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HOW-TO: DIY Leather Restoration and re-colouring

JC220

Active member
Hi all, I’ve been meaning to provide a writeup on how to restore or re-colour your own w124 leather trim at home. This DIY will cover step by step how to do that and as you will see it’s not a difficult job – in fact it’s quite enjoyable! Like most restoration tasks patience is key here, if you are not a patient person then perhaps this is not the DIY for you. The more time spent on prep the better the end result will be :)

I will try to keep this step by step and to the point. Leather Dye products themselves have been discussed in this thread before. When I acquired my 320CE with parchment interior I sent a sample of the old knackered armrest leather off to be professionally colour and sheen matched. Thus I have a one part Dye sealer product to apply and I will also be using adhesion promoters for the dye and sealers to get the best possible results.

Here is what you need:

20180719_213341.jpg IMG_6170.JPG



  • · Small plastic cups – I used disposable plastic shot glasses
  • Sponge - a regular car washing sponge is ideal
  • · Small wooden sticks, for mixing and applying the leather filler
  • · Leather Glue and repair wadding (If there are tear holes through the leather)
  • · Leather Filler – ideally choose one which is the same colour of your end Dye (Black leather filler on a steering wheel for example)
  • · Several sheets of quality sand paper in 400, 800 + 1200 Grits.
  • · Masking Tape
  • · Leather cleaner – a non greasy formula. (Dodo Juice supernatural leather cleaner is my recommendation)
  • · A Quality leather Dye – I would strongly advise to have it colour matched for you before hand or buying the correct MB dye colour code based on your VIN. I have used the ebay “tint your own” leather dye kits before and they were very difficult to get the tone just right.... best avoided.
The cadaver for this DIY will be a used flip top armrest I bought from USA: There is some leather wear and I want to do a full colour change to Parchment to match my 320CE interior.

20180719_195815.jpg 20180719_195822.jpg 20180719_195830.jpg


So lets get started!


Step 1:

Disassemble whatever trim you are working on. In this case I removed all screws and pried out the inner clamshell of this flip armrest. This could equally mean removing car seat(s), or the steering wheel and airbag for example.

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Step 2:


Thoroughly clean the leather using a stiff brush to get right into all of the stitched hems etc. Using a bucket of hot clean water & microfiber cloth, wipe the cleaner off and pat dry the leather. Allow to fully dry.

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Step 3:

Assess the leather for area(s) which will require filler to be applied:

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In this case there is a stitched hem alongside where filler is required. So I taped up and bridged this gap with masking tape:

20180719_212030.jpg

If you don’t do this and get leather filler into the seam it will be almost impossible to remove it again without further causing damage to the leather. Better to spend a little time first masking off to save yourself sanding time trust me.

Use a wooden spreader and apply the filler, pressing it into the leather:

20180719_212158.jpg 20180719_212948.jpg

It will take several applications normally to get a quality finish to it’s best to apply only in thin, even layers. Try to avoid hard edges, use your fingers to soften and feather the filler edges out. Again – leather filler is quite soft and difficult to sand so less is more when applying the filler. Remove the masking tape before the filler begins to cure:

20180719_213045.jpg

Now it must rest overnight for the leather filler to fully cure.


DIY will resume tomorrow
 
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JC220

Active member
Step 4:

The first layer of filler set overnight and now it’s time begin sanding. Do not use any water or liquids of any kind on the leather after the filler has been applied to the leather. This first layer of filler is simply to fill any deep hollows or tears in the leather and now we can begin knocking it back with 400 grit, following the curves of the leather piece. I find it best to wrap the sand paper around a wooden stick and use that as a mini sanding block:

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Once all of the highs are knocked off switch up to the finer grits by hand and gently smooth out all areas of repair:

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Vacuum off all traces of sanding fibres:

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Tape off the seams again:

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Now onto the next layer of filler application – this time trying to get a fine, complete layer over all of the repair areas:

20180720_073353.jpg

In order to effect an invisible repair it is my experience that ALL of the old cracking must be covered in a fine layer of filler to the point where after sanding; all you can see visually is white filler throughout, feathered off at the outer edges with no cracking or other previous defects visible. It usually takes 3 - 4 separate applications of filler in order to achieve the desired results.

The next stage of the DIY will show this item’s leather filler and sanding completed; and how to tell if the piece is ready to move on to Dye application.
 

JC220

Active member
Step 5:

Final checking + pre Dye primer application

OK so this is this piece’s filler and sanding completed:

20180722_164246.jpg

There were 5x filler stages with the last couple being very small touch ins. “How do you know it’s ready for Dye?” Pictures may explain this best:

When too little filler has been applied the cracking will still be visible through the filler:

IMG_6329.JPG

Going to Dye stage too early will result in the old defects coming right back through again:

IMG_6330.JPG

So if this happens then you must scuff up the new Dye and start the filler work all over again. This is why I say that patience is key! Filling and sanding is 80% of the time on this task. Take your time and make sure the filler work is covering the whole area, as per this example:

IMG_6361.JPG

And when the Dye was applied now the finish was perfect:

IMG_6365.JPG

So when you are satisfied that the filler has complete coverage, and that old cracking is no longer visible then you can give the leather a vacuum over and prep it for finishing. In my kit there was an adhesion promoter solution and a catalyst which is stirred in a small cup at 10% ratio.

20180722_165432.jpg

Cut a small section off the car wash sponge and use that to very lightly, and quickly wipe the primer over the leather. You need to move fast otherwise the filler can soften and begin to wipe right back off again!

