By on January 7, 2020

1979 Mercury Cougar XR-7 in California junkyard, front seat - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

That headline takes the author back to his 1990s sex ed classes, but we’re not talking about that today. No, sir. Wholesome, family content here.

Actually, wholesome families play a large role in the proliferation of the unique vehicular phenomenon we’ll be discussing in this QOTD. Families, retirees, and perhaps even you.

Seat covers. Beaded, zebra pattern, faux sheepskin, or perhaps something with a modicum of taste, these decidedly non-factory additions protect your vehicle’s precious fabrics from the ravages of the sun, spilled drinks, butt wear, and all other manner of in-car dangers. It’s a well-known fact that adding seat covers will boost your Kia Spectra’s resale value by several grand, thus preserving not just your seats, but your investment. *Cough*

The thought crossed my mind, after looking at pics of Corey’s base Jetta loaner, that Cruze 2.0’s seat fabric probably won’t hold up over time, being of the bargain-basement variety. Quite the contrast from my previous daily driver, which soaked up ass contact with dignity and aplomb. Nary a rip or wear line with that upholstery.

Do I dare purchase a set, like some sort of desperate Uber driver? The last seat covers in my family stood guard on two fronts — first, they protected the cracked blue vinyl of my dad’s Fairmont sedan from the dangers mentioned earlier, and secondly, they protected our vulnerable backsides from that very same cracked blue vinyl. If you thought this Fairmont came with air conditioning, you’re dreaming. That said, they were the opposite of tasteful. Nowadays, seat covers needn’t look like they originated from an 80-year-old Long Island grandmother’s Seville.

I harbor no belief that seat condition will return big bucks come the car’s eventual trade-in or sale time, but I would feel self-conscious if the low-grade fabric craps out before the car does. I might feel self-conscious with seat covers in place, too, depending on fit and grade. Thankfully, time is on my side. Or so it seems. There’s probably a couple of years before a decision must be made.

But enough about your humble author’s very humble sedan. What about you, dear reader? Are you a family man/woman who chose to protect your precious fabric from gross children and dogs? Are you a working type you doesn’t want to get oil, dirt or grease embedded deep within your vehicle’s seats?

Are you using protection right now, or would such a travesty never find its way into your bastion of road-going perfection?

[Image: Murilee Martin/TTAC]

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45 Comments on “QOTD: Are You Using Protection?...”


  • avatar
    redgolf

    Using only a small piece of cardboard behind my grandson’s booster seat to protect the backside from scuffs, nothing on the bottom, new Chevy Equinox.Back in the day I had bought a set of front and rear black terry cloth seat covers for my 55 Buick (shown) I thought it looked much better than the stock seats and would protect the interior from the dropped cigarettes from both myself and my buddies!

  • avatar

    Currently not using, but am looking into what’s out there. I have a new to me 2013 Charger with 82K on it. The upholstery still looks good, but I see evidence of those miles in minor ways. I would like to slow that down and seat covers will go a long way to doing just that.

    Seat covers would have prevented – or at least lessened – the premature wear on my 72 Charger. While shuttling a co-worker to a job site, he had forgotten to take a “stock knife” out of his back pocket. While either getting in or out, I don’t remember accurately, an edge of the knife caught the seat and tore a 2 inch gash in the seat. Bummer! Using covers just for reduction of dirt and spills is worth it to me, let alone that type of damage.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Yes, I found some nice neoprene seat covers that just slip over the seating area. They’re very comfortable, protect the fabric (I’m a slob) and look really nice. I like :)

  • avatar
    GoNavy99

    I’ve been using a pair of black BMW merino shearling covers for years now. Not because I want to protect anything in my car, but because THEY’RE SUPER COMFORTABLE AND USEFUL.

    Ask yourself: Why do you see sheepskin in the cockpit of every commercial airplane?

    I’m not here as a sheepskin salesperson, but I might as well be. They’re cool in the summer, and warm in the winter. It’s that simple. Plus they’re super comfortable and wick up body moisture like no other (unless you sit on a shammy).

    Do they look corny? Sure. Do I care about how they look? Not enough to override how great they feel.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    Back in the day, I used to love -real- sheepskin seat covers. Yeah, they look shaggy, but not only do they protect the seats but they are warm in the winter and absorb perspiration in the summer, thus seeming cooler.

    If I were going to have seat covers today, I think I’d still go with them.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      I had sheepskin seat covers in my ’76 Vega GT (the seat fabric was still in decent shape, and I wanted to protect it).

