When fixing up or restoring an older truck, chances are the inside of the cab needs your attention just as much as what’s under the hood. With the right preparations, supplies and instructions, reupholstering truck seats doesn’t have to be a daunting task. This guide provides an overview and instructions for removing old upholstery and how to reupholster a truck seat.
Tools and Materials Needed
A successful project starts with making sure you have everything required for a job well done. To reupholster a seat, you will need these primary tools and materials:
- A two-piece upholstery kit that has everything you need to replace the old material
- A one-inch or two-inch foam replacement seat pad (based on your requirements)
- New hog rings
- Fastener remover
- Locking pliers
- Screwdriver and/or ratchet
- Hog ring pliers
- Vice (optional)
- Marker (Sharpie works well)
- A single edge razor or something sharp and precise for cutting the fabric
- Seatback hinge covers (if it’s necessary to replace the existing ones)
- Wire to repair broken springs or perimeter wire
How to Remove the Old Truck Bench Seat Upholstery
Now that you have all your tools and materials in place, it’s time to get to work stripping the old upholstery from your truck’s seat. After you’ve taken the seat out of the truck (Note: For older trucks from the 30s, 40s, and 50s, the seat frame can remain in the truck and the seat back and bottom can be unscrewed and removed separately.), follow these steps:
- Place the bench seat on a sturdy workbench or table.
- To separate the two parts of the seat, pull off the hinge cover trim pieces on the back bottom edges to get access to the hinge bolt. Then remove the bolts on both sides. Pull apart the two pieces, placing the seatback to the side.
Pro tip: Apply some lubrication around the bolts a few hours in advance to loosen them up and make your work easier.
- Flip over the truck bench seat and identify how and where it is attached. If your seat cover is attached with a tension wire, note the location of the tension wire that keeps the seat intact. You’re going to remove the wire, but you need to remember where to reattach it later on. Gently snap it loose using your pliers.
- Take out all the bolts that hold the seat tracks in place. Once loose, remove them along with the tension wire and place them to the side. While following these auto upholstery instructions, make sure to keep all of the pieces and parts you are removing organized so you know which side of the seat they belong on when reattaching.
- Older trucks primarily used hog rings and/or metal clips around the entire perimeter of the seat. Starting in the 1950s, metal clip bars and then plastic clips were incorporated. If your seat cover is attached with hog rings or metal clips, cut the hog rings off with snips and remove any old clip. All other clip bars and clips can be unclipped.
- Once you have removed the hog rings and/or clips, pull off the old upholstery.
- If you are going to replace the seat foam, note its placement and shape prior to removing it. You will want to use it as a template to cut the new seat foam if possible. If it is unusable, then just cut the new seat foam to match the seat frame. Do not wrap the foam over the edges of the frame. If wrapped over the frame, the new seat cover most likely will not fit properly and may even tear when being installed.
- Follow the same process for the seatback, starting by removing the hog rings and then pulling off the old cover.
- Now you’re left with the bench frame and springs and the seatback. Carefully inspect to ensure the seat frame is not damaged and the wire is still intact and has ample spring left in it. Also, make sure there is no significant rust.
- Repair any damaged springs.
- Clean the frame and scuff it to prep for painting. Paint it and let it dry completely.
How to Install the New Upholstery
The next step in how to reupholster truck bench seats is the most technical. Follow these auto upholstery instructions closely:
- Lay out the frame on a table.
- If the seat foam underlayment material cannot be reused, replace it with an indoor/outdoor carpet material. This will protect the seat foam from being cut/damaged by the springs.
- Put the foam in place over top of the underlayment material, making sure it’s centered. Trim the foam around the edges of the frame.
- Grab your new upholstery and lay it out on top of the frame, centered (and in line with the seatbelt pockets if equipped). Pull one side over the edge of the frame and tuck it in or attach it with a hog ring, depending on your frame configuration. Come around to the other side and do the same. You’ll probably have to give it a pull and work it around the edge to get it in place. Go all around, checking to see that everything is symmetrical, and none of the foam is showing and all of the springs and frame are covered.
Pro tip: Lay out the vinyl in the sun for a while or put it in a warm place in your house or garage to make it more elastic and easier to work with.
- Flip the frame over, and starting at the center, pull the edge of the upholstery over the back end. Starting at the center and working your way outward, use your hog ring pliers to attach the vinyl to the frame and springs with the hog rings. This method helps ensure a smooth fit with proper and even tensioning.
- Turn the seat over and find the seat hinge mechanism on the side of the bench (again, depending on your particular frame). Poke a narrow hole through from the inside with a razor and mark it with your sharpie. Smooth out the upholstery making sure everything looks right.
- Flip the seat back over to put the seat tracks back in their original place and reattach the seat adjustment wire.
Pro tip: This is a good time to lube the seat tracks so they won’t squeak when you put them back in your truck.
- Grab the seatback and place it on the table. For older trucks, you can follow the same steps as for the seat bottom. For newer trucks, you’re going to want to have it standing up by the frame attachments. Use a vice on the table to hold it up or ask someone to help you hold it.
- If your seatback is a closed back, meaning that the entire rear portion of the seat is covered, cover the seat with plastic garbage bags to make it easier to put on the new upholstery. Take the new cover and slide it over the top of the seat. Pull it down gently and slip out the garbage bags. Make sure it fits in place.
- Clip the hog rings to the metal wire to secure the vinyl to the seatback.
- Reattach the two pieces using the original parts. Remember to attach your existing, reconditioned or new seat hinge covers.
Congratulations! You now know how to reupholster a bench seat.
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