Repairing torn leather is probably best left to a professional unless the tear is very small. Minor damage such as cracks and abrasions are easier to do and are discussed elsewhere. Any kit you buy should have instructions included but the information below will help you decide if it’s something you want to undertake yourself – before you buy the product. Or, if you have a professional do it, you can understand what he is doing (or should be doing).
If you’re thinking of starting your own interior restoration business these instructions will help you see what’s involved in a typical repair.
Assessing the damage
Before you try to repair damaged leather you first need to assess the leather and the damage to determine if it is repairable. Typically, if the tear is more than 2″ or 3″ long you should consider replacement. Make sure that the leather is in otherwise good condition. If it is very dry it should be softened first. If it is very old and dry rotted it should be replaced. If all the surrounding areas are faded or the color is worn off you might want to consider redyeing all the seat(s) and then be sure to order enough dye to do the job.
Repairing torn leather yourself is not difficult but you will need the right materials. There are a number of sources that sell repair kits with pre-mixed colors and all the materials needed. The kit should contain a cleaner, subpatch glue, subpatch material, filler, paint and some sandpaper, at the very least. For our purposes we will assume that you are repairing a fairly late model and the leather is in good condition.
1. Start by cleaning the surface with the cleaning solution. Scrub well to remove all dirt, oils and silicone that may be present.
2. Scuff the area to be repaired and refinished with 320 grit sandpaper then clean again.
3. Cut a piece of subpatch material slightly larger than the torn area and work it under the tear. Glue it down making sure that the edges of the leather lay flat. If necessary, tape it down with some masking tape and allow to dry.
4. Remove the tape and using a spreader apply the filler to the tear, using light coats and force drying each layer with a hair dryer. Don’t try to fill the depression all at once as the filler will not cure properly and the repair will fail.
5. Sand any excess material lightly with 320 grit sandpaper and apply a seal coat if provided.
6. Apply texture coat if provided.
7. Apply the color. Leather dyes are water based and are applied by foam brush or spraying. Be sure to mask off any areas not being painted. Apply light coats, drying in between coats with a hair dryer.
After applying some paint check the repair. If it looks like it needs more work, make sure the repair is good and dry then simply sand and apply filler as needed and complete as before.
The end result should be an invisible or nearly invisible repair that will last a long time.