      They were great, except for the time when I left the windows down, and it rained – hard. Then I got to experience what a wet sheep smells like. :-|

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Yep, the type of beaded seat cushion endorsed by cab drivers worldwide.

    Easy to put on/replace and does not interfere with the in-seat side air bags if their deployment is required.

    Cool in the summer. Helps prevent wear on the seat fabric.

    And really helps with my sciatica. Partially the result of keeping my wallet in my right back pocket for over 3 decades. Sitting on that (however thin) while driving created the problem.

    • 0 avatar
      redgolf

      I stopped carrying my wallet in my back pocket years ago, seemed as the months rolled by my wallet got fatter and fatter and it wasn’t from money – receipts, business cards, etc. plus having had both hips replaced didn’t help with having an extra lump to sit on!

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      One of the funniest things in Men In Black is the scene where the bug carjacks the cabbie, and promptly throws out his beaded seat cushion and crown air freshener.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Lol, ^^This, I didn’t know Arthur was a middle-eastern taxi driver

        • 0 avatar
          Maymar

          The Iraqi Taxi B-Body Malibu is a minor car guy legend around southern Ontario, although I don’t think Arthur owned one (I’m sure he knows the story too though).

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Two of my close friends and one of my neighbours purchased Iraqi taxis. Two of the three had extraordinary long lives for vehicles in Southern Ontario.

            They could perhaps be considered as true ‘Ace of Base’ contenders.

            From Wikipedia: ‘These special-order Malibus carried the unusual combination of GM’s lowest-power carburated V6, the 110 hp (82 kW) 229 cu in (3.8 L) engine mated to three-speed manual transmission with a unique on-the-floor stick shifter. All of the cars were equipped with air conditioning, heavy duty cooling systems, AM/FM cassette decks, front bench seats, 200 km/h speedometers, tough tweed and vinyl upholstery and 14-inch (360 mm) body-color stamped steel wheels with small “dog dish” hubcaps.’

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Get a foam roller

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      Potential pickup line:

      “I’m not really this tall, I was sitting on my wallet.”

  • avatar
    Dilrod

    I have an old quilt I made a bench seat cover out of. I mainly use it if I’m doing something and getting really grimy clothes, but I also folded it double & put it on the passenger side when my wife was nearing her due dates.

    The first two kids she thought I was making a nice cushion for her to sit on. By the 3rd child, she figured out the reason. Boy, she was mad.

  • avatar
    Goatshadow

    Neoprene seat covers for the Jeep. They are difficult to clean and have mystery stains on them now, but they protect the original seats from dog.

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    To me, the only reason to buy seat covers is when the seats had already suffered from the ravages of wear and time. Besides, if you buy seat covers to protect your new seats, you’ll never see the seats you’re trying to protect.
    It reminds me of when truck bedliners were all the rage. You buy the bedliner to protect the bed from scratches but you never see that bed again because installing and removing a bedliner is no easy task.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Same here. I like the seats and don’t want them covered. Then I am dirty or have a dog in the car, I put down a beach towel and its been working fine

    • 0 avatar
      redgolf

      Blackcloud_9 – When I was trading in my 95 GMC Sonoma pick up for a new 96 I asked the salesman if I could keep my bed liner to put in the 96, he called the manager out to have a look, when he lifted the bed liner up to inspect the bed he said ” no, no way, there’s rub marks in the paint , can’t do it” I should have threatened to walk away from the deal but didn’t, I went and bought a new liner!

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Yeah, kids and dogs. Eventually you have to let them in. But then there’s food. What, are you going to not drink coffee in it? It’s going to spill no matter what you do. Eating in the truck/car is a fact of life, being on the go and whatnot.

    I just throw layers of towels the seat bottoms. The seat-backs don’t seem to catch much food/liquid or wear, at least under my use.

    Actual custom-fit F-150 seat-covers cost too much, and the cheap ones look like hell.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I absolutely won’t drink anything but water in my cars. Unfortunately that’s not a realistic rule with the kids on longer trips, but for the adults it’s just fine.

  • avatar
    gasser

    I carry a mover’s pad blanket in the back of my SUV, for covering the back seat whenever the dogs go for a ride.
    As a retiree, my car will rust out before the seats wear out.

