Nofive_0 Reader
7/21/20 8:26 a.m.

I figured this would appeal to some of you so I will share my adventures in leather refinisining. 

I have a love hate relationship with BMW's. I wouldn't categorize myself as a "BMW guy" but my ownership history would suggest otherwise. As much as I would like to quit them I can't. I picked up another e90 wagon after selling my last project with the intentions of building the ultimate daily. BMW has this incredible ability to make cool color combos and option packages that get you very interested and then offers them in extremely limited quantities. At least they used to. For example. I love the e91 wagon, but they are generally offered in awful "mom car" spec. Fake wood, tan interiors, no sport package etc. So when I picked up my latest victim it was specced as such with a boring black interior and no sport seats.

To facilitate some parts sharing I acquired a parts car. I ended up with a similar model year sedan that had grey sports interior. So I figured this would be a good way to gain sport seats in the wagon while at the same time making it a bit more interesting. I've always loved the black on brown color combo. In particular I like the e46 M3 color option of "cinnamon" interior. A slightly reddish light brown that I've always thought was unique. Obviously this wasn't an option in the much newer wagon so I decided to take things into my own hands. 

Car for reference:

Kit I'm using

I'm using the biggest amount they offered 32oz, but it probably won't be enough. And so it begins.

Basically the trick is to wipe it on very thinly with a sponge. The "dye" is water based and really seems to have more of the consistency of a really flexible and tough latex paint. If you put it on too thick and fast it will not adhere and will make things challenging as you'll see. Prep consists of wiping it down with the supplied cleaner and scuffing it with a scotch-brite pad. I'm not convinced the pad does anything really other than aiding in removing of dirt. If you don't get oils and contaminents off the leather it will lift exactly like paint. So think of it as more painting your seats rather than dyeing them. 

trumant (Forum Supporter)
trumant (Forum Supporter) Reader
7/21/20 8:31 a.m.

That Cinnamon interior is really spectacular. I have an E46 and a full interior in that color just came on the market near me for $1600. Were it not for the ridiculously bad shape of the drivers seat I might have considered making the swap.

Looking forward to seeing how this turns out for you.

Nofive_0 Reader
7/21/20 8:39 a.m.

I'm about halfway done at this point. As I said, if you don't prep correctly it won't adhere. This seams to be particularly true in the deep seems and creases. It also seems to rear it's head at about the 3rd coat when you try to apply with a bit too much pressure and end up wiping off the first coats. Also, the front seats are the grey ones from the donor car. The backs are the black leather from my wagon. 

2-3 coats

You can see here where I had some adhesion issues. Like paint I ended up roughing the edges up and trying to blend it back as good as possible. I've since found that using a heat gun helps with adhesion and will help you build back up the exposed area so you can continue even coats.

Beginning a seat. The grey covers much easier. However the parts car seats we're as nice as mine. The dye did a pretty good job of making them look much better.

You can see that I had some adhesion issues here as well. I'm about to start the passenger side and try to do a much better job prepping.

Streetwiseguy MegaDork
7/21/20 8:41 a.m.

The "George Hamilton" edition.  Volvo used that in some of their R models, including the ones painted red. 

RossD MegaDork
7/21/20 8:42 a.m.

Looks great!

Nofive_0 Reader
7/21/20 8:44 a.m.

A few more:

So far I'm pretty happy with the finished results. When done right it is really indistinguishable from a normal leather finish. I can't speak to the durability yet, but time will tell. It seems to be damn near impossible to get off your hands if you let it dry for 24 hours. It's a LOT of work. You have to touch every piece at least 7-8 times. Especially the black leather. However it is nice to work inside, in the AC and just do a little here and there as you wait for it to dry. I'm shooting for the rest of the back seats today and then I'll have to order some more to finish the passenger front seat and the door card inserts. More photos to come.

Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
7/21/20 10:20 a.m.

It's quite surprising to see how well it works over the black leather. It looks quite good, hopefully it holds up well.

Nofive_0 Reader
7/21/20 10:33 a.m.

It takes a lot of coats. I wish there was something like a leather primer as I just had to order another $80 worth. That's about $200 all in. Although I won't be upset if it holds up. That's worth it for a power sport "cinnamon" upgrade to the wagon.

For reference this is what the OEM interior looks like sans tacky trim and shift boot.

02Pilot UltraDork
7/22/20 2:12 p.m.

I agree that BMW should really promote their more unusual color offerings more, though I suppose it's as much about demand, both from boring customers and dealers scared of being stuck with oddball combos on their lots.

