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JPTL 05-05-2006 01:01 PM

Touching up those seat bolsters/steering wheels
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Even with gentle use, it seems like that driver's side bolster jumps out and rubs against anything that you're wearing. It can look like hell quickly, particularly if you're a frequent wearer of jean jackets (not that I am).
I carefully tried a few restoration methods, using very light amounts of spray enamel :nono: which is a 'point of no return' if you mess up....then a more forgiving touch-up using craft acrylic, which generally has a more matte finish than desired, and doesn't seem permanent enough. I put my attempts on hold - at least on the GT.
One day I came across an 8oz. jar of latex enamel that was almost an exact match for my beige interior in my Explorer. The leather steering wheel cover looked like hell - a combination of dirty, oily hands, general wear & tear, and UV at the top of the steering wheel. For those of you with beige or light interiors, you know what I mean.
Anyway, what a perfect guinea pig application to see how latex enamel would hold up on leather....heavily used & abused leather.
After thoroughly cleaning the wheel cover with simple green then alcohol, I applied the latex with a sponge, a coat at a time. After the third coat, it looked great. Like new.
OK, how would this hold up?
So far, after 6 months of my grubby paws on this wheel, the latex coating looks like new. I'm told that any enamel is not very flexible. But this is holding up very well.
So if figured let's try this on my driver's side bolster on my precious Porsche.
The most critical thing is getting the color and finish exactly right....particularly if you're not doing a whole panel, & trying to some blending like I was.
I lifted up the pass. side back seat base, and found a nice amount of excess leather (past the staples). I was able to cut out a 3/4 square swatch that wouldn't in anyway effect the attachment of the upholstery & wouldn't be visible unless you peeled up the seat base. Something to keep along with your important documents, by the way.
I confirmed that it's color matched the good panels of my driver's seat, and I headed to Duron on a hunch that they could use their computer to match my swatch.
I got perfect results as far as a color match. The guy put a tiny dab of the mixed paint on my swatch, dried it and I couldn't tell where he'd put it. What's better, is that Duron has a superior quality latex acrylic that has excellent adhesion to glossy - even oily surfaces, and is extremely durable & somewhat flexible.
After gently cleaning the bolster, I used a moist paper towel, and rubbed a very small amount onto the bolster. If it looked really bad, I could get right on it with a damp sponge and get 80% of it off. No harm, no foul.
It looked good. A little lighter than the rest of the seat, but it was wet. After it dried, it looked great. I did another coat, this time with a bit more paint on the paper towel, and let that dry. As the amount of paint lessened on the towel, I brought it upward to blend it with the undamaged part of the bolster. It's important to do a few light coats as opposed to one or two thick coats. Light coats won't show 'brush strokes', and the blending will be better.
After the third coat, my bolster looks like new, and the blend is almost undetectable.
Ok, so if this starts to rub off in 6 months or so, so what? I've got more. Probably 1000 times more than I need. No way is it ever going to look as bad as the original cracked area did.
The paint is a quart of Duron "Design Accents" Acrylic Enamel - Semi Gloss. & the cost? $15.
If anybody with a Classic Gray interior wants the tint formula, PM me.
Certainly, try this at your own risk, but the proof is in the puddin':

SteveG 05-05-2006 01:08 PM

That looks like new. So did you prep the leather at all? I have to find a match for burgundy.

Randy V 05-05-2006 01:14 PM

Sweet, JP!

My CLASSIC GRAY steering wheel needs a refurb. I don't suppose you could procure a container of it for me?

I'll happily pay the costs for your time and shipping.

JPTL 05-05-2006 01:15 PM

Steve, no prep aside from a very light cleaning with a run of the mill leather cleaner...then a damp cloth.
I didn't want to risk taking any of the existing finish off the leather. Fortunately, I don't have any deep cracks. For deep cracks, there are filler products out there like this that are designed solely for filling the cracks prior to 'recoloring'.

JPTL 05-05-2006 01:17 PM

For the Moderator, I'll procure away!
PM me with your info. and I'll send you plenty...enough to do a whole seat if you want.

Randy V 05-05-2006 01:26 PM

Yer a pal!

PM sent.

Bill Ball 05-05-2006 02:21 PM

That looks as good as the leather dyes like Leatherique and SEM.

AO 05-05-2006 02:29 PM

Thanks J.P.! :thumbup:

JPTL 05-05-2006 02:39 PM

I haven't seen the results of those, but here's my take FWIW:
I'm guessing that there are slight variations in interior colors over the years & even model runs. So getting the color right based on color codes & not a sample is a crapshoot.
Best way is to use an actual sample from your interior & match it up to the area that you're working in as step one.
What good is a permanent dye if it's a 1/2 shade off? If it is, and the dye is a permanent, non-water based product, you're at the point of no return if it's not a good match.
I'm impressed at how well the Duron computer works, so it's certainly worth a shot - even if the product isn't quite as long-lasting as the actual dye.
It's also only $15 for enough to do practically all the leather in a standard (non leather-optioned) car.

Bill Ball 05-05-2006 02:46 PM

Leatherique and SEM are water-based and can be removed. Heck, they may be latex acrylic based, for all I know. Although enamel is not thought of as flexible, latex is, so in a way I'm not too surprised by your success.

Nicole 05-05-2006 06:44 PM

I just did the same with Leatherique. Main difference is that mine is not as shiny.

Fogey1 05-05-2006 08:25 PM

This looks great.

I have used Meltonian Shoe Polish, which contains a dye and comes in a multitude of colors, to touch up stuff like old jackets, briefcases, portfolios and Coach bags. It does a great job and seems to feed the leather.

I've not tried it on an auto seat, because you have to be very careful about buffing it afterward or you may stain things it rubs on. OTOH, the idea of paint on leather is so counterintuitive to me, I've always wondered whether just wearing sweats and squirming for a few hundred miles would do the buffing.

cfc928gt 05-05-2006 09:08 PM

Very impressive! I can't believe you could get it so smooth with a paper towel, I don't see any lines or marks at all. Nicole, can you post a pic of your results?

Marine Blue 05-05-2006 09:57 PM

That looks great. :thumbsup: Keep us posted on how it wears. This can be a great alternative.

I wish I could do something with mine but a PO already had at it and put something on that makes the leather feel harder and to top that all off it doesn't stay on very well. :crying:

Steve 88 05-14-2006 06:39 PM

Wow, JP really came up with a fantastic approach here. I followed his instructions for my Classic Gray bolsters and came away with similiar day/night results as JP. I liked the way it looked so much I ran out for one of those pad-with-a-handle thingies made for smearing stain and continued to do the entire surface of the front seats. I just finished and they look terrific.

The guy at my local Duron store perfectly matched a clean square inch from under the back seat (per JP's instructions). I was going more for an improvement (how it looked when it was new) than a match to the current surface color that has darkened and discolored over the years.

I couldn't be happier with the results. I didn't try to fix a tear like Nicole, but it is an enormous cosmetic improvement. It isn't shinier than the original color (maybe that was JP's flash that we see in his pics). If you follow JP's advice on using several very thin coats you won't fill in a noticeable number of the little perforations (a question from Matt on another post) and it won't show.

I have a bucket of this paint and am glad to give some to anyone nearby with Classic Gray. I didn't specify a small quantity at the store and got a gallon for $45. But it's still worth it, it looks great.

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