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Old 08-10-14, 10:27 AM   #1
t2d2
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Default DIY leather seat covers?

I've been looking at replacement seat and/or cover options for my torn and worn driver's seat. I'm now leaning toward trying to make my own.

I have a white leather couch that's probably 30+ years old and not super comfortable -- I had to do some repairs to the base to make it just semi-comfortable -- but with the most supple, tacky leather imaginable. It's just screaming to be used for grippy car seats! However, white would look pretty weird in the stock tan/beige/grey interior. It then occurred to me to go two-tone, with white down the middle and something from the tan/grey/beige/creme family along the bolsters and cushion edges. I think that could look pretty slick, and the offset colors would help tie it all in. So, I've been on the hunt for a good donor couch for the darker stuff.

I've never worked with hog rings, but I imagine that isn't too terribly difficult with the pliers. The biggest challenge will probably be sewing and maneuvering the leather itself. (That and figuring out how to get the big lever's lock ring off to remove the lower trim piece.) With the right needle and thread, my machine ought to be able to handle it. Taking apart the old panels and tracing/cutting them should be a piece of cake. The old stuff is so dried out and beyond the aid of leather revitalization, it's already unstitching itself already!

Has anyone tried this before? As far as I've found, automotive leather receives no special treatment beyond that of furniture leather, but I'm guessing the quality of the dyes dictates how much it'll fade when exposed to constant sunlight. The thickness would be another question, as Lexus' shoddy leather quality has been attributed to using stuff too thin. My white leather should be fine in that department, with thickness and overall quality presumably being closely related. I'll need to find something of similar quality for the darker panels.

The other question is padding. The replacement covers tend to have foam stitched into the back of the leather. It doesn't seem like the OEM leather has that, though. Maybe aftermarket does that simply for the benefit of slide-on covers needing padding between them and the dried out old leather?

I was also thinking of stitching some velcro onto the door-side bolster and then crafting a replaceable cover of the same leather, sort of like those concussion friendly football helmets with the breakaway top cover. It's much easier to do so while the cover is off the seat, and assuming I can make it look not overly awkward, that should be a good way to eliminate the main point of wear down the road. When the velcro'd cover starts to wear through, just pop it off and put a new one on!

Feedback welcome.

To skip straight to the beginnings of the actual project, rather than the initial brainstorming, jump ahead to post #31.
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Last edited by t2d2; 09-03-14 at 02:37 AM..
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Old 08-10-14, 07:57 PM   #2
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Wink Seats

Here's an alternative I recommend to everybody
for me, these r worth it 4 the weight reduction alone
U won't be sliding of these any time soon
just a thought <~> Good luck
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Old 08-10-14, 08:44 PM   #3
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Those bolsters look nice and hefty! You won't be sliding out the door either!
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Old 08-10-14, 08:54 PM   #4
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bucket seats for the win, i'll be picking up some used cyphers soon hopefully.

EDIT: messaged the guy about the seats, he sold them already waited too long lol

so anyone had experience with ebay seats? i'm not willing to pay however much corbeus, or brides cost lol.
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Old 08-10-14, 09:36 PM   #5
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Thanks Barbary, but I'm not interested in racing seats. Comfort is more important to me than saving a few pounds. Also, I think they look completely out of place in a plush interior.
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Old 08-11-14, 07:20 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oldManTan View Post
bucket seats for the win, i'll be picking up some used cyphers soon hopefully.

EDIT: messaged the guy about the seats, he sold them already waited too long lol

so anyone had experience with ebay seats? i'm not willing to pay however much corbeus, or brides cost lol.
I had some eBay Brides ($400 a pair) on my old GSX and loved them. They looked killer and sat/hugged just as well as any high dollar version but, crash test ratings are meh...

