Whether your vehicle came equipped with leather, cloth, or vinyl-covered seats, chances are, it’s going to need a full cosmetic makeover at some point. Nothing lasts forever. It doesn’t matter how careful you are and how well you try to maintain your interior, over time, seat upholstery always gets tattered and torn.
While many feel a Southwestern style blanket is cool in certain applications, unless you cut and stitch it to fit, it typically moves around and needs to be repositioned each time you get in and out of the vehicle.
My C10 Chevy Cheyenne was victim of that very situation, and I was getting tired of constantly repositioning the blanket. To remedy this situation, I decided that a new upholstery from Classic Industries was the best option for my truck.
…I’m here to tell you that reskinning a seat with an already assembled set of seat skins can be done at home.
A lot of people change their own oil and/or belts. Many can fix a stalled engine. Some can even smooth dents and eliminate rust holes. However, very few people think they can reupholster their own car seats. Hopefully, we can alleviate any concerns you have about this task, and you will feel confident to tackle this simple project at home.
Although the Cheyenne is by no means a stunning restoration, it is a very nice driver that is typical of many classic rides still on the road today. I have recently replaced the dash pad, and even installed a set of Dakota Digital HDX gauges. And the seat, well, it really needed some help.
Why I Did It
Since your car or truck’s interior is the space where you’ll hopefully spend most of your time, it stands to reason that you’ll want something that is comfortable, clean, and looks nice. It’s amazing what new upholstery will do for the look and feel of your ride’s inner sanctum.
Recover your seat(s), and all of a sudden you become overly anal-retentive about everything unclean that may come in contact with the new upholstery. Ask my grandkids. Before I re-skinned the seats, trips for ice cream were done in the truck. Now, we still take the truck, but I make them wash their hands before we leave the local Dairy Queen. After all, the truck is looking (and smelling) maybe not like a new truck, but at least not like an “old” truck either.
Tools Of The Trade - Included
To accomplish this task, you will need a set of hog ring pliers and hog rings. Luckily, these come with the Classic Industries seat skins. That means you do not have to buy any special tools to complete this upgrade. While I did already have hog ring pliers, for the purpose of this article I used the pliers supplied with the kit. They worked fine, except for the rubber handle coating, which was punished by our vice-like hand grip strength.
To do this upgrade, you will need to separate the backrest and bottom cushion from each other. Remove the hinge bolts, and then the back and bottom should come apart.
1: Out With The Old
To remove the actual factory upholstery, you’ll have to remove the hog rings. When a seat skin is installed over the foam and frame, the upholstery is attached to the underside of the assembly by little wire “loops” that are closed with a special type of plier. The hog rings loop through the edge of the material and into the holes located in the seat frame. Before they are crimped in place to hold the upholstery, the metal rings have a somewhat “U” shape to them. The hog-ring pliers grab these rings, and close the loop.
If you have a broken spring, you can either replace the spring, the entire frame, or you can repair the spring. Do not try to weld the spring, as it makes it brittle and it will break again. This time, it could poke through your new upholstery. Rather, make a splint and wire it in place. The springs weren’t broken on my frame, but the clip that held one to the seat frame was. I positioned the spring where it needed to be, and then drilled a few holes and wired it in place.
Since I wasn’t worried about damaging the already torn skins, I didn’t need to be very careful while removing the old hog rings. Therefore, I simply grabbed the ring with a pair of pliers, and give the pliers a twist. The rings opened and came off.
If for some reason you are trying to save the skins, you need to remove the rings in a gentler fashion. While doing this, take note of the original attachment locations of the rings to the frame. This will help in getting the new covers stretched and installed correctly.
This is your author’s third time doing so with satisfying results each time. Hopefully, after reading this brief article, you will have enough confidence to tackle this job yourself and save a few bucks.
It goes without saying that replacing the upholstery requires the seat(s) to be removed from the vehicle. I started with the bolts holding the front of the seat, and then adjusted the seat all the way forward to access the rear bolts. A single ratchet and 1/2-inch socket did the trick, but a wrench would also work. Once the bolts are out, remove the seat. When the seat is out, you’ll next need to remove the position-adjusting tracks from the seat itself. Again, a ratchet and socket, or wrench will work.
When I ordered the new seat skins (PN: W1027100418), I also ordered new foam (PN: SF202) as well. The new skins are actually patterned after the ’81 through ’87 seat style, but the two-tone material matches our C10’s interior. It makes no sense to replace the seat skins, and leave the original, broken down old foam in place. In this instance, the seat is 38-years-old, and although it wasn’t deteriorated – which is common – is was compressed and didn’t deliver the comfort it did when it was new.
2: In With The New
After tearing the seats apart, you probably have a good idea about how to install the new skins. It can be tricky in some areas, especially at the corners and the bottom of the seatback. Try to stretch the new material as evenly as possible over the foam. It may take several tries, working from one side to another to really nail it. This is a project that takes practice and patience to achieve the desired results. If you place the new skins in the sun for an hour or so before you begin, they become much more pliable and are easier to stretch into place. Not only that, but if there are any fold marks caused by packaging, it will help to alleviate them as the cover is installed.
I’m not going to tell you that the covers will simply fall into place, because that doesn’t happen. While you slide the new upholstery over the top of the seat back and pull it into place, you will need to use quite a bit of muscle at this point. The new skin is meant to fit snug, and pulling it into shape over the foam padding may be a bit taxing on your patience.
3: Enjoy The Results
Once the new foam and upholstery is installed, you can place the seatback in your vehicle and enjoy the benefits of doing an improvement to your car that makes the interior look like new, but relish in the fact that by buying the parts at Classic Industries and installing them yourself, you also saved a pile of money.
I quickly learned that the new foam was definitely in better shape than the old stuff, as I now sit higher in the cab, and much closer to the steering wheel. The seat not only looks better, but is now much more comfortable than it has been in years.
While the type of seat you’re planning to recover might be a little different than mine, the process is basically the same. Give yourself plenty of time and don’t rush it, pay attention to how you disassemble the seat so you can put it back together and reap the rewards of a job well done while saving money. So what are you waiting for, upgrade your interior now.