TTAC commentator mistercopacetic writes:
Dear Mr. Mehta,
Big fan of TTAC and Piston Slap. I have a 2001 Honda CR-V with a cloth interior which I would like to switch out for a leather interior. I am doing this mostly because I am too cheap to buy a new car, but want to feel like I am driving a new car with leather seats. I found a store online selling a Roadwire leather seat kit for $595, on sale until June 15 from $962 list. It looks like this is a replacement interior, not just seat covers, so I will be pulling out the old seats, removing the cloth from the seat frame, and installing the leather. My question: is this something I can do myself, or is it better to get a professional installer? I would like to save some cash, but if it is a job that requires expertise I would rather pay someone who knows what they are doing. I’ve searched some forums online and my impression is that an aftermarket leather interior can either look terrible or meet or exceed a factory leather interior in look and quality, depending on the skill of the installer.
You are right on all points, though I’m not touching that “too cheap to buy a new car” comment. Since you’ve done a fantastic job assessing the situation, I’ll tell you my experiences with seat material swaps. If you can dig it, give it a shot. If not, well…
So I’m with pre-LeMons fame Troy Hogan’s driveway with his a 1996 Ford F350 Crew Cab XL. It has a gray interior and those somewhat terrible XL seats. I only say “somewhat” because today’s benches in comparable trucks are just as terrible, even the King Ranches! So anyway, Troy shows me his junkyard score: a pair of XLT benches finished in dark blue and another pair of XLT benches in the correct matching gray. The blue XLT’s had an intact seat frame and the gray ones had the right material, but were completely unusable because the donor truck was T-boned. Do you see where I’m going with this? Troy and I spent the better part of a day removing gray seat fabric (via snipping off thick metal hog rings), fiddling with seat foam to have the ideal bits on a single pair of benches, washing off gallons of milky-looking water from the gojo hand cleaner used on the dirty junkyard fabric and then, finally, we went through the pain of attaching the XLT material on various seating components (two bucket seats, one center seat, two arm rests, one rear bench) using…wait for it…zip ties!
Honestly, the zip ties worked like a charm, and have done so for the past 5+ years. While easier than the metal hog rings because it allows a loose fit before completely crimping them down, it was still a time consuming, nightmare of a project. One that is somewhat similar to your fabric dilemma. And now my advice: give it a shot, at least remove the seats/hog rings so you can save the labor at the trim shop. You can start attaching it with zip ties, carefully looking at the contours to make sure it’s fitting correctly.
If any part of this Piston Slap is making you the least bit excited, you have your answer: DO IT.
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