Leather seat replacement on my Saab Convertible

How I did the the car leather seat replacement with upholstery from Lseat.com

When I bought my 1999 Saab 9-3 Convertible back in 2015, the car’s leather seats were in dire need of replacement. The front seat covers were in quite a bad shape. The rear seats were ok, and so were the headrests. But the seams were fraying on the front-seat backs, and the seat bottom parts were damaged beyond repair. The bottom parts, made of genuine, real leather, had dried up beyond recovery. They had shrunk significantly, and were hard as cardboard!

Seam threads fraying on old seat covers

As a quick fix, I removed the front-seat bottom covers and replaced them with some universal fit vinyl seat covers of matching colors. I got by with that for a few years, while trying to figure out how to repair the seats.

There are no OEM seat covers available for this car anymore, neither could I find any real aftermarket ones. The other option would be to have new seat covers custom made by a local upholstery shop. But not only would the leather material matching the original covers be pricey. But the labor cost of having them professionally made would cost even more.

The leather dried up beyond recovery.

The high cost of having new leather seat covers custom made could be worth it, though, if it is for a classic or collector car, and you want to keep up its value. I do recommend that route if you have the budget for it.

But my Saab is not a high-value car (yet, at least, but I hope it will some day). I wasn’t willing to spend thousand of dollars on new seat covers at this point, so I kept looking for low-cost alternatives.

Finding affordable leather seat covers.

In searching the Internet for sources for new leather seat replacement, I found various companies offering affordable custom made car seat covers, made of various cloth, vinyl and faux leather material. But I also found a company called, Lseat, who claimed to make custom seat covers made of genuine leather, for a cost of only a few hundred dollars.

Navigating their website for more information about their leather did not yield much results. Searching the Internet, on the other hand, I found people discussing Lseat’s claim about their product. Most people saying that it is actually bonded, or reconstituted, leather, meaning that it is indeed genuine leather, ground from scrap, and glued together. Not whole pieces of hide. Someone compared it to the “difference between ground beef and steak”.

The lack of essential information on Lseat’s website also seems to correlate with many people’s complaints about lack of communication/ Lseat not responding to issues, such as product received not matching the order. And problem getting a replacement or a refund in those cases.

The seat heater element being re-patterned using a jig.

So, there are many negative reviews for Lseat on the Internet. But there are also many positive reviews, people having positive experiences their leather seat replacement from Lseat, and liking their products. It is also true that people are more prone to leave a review from a bad, than from a good experience.

I could not find much long-term updates, on how well their leather seats are holding up over a longer time. Maybe because there weren’t such issues, but problems people had were mostly related to the purchasing process. They didn’t receive the expected product, and getting the issue taken care of.

Ordering the leather seat covers

Based on the above findings, and considering the cost, I did decide to go ahead and order the front seat covers for my Saab from Lseat. This set did not include the head rest covers, but those are in good shape anyway.

 I also decided to do the leather seat replacement myself,. But it is not an easy task. I do recommend, for best results, to have them installed by a professional upholsterer.

First, I ordered their leather swatch sample, containing a small-sized sampling of the different color options. I decided to go with the Bisque for both the leather and the thread.

They shipped the seat covers about three weeks after my order. They arrived with UPS Ground two weeks later, so it took about 5 weeks from the order to delivery. I suspect these covers are coming from China.

Installing the new seat covers

Removing the old covers wasn’t too difficult. I disconnected the battery, then disconnected all the wiring to the seats (in my case, the SRS, seat belt and seat heater wires) and took out the seats, for easier handling.

Adding extra cushion foam to the driver’s seat.

Once the covers were off, I needed to repair the seat heating elements. The element wire had detached from the top of the cushion, and become bungled up. I needed to restore the wire to its serpentine pattern and re-glue it to the cushion with fabric glue. For the re-patterning, I made a jig with my 3D-printer. I threaded the wire through the jig, in order to restore the wire to its original serpentine pattern.

It is also recommended to replace the cushion foam with new ones. But the ones on these seats weren’t too bad. The drivers side seat cushion was a little bit softer, so I added a layer of foam on top of it to firm up the seat.

The new seat covers for my Saab did come with same pre-installed fasteners as were on the original covers. That made the installation much easier.

Front seats with the new leather covers.

Once everything was installed, and the seats mounted back into the car, everything looked good. I think the colors matched the original color quite well.

How well are the new leather covers holding up?

What remained now, was to find out how well the leather seats will hold up after the replacement, how long they will last. I was unwilling to leave any review about the product, not knowing if it will hold up or not.

Now, one year later after the installation, I am happy to tell that the seat covers still look like new, even though they have been exposed to very hot summer weather and sun! No fading, no tears, still same firmness as when they were installed.

Of course, based on only this one project, I wouldn’t know about Lseat’s material quality fluctuations, and their quality control. Some people have had bad experiences with the leather covers, some have had good experiences. I had a good experience with the whole process, considering the cost, and expectations.

One year later, the leather seats still look good!

I do wish that their website would be more informative, and that their communication would be more open and customer-friendly.

After saying that, I do recommend them. Just be very clear communicating with them, in order to avoid any misunderstandings.

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