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DIY: How to Recover Your Z Seats - LOTS OF PICTURES


Hardway

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In response to questions and requests on how to recover Z car seats I thought I would put together a post outlining my experience when recovering the driver seat in my ’72 240z. The job took me around 8 hours from start to finish but I worked in 1 or 2 hour increments. Stretching and fitting the covers is the hardest part and will give your hands, arms, and shoulders a workout. This is a job that anyone can do and is a worthwhile job to tackle yourself as many shops can charge $300 - $500 in labor to recover a single seat. The key is to take your time and walk away if you get frustrated or tired and constantly check your work to see how everything is fitting. If you are not happy with how things are looking, stop where you at and see what you need to do to correct the issue. *Please note, I am not an expert or professional of any kind and this is the first seat I have ever recovered. This is written as a guide and your situation may be different. I am not responsible for any damage or injuries caused by someone taking on this project. If you doubt your skills or capabilities in doing this job please contact a professional.

Materials

Synthetic Leather Seat Covers from Ebay - $200 shipped to my door

New Seat Foam Sets from Classic Datsun - $310 shipped to my door

100pk of hog rings from Amazon - $7 shipped to my door

Semi-gloss black Krylon spray paint - $6 at parts store

15ft roll 1/4 inch thick foam - $15 at local fabric store

3M Heavy Duty Spray Adhesive - $8 from Home Depot

Tools

KD-Tools Hog Ring Pliers 2pk, straight and 45 degree from Amazon - $36.81 (These are totally worth the money and very well made)

Needle Nose Pliers

Traditional Pliers

Channel Lock Pliers

Heavy duty wire cutters

Assortment of flat head screw drivers

Assortment of Phillips head screw drivers

Small hammer

Socket Set

Assortment of medium sized clamps

Utility knife with new razor blade

Pneumatic rotary tool with fine wire brush attachment

Super Clean degreaser

Paper towels

Vacuum cleaner/Shop Vac

Remove the seats from your car and move to a location that gives you plenty of space to work and offers some protection to the surface you will be working on since the seats have studs on the bottom. My living room with its plush carpet, TV, and air conditioning was the best spot for me. Assess the seat and if anything broken. If it is make appropriate plans to repair the broken parts. As you can see my seats were in a pretty sad state but were complete and functional. The foam had collapsed in the bottom cushion causing you to instantly sink about 6” or more once you sat in the seat. I could tell by the cover the seat had been recovered before due to the lack of vent holes and it did not match the passenger seat.

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Disassemble the seat by tilting the top cushion all the way forward. This will take some of the pressure off the bolts as you remove them since the right hinge is spring loaded.

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Take some time to inspect everything as you go along. It is also a good idea to take notes or pictures just in case you do not remember how everything goes back together. My seat was shedding its potato sack material in between the springs but for the most part all the hardware looked good.

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I started by disassembling the bottom cushion first. First you will need to slowly pry up the pointed tangs at the back of the cushion with a flat screw driver. This will reveal some more tangs that it covers up. Then gently pry up all the tangs around the perimeter of the cushion, pull the material up from around the tangs, and lift the seat and spring assembly out of the cushion. Inside the edge of the cover is a thick wire. Remove this wire if you can, you will need it later on.

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Edited by Hardway
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Next I tackled the top of the seat. Locate the tangs at the bottom of the cushion, gently pry them up straight, and slip the material off of them. The cushion comes off like a sock. Take your time so you can see how it is fitted. Note it should be hog ringed towards the top under the headrest. Using your wire cutters you will need to cut the hog rings and finish pulling the cover off.

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You will see that as you take the cushions apart it makes a big mess so take a few minutes and vacuum up all the foam and material that is now covering your floor.

Once I had the cover off I removed the foam from the front and back of the seat top. It was then I got a good look at some cracked sheet metal on the seat back. This was caused by a previous owner reclining the seat all the way back and letting it rest on the edge of the package tray behind the seat.

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Using my limited welding skills I repaired the crack as best I could using a series of staple welds. Even with my welder set as low as it would go and using .023 wire, gas, and a copper backing plate it would still blow holes through the metal due to it being so thin and fatigued. It looked pretty crappy when I got done but it was stronger and no one would ever see it once it is recovered. I also used a body hammer and dolly to re-curve the metal as well to help restore its shape.

