When I bought my 1999 Jaguar Sovereign, the drivers seat leather finish was cracked and worn, as is common after a few years of use. The leather is ivory with sable piping and was one of the main attractions of this particular car. The leather was generally in superb condition and I hoped the drivers seat might be improved by careful cleaning. It seemed that the more I cleaned, the more patchy the seat became and I realised that years of use and cleaning was wearing through the coloured finish. So I decided to refinish the seat and record my efforts!
Typical of a seat with a few years wear!
A closer look at the cushion
To make things easier the seat was removed from the car. Two bolts at the front and two bolts at the back, then the electrical connectors underneath and the seatbelt to remove before lifting out. Next the seat was given a thorough clean; I used a spray on kitchen cleaner (make sure that this doesn't contain bleach or any silicones or polish). The pleats and piping were carefully cleaned out using an old toothbrush and an airline.
The heavily cracked areas on the bolster and cushion were then cleaned with a green kitchen abrasive pad and some cellulose thinners. I would suggest being very careful and sparing with the thinners it will remove the coating pretty effectively and I would advise to do this around the worst areas only! After letting the thinners dry off for a few hours the area was smoothed over with wet and dry paper. The effect of cracking is dramatically reduced after this process as it is the removed surface coating which was cracked.
After abrasive preparation
All the areas where there are signs of cracking were then treated with a leather binder and filled with a flexible leather filler. This was done in stages drying each layer with a hair-dryer before applying the next until the leather was smooth.
I mixed a little leather colourant into the filler, although this wasn't really necessary as the seat was completely refinished. If necessary the grain could be re-applied at this point using a graining kit. I was quite happy with the surface finish. The picture above shows the blue tape I used to mask off the piping before spraying. The seat back, headrest, underside and all other trim (like the adjust pack) were also masked off. The seat was then cleaned with a tac rag and an air nozzle before being sprayed with colourant. The colourant was built up in thin layers using a hair-dryer between coats.
When the seat colour was nice and uniform (it took four or five thin coats) it was ready for the leather finish. I used a matt finish to replicate the original, although I think adding twenty per cent or so satin would be perfect. Again this was built up in thin layers drying each with the hair-dryer.
Just a couple of hours to harden off and the masking was removed and the seat refitted to the car
Back in the car