The Internet is full of information for DIY car upholstery repair, and some product lines offer entire kits to repair upholstery scratches, tears, or burns. But when it comes to doing the job right, there are a few things you should know.

First, examine the problem thoroughly. Know what type of upholstery you have in your car, and assess the damage you’ve found. The unsightly area may be a rub spot, a tear, a burn, or even a hole in the upholstery, vinyl, or leather. Try to determine why the damage happened, and how to prevent it from happening again. Often, sitting in the same spot with sharp objects in back pockets can cause damage to the car seat that you don’t notice right away.

Something else to consider is the history of the car. If you’ve recently bought the used vehicle, chances are the dealership or seller used some methods to hide or camouflage the defects. Most often, these methods won’t last long-term, so if you found one defect, closely examine the rest of the interior in case there are other areas that also need repairs. Use a soft cloth or sponge and a mild cleaner to clean the interior of the car, looking closely for additional defects.

Next, decide if the blemish is highly visible and needs professional repair. DIY kits offer the right type of needle and adhesive to sew and repair a small tear, but do you really want your own sewing skills obvious to an important passenger when they get in your car? Those kits recommend some adhesive or fray check application after your wonderful stitching job – but do you know if it’s safe for your type of upholstery? A professional car upholstery expert has precise skills for sewing and fixing tears.

Patching a hole sounds simple, but following steps in a DIY kit can’t guarantee great results. Unless you’ve done a lot of hole repairs in upholstery, vinyl or leather, you may overfill or underfill the area, giving poor results. And, matching colors and grains of upholstery takes a special skill; if you don’t get a great match, your eyes will be drawn to that spot every time you get into the car. It is usually better to replace the entire panel than try to patch a small hole.

Most people aren’t patient enough to wait the suggested amount of time for adhesives to cure and dry, and are often tempted to poke or pry at the repaired area to see if it holds the repair. An auto upholstery expert knows the exact adhesive to use, the right techniques for the repair, and the amount of time needed for long-lasting results. He can also match most any cloth, leather, vinyl and headliner to get a uniform look.

Step-by-step directions are great for making cookies, but for car upholstery repair it’s usually better to hire a professional and get the job done right the first time.