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autobonrun 02-02-2005 02:32 PM

My Seat Dyeing Procedure
In case there are others that may wish to improve the look of their older leather seats, I decided to document the process I used. I recommend disassembling the seat back from the bottom and loosening the mounting hardware. This makes it possible to access all parts of the leather without interference. The optimal solution is obviously to completely remove the seating areas from the mounting hardware, but in my case, I just loosened the parts to allow access behind them and to allow the seat back to be lifted a couple inches.

I have had good luck with the Leatherique products and wrote this procedure around their offerings. Iíve also merged the Leatherique dyeing instructions with some additional instructions I found on the Internet based on what I thought made sense. Some may not wish to go through as many applications of prepping agent as I did; however, since the most important step in this process is the leather preparation, I spent considerable time doing it. Also, the use of the Lacquer thinner is optional and should be tested on a small area before using.

Hereís a photo of the first seat next to the uncompleted seat. The brown seat appears dull because it has been sanded and prepped using the lacquer thinner and prepping agent. Iíll start applying dye to it this weekend. The photo gives a side by side comparison of how complete the change is. In my case, I could not locate sport seats in cork so I purchased the brown ones and changed the color to match my original seats. The prepping efforts paid off and there are no brush marks that show. Also, if youíve ever thought about dyeing your carpet, the time to do that is while the seats are out, and you may wish to do other repairs that require seat removal. Consider those additional activities before you start on the seats so you can have any needed supplies and/or tools on hand.

All in all, it was a worthwhile project and the seat looks great from my perspective. My two boys have wanted to help me with this project so guess who gets to use a toothpick to clear the perforations. :D

The procedure I am using to dye the seats is as follows:


1) Large supply of terry cloths. I bought a 25 count pack for about $6 at an auto parts store.
2) Three acrylic (not natural hair) brushes. Buy the best quality you can find to reduce brush marks and limit any strands from coming out on the seat. Donít get cheap at this point. A high quality brush will give a high quality finish. You will need a small artistís brush, a 1Ē brush, and a 2Ē brush. Optionally, use a sprayer or air brush for the second coat.
3) Lacquer thinner (optional, test on a small inconspicuous area)
4) Leatherique Pristine Clean, Rejuvenator Oil, and Prepping Agent. Optionally also use Crack Filler for damaged areas. The filler will not work for large holes, tears, or heavily damaged areas. These areas will need to be patched first by soaking a piece of canvas (sized consistent with the tear) in fabric glue, inserting the soaked canvas into the damaged area and pulling the leather together. The filler can then be used to fill the crease. I am not affiliated with Leatherique but their products are available at the following web site.
5) Small funnel


1) Clean seats with Pristine Clean cleaning agent and allow them to dry.
2) Apply Rejuvenator Oil to soften the leather. Apply liberally and allow to soak into the leather. Keep seats in a warm/hot environment. The Rejuvenator Oil will also remove contaminants, dirt, sweat, etc. from the seats. I left the oil on one seat for two days and on the second seat for the entire period I was dyeing the first seat.
3) Remove the Rejuvenator Oil from the first seat using the Pristine Clean and allow to dry.
4) Using a clean cloth, apply Prepping Agent to remove any additional oil, surface lacquer, previous leather treatments, etc. and to start breaking down the surface of the original dye.
5) Apply more Prepping Agent using 600 grit sandpaper and further break down the dye surface. Do not wet sand to hard or too long. You donít want to turn your leather seats to suede. Wipe off grit and dye using more Prepping Agent and a clean cloth. Allow to dry for a day.
6) In a well ventilated area, apply Lacquer Thinner to the seats using a clean cloth and 600 grit sandpaper. Allow to dry for a day.
7 )Liberally apply one last coat of Prepping Agent to remove any remnants of the Lacquer Thinner and grit. Allow to dry for a couple days. At this point, apply the Crack Filler if there are any hairline cracks in the leather, allow to dry and sand smooth. Note, all the old dye will not be removed. The old color will still show, however, the new dye will be absorbed and completely cover the old dye.
8) In preparing the dye, do not shake it. Shaking forms air bubbles that show up on the seat. Instead pour all the dye into a container and stir. Get any pigment from the bottom of the bottle and stir it in also.
9)Before starting the dye exercise, check for any loose threads in the stitching. Cut them back if there are any. Make sure your terry cloths used for the prep work did not leave any lint on the seats. Remove that before starting. Using the artist brush and 1Ē brush, apply dye to the leather areas around the seat frame, the areas around the seat rail, the piping of the seats and other areas that need a detailed application.
10) Using the 2Ē brush, apply dye to the remainder of the seat front, back, and sides. Do one section at a time. Allow to dry then apply a second coat either with the brush or with a sprayer. For my second coat, I used an air brush to remove any brush lines that may have been present. If you use a high quality brush, brush lines will be minimal. Make sure you cover any metal parts to prevent overspray if using a sprayer. As you dye the leather, go back on a frequent basis and check all vertical surfaces for runs before it dries. Do before spending much time on the next section. Otherwise youíll have a solid line of dye. I was able to avoid any lines by doing this check.
11) When you think you are done, inspect for any missed areas, especially if changing the color of the seat. Touch up any areas missed. At this point, I wrapped a 3/4Ē piece of PVC pipe in plastic and inserted it between the bolsters and the seat cushions. I lightly sanded the line that had formed from the initial dye and applied dye down into the seat cushion area between the bolster and the cushion. The PVC pipe kept the two pieces of leather apart long enough to dry. No one will likely see down into this area and this step could be skipped, however, I decided to dye down between the cushions as far as possible just for my own benefit.
12) Allow the entire leather seat to dry for at least 48 hours and re-assemble the seat back and bottom.
13) Apply lubricant (white lithium grease) to the seat rails. (Thanks for the advice Zeke!)
14) Test the recline mechanism before reinstalling the seat in the car. Itís better to find and fix a problem now rather than when the seats are back inside the car.
15) Reinstall seat.
16) Repeat for the second seat. About three days before finishing the first seat, I started prepping the second seat following the above procedure. This overlap period reduced the total time for both seats.

