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Golf GTI leather seats and steering wheel repair and refurbish

I bought a leather interior for my Golf GTI but since the seats were 20+ years old they were looking a little tired plus they had a couple of tears in the leather. I originally only planned to fix the tears and patch up the faded areas of leather but decided fairly early on that they really needed a full refurb. I also had a leather steering wheel that was looking a little worn and since I had some of the kit leftover I refurbished that too. This was all done in my garage at home.

Posted By:

Steve Bootes

Added this guide 50 years ago


Users Top Tips:

Use thin coats of sealant and finish

Use a compressor

Prepare everything well

Take your time


Driver's seat cleaned with APC

1. Driver's seat cleaned with APC

The first step was to clean the seats to see exactly what I was dealing with. I used a weak APC (All Purpose Cleaner) mix, a leather brush and a microfibre cloth. All sorts of black crud came off, probably accumulated over 20 years. I'm not sure this step was really necessary considering the next steps below, but I figured it wouldn't do any harm. The less contamination on the leather the better.

Rear seat after Leather Prep

2. Remove the old coating using Leather Prep and Alchohol Cleaner

The old leather coating needs to be removed so the new one can adhere properly. This is achieved by using some Leather Prep on a scotchbrite pad (part of the Leather Colourant Kit). Stick some cotton balls inside the folder-over scotchbrite pad and rub on the leather until the colour starts to come off. Top tips: 1) wear gloves (provided in the kit) 2) be mindful of run-off - the dye-soaked leatherprep liquid will stain floors or patios nicely 3) ensure adequate ventilation - Leather Prep is strong-smelling stuff! Then use the Alchohol Cleaner in the kit to wipe off any remaining dye or contaminents.

Tear in bolster

3. Begin repairing tear in bolster

I started the bolster repair by trimming the edges of the tear using scissors to clean up any loose fibres of material.

patch in place

4. Insert patch material for repair

Using the material provided in the Leather Repair Kit, cut a patch slighly larger than the hole and use the tweezers in the kit to position this behind the area to be repaired. Make sure to tuck the patch material under the torn edges of the leather.

torn flap glued into place

5. Glue the torn flap to the patch

Using the PU glue and the spatula included in the Leather Repair Kit, glue the patch to the inside of the repair area - that is, between the underside of the leather and the top of the patch around the edge of the repair. When that is glued in place (use a heat gun or hair dryer to speed up the curing of the glue) glue the flap of leather to the patch.

filler applied

6. Fill any gaps / apply Binder

Using the spatula, apply Heavy Filler (included in the Leather Repair Kit) to any gaps or cracks that are left. Since the leather was quite stretched around the bolster, my glued piece of leather had quite a gap around it. Build the filler up in thin layers and use a heat gun to speed up the setting. Leave the filler slightly proud as you'll level it out in the next step. Not shown here - some areas of cracking in the leather which weren't enough to warrant using filler were addressed using Leather Binder - just sponge it onto the area in thin coats, using a heat gun to speed up the drying process.

sanded repair

7. Sand the repair

Use the sandpaper provided in the Leather Repair Kit to smooth the area around the repair.

Colourant applied

8. Apply Colourant using a sponge

Next, apply the Colourant to the leather using the sponge supplied. Work the colourant into all of the gaps and creases. At this point I applied colour just to the repair because I wasn't originally going to fully refurbish the seats. I applied the colourant using a sponge in several coats, drying inbetween each coat with a heat gun to speed up the process. I did the same thing to all of the seats after I'd removed the old coating with Leather Prep. There's no need to make it look perfect since they're all getting sprayed afterwards, it's just to get the initial colour worked into the leather.

Colourant sprayed onto seat

9. Spray colourant to get a good finish

Now spray the colourant onto the leather. I used a spray gun with a compressor but the airbrush supplied with the Leather Colourant Kit works pretty well too. However, I'd recommend you rent the compressor as the compressed air tins are a bit of a pain to work with. Put the colourant on in coats, use a heat gun (or hair dryer) in between coats to speed up the process. Use as many coats as needed to achieve an even finish. My rear seats only needed 3 coats, the fronts needed a few more.

Super Seal applied

10. Apply Super Seal

Now apply the Super Seal. This is a sort of protective layer on top of the leather dye to resist wear, so concentrate on the areas of highest wear e.g. seat bases and inside of bolsters. There's no need to spray the rear of the seats. NOTE: Super Seal is quite thin and runs easily. Apply it in very thin coats.

too much super seal applied

11. Watch out for runs or excess coating

Just to prove my point, I managed to mess up one of my seats. I applied too much Super Seal but didn't notice until much later, when I saw that the joint between the base and side bolster had stuck together. I had to strip everything back again using Leather Prep and build up the colour again from scratch. This time around I applied the Super Seal in very fine layers and made sure to thoroughly dry it using a heat gun before moving to the next coat. Be warned!

Satin Finish applied

12. Apply the finish

The finish up until now has been quite glossy. Now is the time to apply the finish which will determinate the level of shine for the leather. I've used a Satin finish. You'll see it change right away as you spray it. I applied 2-3 layers of finish.

Finished rear seats

13. Finished seats

The seats are finished. Wait at least 24 hours before doing anything with the seats, but I found that the leather was still slightly "sticky" for a few days afterwards so I waited 7 days before installing the seats back into the car.

Steering Wheel Leather Prepped

14. Steering wheel

Now the seats are finished, time for the steering wheel. Someone had previously refurbished it, but I don't think they applied any sort of sealant as the colour started to wear off. I started by stripping the old finish using Leather Prep, then sanding the finish slightly to remove the pitting.

Leather Binder applied

15. Leather Binder

The surface of the leather around the edge of the wheel looked quite rough and was likely to get more abuse in future. To prevent any more damage, I applied 3-4 coats of Leather Binder. This strengthens the fibres and immediately makes the leather finish look much better. It leaves a slightly sticky coating so I left this to dry for 24 hours.

Colour applied

16. Apply Colourant

As with the seats, the next step is to apply the colour. This was first sponged on in 2-3 coats (dried in-between with a heat gun) and then sprayed in 3 coats.

Finish applied

17. Apply Super-Seal and Finish

Again, as with the seats, now the Super Seal and Satin finish was applied, 3 coats of each. I then left it to dry completely for 7 days.

The finished job

18. Refit and admire

And here is the result. It was quite a long process from start to finish, but I'm glad I did it properly rather than just touch up the leather here and there. I'm really pleased with the finish, the seats look like new. I just hope they last another 20 years!


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