Saturday, 30 May 2015

Leather Steering Wheel Renovation

Replacement or having someone do a rewrap at an upholstery shop would be an expensive option.
Be cognizant that unless you have a temporary replacement wheel you won’t be able to use your vehicle for at least three days while your applying pigmentation and refinishing the wheel, so plan accordingly

The leather covering on a steering wheel is a very high wear area and is given an OEM clear top coat urethane protective covering. Often the colour can wear through fairly quickly as they are exposed to ultra violet (UV-B) radiation and heat which causes them to lose moisture and dry out becoming brittle and subject to cracking. 

As the skin of your hands are in contact with bare leather, perspiration and body oils are both acidic , which along with any dirt and grime will become absorbed. Besides staining your leather, it will also make it shiny and can also can weaken and break down the stitching as well as the leather, degrading the finished leather leading to ultimate failure.

A few days before commencing the actual leather renovation, clean the finished leather surfaces and then use Leather Master™ Leather Degreaser to remove any body oils and then apply Leather Master™ Soft, this is not a conditioner per se but it will soften the finished leather and make it easier to work with.

Remove the Steering Wheel

Disconnect the negative battery terminal, and remove the steering wheel. Once the wheel has been removed, remove all of the electronics and trim plates.

Light Surface Scratches

Finished (urethane) leather surface scratches (usually from jewellery (rings) or fingernails - for light slightly scuffed surfaces  use 2500 grit finishing paper, with light pressure sand the area until the marks have faded.

For deeper scratches - Then use a very thin application of Leather Master’s Leather Filler, water- based acrylic paste that fills out scratches in leather or any part of that grain that is missing.

All the steps for preparation and pigmentation application are the same, although it’s a good idea to use a mild degreaser to remove any oil or grease from the surface and then proceed by removing the manufactured finish from the leather with leather solvent; (Leather Masters™ Leather Degreaser) this allows the pigmentation colorants to adhere and penetrate the leather, giving a sound base covering, uniformity and to will ensure an original equipment manufacturers (OEM) finish.

Use painter’s tape and/or masking paper around anything that doesn’t require pigmentation applied (i.e. interior of the wheel and the rear vinyl etc.

Urethane Surface Cracks

As the leather hide loses moisture and becomes dehydrated, it begins to shrink and stiffen. This leaves a miniscule gap between the leather hide and the pigmented (colour) urethane coating on top of it. The urethane coating is no longer supported by the hide; without proper support, it starts to crack.

Pigmentation (Colour) Renovation

Certain areas of your vehicles leather interior like seats, upholstery, side mouldings and steering wheels inevitably start to show signs of wear, even if well taken care of, that spoil its overall impression. Often these imperfections are not serious and are simply colour that has worn off or light scratches in the leather surface which can be removed and will disappear with the right application technique and leather pigmentation. Swisswax Leather Refurbishing Pigmentation

Steering wheels typically have a matte clear coat to protect them from ultra violet (UV-B) light, so it’s important to replace this finish as it protects and enhances the leather and preserves its durability. Leather World Technologies Top Coat is a water-based clear coating for finished (pigmented) leather. This product provides a clear finish designed to give abrasion protection and better durability for finished leather. 

Allow the pigmentation to cure for 24 hours before the application of the clear coat. Apply with a clean lint free 100% cotton micro fibre towel, being careful to apply a two thin uniform coats (allow each coat to thoroughly dry) to reduce build-up and streaks, allow to dry for 24 -36 hours; dependent upon temperature and humidity. This type of clear paint can be 'heat cured' with infra-red heat, a heat gun or a hair dryer

Finally apply a surface a protection product Leather Masters Protection Cream with a dry micro fibre towel and allow to thoroughly dry and then lightly buff. This provides a Scotchgard™ type protection specifically formulated for leather

Note: the same methodology and products can be used on leather shift stick (gear knob) covers

Leather Stitching

If the stitching and finished leather surfaces are different colours try to avoid allowing any pigmentation to dry on the stitching; to remove wipe with a water-based solvent cleaner. Leather stitching is usually cotton and nylon mix, nylon is attacked by harsh petroleum distillate solvents, they melt it and weaken the threads, which may cause the stitching to fail over time
Stitching is somewhat friable if subjected to excessive abrasion, bearing this in mind the cleaner needs to ‘do the work’ without relying on friction.

To renovate / clean stitching using a medium / hard horse hair brush, a toothbrush or a sponge
Its greatest enemies are; sun, heat, oil (including body oils) perspiration (that contains urea as well as organic salts and acids) and Try to avoid getting leather chemicals on the stitching or in the seams as it can discolour some threads. If the chemical gets in between panels, it may be difficult to get it out. This may even weaken the backing at the seams.

Leather stitching is usually cotton and nylon mix, nylon is attacked by solvents, they melt it and weaken the threads. An oil-based product will attract abrasive dirt / grit and permeated the leather via the stitching, the oil will soften the leather, and the abrasive dirt plus friction may cause the leather to tear and / or the stitching to fail. Do not use harsh solvent-based cleaners as this may cause the stitching to fail over time

Stitching is somewhat friable if subjected to excessive abrasion. Bearing this in mind the cleaner and applicator (a semi-soft toothbrush is ideal) needs to ‘do the work’ without relying on excess friction

a)      Clean stitching using a medium / hard horse hair brush, a toothbrush or a sponge, spray and work the aqueous (water- based) cleaner (Leather Masters™ Cleaner ) don't spray on directly on to the surfaces , spray on the brush, constantly rinse the brush in clean water, remove cleaner by rinsing with clean water.

b)      Use an aqueous (water- based) foaming cleaner;  Leather Masters™ Foam Cleaner, shake aerosol thoroughly and then lightly rub surface and immediately wipe with a terry towel to remove excess moisture. You may need to repeat this process.
Once the stitching and the seating surfaces are clean apply Leather Masters™ Leather Protection this will help to keep the stitching clean and inhibit the ingress of dirt and soil

Do not use solvent or solvent –based cleaners as the surface colour mwy run and stain/dye the stitching (see Leather Degreaser)

Leather Master™ Leather Degreaser

Is an aerosol product for cleaning oily stains; it dissolves and removes oil and grease from finished leather surfaces. This cleaner can be applied for cleaning all types of leather (check for colour fastness) this aerosol product is ideal for cleaning this type of stain as it dissolves the oils and transforms them into a powder that is more absorbent than the leather. 

This powder is what is wiped off, cleaning and degreasing the leather. Allow the white powder to dry fully. If the powder is drying to a yellow colour, it means that there are still a lot of oils in the leather.

 I would like to think that these articles become an asset to anyone who is new to detailing and to professional’s alike, as well as industry experts who seek to advance their knowledge.

I hope the above article was informative. By having some understanding of the ‘What’ and ‘Why’ as well as the ‘How’ along with a little science to help you understand how the chemicals we use react, you can achieve the results you desire.

I would appreciate it if you would share this article as it helps other detailers further their knowledge.
Questions and/ or constructive comments are always appreciated.

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