DIY Car Upholstery Replacement: The Cheap and Easy Way

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If your car’s upholstery looks a little worse for wear, you may be considering replacing it. But did you know that you can actually do it yourself? It’s not as difficult as you may think, and it can save you a lot of money. In this post, we’ll show you how to replace your car upholstery the cheap and easy way. Keep reading to learn more!

We know that the thought of changing the material covering your seat, headliner, and interior parts might sound like it would be really hard to do. But it actually isn’t anywhere close to as hard as it sounds. We have actually done it in one of our older A4’s, as the light brown had faded into an oddly colored peanut shell, and the woodgrain just wasn’t working with it at all.

Why you should replace your car upholstery

After a few years ( we would expect at least 10+ to see some signs of needing a swap) of regular use and wear-and-tear, it’s likely that someone’s car upholstery looks tired and frayed. Even if the material is in good shape, there are a couple of reasons to think about replacing an aspect of your car’s interior.

Replacing worn-out upholstery will ensure a comfortable ride and enhance cabin safety, as the new fabric can provide better cushioning should an accident occur. ( we admit this might be a bit of a stretch… but if you really hate your interior, you’re probably looking for any reason to get a new look for your car’s interior 🙂 )

Replacing existing upholstery with fresh leather or other materials will give any car a new lease on life – often making it look almost brand new. If you change your cars upholstery, it’s also an opportunity to customize your vehicle with different colors and textures.

Ultimately, replacing your car’s upholstery can make all the difference when it comes to enjoying your drive in comfort, helping to keep you safe, boosting the aesthetic value and giving yourself one greater level of control over how your vehicle looks and feels. So really, there’s no reason to keep an interior if you really hate it.

How to remove the old car upholstery

This might be the one aspect that really scares most people, but the truth is that if you think about it…. ripping out the interior should be easier than putting the new one in, right?

Your first step should be to remove the seat or object containing the fabric. Depending on your car, this may be done by unscrewing the screws that hold it in place, or you may need to use a screwdriver or special tool to do this.

So, now that you have your car seats out, you can really get to take off the current material. We usually find the easiest way to attack an issue is by going after the weakest link. This is usually the sticking on the cloth interiors or the glue in leather ( or vegan leather) materials. For the cloth seats you can just cut the threads that are keeping them in place and firmly pull them off.

For the leather, or PVC/fake leather, seats, we find that things go a lot quicker if you use a steamer to loosen the glue. Once you’ve applied the heat directly to the edges, you can usually pull the material right off the cushioning. That’s really all you need to do to get the materials off of your seats!

Finally, after completing all these steps, your automobile will have new upholstery ready for installation! Keeping your car clean inside and out just got much easier!

How to measure and cut the new fabric for car upholstery

When fitting new fabric to car upholstery, it’s very important to measure and cut the fabric to the right size that you need for your job. If you cut too little, it just won’t work, and too much will leave you cutting the material while you are installing… which isn’t what you want to be doing. Measure twice and cut once is the famous saying, which applies to this job.

tan interior that could be swapped out
An interior that might be ready to be refreshed

Now that you’ve removed the older material, you will actually have your template for the sizes you need, so you can simply take the old pieces and trace out their shapes onto your new material. We suggest using a chalk wheel or soapstone tool to trace an outline of the seat shape onto parchment paper, which will then transfer onto the new fabric. This will help ensure that all pieces match up perfectly when you lay them together later.

Laying down new fabric on your car seats

Once the outlines have been traced, lay the new fabric down and cut along the lines using sharp cutting scissors specifically designed for use on fabric. Transfer each piece accordingly and fix them securely together with special glue designed for upholstery fabric before finally placing them over your newly refreshed car seat padding. Once that has been put in place, you can choose how you will keep them in place with stitching or tubing, depending on the look you want for your interior.

This method isn’t restricted to your seats as you can apply it to anything in the car; from armrests to floor mats, measuring and cutting new fabric with precision can turn out incredibly professional results if done correctly. So maybe you bought a used car and hate it, you can easily use these steps to make the interior into something you like more.

How to install the new car upholstery

So now that you have removed your interior, traced out the replacement materials, and have the pieces ready to go we are onto installing them into your car. We briefly went over the steps above, but we thought it would be beneficial to put a full section with the options on how to install the material onto your seats.

As we mentioned, you can use glues to keep the materials in place, but there are a couple of other options. You can also use screws or staples to firmly secure the new material into place before stitching them into its permanent position. Once you are happy with how the interior looks, you are ready to put those pieces into their forever homes!

Here is a great video showing how someone did a full material swap on one of their OEM car seats:

DIY Car Reupholstery demo

What kind of fabric to use for your car upholstery replacement project

When replacing upholstery in a car, choosing the right fabric is very important. It should look great to your eyes but also needs to be durable and able to stand up to wear and tear. On top of this, you will still want it to feel soft and comfortable for those longer road trips.