Some additional comments:

The first coat will not cover over the old color entirely. Donít be alarmed if you can see the old color through the dye. It is much better to have several thin coats than one thick coat. The color will blend when you go back over it. The dye initially goes on light then darkens. After you put the first coat on one section, go on to the next section and give the first section about 10 minutes to dry, then go back over any exposed spots with another thin coat. I consider this entire exercise of completely coating the surface as one coat. It is actually a series of very thin coats until the old color is eliminated.

Unless the seat is completely disassembled, you may not be able to reach all the sections. From the additional photos Iíve posted, you can see that I can not reach the back sections until the top is completely dry. The directions call for 48 hours but I find you can handle the seats after 8-16 hours, just donít sit on them for 48 hours. If taking a break for any significant time or if youíre done with your first coat, use a funnel to pour the dye back into the bottle and clean your brushes.

After 8-16 hours you can reposition the seats to reach the sections that you missed. Let that section dry. In my case, while the back was drying, I sprayed the front and sides with their final coat. I waited 8 or so hours then sprayed the back with its final coat. The air brush sprayer gives the seats a very light grainy appearance as you see on the stock seats.

JBO 02-02-2005 03:43 PM

That original brown was pretty dark, but do you think I could change my black seats to tan or cork using this process?

Cold Deck 02-02-2005 05:41 PM

Thanks for documenting the process and showing the amazing results. I would not have thought this was possible to do, let alone DIY.

Keith Perry 02-02-2005 06:39 PM

Hi. Your post is much appreciated. I've bought a dark brown leather interior and am going to change the seats to black using Leatherique. How much pristine clean, rejuvenator oil, prepping agent and dye did you use for your two seats? Why the lacquer thinner? Thanks for a great post.

autobonrun 02-02-2005 07:32 PM

Thanks guys.
JBO, I don't see why you couldn't change black to cork. As you said, the brown was pretty dark. The key is to remove the top layer and break down the old dye so the new dye will "bite". If you talk with George at Leatherique, he can confirm for you that you can redye black seats. I actually sent him a couple photos of what I had and where I wanted to be and he confirmed I could do it.

Keith, it looks like I will go through a 32oz bottle of Rejuvenator Oil, the same amount of Prepping Agent and almost a 32oz bottle of Pristine Clean. Any unused quantities will keep fairly well and you will use both the Rejuvenator oil and Pristine Clean even after the redye to maintain your leather.

I bought a 16 oz bottle of dye. It's going to be close but with what I learned on the first seat, I'll be able to be a little more efficient on the second. The dye is not something I want to have left over in any large quantity since it does separate over a year or so, with some of the pigment ending up as a sludge at the bottom and is difficult to remix. Since you are going to apply at least two coats to change seat color, you could thin it slightly to stretch it some. You could easily add 2 oz of water to the 16oz dye and mix that up, return the 16 oz to the bottle and start doing your trim work with the additional 2 oz. I would not add any more than that. Leatheique does keep your formula on file so refills should be very close.

At the same time I ordered this dye, I ordered some for my BMW and will tackle those seats this spring. They are light grey and obviously much larger.

The use of Lacquer thinner came from a Ferrari club link I read on the internet ( ) . When I discussed its use with George, he said some of the earlier seats could have a lacquer finish on them and this would remove that coating. Regardless, he did not feel it would hurt my seats even if I did not have this layer. When I tried it, it did remove some additional dye so I stuck that step in. Truthfully, I don't think our seats have that coating so using just the prepping agent should be sufficient.

DonDavis 02-02-2005 07:55 PM

Looks very good! Do you mind if I ask what the entire process (product and materials) will cost? Also, how well does the "bad wear" areas of the leather look after the repair? I would imagine it looks reasonable, which is what I would expect. I've never performed leather repair and I don't have unrealist expectations.

