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DIY: Last Resort (cheap) Seat Repair

Help, Advice and DIY Tutorials on Volvo's extremely popular car line -- Volvo's 1990s "bread and butter" cars -- powered by the ubiquitous and durable Volvo inline 5-cylinder engine.

1992 - 1997 850, 850 R, 850 T5-R, 850 T5, 850 GLT
1997 - 2000 S70, S70 AWD
1997 - 2000 V70, V70 AWD
1997 - 2000 V70-XC
1997 - 2004 C70

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WhatAmIDoing
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DIY: Last Resort (cheap) Seat Repair

Post by WhatAmIDoing » Wed Mar 20, 2019 10:30 pm

My driver's seat was in pretty sad shape, as most 250k+ mi P80s are. After being unable to source decent used seats and not having the money to spend on new seat skins, I devised a cheap repair solution to restore comfort and prevent excess wear. I actually got the idea after my boss had me reupholster a tractor cap with just a few products from the fabric store. TLDR at bottom.

Cost: $15-55 depending on how much area you need to repair and what quality of materials you buy. I spent about $20.

Time: Depends on how handy you are with foam and vinyl. I spent about 3-4 hours (including dry time), but I was taking my time trying to make it look nice, and I failed arts and crafts.

Materials: vinyl/leather, 1/2" high-density foam, fabric spray adhesive, preferred color-matched strong-tape (Duct Tape), sharp cutting tool, scissors. Most fabric stores will cut to order foam and vinyl in sub 1yd lengths. I bought everything at Joann's Fabrics / already had tape and spray glue.

As you can see, my seat was in pretty sad shape. The 'rear' portion of the seat was completely deteriorated, and the deep layer of foam was starting to get torn up. I mainly did this to preserve the rest of the seat from further damage from daily use.
IMG_20190119_153805342.jpg
Original
IMG_20190119_153816084.jpg
Original-closeup
Step One: You need to cut out the old, damaged leather and foam. Honestly taking a knife to my torn up seats was way more painful then I thought it would be (if you get really attached to your car, you'll get it). I recommend using a box-cutter with a new razor blade, or a scalpel if you have one. Take your time and try to cut as straight and as close to the seam as possible. Be careful not to cut too deep and damage the mesh layer and the heating elements! I left a little material at the back so it would be easier to stick tape their later (and the back of the seat was in the way of my razor). After removing the damaged leather and foam, you may need to stretch out and glue the mesh backing material in place, as well as reposition what I believe are the elements for the heated seat.
IMG_20190119_180605479.jpg
Cut-out
Step Two: Cut out your foam and vinyl. I used 1/2 inch thick, high-density foam, which appeared to be a direct replacement for the stock foam (remember this will compress over time). I used beige marine vinyl from Joann's (silly me didn't write down the color or product code, but they will cut samples for you). Cut the foam to match the hole. Remove a little bit at a time to get it perfect. It helps to use your foam cutout as a template for cutting the vinyl. I cut my vinyl a little bigger than the foam and test fitted it all before gluing. I made a lot of small adjustments trying to get it to fit right, but try not to over think it.

Step Three: Lay down some painter's tape or other protectant to catch the glue over-spray. I used 3M Headliner Adhesive, which I had laying around from well, you know. Follow the instructions on your spray adhesive to form a strong bond between the materials. I glued in the foam first, let it dry for 30 minutes, then glued the vinyl to the foam. Make sure you get the placement right within about 10 seconds, as this stuff bonds fast. So no pressure, but you kind of need to get it first try. With a bit of luck, the result will hopefully look a bit better than this (I sort of messed up getting the vinyl down).
IMG_20190119_193707463.jpg
new-foam
IMG_20190119_213003232.jpg
New-vinyl
Step Four: You need to secure the edges so, when you slide in and out of the seat, you don't tear up your handy work. I opted for the handyman's secret weapon, duct tape. If you are really good with leather, you could probably try stitching it in (and if you are, I'm sure you're cringing by now). The first set of tape will be sacrificial, as the foam is going to compress and settle, and as a result stretch the tape. I did not tape down the portion at the seat back due to the height difference, and will wait for the foam to settle. I am going to be re-taping mine this summer and give the foam a little more time to settle in. I used beige Duck brand duct tape, which, unfortunately, did not end up color-matching well (I do not recommend using this).
IMG_20190120_105204279.jpg
repair-closeup
Step Five: You are going to want to tape up any other big rips to prevent them from getting bigger. In the severe gashes, I added a sliver of the high density foam so there was no noticeable hole. I used different tape for the gashes that a friend gave me. They said it was marketed as 'seat repair tape' but they don't remember where they got it. It is sort of stretchy with a vinyl-fabric backing and very sticky. Try to tape perpendicular to the tear so that the tape pulls it together. I kept it 90 degrees to appease my OCD. Start on one side and pull the tape across as you push it down so it will come out looking smooth. This tape color matched a lot better.
IMG_20190319_172809485_HDR.jpg
Tape-closeup
Results: This repair has definitely held up well. The tape has slide off a bit due to me sitting and stretching the vinyl and the foam compressing. I will be cleaning this up and re-taping it in May. I just taped up the rips about a week ago since I didn't have that seat repair tape initially, but it is holding up well. This is the repair initially after ~500 miles, and the next after about 3 months ~3,000 miles.
IMG_20190123_141950306.jpg
After 500 miles
IMG_20190319_172803647_HDR.jpg
3-months-later+new-tape
Conclusion: I'm glad I did this. The seat is even more comfortable now (didn't think it was possible), and I can finally use the lumbar support properly. I sit a good 2-3 inches higher. And now I'm not worried about damaging the seat even more every time I slide in and out. It doesn't look pretty, but hey if the women don't find you handsome, at least they'll find you handy. I am happy I did this, but I do not recommend doing this. This should only be considered a last resort if you cannot find decent used seats or you can't afford / don't want to spend the money on seat skins.The amount of time involved to make this look good far exceeds swapping in new seats, and at best matches the time it takes to replace seat skins. Only undertake this if you are out of options or just really cheap. Anyway, hopefully someone benefits from this write up, even if that means deciding to spend more time looking for good used seats.