I sort of fell into my black over brown example - I wanted a very specific model, and the one I ended up buying had it, Black Sapphire Metallic over  Terracotta, to be specific. While I was initially a bit ambivalent, it's grown on me and now I like it a lot (apologies for the lousy photo - quick phone picture, odd light, strange white balance).

Nofive_0 Reader
7/24/20 1:29 p.m.

All of the back is done and in the car. Man! This is a lot more work than I was anticipating. I'm happy to report that I broke very minimal amounts of 10 year old bmw plastic trim. Overall I'm pretty happy with it. I was worried about the durability, but after letting some get on the plastic and the counter top I'm not so concerned anymore. I rushed half of the back to get it out of the kitchen and you can tell. Mostly you wouldn't notice if you weren't looking for it. 

Before you ask, any spots you see on the leather are from me sweating putting the seats in because I live in NC and it's always humid. 

Now the plan is to tidy up the drivers seat and complete the passenger seat. Shouldn't be much more than another weekday evening's work. Then to figure out how to make all the power seat functions work. Then to do a transmission swap Fri-Sun. 

m4ff3w UberDork
7/24/20 1:59 p.m.

That looks great

NoviceClass New Reader
7/24/20 11:57 p.m.

This looks incredible, you seriously got 10x better results than I would have thought possible when I saw the first few pictures.


Also points for wife covering her face in one picture, slightly ashamed of what she has let transpire in her kitchen. 

GCrites80s HalfDork
7/25/20 3:28 p.m.

How does the stuff smell? Since you're doing it in the house.

Nofive_0 Reader
7/25/20 8:24 p.m.

It's not all that bad. Its water based. 

I finished up the fronts today. Now I just need to get some time to finish putting the trim back on, put them in the car, and figure out the wiring. I'm worried that I may have killed something trying to hook it up to a power source while moving them around.

93gsxturbo SuperDork
7/26/20 7:46 a.m.

I did the same process to dye some F250 seats.  Held up really well for 2 or 3 years till I sold the truck.  

Nofive_0 Reader
7/27/20 12:38 p.m.

Passenger seat is in..... Sort of. I had to switch around some wires to make the power functions work. Now I have all the primary up and downs, but not the fancy inflatable bolsters or lumbar. I think those are as easy as just providing +12v to another part of the harness.

Unfortunately as I suspected. I was messing around Saturday night trying to map out each pin to a which function because the BMW wiring schematics are so hard to follow, and I managed to hook 12v straight to ground. I didn't see any smoke, so I assume I "smoked" the control module as now none of the functions work. I'll mess with that later. Luckily e90 sport seats aren't really hard to come by. 

Lastly. I had to paint the side cover for the side airbag black. When I taped it up everything got a bit wonky. It didn't turn out as nicely as I'd have hoped. So now I'm thinking I make the whole thing one color, seat color. that would make it cleaner on the edges and also not be quite so contrasting. Thoughts?

Nofive_0 Reader
7/27/20 9:32 p.m.

I'm not really happy with the sport seats. Also I'm a total moron and didn't realize they aren't heated. Also because they are older seats there is a bit of difference in the wiring as well as I have to lose out on the active headrest restraint. So I think I'm going to dye the, very good condition, original manual seats in the wagon. A benefit too is that they are about 25lbs lighter than the sports seats. I'm also not convinced that the adjustable lumbar and bolsters are really necessary. 

I'm swapping the trans out this weekend so I'd like to have it done before then. Should be doable and I now have a lot more experience, so hopefully they turn out better. 

TGMF HalfDork
7/28/20 10:07 a.m.

This is good info, i'd like to spruce up my trucks seats. very interested to see how the durability is on this product. Your results so far look amazing. Can't believe you can pull off a full on color change. 

02Pilot UltraDork
7/28/20 10:22 a.m.

In reply to Nofive_0 :

You are the first person I've ever heard say they aren't happy with BMW sport seats. The lack of heating is an issue if you wanted that feature, but compared with the flat boards BMW uses for their standard seats, the sports are wonderfully adjustable for both comfort and lateral support.

Nofive_0 Reader
10/12/20 8:03 p.m.

In reply to 02Pilot :

I meant I'm unhappy with the condition and how they turned out.

Updating this thread since I finally got around to finishing my driver's seat. The cake like of the garage makes them look more orange than they are. So far durability hasn't been an issue as my dogs have tried their best to destroy the interior. Once it's dry it seems to be pretty tough. 

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