Car door panel (Photo: @gballgiggs via Twenty20)

How to Repair Loose Car Door Panel Upholstery

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Car door panel (Photo: @gballgiggs via Twenty20)
Is the leather, vinyl, or fabric upholstery on your door panel sagging? Even if you’ve taken the best care of your upholstery, years of use and UV rays filtering through your car’s windows can result in wear and tear and loosened glue that causes the material to droop.
But don’t fret! A little drooping doesn’t mean you have to replace your car upholstery, it just means it’s due for a little car upholstery repair. Here’s how to repair your car’s upholstery on your own.

1. Peel back the material

Gently peel back the loose upholstery. Start at the loosest spot or seam and peel off 6-12 inches of material. You should eventually meet the resistance of the worn-out adhesive.

2. Scrub the exposed panel with rubbing alcohol

Once you’ve pried back the upholstery from the seam enough to reveal the panel, scrub the section with a washcloth or rag soaked in about a teaspoon of rubbing alcohol to remove any remaining bits of adhesive. Make sure to rub both the inward-facing side of the upholstery and the panel.
Once you’ve scraped off all the clumps of worn-out adhesive and the exposed panel is smooth, allow the upholstery to dry for 10-15 minutes.

3. Tape the area above the seam

Place strips of masking tape above where the seam was before you peeled it back (along the border of the panel). Use multiple strips of tape to cover curves in the car door panel. You do not need to apply tape to sections of the upholstery that is still installed.

4. Apply the adhesive

Now it’s time to get your spray adhesive ready. A can of multipurpose, heavy-duty adhesive spray such as 3M’s Super 77 will do the trick.
Put on a pair of disposable gloves and spray an inch of adhesive into a small cup or bowl. Dip a Q-tip into the adhesive and use it to apply the glue to the exposed panel. Work down from the tapped area, reapplying glue to your Q-tip after every 3 inches, until the entire area of the exposed panel is covered. Spread the adhesive evenly to prevent a lumpy final result.

5. Reattach the upholstery

The best way to reattach the upholstery is by using a driver’s license, debit card, or another piece of firm plastic to slowly press and scrape the upholstery back onto the panel. For good results, iron out any wrinkles or air bubbles as you stretch it toward the seam.

6. Tuck the upholstery back into the seam

While still holding your piece of firm plastic to the newly-attached upholstery, use a flathead screwdriver or bike lever to tuck the upholstery into the seam. Repeat this step until your upholstery has adhered to the panel and all of the ends are tucked back into the seam.

7. Remove the masking tape

Take off the masking tape — and voila! Your upholstery is as good as new.