Automotive OEM technology is becoming more and more complex requiring educated and skilled technicians to work on them. As the materials used are constantly changing we must maintain our knowledge base and utilize the correct products and application methodologies to keep up with emerging technologies.
Be cognizant that the leather and finishes used for automotive upholstery vary from leather industry standard descriptions and although the names are similar the type of leather, pigmentation, and finish are often very different. So it is very important to be able to recognize the various finishes and materials used by OEM’s as they all require different methodologies and products for proper care and maintenance.
Automobile model ranges use different materials for their vehicles interiors; leather upholstery like Aniline Immersion Dyed, Aniline Micro Pigmented, (Urethane) Finished, Artificial leather such as MB-Tex and unfinished materials like Synthetics and Alcantara, and sometimes combinations of products (Alcantara seat inserts on leather seating) as well as various grades of leather hide, full-grain, top-grain and split –grain (which is protected with urethane) all of which require different products and applications methods.
Proper surface care
Is all about knowing the properties of the surface you want to treat and what product contains the correct formulation of ingredients best suited for that surface. Leather finishes are a very chemically complex material, and if the product is incompatible with it in any way, it can exert a damaging effect: finish peeling, finish cracking, color transfer ("crocking"), yellowing, and general degradation are some of the problems that can be caused by the application of an improperly formulated, incompatible leather treatment product.
Micro Pigment (the correct name for Semi-aniline or Aniline used for automotive leather) - is a term used by the leather industry to better describe leather with a fine layer of pigment coating as opposed to the mislabelled ‘Semi Aniline’. Aniline leather will absorb moisture unless it has been treated in some way.
King Ranch, Chaparral or Castano (Ford F-Series) leather
Leathers which have been both vat (immersion) dyed and have a finish on the surface are referred to as Micro Pigment (automotive-grade aniline) This type of leather has become more popular in recent years because it incorporates much of the softness and feel of fully aniline dyed leather with the protective benefits of surface finishing, they are more susceptible to absorbing liquids because of the natural porosity of the hide. Because they don't have a thick top coating the leather breathes more easily and is cooler to sit on.
Early model Ford F150 King Ranch leather upholstery used unfinished leather, which is very susceptible to staining, discoloration, and you must be selective in choosing the correct care products cleaner as the wrong products will give the surface a greasy look to them.
Later models switched to micro pigment (automotive-grade aniline) finished leather. This micro pigment finished leather is often protected by a micro-thin urethane, which sometimes has pigmentation (colour) added, hence the name. It is important to understand that the seats were not intended to retain the pristine factory finish, they will weather and gain character beginning almost immediately; they are also subject to photo degeneration (fading) very quickly.
Remove surface dirt and dust, cleaning the seams periodically is important as dirt / grit will abrade the stitching causing them to fail, prise them apart, then use a soft brush, vacuum and then use a foam cleaner, one section at a time, and then finally wipe off with a clean, damp 100% cotton micro fibre towel
The advantage of foam over liquid is the minimum amount of moisture, very important for cleaning absorbent and moisture sensitive leathers.
Use a foam cleaner, which should be given dwell time and then gentle agitation with a medium stiff bristled brush to get the product into the materials surface, the low moisture content of foam can then be easily rinsed and the surface dried. Remove excess product and debris with a clean, damp 100% cotton micro fibre towel. If the foam is allowed to dry the soil will be re-deposited to the surface. Check the results and repeat process as necessary
For heavily soiled areas use a foam cleaner (Leather Master™ Foam Cleaner) that contains a surfactant that will lift dirt and soil, allow react time to do its work and then use a soft brush to agitate and loosen the dirt (Swissvax Leather Brush) especially on light coloured leathers; this enables the cleaning of the micro pores and creases and lifts the dirt out and reveal any further work that needs doing (dye transfer, stains, etc)
Spa cleaning method
Soak a micro fibre towel distilled water, wringing out excess and place in a microwave oven. Proceed to wipe the leather to remove any dirt and moisten the surface. Dependent upon soiling levels, a d-limonene (citrus) based cleaner (P21S Total Auto Wash) added to the distilled water may help release any oil/grease based soiling
If you are working on a large item, do one section at a time so you can apply Leather Master™ Soft Touch (ex Vital) while the surface is still moist. This is not a conditioner per se but is used to improve and maintain the tactile feel and lustre by rehydration and to ensure the leather remains matte, soft and supple.