I think the best bang for your buck while harnessing quality and looks would be a stock replacement, maybe RSX or S2000 seats..
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Old 08-11-14, 07:29 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kris9884 View Post
I think the best bang for your buck while harnessing quality and looks would be a stock replacement, maybe RSX or S2000 seats..
I've read the various threads on seats from other cars that can be swapped and even found a guy nearby selling RSX tan seats for cheap (might be beyond saving in terms of how grungy they are from being left outside, though), but I have no welding tools or knowledge, so fabricating mounting brackets is a bit of a deal breaker.

I may regret if/when my 20 year old electric motors begin to fail, but my preference is to keep a great seat and give it the cover it deserves. I think the RSX seats would actually be a step backward in comfort (adjustability).
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Performance: Alternative BFI (BeeFI?), A/T Solenoid Bypass, M2/Manzo axleback exhaust (awaiting mid-pipe resonator delete), 2-Tone Driver's Seat ("performance" as measured by the butt test).
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Old 08-11-14, 07:37 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by t2d2 View Post
I've read the various threads on seats from other cars that can be swapped and even found a guy nearby selling RSX tan seats for cheap (might be beyond saving in terms of how grungy they are from being left outside, though), but I have no welding tools or knowledge, so fabricating mounting brackets is a bit of a deal breaker.

I may regret if/when my 20 year old electric motors begin to fail, but my preference is to keep a great seat and give it the cover it deserves. I think the RSX seats would actually be a step backward in comfort (adjustability).
Touché

Although the SC seat is softer, the RSX seat has full adjustability, even lumbar on certain models. So if you don't mind using the lever to move the seat instead of the buttons, they are very similar, plus half the weight or less.. A welder could make the mounts for cheap, should be pretty easy. Tomato, tamato lol

Edit: All that being said, I hear Katskinz has great leather and decent prices. Props to you for tackling something like this, I would never be able to figure it out.
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Old 08-11-14, 07:55 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kris9884 View Post
Touché

Although the SC seat is softer, the RSX seat has full adjustability, even lumbar on certain models. So if you don't mind using the lever to move the seat instead of the buttons, they are very similar, plus half the weight or less.. A welder could make the mounts for cheap, should be pretty easy. Tomato, tamato lol

Edit: All that being said, I hear Katskinz has great leather and decent prices. Props to you for tackling something like this, I would never be able to figure it out.
Hmm, maybe it's just the cloth model I looked at, but they didn't look very adjustable. I have no problem with levers. I actually prefer mechanical stuff over electrical, both for durability and because I hate working with anything electrical in nature.

I don't know how much welders charge or who would be good to work with in the area, but I imagine that would end up costing as much as replacement seats to get it done right, with measuring and fitting and shop time, and the end result would be blind faith that they did a good job and I'm not sitting on an ejector seat...

If I were to buy covers, Clazzio is what I was most interested in. Nice feel to the leather, but I'm not crazy about the color match options. And I'm undecided on slip-on covers vs full replacements.

Also, a key element in all of this is, I like building stuff. If I can figure out the disassembly steps, the rest sounds fairly enjoyable.
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Performance: Alternative BFI (BeeFI?), A/T Solenoid Bypass, M2/Manzo axleback exhaust (awaiting mid-pipe resonator delete), 2-Tone Driver's Seat ("performance" as measured by the butt test).
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Old 08-11-14, 08:12 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by t2d2 View Post
Hmm, maybe it's just the cloth model I looked at, but they didn't look very adjustable. I have no problem with levers. I actually prefer mechanical stuff over electrical, both for durability and because I hate working with anything electrical in nature.

I don't know how much welders charge or who would be good to work with in the area, but I imagine that would end up costing as much as replacement seats to get it done right, with measuring and fitting and shop time, and the end result would be blind faith that they did a good job and I'm not sitting on an ejector seat...

If I were to buy covers, Clazzio is what I was most interested in. Nice feel to the leather, but I'm not crazy about the color match options. And I'm undecided on slip-on covers vs full replacements.