Lucky for you, there are a lot of types of fabric available that can suit this purpose. Cotton offers ideal breathability, while polyester is resistant to shrinking and staining. Nylon is well known for its durability, while polypropylene has excellent color retention properties. Leather is always a popular choice, as it looks stylish and lends an air of sophistication to the car’s interior.

Ultimately, when picking replacement fabric for upholstery projects, comfort, durability, and aesthetic appeal should all be considered for the best overall result. If you want to see an example of how it looks when you really take your time to choose the materials, make sure you check out this DIY for your car interior final picture in Reddit, it’s really impressive, to say the least.

Our 3 top materials for your DIY interior replacement

  • Alcantara – the variety of colors is amazing; the material is durable and easy to keep clean
  • Leather – a true classic, feels great, has good support, can be cleaned easily
  • Vinyl – another man-made product, a bit older school but still has a good look
custom white leather interior in a car
a beautiful option for your car’s interior

Drawbacks of using leather for your interior DIY car material replacement

We know that leather is a classic choice, but when it comes down to it, there are some drawbacks when comparing it to newer man-made materials. While there is no material that will smell the same as Leather, the newer options do have a couple benefits over this traditional choice.

Leather can crack and peel quicker than the fake leather options on the market now. Just make sure you get a good quality leather alternative as there is a huge range in quality.

Leather absorbs heat… if you know the feeling of getting into a hot car that’s been in the sun all day you know how hot leather can get.

It is expensive when compared to pretty much every other option. Leather takes an animal to make, and a person or machine to finish.


Replacing your car upholstery may seem daunting, but with our easy-to-follow steps, you’ll be well on your way to giving your car a fresh, new look. And by following our tips and tricks to make sure you are happy with the results of your DIY interior for your car. So what are you waiting for? You can get started today and enjoy the satisfaction of completing a do-it-yourself project that will save you money and give your car a whole new lease on life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What tools do I need to replace my car’s upholstery?

The basic tools you will need to replace car upholstery are a measuring tape, fabric scissors, straight edge razor, fabric glue, an upholstery needle and thread, and a staple gun.

You might need the tools to remove the parts of the car like wrenches or screwdrivers, depending on your car.

How do I remove the old upholstery?

To remove the old upholstery, you will need to cut and remove all the existing fabric, foam, and batting. You may also need to remove the staples or screws that hold the upholstery in place.

How do I measure and cut the new upholstery?

To measure and cut the new upholstery, you will need to use a measuring tape to measure the length and width of each section of the car in that you will be replacing the upholstery. We suggest being gentle when taking out the previous materials and use them as a guide to trace the replacement pieces.

Then, use fabric scissors to cut a piece of fabric that is the same size as the measured section. Be sure to straighten any curves in the fabric before cutting. Finally, use a staple gun or fabric glue to secure the new upholstery. Please don’t try to use your kitchen scissors, because they won’t have the strength for clean cuts, and you will end up with fraying and no one wants that.

How do I install the new upholstery?

Once you have your replacement pieces ready to go you can use a staple gun or fabric glue to secure the new upholstery in place. Then you can ensure all the pieces and edges are exactly where you want them to be, and stitch them into place.

It is always best to get all your new material where they should be, and let it sit for a minute so that you can really ensure they are in the right spot. Although it might look good at first glance, we can tell you it’s much easier to rearrange stuff before you do the final stitching.

What type of adhesive should I use?

Many types of adhesives are available for upholstery projects, but fabric glue and a staple gun are two of the most common. Fabric glue is a type of adhesive that can be used to attach fabric to a surface, while a staple gun is used to fasten staples into the fabric to hold it in place.

You can look for specific glues for fabric and headliners in department stores ( or online), so please don’t just get normal Elmers white glue and expect it to work.

How do I finish the edges in making car upholstery?

You can use a sewing machine to stitch a hem into the fabric to ensure your edges look great when they are finished. Another option is to use binding tape or cording to cover the raw edge of the fabric. Finally, you can simply leave the raw edge exposed.

The final option is to use piping to cover up those edges, but they are a unique style which might not work for everyone.

What are some tips for preventing wrinkles in your car upholstery?

To prevent wrinkles in your car upholstery, use a straight edge when cutting the fabric, and avoid stretching the fabric while you staple or glue it in place. You can also use a pressing cloth to help reduce wrinkles while heat-sew the fabric. Finally, take care not to overload the seat with too much weight, as this can cause wrinkles in the upholstery over time.

How can I clean my new upholstery?

Cleaning your new upholstery is easy. Simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the fabric, then dry it with a clean towel. Be sure to avoid getting any water or cleaning products on the adhesive or staples, as this could damage them. You can also use a vacuum cleaner to remove any dirt or debris from the fabric.

It’s much easier to keep your new material in shape than replace a worn-out one, so if you stay on top of keeping your interiors clean right away, you will avoid the work needed to swap it out later.