TLDR: Don't do this unless you really can't find decent used seats. This repair is cheap and works well, but requires a lot of time and work to do a good job. It is likely faster to swap in better seats or change the seat skins, and both of these options will come out looking better. If you don't care about any of that, then read on.

Edit:
Correction: I used 1/2 inch foam, not 1 inch.
Last edited by WhatAmIDoing on Thu Mar 21, 2019 2:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.


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Re: DIY: Last Resort (cheap) Seat Repair

Post by abscate » Thu Mar 21, 2019 4:11 am

My seat skin swap was four hours of hard hand work , for reference.
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Re: DIY: Last Resort (cheap) Seat Repair

Post by Cookeh » Thu Mar 21, 2019 7:13 am

Wow, could have had that panel repaired at a shop, including rebuilding the foam, for £50 here. Entire interiors in good condition normally sell for around £80-100 too. Odd, that the US has a much larger stockpile of parts and breakers (thanks Scrappage Scheme!) yet you can't find any better condition seats.



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Re: DIY: Last Resort (cheap) Seat Repair

Post by abscate » Thu Mar 21, 2019 8:50 am

abscate wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 4:11 am
My seat skin swap was four hours of hard hand work , for reference.
I hate when the tape rolls up and yanks off your leg hair when you wear shorts, producing a scream when you get out of the car. I do look nicer in a Speedo without leg hair, though - shall I post pictures?


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Re: DIY: Last Resort (cheap) Seat Repair

Post by LOB » Thu Mar 21, 2019 9:11 am

Cookeh wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 7:13 am
Wow, could have had that panel repaired at a shop, including rebuilding the foam, for £50 here. Entire interiors in good condition normally sell for around £80-100 too. Odd, that the US has a much larger stockpile of parts and breakers (thanks Scrappage Scheme!) yet you can't find any better condition seats.
My seats are in pristine condition -97 and 10k miles and I've never seen such deteriorated seats in any 850/v70 in Scandinavia. I guess the climate in UK/Scandinavia vs (southern) US makes a difference here.



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Re: DIY: Last Resort (cheap) Seat Repair

Post by Clemens » Thu Mar 21, 2019 4:23 pm

yeah, those seats look like they have 2.500.000 miles on them. I thought they had no ozone layer down under, but there must be a hole right above whatamidoing's driveway.

nice fix, though. way better than before.


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Re: DIY: Last Resort (cheap) Seat Repair

Post by ZionXIX » Thu Mar 21, 2019 5:58 pm

My seats look just as bad. 200k miles in the Texas sun took care of that, and my propensity to wear jeans.
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Re: DIY: Last Resort (cheap) Seat Repair

Post by WhatAmIDoing » Fri Mar 22, 2019 8:52 am

Cookeh wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 7:13 am
Wow, could have had that panel repaired at a shop, including rebuilding the foam, for £50 here. Entire interiors in good condition normally sell for around £80-100 too. Odd, that the US has a much larger stockpile of parts and breakers (thanks Scrappage Scheme!) yet you can't find any better condition seats.
I tried to have an upholstery shop fix it up, but they either didn't want to touch the seats because of the airbag, or they wanted so much money it would have been more cost effective to just buy seat skins.

I have been looking for seats for over a year. When I do find them they are always trashed, or on the opposite end of the continent (shipping sucks).
Clemens wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 4:23 pm
yeah, those seats look like they have 2.500.000 miles on them. I thought they had no ozone layer down under, but there must be a hole right above whatamidoing's driveway.

nice fix, though. way better than before.
Thanks. It definitely looks and feels better, but unfortunately some people will think this looks trashy.
ZionXIX wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 5:58 pm
My seats look just as bad. 200k miles in the Texas sun took care of that, and my propensity to wear jeans.
Based on the records I received, The first 3 previous owners had the car serviced at the Volvo dealer every 5k miles. I guess they had no money left for a garage or cleaning, because I seriously wonder if they ever washed this car or had it detailed. This car was definitely never garage kept. She spent her whole life in Pennsylvania, with brief stints in Vermont and South Carolina. By Thor's blessing there is no rust.

Constant sun exposure and lack of regular leather conditioning really does these seats in.


'98 S70 T5M - 270,000+mi - forever a project
'99 S70 "AWD" - 218,000+mi - project
Knows enough to be dangerous :wink:

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