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Next was prep and paint. I used my pneumatic rotary tool to clean off the old adhesive and paint around the seat back as well as knock off the old paint and surface rust from the hinges. I then went over all the surfaces with Super Clean degreaser to clean everything before applying a few light coats of semi gloss black spray paint.

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Since the top of the seat had foam on the back of it and I took the advice of a forum member and replaced it. Unfortunately I could not find foam as thin as what was on the seat so I went with the thinnest I could find, 1/4 inch. I sprayed the 3M adhesive to the back of the seat and the foam, let it setup for a 60 seconds, laid the seat back on to the foam and wrapped it around the edges. Then using almost every clamp I had to hold it in place and dry overnight.

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Finally we get to work with new stuff! Here are the new foam cushions and seat covers.

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I decided to tackle the lower cushion first. Note the flap sewn on the cover. Take the wire you removed from the old seat cushion, measure the length of the flap, and cut the wire to length giving you an inch or so on each side to fold over as shown below.

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Your seat foam should have either a large cut out or the outline for one. If your foam does not have the cut out like mine did take your utility knife and cut the 1” slot out of the foam, this where the flap will pass through. Wrap the cover over the foam cushion and pull the flap through the slot. This flap will be hog ringed to the springs when you place the seat assembly on. To help pull the flap to the springs I installed two hog rings and threaded zip ties in each. This would give me a sort of handle to pull on the flap.

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Now take the seat assembly and place it on the foam cushion, working the edge of the cover around it. Once you have the cushion centered start by pulling up on the zip ties and hog ringing them to the springs. I had to stand up with my foot on the seat, bend down, pull up on the flap and hog ring it. *In the picture you see a lot of zip ties connecting the springs. This was an effort by me to increase the strength of the springs. I don’t think it really worked so it is not documented.

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Next, flip the seat over and make sure the cover is centered and how you want it. Move and tug it until it is in the desired location. Flip it back over and make sure all the tangs are pointed straight up. If they are not take time to straighten them. Now to install the cover, starting at the front and center, push the reinforced edge of the material over the tang. The tang is not sharp enough to puncture the material, use your utility to cut the material just enough to let the tang push through. Once the material is all the way over and down around the tang take your small hammer and tap the tang down over the edge of the material. Starting from the center and working your way to the front edge do this for all the tangs, CHECK YOUR PROGRESS! Flip the cushion around and make sure everything still looks good. If everything looks good, pick a side starting at the front and do the same as before. You could also crisscross from each side to help ensure the cushion is staying centered. Once you are done with all the tangs pull the strings at the back as tight as you can and tie them in a knot. An extra hand helps here to hold the knot in place while you tie on top of it about 3 times to make sure it does not come loose. I cannot stress enough to CHECK YOUR PROGRESS. I feel I did not do this often enough and my lower cushion is slightly off center. However the covers are man-made and may not be 100% symmetrical anyway. Once you are done your cushion should look like this.

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Next, time to tackle the upper seat. Start by turning the seat cover about 80% inside out, locating the flap under the headrest. Using wire or in my case a coat hanger you will need to measure and cut the wire leaving an inch or so on each side to fold over. I did a double wire as you can see in the picture as I feared the coat hanger wire would bend too much while trying to hog ring it. Install the wire in the flap as shown below.

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I trimmed the foam on the back of the seat and straightened all the tangs in preparation for the cover.

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Start by sliding and working the top of the seat cover over the head rest. TIP: Notice when I took the old seats apart they had pieces of plastic over the foam. This was to help slide the cover over the foam. Some people say to use PAM cooking spray but I would fear the smell may come through the material on a hot day so I did not. I do wish I had wrapped the seat using some plastic shopping bags or a plastic cover from the local dry cleaners.

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Moving on, I ran in to another obstacle, how to hog ring the flap in place with the foam covering it. Well as I carefully pushed the foam away it broke. I assume this is meant to be as I do not see how one could ever hog ring the flap in place with it there. It did not affect the end result so don’t panic if yours breaks too. Start at the center of the flap and install 4-5 hog rings to secure it.

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Edited by Hardway
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Now comes the REAL WORKOUT, getting the rest of the cover on. I placed the foam back in place and for the better part of an hour and a half I pulled, tugged, and persuaded the cover on. This is where the plastic would have helped a lot. In the end I got it on but took plenty of breaks in between. Looking back on it I am thinking I should have glued the foam to the seat back, especially around the edge where it is supposed to sit on top of the seat round bar.