  • avatar
    Fred

    I did when I was younger. Then I tried to reupholster my VW seats with a kit and some foam. At least I wasn’t sitting in a hole. Then I took them to a professional, and the results were glorious. I swore to make sure all my cars since then to have comfortable seats.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    I’ve got sheep skins, from Costco, on the driver’s seats of my pickup and van. It isn’t to protect then seats however, it is to protect me. We had some in our last C-Max since it had Ford’s terrible soy fabric that is scratchy and stains easily.

  • avatar
    volvo

    IMO custom seat covers are the only way to go but they cost as much as reupholstering the seat. Neoprene is for wetsuits. I have not found fitted (not custom) covers that seem quality design and fabric for the last ten years.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    I’ve never been a fan of seat covers unless the seats are trashed. I’d rather get new stock seat material and install it on the existing seat.
    And my biggest pet peeve- Craigslist ads with seat covers (or steering wheel covers). What are you hiding? The first thing I’m gonna do when I examine the car is pull those off to see how bad it is. Waste of time, as I’m buying a car, not a set of seat covers.
    And could you also remove your junk from the car before taking the photos?

  • avatar
    mmreeses

    if you plan on keeping your vehicle for the long haul, get a steering wheel cover.

    Urethane/leather isn’t indestructible

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Yes! I have a beach towel which I put down for my dog and if I am sweaty from sports. Otherwise – no.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I don’t know about interior covers but factory paint quality is so poor anymore that I can see going with a wrap or protection film or ceramic coating in the future.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Nope, I’d rather deal with wear than look at and sit on ugly-ass covers. And so there is some wear.

    My old Legend has no cracks and the seats look great, but they feel a bit hard and there’s a little subtle scuffing on the usual driver’s bolster. I may have them reupholstered at some point in the future with new soft leather.

    Our Bolt does most of the family shuttling. Everything looks fine at 5k miles but it’s obvious that there will eventually be some wrinkling of the white parts of the leather. Given the lack of sunroof, the brighter interior atmosphere of the white/grey interior is well worth having to clean the white parts more often. (And they cleans up perfectly.)

    The Highlander is mostly in good shape but has a surprising amount of wear on the center console (only) from the previous owner. I may eventually spring for a replacement console, available from Toyota for around $500. With that, the interior would look near perfect.

    • 0 avatar
      ToolGuy

      You can have a leather place recover the center console in genuine leather for much less than the cost of a replacement console (and the replacement console is going to wear as badly as the factory one did, because it’s not leather). [Consider having them add an additional thin layer of foam underneath the leather.]

      Leather test: Press your finger into the material. If you get a nice even depression all around, it’s synthetic material. If you get a non-symmetrical pattern of lines radiating out, it’s natural leather. “Leather seating surfaces” means just that today – check the sides and back of the seat, or the headrest, and you’ll see the difference.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        The console assembly consists of two side pieces that are hard plastic and a big top piece that incorporates a two-piece rolling door, with both the fixed part and both halves of the rolling door covered in fake leather. I think it would be hard to recover the top piece because the tolerances on the rolling door are tight. Recovering the side pieces is an interesting idea and even synthetic leather there instead of the hard plastic would feel very nice.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Am I the only person on the planet who thinks that the OEM should spec out thicker/more durable material for the driver seat cushion (the bottom of the seat, and the side where you slide in and out)? Yeah, I thought so.

    For the record, it is possible to get heated cloth seats – no inherent reason to tie heated seats to leather seating surfaces.

    Order of preference for seating materials:
    – Good attractive super-durable cloth – which few OEM’s offer because of cost
    – Decent leather
    – The low-grade cloth most OEM’s offer – because of cost (and styling weirdness in some cases)
    – Way way down the list – any type of synthetic leather, plastic leather, pleather, vinyl – ewwwww no

    All steering wheels and all gearshift knobs should be covered in genuine leather. (The cost to the OEM might be around twenty bucks.)

    If you have never re-covered a leather gearshift knob yourself, I highly recommend the exercise.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      On amazon you can buy leather steering wheel wrap – $50. And I mean, you have to wrap it using the thread and in the end it should look like real.

      Yea, my 98 Protege had great upholstery. After nearly 17 years – no tear. Yuo could see some darkening on driver seat and this is all (without cleaning). 2011 Mazda3 has a very durable upholstery but not super comfortable and hard to clean. 2017 Mazda6 has more comfortable upholstery but still, something missing.

