Hello, my name is Neil. I’m an avid car enthusiast and just like many of you, when I decide I want to undertake a project of this caliber I want to buy the best product to ensure that my results will match the amount of work I put into the project. I own an 2000 BMW 328Ci and I’m a regular member of E46Fanatics, the home of the DIY that these tips are taken from. A while back I decided to change my entire interior color on my E46 from plain tan to black/cinnamon. I chose Leatherique because I knew it was the best in the industry and I was not disappointed. The results came out phenomenally and it's all thanks to the wonderful Leatherique products.
Ok, you want to dye your seats to a different color or just do some minor dye touchup. There are a few things you need to know before you lay that new dye down, here are some of the things I learned and tips on how to achieve optimal results for your BMW leather.
*When using the Leatherique Rejuvenating Oil, let the rejuvenator soak in for a minimum of 24 hours. You can choose to do more, maybe even up to 48 hours. It was winter season when I did my dye project so I didn’t have the option of using my car as a faux steam room. A solution would be to take your leather panels inside and create an artificial sauna for your seats. I had one of those cheap walmart space heaters and I just oiled the panels, set them in my bathroom, turned on the heater and let them go through sauna like conditions for a couple of hours a day. It really helps the Rejuvenator to soak into the leather/leatherette and do its job, trust me. When applying the rejuvenator, use about 2-4 ounces per panel and massage it into the panel with your hands. Like really, think of it as you giving a piece of leather a massage. You might find it weird but it really does the trick.
*Once you feel that the Rejuvenating Oil has soaked long enough, now it’s time for Pristine Clean. Leatherique instructions say to use a spray bottle to spray it on. I went to walmart and just bought a $1 spray bottle that worked very well, you could just use any spray bottle that you have around your house, just make sure that it’s completely clean. Now, spray Pristine Clean onto the leather using the spray bottle and let the Pristine Clean sit for at least 20 minutes. After it has soaked up all of the contaminants that have moved to the surface of the leather, you have two options. You can scrub your panel with toothbrush to really work in the pristine clean and then wipe it off with a clean rag or you can simply wipe off the Pristine Clean with terry towel, no scrubbing beforehand. Leatherique didn’t specify to work the Pristine Clean into the leather but I found that it really made the leather supple and clean for dyeing. Now wait 2 hours. You need to let the leather air and just sit for a little bit before you hit it with more chemicals, that’s how I feel and it worked perfectly.
*It’s time to put Leatherique Prepping Agent onto the leather. This is the part that scares a lot of people away from doing this job. They think “sand my leather, are you crazy?” It’s not as bad as you think. When you sand with Prepping Agent soaked sandpaper, all you are doing is getting rid of any bad or weak dye that is resting on the leather’s surface. Just as a reminder, since leatherette isn’t actually dyed, no dye comes out of leatherette, it just gets really soft and plush after you finish sanding. Alternatively, when you put prepping agent on real leather and start sanding it, dye will just start liquifying and coming off. It is a fairly intense sight actually, my tan leather turned gray in spots after prepping agent. Official Leatherique instructions don't really specify how much you are supposed to sand, they just say not to make the leather into suede. I sanded mine until about 50-60% of the dye was out, afterwards the leather felt really plush and had a slight roughness to it. Some people will sand with 600 grit but I chose to sand with 1000 grit because 600 was a bit scary in my mind. The point of sanding is to get as much dye out of the leather because in essence, the leatherique dye is replacing your existing dye, so you want to have a clean slate for the dye to set in. But be careful, if you sand too much or too heavily, your leather will lose its grain and look almost nappa like, which is not good in this case. So let’s do it, pour some Pristine Clean into a glass bowl and get maybe some 1000 grit sandpaper, again, whatever number sandpaper you feel comfortable with. The finer the grain, the longer it might take to achieve optimal results, that’s the only difference. So dip your sandpaper into the bowl and start to wetsand the leather. You don’t want to completely score your leather with sandpaper, this isn’t a competition to see how much dye will come out. You just want to work the Prepping Agent into the leather and let IT take out the bad or weak dye on its own. You do not want to sand so hard that you remove the texture from the leather and create suede. Remember, this step is for getting the best possible palette for your new dye to lay on. You wouldn’t want your new dye to stick to bad dye, what if the bad dye failed down the line? That is the point of Prepping Agent. After you have finished sanding with Prepping Agent, it’s almost time to dye. Wait about 15 minutes after you have finished sanding, now it’s time for dye!