Thanks, and do you have pics of the "during" phases? Please share more if you do!

Jesset100 02-02-2005 08:04 PM

WOW! Great info and an amazing result.

autobonrun 02-03-2005 04:25 AM


Originally posted by DonDavis
Looks very good! Do you mind if I ask what the entire process (product and materials) will cost? Also, how well does the "bad wear" areas of the leather look after the repair? I would imagine it looks reasonable, which is what I would expect. I've never performed leather repair and I don't have unrealist expectations.

Thanks, and do you have pics of the "during" phases? Please share more if you do!

Products were around $150 in the quantities I bought. Brushes and cleaning supplies another $30.

Very bad wear areas should be repaired at least to some extent before dyeing, in my opinion. It really depends on what you mean by bad; just worn or actually ripped.

I can take a few more photos during the interim steps on the second seat. There may not be a lot to see over the writeup but I'll be happy to do it.

fuelie600 02-03-2005 05:04 AM

Nice job!

You mentioned using an artist brush around the piping. Did you do this to make sure you got down into the seams? Does the dye cover the piping as well as it does on leather? I was worried about the piping holding dye since it looks like it's vinyl.

Thanks for documenting the process!

autobonrun 02-03-2005 04:22 PM


Originally posted by fuelie600
Nice job!

You mentioned using an artist brush around the piping. Did you do this to make sure you got down into the seams? Does the dye cover the piping as well as it does on leather? I was worried about the piping holding dye since it looks like it's vinyl.

Thanks for documenting the process!

The piping on my seats appears to be leather and I had no problem with the dye adhering. This dye is supposed to work on vinyl too so that should not be a problem. If you were to contact Leatherique, they could confirm.

As far as the artist's brush, it is about a 1/4" brush, not one of the small type brushes used for model cars. I use the artist brush around the piping and metal parts for better tip control and to reduce the amount of dye that could quickly run if not careful. A large brush holds a lot of dye and could quickly fill the piping seam if not careful. I wanted to completely dye into the piping crease but did not want a pool of dye to form there. It takes longer with the small brush, but I'm in no hurry on this project.

vesnyder 02-03-2005 05:42 PM

Nice job. I will keep these tips in mind when I do my drivers side seat.

fuelie600 02-04-2005 05:36 AM


You're right the piping is leather. (not sure why I tought they were vinyl.)

Thanks again for the write up. Refreshing my seats is on the slate for this summer.

Leland Pate 02-04-2005 08:53 PM

Excellent writeup.
I'm going to send a link of this thread to a chap who just bought a pair of tired seats from my old SC.

Jason Cullen 02-04-2005 08:57 PM

You did a wonderful Job! Truly professional!


autobonrun 02-05-2005 02:00 PM

Thanks for the complements.
Leland, hold off for a couple days in sending the link. Don had asked me to take some interim photos, which I've done. I've also thought of some more important tips that will help. I plan to edit the writeup as soon as I finish the second seat. For example, I found that the dye should not be shaken, but stirred (reverse martini I guess). If shaken, it takes a long time for the air bubbles to leave the dye and they end up on the leather. That and a few other tips will be added.

autobonrun 02-05-2005 06:36 PM

Finished dyeing the second seat.
I'm basically waiting now for it to dry so I can reassemble. I have edited the writeup to include additional items that may help. Sorry for the length of the writeup; tried to cover small things that could ruin the work.

Don, you asked for some interim photos during the process.

This photo shows the seat back disassembled from the bottom allowing access between the two sections.

This shows the relative size of the brushes I used and also the piece of covered PVC I shove down between the bolster and seat bottom. I've pulled it up for this photo. If you don't have sport seats, you don't need this item.

This step shows where I've used the artist brush and 1" brush to dye around the edges and piping. This is also known as the "What the hell am I doing step".

This photo shows the seat bottom with its first coat and the back with it's initial thin coat. You can see on the side bolster that the old color still shows through the coat. Not to worry, move on to the next section, and go back over the exposed section with more thin coats until the old color disappears.

This last photo shows what the seat looks like after the first coat but just before the second coat with the airbrush. See this link for the airbrush sprayer I used.

Just for closure, I'll post one final photo of both seats completed after I reassemble the second one next week.

DonDavis 02-05-2005 07:52 PM

Very, very nice! That's exactly what I asked to see. And once again, great job!! You should be happy for a long time.SmileWavy

autobonrun 02-19-2005 12:41 PM

Final photo for closure.
Here's the finished product. Sorry for the delay in posting but I had an unexpected trip come up. Not all bad, it was to Rio de Janeiro. At least it gave the dye an extra week to fully cure.

jester911 02-19-2005 01:15 PM

Those seats came out really nice. good job.

Danskman 12-02-2005 11:55 AM

follow up...


How has the dye held up after a few months? Is the color still true and is it showing any signs of wearing off?


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