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Once the whole leather is primed; move right onto Dye stage. (With the product I was using it advises to move immediately to Dye – but do check your instructions)
 

JC220

Active member
Step 6:

Final Dye application

Now we move to Dye application. Cut a few more sections of the carwash sponge and get some kitchen foil to pour the Dye onto a little at a time and dab the sponge into. In this item there are stitched seams. So first I needed to colour those with Dye using a small artists brush:

20180722_182910.jpg 20180722_173159.jpg 20180722_174053.jpg

3X coats were needed and a hairdryer in between coats dries them off in seconds so you can keep moving. Also be sure to Dye into other hidden areas just to be sure the old colour edges won’t be seen when installed. (It would be akin to re-spraying a car with a colour change and not spraying inside the door jams:doh:) With all seams pre-dyed as applicable move onto the Dye application. To explain this best I took a quick video whilst I was Dying this item: (Excuse my cinematic prowess and heavy breathing!)

[video=youtube_share;_9F716kfU-w]https://youtu.be/_9F716kfU-w[/video]

Now if it looks like I was just dabbing some Dye onto the leather..... that’s because I was! :) It’s not difficult to do. Just keep a wet edge – keep moving along and do entire panels at a time. Then use a hairdryer to dry off. Second coat can be applied right away. 2 coats were enough on this item to achieve full coverage. And since my Dye had inbuilt sealer – that’s it done. However, I will be applying a Dodo Juice leather protectant when this Dye has fully cured overnight.

Here is progress this evening-

New Dye colour to lid VS an original cushion (Colour is a match)

20180722_181801.jpg

New Dye on the lid VS the lower section still in Grey – still to be Dyed:

20180722_181742.jpg

Final pictures will be uploaded tomorrow to show the finished / reconditioned flip top armrest now in Parchment colour to match my 320CE’s interior.

Questions are welcome and I hope some of you will have a go too!
 

JC220

Active member
Here are some past DIY projects I did at home. To show how you can bring back original trim to as new condition

Sportline Steering Wheel:

Before:

IMG_5747.JPG IMG_5748.JPG IMG_5749.JPG IMG_5750.JPG IMG_5751.JPG

After:

IMG_5760.JPG IMG_5762.JPG IMG_5763.JPG IMG_5764.JPG IMG_5765.JPG

C124 Driver's Seat:

Before:

IMG_6164.JPG IMG_6165.JPG IMG_6168.JPG IMG_6169.JPG

After:

IMG_6666.JPG IMG_6667.JPG IMG_6668.JPG IMG_6669.JPG
 

HowardK

E500E Newbie
Do you need to use the filler on all "cracks"? Or can you sand the color dye down to the leather and recoat.
 

JC220

Active member
Thanks for the positive comments! These repairs are absolutely possible at home. If anyone is in the fence about tackling their own car then buy a used steering wheel or the likes on eBay and restore it for your car then hoard or sell on the original.

Do you need to use the filler on all "cracks"? Or can you sand the color dye down to the leather and recoat.
Fair question- I would say 95% of repairs will require filler work. Only very light scuffing or colour loss on the surface can be sanded back but any cracks in the leather need to be filled.

If a seat or large area has lots of very minor cracking you might still make a huge improvement to the finish by recolouring the seat. But for as new repairs- filler is needed
 

JC220

Active member
To recap – before:

20180719_195830.jpg 20180719_195822.jpg 20180719_195815.jpg

Behold – the re-finished Parchment flip top with new ivanned strut and limiting straps.

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Modded gas strut:

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The armrest turned out very nice – I am very pleased with the finish. Just need to spray the little grey bolt cover trim with black satin plastic paint and it’s good to install. I have many more leather re-colouring projects planned too. The thing is “leather doctor NI” here is booked up a full year in advance. I could get no-one else to restore my leather trim so I learned myself and now I have employed myself almost full time :doh:
 
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HowardK

E500E Newbie
Wonderful job. I need to think about doing this on my CLK seats. Which filler or kit did you use?
 

JC220

Active member

JC220

Active member
Have any members attempted their own Leather repairs yet – or contemplating it?


I have 2x more Sportline Steering wheels and a Sportline shifter from my latest parts c124 to restore –before and after shots will be coming soon :)
 

Melville

Active member
I used the Leatherique steering wheel kit on a sportline wheel that Ntrepid gave me for my wagon. I’m happy with the results. But if I do another project, I may want to get something to spray the dye on. That will make it a lot easier I think to get even results. The Leatherique kit comes with a clear coat layer but I chose not to use it. The benefit would be increased protection but it wouldn’t look right to me for the wheel to be shiny.
 

JC220

Active member
I am reviving this thread as I have got another cadaver for resto. There was a local yard who took in 2no C124’s both 1994 models with parchment interiors about a year ago. The seats were in decent shape but unfortunately they would only sell the interiors complete which was fair enough I guess.

I bought a door off each car and carefully pulled the door cards and set them in the boot. Unfortunately not only did the weather take it’s toll since they were outside but other people were pulling bits of the interiors then leaving them outside in the rain. Perfectly good door cards were ruined which is a real shame. Now both c124 interiors are pretty much done for so at long last they let me remove a pair of seats.

The seat below is a driver’s seat. My latest 220CE’s drivers seat had a torn bolster. And it’s passenger seat is in great shape BUT has no armrest option (or bolts) so I want both seats to install a reconditioned flip lid armrest.

This is the driver’s seat I got –for free! It was so rough they gave it to me which was very cool of them. As you can see below it sure is in rough shape after a year exposed to the elements. But the leather is still in good shape and the bolster is un-torn. So both donor seats will be getting the full treatment and re-dye since I still have plenty of Parchment leather dye left over.

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a777fan

Active member
Hokey smokes joe. Can’t wait to see your magic on that baby!


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