Apply a small amount to a clean, damp 100% cotton micro fibre towel, use a circular motion and slight pressure to ensure the product permeates the dried-out pores, but do not push hard enough to damage the leather. Allow 20-30 minutes dwell time and then wipe the surface with a dry 100% cotton micro fibre towel.
It’s essential as it will protect the surface finish, without hindering transpiration, while acting as a sacrificial layer; this way you are not actually cleaning the Leather's original surface, but cleaning from the surface of the protection. It also makes dirt easier to clean off
With leather, it is much easier to practice prevention than it is to try to resolve major challenges after the fact. Leather Protection will also work to remove small surface scratches on Micro Pigment leathers. In general, Leather Protection Cream is used as a final step in combination with most of the Leather Master repair or touch-up products.
Leather Master™ - Protection Cream (a Scotchgard™ type product specifically formulated for lather) the polymers penetrate the surface of finished leather and cross-link to form a durable protective film that is breathable, allowing transpiration and keeps the leather supple. Being aqueous (water- based) it restores moisture to finished leather and provides a protective sacrificial barrier against all kinds of soiling, water, oil, alcohol-based stains and perspiration marks, so you are cleaning the protective layer. The Leather Protection Cream prevents stains from absorbing deeply into the leather and becoming nearly impossible to remove easily.
Ultra violet (UV) protection - 303® Aerospace Protectant will provide invaluable ultra violet (UV) protection against photo degradation (fading); especially in a roadster or convertible vehicle, steering wheel and dashboards
Is water-based and will provide invaluable ultra violet (UV) radiation protection against photo degradation (fading) protection; especially in a roadster or convertible vehicles. It doesn’t contain silicones so it won't attract and capture dust. You should apply to a clean surface (it doesn’t contain any cleaning agents)
It will not prevent finished leather hydration (transpiration and evaporation of moisture) as it’s water-based, although it coats the leather with a micro fine coating; it will not seal it per se.
Leather Master™ Scratch away - has been developed to erase surface scratches and scuffs from Semi-Aniline leather (King Ranch) it will actually move colour on the surface of the leather in order to hide where the colour is missing. It can be used on any colour of leather and is perfect for dealing with fingernail type marks, light pet scratches and some delivery scuffs. Pre-test on a hidden area but do not use if product darkens colour.
Leather Upholstery Abrasion (Rub) Resistance Testing
The abrasion resistance of finished leathers thin urethane covering is designed to contend with clothing abrasion from exiting and entering the vehicle. Wear from abrasion is a complex phenomenon and the information Taber Industries provides at Abrasion Testing: Taber Industries-Material Test & Measurement is meant to give you an introductory understanding of the common wear processes and their underlying causes. Having this practical knowledge will help to address the cost of failures caused by wear and abrasion.
Dirt is the real enemy of leather, acts as an abrasive every time you sit down or change your position while driving. Abrasion wear is due to hard particles or hard protuberances forced against and moving along a solid surface.
These hard particles might be commercial abrasives like silicon carbide and aluminum oxide, or naturally occurring contaminants like dust particles and sand [crystalline silica (quartz)]. If the abrasive particles are allowed to roll, rolling abrasion or three-body abrasion occurs.
This can lead to catastrophic wear, which is a rapidly occurring or accelerating surface damage, deterioration, or change of shape caused by wear to such a degree that the service life of a part is appreciably shortened or its function is destroyed.
ASTM D7255 Standard Test Method
Abrasion Resistance of Leather (Rotary Platform, Double-Head Method) this test method covers the determination of the abrasion resistance of leather using the rotary platform, the double-head test (RPDH).
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