How to repair a torn car seat

Karl Daum

With cloth repair kits, if you're repairing an area that gets frequent wear and use, you can lightly spray the repair with hairspray to protect it after you finish.

Car seat repair kits

Maybe you’ve finally gotten around to detailing your old car, or maybe you’re looking to spruce up the interior to make a sale. Either way, worn-and-torn seats are one of the first things you see when you open the door, and one small tear is all it takes to make your car look like a beater. 

Be it cracked leather, a busted seam or tearing, damaged upholstery might seem like one of those signs of age you just can’t avoid when it comes to car ownership. But you don’t need to be a master tailor to repair it. There are a number of quality cloth, leather and vinyl repair kits on the market that are easy to use at home. In just a few hours, you can have your seats looking like new for far less than the cost of visiting a professional detailer. 

Repairing a car seat

Clean the seat

Whether your car seat is leather or cloth, you’re going to want to clean it first. This will make it easier for the sealing agents to stick, but in the case of leather, it also might reveal that some blemishes were just dirt, where others were actually cracks. A good leather cleaner should do the trick. For cloth seats, Car Guys’ Super Cleaner works on a variety of surfaces and is biodegradable and eco-friendly. 

Leather and vinyl car seat repair

The most common cosmetic malfunction for leather and vinyl car seats are cracks and tears caused by repeated impact, sweat and spills or general aging. As long as the crack isn’t too large, you can repair it with a leather repair kit. Leather repair kits use some combination of backing fabric, sealer and die to fill in the gap and stain it to match the surrounding fabric. Some kits also require heat to finish the seal and come with a heat transfer tool, but you can always use a blow dryer, curling iron or the tip of a hot-glue gun (with the glue removed). 

How to use a leather and vinyl repair kit

In order to repair a small tear in vinyl or leather, you’ll first need to prep the surface. Make sure it is clean and free of dust and other debris. Then use a small pair of scissors to trim any frayed or rough edges. You want a clean edge for when you apply sealer. Next, cut your backing fabric to the appropriate size for the tear and slip it into the hole. Apply a small amount of glue to the edges of the tear so it sticks to the cloth. Wait for the glue to dry, then cover the backing cloth with the kit’s leather filler, building up layers until it overlaps the leather seat. 

Usually, the filler is pre-dyed to match your leather, but if it’s a grey or white generic filler, apply the colorant that comes with your kit. You might have to sand the sealer down to a smooth-and-even plane before completing this step. When the colorant dries, you’ll then apply the leather sealant to protect the surface and finish the repair.

Cloth car seat repair 

Cloth car seats follow a similar repair methodology to leather using a backing material and filler to mimic the texture and color of the surrounding fabric. Cloth repair kits, however, usually come with some sort of granular fiber in small vials rather than filler paste in a tube. These kits are great for small repairs such as cigarette-burn holes or tears. They do require a little finesse on color matching and application, so it’s best to do a test strip before you get started in order to get the right mixture down first.

How to use a cloth repair kit

Start by gluing the backing mesh down into the hole or tear that you want to repair. Try to cut the mesh down to the size of the hole exactly (even mimicking its contours if you can) because the rigid material might stand out when the job is complete if you merely lay it flat and square over the hole. Then, while the glue is wet, use the repair kit’s applicator to dab in the filler material until the mesh is completely covered. Modulate how much glue you apply so that the filler does not clump or soak, but still sticks — you want to get as close to the texture of the seat as possible. The applicator will help by allowing you to poke around the filler particles and fluff them up to get that fibrous effect. 

Best car seat repair kits for leather, vinyl and cloth

Repairing your own upholstery and leather is a quick and easy weekend maintenance task that will only cost you $10-$20. Take your time with the process, however, if you want a quality and nearly imperceptible repair. When in doubt, do a test strip to get the color or texture matching right before you start.

Master Manufacturing Fabric Upholstery Repair Kit, Assorted: available at Amazon
This kit is a good inexpensive cloth repair kit that comes with seven colors for mixing and matching, mesh, an applicator and fabric adhesive. The glue takes a while to dry but customers report impressive results, making this an efficient and reliable option. 

Coconix Fabric and Carpet Repair Kit: available at Amazon
The Coconix cloth repair kit comes with nine colors for mixing and matching, a spatula and tweezers for application, a mixing jar, backing mesh and fabric glue. Coconix supports their product with a 1-year warranty and offers expert advice on matching and application over email if you send in a picture of the damage or the repair in progress. If you’re a little unsure of your craft skills, this is a great kit and brand to get the job done with confidence.

Permatex 25247 Fabric Repair Kit: available at Amazon
Like the other cloth kits on this list, Permatex supplies seven colors, adhesive, mesh and applicator. In addition, this kit comes with a color-matching chart to help mix the fabric powders before applying. The chart makes this kit particularly helpful for those with the craft chops to pull the job off, but who also might be a little less artistically inclined.

Fortivo Black Leather and Vinyl Repair Kit: available at Amazon
This repair kit is for black leather and vinyl seats only. The kit can repair tears, scratches and cracking on a variety of surfaces. Users recommend using gloves and bringing materials to clean up, as drying times are on the longer side and the filler can smudge or stain. Fortivo also offers a 24-hour turnaround on personal guided repairs by email. 

3M Leather and Vinyl Repair Kit: available at Amazon
With seven color compounds and a modest amount of adhesive, this is a good leather repair kit for smaller tears or burns, especially for its low cost. The kit uses heat to set the repair and provides its own heat transfer tool. The materials are best suited for unsightly tears that won’t see a lot of use once repaired.

Leather Max Complete Leather Refinish, Restore, Recolor & Repair Kit: available at Amazon
The Leather Max repair kit comes in a variety of color options on their Amazon listing. This kit is great for larger jobs with ample amounts of finish in its three 1-ounce bottles. Their highly-tailored color options (eight kits in total with three different color bottles each) make this a great kit for repairing classic and luxury cars that have unique colorways in their leather interiors.

Karl Daum is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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