Also, a key element in all of this is, I like building stuff. If I can figure out the disassembly steps, the rest sounds fairly enjoyable.
Lol I didn't think about it that way, very true.. Well good luck man, I'd say keep an eye on the vendor page, ebay etc for good deals. Honestly, if we could get a group buy of full leather replacement for the front seats, arm rest etc I would totally put my credit card down. Nothing better than brand new skin on the seats..
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Old 08-11-14, 08:38 AM   #11
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No kidding, the demand for new front leather would be nearly as high as the number of SCs on the road! Actually, that's partly why I started this thread. It's rare to see a SC with good front seats, so if it turns out to be a fairly straightforward process, it could benefit a lot of people. Couches are sold cheap or given away all the time when they start to look ratty, but we only need a few small pieces of leather here and there from cushions, sides, or backs to craft the needed car seat panels.

My plan is to do the driver's seat first. If I screw it up, putting saran wrap over the foam will be better than what I have now! And if that one turns out well, then do the passenger seat to match. It's in good enough shape to not need it, but getting the same look out of both would be ideal. Eventually, the back seats might get the same attention, but they're basically factory fresh.

Shipping anything but high end seats is fairly cost prohibitive, unless you can find someone willing to use Greyhound for half the Ground Shipping cost. I honestly have no idea what the Vendor Classifieds section is good for... As far as I can tell, it's just a gigantic billboard of daily or weekly bumps of old material. If you don't check on it every few minutes, it seems way beyond worth the trouble to sift through all the noise.
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Old 08-11-14, 09:22 AM   #12
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I actually replaced the upholstery in a friend's 95 sc400 and it was a PITA. Looked like brand new when my friend and I finished. But it was quite a bit of work getting the leather properly stretched over the front and rear seats since the padding was a bit compressed due to age/wear. There are a TON of hog rings holding the leather in place on the front seats so it would behoove you to purchase a hog ring tool and a large amount of replacement hog rings. And industrial snipper would help greatly in cutting off the old hog rings. And as uncomfortable as it may be, it's best to get it done in the summer heat as the leather is much easier to work with and shapes itself better to the contours of the seating when warm. Just make sure to keep hydrated. LOL

http://www.leatherseats.com/shop/lea...C400&year=1995

Got it back when they used to run specials on eBay for $600.
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Old 08-11-14, 09:34 AM   #13
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Here are some photos I snapped from the install. Couldn't find the pix I took of the front seats completed but they looked pretty much oem new. And I'm super ocd when it comes to stuff like this.


Click the image to open in full size.


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Old 08-11-14, 09:59 AM   #14
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Thanks Dougspeed, that's exactly the kind of feedback I was hoping for! Hog ring pliers will definitely be purchased prior to starting on this. Harbor Freight has them for pretty cheap, but I still need to find a source for replacement rings. Good call on adding industrial quality snips to the tools-needed list. I hadn't looked up yet how hog ring pliers actually work and if they're only for reassembly or also for disassembly.

Other than matching the original look, is there really any good reason to wrestle with the leather to stretch it that tight? I was thinking of going with a softer, almost pleated, Euro look. Since I'm creating it all from scratch, I'm not stuck with someone else's factory-derived tension. Obviously, you would want it snug enough so that the leather isn't sliding over the foam, but I don't think it needs to be anywhere near skin tight for that. Also, I'm guessing the super tight factory fit contributes to how bad the leather breaks down when it starts drying out.
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Performance: Alternative BFI (BeeFI?), A/T Solenoid Bypass, M2/Manzo axleback exhaust (awaiting mid-pipe resonator delete), 2-Tone Driver's Seat ("performance" as measured by the butt test).
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Old 08-11-14, 10:14 AM   #15
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I think that since the leather stretches over time, it's tight so that it doesn't bunch up and create permanent wrinkles and cracks as it you slide around the seats and wear it in. And it's not really THAT tight, but just getting it tucked and pulled snug in various spots on the seat makes it more difficult. You might want to source extra foam padding as well just to build up the bolstered areas of the seats and if you want the seat to feel softer.
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