*So you are ready for dye. For my black leatherette seats, I found that 5 coats was necessary to make it look absolutely perfect. 4 coats and you could still see some black through the dye. For the tan leather on other parts of my car, 4 coats was plenty.
*There is a lot of talk about diluting the dye before you apply it and the methods for application. I didn’t have any fancy airbrushes or spray setups so I resorted to the old school yet tested method of applying the dye using a brush. It works beautifully, let me just say that. When you get your dye bottles, they will more or less be a concentrate. You shouldn’t and don’t need to apply the dye to the seats like it is right out of the bottle. Right out of the bottle, the dye is very thick, it might not seem like it but it really is when you start dyeing. It lays down very thick and as a result, you don’t have as many coats to work with when trying to even out the dye from brush marks, etc. I diluted the dye with 20% water to start with. I found that it got it to fairly workable consistency without making the dye too thin for application. You MUST use distilled water or at the very least, bottled water. Tap water contains too many contaminants and can possible discolor the dye.
*It might be counterintuitive to you but don't buy foam brushes, buy artist acrylic brushes: 3/4" - 1". You may think that the foam brushes will apply the dye more efficiently and without brush strokes but that isn’t the case. When I first started to dye the seats, I used a foam brush and ran into many problems. When using a foam brush, the dye will start to come out in micro bubbles when you lay it down. This is very bad, my instant reaction was to start blowing on the bubbles to pop them because if they were left to dry, the finished dye outcome would be very rough and not very pleasing. Trust Leatherique’s instructions and buy those acrylic brushes. Though they are expensive, they get the job done right. Also, you may think to buy the largest brush head you can find so you lay the dye down quickly, do NOT do this. Buy a small brush head, you will be rewarded in the end when you need to do the seat stitching and hard to reach areas.
*When dyeing, do NOT stop in the middle of a panel, make it to the closest seam and stop. If you get bubbles or heavy spots of dye, blow on them to even them out.
*You might think that you will get brush marks, swirls, etc when the dye dries, but just be patient, they will even out. The WORST mistake I made while dyeing was trying and touching up half dried dye, it scuffed up and make a mark when dry. If you mess up, DONT touch it. Let it dry and wetsand out w/ 1500 grit or whatever fine grit sandpaper you feel comfortable with. Then apply another light coat of dye after sanding. It will even out, I promise.
*When dyeing, you will notice that the dye separates very quickly. It’s probably against the laws of physics to you but it’s the truth. You will get some dye on your brush and brush it on for a bit, then go back to get more dye and the dye will have already separated. You need to keep stirring the dye before you go and paint with it. Don’t just blindly dip your brush in the dye and keep painting it on, you will not get the correct percentage of dye solution on the brush. This may cause blotches after the dye has dried.
*If you are completely dyeing front seats on your BMW, take the seats apart. I know people who have done dye jobs with their seats together but I don’t know how they did it 100%. I did my drivers seat in one piece and after the dye had dried, I realized that the seams where the seat cushion met the back were nearly stuck together where the dye had dried and they were going to be messed up. I took them apart and they were horrible, the dye had made the leather stick to itself and I had to rip it apart, breaking the dye. I had to go back and wetsand with 1500 grit sandpaper and redo the portion of the drivers seat that was messed up. I did my passengers seat the proper way, taking it apart and dyeing the bottom cushion and backrest panels separately.
*Wait about 30 minutes to an hour in between coats of dye. You want the dye to dry fairly completely before you go and lay down another coat. I just did both seats around the same time so I could just move from seat to seat without a break. When you have finally finished with the dyeing process, you must let the seats dry for a good 48 hours before you even attempt to sit in them. The dye must completely form a permanent bond to the leather/leatherette.
Well guys, that’s about it. I used these tips and I feel like my dye job turned out beautifully. I have a thread with tons of pictures and more procedures and Q/A over on E46Fanatics if you wish to take a look at the progress. I am writing this 2 months after my project and the dye is still performing beautifully, you have to realize that 90% of the job is in the prep work. Dyeing is easy, it’s the prep that’ll kill you, haha. Just have fun with the job and don’t stress out, it’s not bad once you get going. Good luck and if anyone reading this in the future needs help, I’m leaving my contact information here so please don’t hesitate to contact me in the case that leatherique is closed in the late night hours or if you just need to ask a couple of simple questions. Best of luck on your projects!
My Leatherique Adventure:
My Contact Info:
And of course if you wish to have a direct link to any of my photos. My flickr account is always open: