself, so feel your pain. Stain removal in leather seats can be tough, here’s a few tricks to help get you going.

As a professional leather repair specialist I’m here to tell you that there are not to many products that can be used on a leather car seat that won’t remove the finish before removing the stain. Most leather in today’s cars is a finished leather with a water borne urethane leather dye applied to it and is pretty susceptible to chemicals and can be removed pretty easily with a solvent cleaner. So when in doubt call a professional.

Water stains in Leather Seat….this is a pretty hard one to get rid of. I recently had reader send me an email on how he could get the water stains out of his car after leaving his sunroof open. This part is kinda for him considering I think I lost his email with pictures, I did get to see them though, so not all was lost. The pictures showed a crease that ran along the middle of the leather seat where the water had puckered the leather. In this type of situation there are two things we could do, one is sand the crease out and with some fillers and dye make the seat new again, this is where a leather professional comes in to play, or replacement of the section that is creased, that’s where an upholstery shop comes in. In these type of situations there aren’t any leather conditioners or cleaners in the world that will remove a creased or puckered leather, what happens is the actual structure of the fibers in the leather have been altered and what you see is what you have.

If the water hasn’t puckered the leather and has just left a stain, a little trick I learned from my good friend Dwain Berlin with Leather Craft Secrets, and you go to your bread box in the kitchen for this one. Take a piece of bread and roll it up into a ball and rub and blot the area with the bread ball, works pretty good. Dwain has a lot of great advice for leather care, and if your interested in some great fun with leather go check out his book, it’s quite impressive and I myself learned a few things.

Most of the time water will just evaporate and with no problems and the stains will disappear. If your car leather gets wet dry it as best you can with a towel and then condition it with your Lexol Conditioner. One way to dry the cars leather is by leaving the windows down and setting it in the sun to dry, or crack the windows and turn your car on with the heat on full blast and let it run for about 30 minutes. I’m not real hip on that one cause it’s a waste of gas but it does work to dry things out better. But always condition, some rain waters are pretty dirty and harsh and the leather needs those extra nutrients to keep it soft.

If the stains are just too bad then new leather dye is the only way to bring it back then call your local leather professional like me to come and make it new again.

Mold Stains in Leather Seat….Or mildew which ever. This one kinda goes along with the water stains. Take and mix a cup of water and a cup of rubbing alcohol and mix them together, take a towel and rub a small amount of the solution onto the stained areas, until the spot is gone, again watch for dye lift, this trick works pretty well and usually removes the mildew pretty quick without dye removal.

Food Stains in Leather Seat….This one can be an easy one if you just don’t eat in your car, but I’m just as guilty as most and eat on the run. A mild dish soap and warm water with a rag or scotch brite pad will do the trick in most cases. Most automotive leather is finished and food stuffs usually will wipe right off. If you run into a stubborn one though try a little all-purpose degreaser on a rag, don’t rub too much or dye may lift. If the stain on your leather car seat from food doesn’t come up with this then the dye from the food has penetrated the fibers of the leather and has dyed it, so it’s time for a professional leather dye job.

Aniline leather or NuBuck leather is a different story though, thats the soft stuff you see as an inserted piece usually in the middle of the seats. You can use the soapy solution but water spots sometimes show up, so a special cleaner works best for this kind of leather. One I suggest is from the guys over at Leather Magic, they have a NuBuck Leather Care Kit that is the answer to all your NuBack needs. This kit includes cleaners and conditioners for the soft stuff, this type of leather is delicate and should be treated as such. Don’t use your usual leather cleaners and conditioners on this type of leather due to fact of the oils in them will damage the look of the leather, then no more soft feeling NuBuck, so definitely check out Leather Magics NuBuck Kit.

Ink, Marker, and Crayon on Leather Seat….Urgent!!! Get to it as soon as you can! If the ink is fresh you have a better chance of removing it from the leather then not. Rubbing alcohol, with a little bit of acetone added will sometimes get it. I’ve heard of hairspray, tried it with not much luck. Usually when an ink pen and leather come together they marry and don’t split to easily. Ink is a dye and is made to penetrate whatever it comes into contact with. Most ink spots I’ve ran into I’ve usually had to dye the leather to cover the spot.

Crayon on a leather seat can be a booger if it’s melted in the seat, you can try this but be careful not to burn or pucker your leather. Take an iron and a paper towel and lay the paper towel over the crayon and with a low heat rub the iron over the paper towel over the crayon. The crayon will melt into the paper towel, move the towel around to clean spots until the crayon is gone, a little of rubbing alcohol should remove the remaining. This trick works on carpet and cloth too. If they’re just marks on the leather seat a little soap and water should do the trick or even a little rubbing alcohol on a towel works good to. If all fails there is a product from Protective Products Corp. that is all natural with no solvents that will remove crayon and lipstick it’s called Solv-It, but just like anything try a spot in an unsuspecting spot to see if it removes dye.

One last trick that I’ve read about around the net and am in the process of testing it, but it the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, they do work around the house, so why not the car too. I’ve removed crayon and marks on my walls before with them, I do notice it take a little paint with it though, but they do work. If you use one, be careful and don’t go ape sh$#, rub it then look, rub it then look, they will remove dye, so when using it take your time and check it as you go.

Sweat Stains in Leather Seat ….Salt stains from sweat can be pretty gross looking, but there is a little trick. Take and make a solution of 3 parts vinegar and one part water and wet a towel and rub the area clean, the vinegar breaks down the and helps to remove the stain.

Paint on Leather Seat….Paint removal on a leather car seat, well that ones a hard one. If it has dried it’s probably there to stay. If it’s a water color, just use soap and water to remove it. Latex house paint, you can try a little Goof Off but keep in mind this is a solvent and can damage the leather seat and remove dye. I have in the past been able to take my pocket knife and scrape it off. Wet the area first with a little water and lightly try to lift the paint off with your knife or even a razor blade, but don’t cut the leather. Mostly though this really doesn’t work without removing the dye underneath, but I have had luck sometimes. If its car paint, try a little paint reducer on a rag, but just wipe lightly and don’t soak the area with the reducer. Solvents and leather seats just don’t mix.

My best advice to all when it come to stains in your leather car seats, and that is to be conscious of what you do, try to keep our little Picasso’s pen free, keep our food out of our cars, roll the windows up and sunroofs closed, and always remember to treat the leather with your Lexol Conditioner on a regular basis, this helps to keep the leather car seats protected and soft and makes it easier to get the spills and accidents from turning into disasters.

But always remember that we leather repair professionals are here to save those leather car seats and bring them back to there original state. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact me for all your leather repair needs.