This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's book, 101 Projects for Your Porsche 911. The book contains 240 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to changing your brake pads. With more than 650+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any Porsche 911 owner's collection. See The Official Book Website for more details.
Whether your 911 was equipped originally with leather or vinyl seats, chances are they are showing their age. Probably more than any interior item on the car other than the steering wheel, the driver's seat takes the most abuse and wear throughout the years. After more than a decade of use, the seats certainly can look worn.
One of the most expensive restoration projects you can perform is the recovering of your seats, especially if they are made out of leather. Recovering kits can cost almost $500 just for the material alone. You can count on spending several hundred dollars more to get the kits installed if you don't do it yourself. If you're a master seamstress, then perhaps you have the talent and patience to perform a really good job, but for most of us the recovering job is way beyond our skill set.
There is, however, a "dirty" little secret that a lot of used car dealers use to replenish worn and cracked leather. Using a leather dye, the look of the seats and associated leather parts on the car can be significantly improved. The good news is that this dye can be the same type that you use to re-dye leather shoes. There are several different brands out there, but the one that I have personally used is the Kiwi leather dye. This is readily available from most supermarkets and department stores.
It is important to note that you should try out the dye on a small section of your seats prior to using it on all of the leather. You want to make sure that the leather will soak up the dye, and that it won't bleed or rub out when you sit on it. Take a small section of the seat (preferably the side), and apply the dye liberally. The Kiwi brand has a small sponge incorporated into the bottle, so that it spreads the dye evenly across the fabric. Be careful not to use too much, or it will create drips that will run down the side of the seat.
After you have applied the dye to a test area, let it dry for about a half hour or so. Take an old white sock or handkerchief and vigorously rub the area that you applied the dye to. The white cloth should show no signs of any black dye. If it does, then your seats might have been treated with some type of leather protectant that is not allowing the dye to adhere properly. Again, it is very important to check to make sure that the dye will not rub off or you may never be able to wear anything white in your Porsche again. Make sure that you wet the seat a bit too, to see if it will come off when the seats get wet.
If your car has black seats, then you should have no problem finding a dye that is a good color match for your car. If you have a tan or brown interior, you might have to search out different colors from various sources. Try a shoe repair store for odd colors. They might even be able to mix up a dye that would be color matched to the original fabric that is in your car (they often dye women's shoes to match certain color dresses).
If your car is equipped with vinyl seats, the same process can be used, but it would be wise to search out a dye that is formulated specifically for vinyl. Again, make sure that you test the dye on a non-critical section of fabric prior to applying it to the whole seat. Again, you might want to toss a little water on the test area to make sure that the dye doesn't run if it happens to get wet.
This small bottle is all it takes to give a great replenishing effect to your leather seats. Make sure that you test the leather on a section of the seat prior to using it on the entire seat. This will allow you to make sure that the dye is 'compatible' with the leather, and that it will look ok when complete. If your seats have been sprayed with Scotch Guard, then your dye may react differently.
Before and after results can be seen on this seat cushion. The leather dye doesn't remove the cracks and wear from the seat, but it sure goes a real long way to disguise them. Re-dyeing your seats is an excellent way to give your interior new life, without spending a fortune on recovering kits.