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Next you will be securing the material down with the tangs just like on the bottom cushion. Originally the seat had the front of the cover laid down first and then the rear of the cover placed over it. The original cover did not have the extra little flap on the back to cover the tangs so I went the opposite direction, I put the rear of the cover down first and then the front. My thought was since more pressure would be on the front of the cover I would want to tangs working in a direction to secure it.

To start you need to straighten your tangs again if they are not. Starting at the center and with the reinforced edge of the material for the back pull it over the tang, cut a small slot with your utility knife, and push the material all way down. This went fairly well and I was pleased with how the back looked. The front of the cover put up a real fight and I employed the help of my wife to hold the seat down while I pulled up on the front of the cover and eventually hammer down each tang as I went along.

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As you can see the material does not wrap around the sides 100%. I believe a few factors contribute to this, first the foam and seat covers are made by two different companies. Second, everything is new and while flexible its’ just not flexible enough. However the exposed area will never be seen once installed. If you have a method of making yours fit better by all means try it. I did not want to remove the cover after all the work to get it on and attempt to trim the foam back so I left it as-is.

Stand back and marvel at your work.

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The home stretch! Locate the holes for the bolts that attached the hinge hardware and cut a small X over them. Push the material down as the material will split and hug bolt holes. I started with the bottom cushion fitting everything a little loose at first. I also would only cut one hole at a time, once I cut I would install a bolt in to it. Once all the connecting points on the hinges were bolted in place I tightened everything down.

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The end result is a fully restored seat for your Z car ready for many miles and years of enjoyment. Overall I am very pleased with the covers, foam, and work I put in to it. The area on the side of headrest is not as tight as I would like it to be. Adding more foam here might be a possibility the next time around. When it sits in the car on a warm day it may help as well. If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me and I will do my best to answer them.

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Great write up and I will add something if you don't mind. I didn't read it, and if I missed it I apologize .

You want to get the material warm, like laying it out in the sun for an hour or so and then start your stretching the material over the seats. I remember doing mine inside in the winter and hanging the vinyl in front of the fireplace to warm the covers up. It will stretch easier with less chance of anytearing and be easier on the hands.

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I had considered doing the same thing Madkaw and for traditional vinyl seats I understand that is what you want to do to soften them up. However for these I was advised the material would shrink instead of expand thus making it hard to get them on. The material was pretty stretchable right out of the box and I think the material is comprised of a higher amount of rubber based on how they feel.

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What do you think your price per seat was? Tools and material?

The breakdown above includes the prices of everything I had to buy that I did not already have. It comes out to $582 so if you split that it comes to $291 and that is of course my time being worth $0. If I was paying myself $10/hr and have 8 hours in it, that brings the total ito $371 for the single seat.

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Hey Madkaw. Good question, let me clarify as the website is a bit confusing. $405 is for the covers and cushions together which is a savings of $90. I did not buy my covers through CD. The cushions are $125 per set so I paid $250 plus $60 for shipping for a total of $310. I hope that helps with the price.

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  • 2 months later...
  • 1 month later...

I did my seats over the winter with the same kit. Looks like you had pretty much the same results I did. Took me longer and I reused my old seat foams and built them up where they were broken down. I do have a question for anyone with a 240 though. I just got new seat belt holders but I am having a hard time finding the installation holes through the new vinyl. Can anyone get me a measurement from the top of the upper mounting arm to the screw hole. I want to be sure I have the correct location before I poke a hole in my new covers!

Thanks!

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Rich: Post #29 here: http://www.classiczcars.com/forums/interior-s30/47534-240z-seat-belt-hangers.html

"From the center of that top chrome phillips oval head machine screw that secures the top of the seat back bracket to the center of the small phillip self tapping screws that fastens the small J-hook to the outer side of the seat back measures exactly 8 1/2". "

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  • 1 year later...

I am going to do my seats with the same foam. I have not taken the seats out yet as I want to have everything necessary before doing so.

My question, there are a lot of different size hog rings available. What size is used on these seats. The smallest I have found are 1" and I think that is probably what I need.

Any advice on which to get?

Thanks,

John

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little ones are fine - you're just going to go around wire (about coat hanger gauge) in a couple of places. it's pretty basic, and hog rings by nature are self-adjusting in that they will clamp to the diameter needed.

i would recommend getting a pair of hog-ring pliers - makes the job a joy as they hold the ring before applying and do a nice, consistent job of closing them. you can do it with regular pliers but it's a PITA and you risk a mis-fire and holes in your nice new seat cover....

Edited by rossiz
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