      And floor carpet – it is ridiculously cheap these days. I remember end of 80s Nissans, when they had this nice, easy to clean carpets. Not the fuzzy one but sort-of office-grade

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        If they even still exist, I probably won’t be able to afford vehicles with the deep pile carpeting in cars of the 1970’s/early 80’s. Even my Chev Caprice had the entire trunk lined in thick carpeting which matched the colour of the seats, dashboard and interior carpeting.

        I would also prefer the thick velour seat upholstery available then. We often comment on how well preserved this seating is when Murilee posts pictures of his Junkyard Finds.

        Much of the ‘leather’ in today’s vehicles is either ‘bicast’ or ‘bonded leather’. From Wikipedia: ‘Bonded leather is made by shredding leather scraps and leather fiber, then mixing it with bonding materials. The mixture is next extruded onto a cloth or paper backing, and the surface is usually embossed with a leather-like texture or grain. Color and patterning, if any, are a surface treatment that does not penetrate like a dyeing process would. The natural leather fiber content of bonded leather varies. The manufacturing process is somewhat similar to the production of paper.’

        Thus it is neither as hard wearing as seating made from leather hides.

        As for leather wraps on steering wheels, shifters, etc. That should be standard equipment. It was on our ‘base’ Kia Rondo and not only provides a better tactile experience, it looks and wears better than the plastic on many other vehicles.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    I have a SeatDefender temporary cover that I slip on the driver’s seat during the winter, or when it rains during the other seasons. It just fits over the headrest and drapes flat over the seatback and cushion, so the side airbag isn’t affected. The butt-warmers still are effective in the winter, and I keep the vented seat part off if the SeatDefender is on the seat.

  • avatar
    redgolf

    I bought my 97 Pontiac Grand Prix new, still have it, 179 K, never had seat covers and the cloth seats still are not worn or torn, just some fading on the upper rear from the sun, garaged for the first 10 years, sitting in the Tennessee sun the rest. Best car I’ve ever owned! Hoping it will go 30 years.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Funny, I joined the commentariat at TTAC after reading the review of the Grand Prix, for it’s final year. It was the base model, nd the reviewer was not kind. It was so slow, the reviewer stated, “In a race between the Grand Prix and North America, my money’s on continental drift.” The review ended with a notice and advice: “This is the last year for this model and you can pick one up for a song. Don’t.”

      Your ’97 was the first year of the 6th generation, and the 2008 model reviewed was the last year of the final 7th generation, so there’s no real comparison.

  • avatar
    lostboy

    FWIW
    My 2005 Subaru forester with 300k on the clock has been been ridden bare back since new (; but i recently had to replace the seats altogether with used front and rears from a junker in a scrap yard – worked out cheaper than good covers with better results as the actual foam had failed so i had no choice – as it stands my base model seats held up for almost 12 years b4 i noticed anything so seat covers are highly variable as a necessity, unless you’ve got truly deplorable seats to begin with, i think these things are mostly cosmetic in this day and age for the average sedan. IMHO

    God help with Corinthian leather in your Bentley or Rolls!

  • avatar
    -Nate

    How the hell do I prevent dirt, oil and grease from getting ground into my seat’s ? .

    I don’t use seat covers, I just take the time and effort to clean the damn things every few months .

    I’d never even try to sell any vehicle with cracks / rips / holes in the seats, everyone buys the sizzle, not the steak .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    DweezilSFV

    Not exactly to “protect the investment” but because I my cars are purchased for the long term.

    My 05 ION 1 has had it’s bargain basement seats covered since year two. Ironic since the 03-05 ION 2’s upholstery would stain if one looked at it closely unlike the burlap style 1’s.

    Seat covers on the front are 14 years old and wash up nicely. Grey terry cloth in the rear and the seats still look new. Keeps the sun off the rear seat backs as well.

    Sister in law leaked spaghetti sauce out of a doggie box from Caruso’s here in Tucson and never told me. The covers protected the seat with a slight spot that came right out with upholstery cleaner.

    Same with the 86 Calais. GM’s old velour wore like iron. It still looks nice decades later.

    It’s a personal thing, but I don’t like driving a car with a slobbed interior [used to, no more ] or beat up exterior. It depresses me. So they all get covers.

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    I remember when the seat back upholstery would wear through people would pull a cotton tee shirt over it. Saw some interesting logos and cartoons on them.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    And, having a vasectomy 40 years ago and not playing the “Beer Goggle Roulette” means I can ride bareback without worrying =8-) .

    TMI, I know .

    -Nate

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