Tips on Restoration of Faded Seats

By Robert Meushaw

For some time I have been searching for a solution to the problem of fading on my black cloth Miata seats. I have posted questions to various lists, checked with local upholstery shops, and searched through various car product catalogs. All that I could really find were seat cleaning products. Then some time ago I saw a note from Jeff Dofing (thanks Jeff) about a spray fabric coloring which could be used to restore the color. I was surprised that I had never seen anyone else mention this but I thought I would give it a try. The product is called FABRIC COLOR from Mar-Hyde. I found it in the spray paint section of my local Pep Boys store. I had to search a bit because it wasn't prominently displayed. Jeff suggested that one 12 oz. can would be sufficient for both seats. The cost of a can was about $5.

I decided that it would be a good idea to clean the seats before trying to spray them so I got another product at Pep Boys that had been recommended by Alan Dahl. The cleaner was called Tuff Stuff, and is a spray foam cleaner for fabric, carpets, and vinyl. The first problem I encountered was with the infamous gorilla tightened seat bolts. I had to get a friend to help with two bolts that I just couldn't get loosened. Eventually they gave way. I removed the seats and cleaned them according to the directions with Tuff Stuff. I did notice a considerable difference in the appearance of the seats after they were cleaned and there was a fair amount of dirty water in my bucket, so I assume they were pretty dirty.

Next, I used masking tape and plastic to cover the non-fabric parts of the seat. I sprayed a light first coat with FABRIC COLOR and waited about an hour for it to dry before putting on a second coat. I left the seats out of the car to air out overnight to let the spray odor dissipate. The next morning there was no real odor. Then I reinstalled the seats.

The results are quite good. The seats have an original looking black color again. I was a bit concerned about the "color" coming off on my clothes so I took a test drive wearing some old clothes. Nothing seemed to come off so I assume they are safe. Jeff had mentioned that the sprayed fabric would be a bit stiffer, but it was only very slightly stiffer and I don't consider it a problem.

Jeff also mentioned that the seats might eventually start fading again, but I feel as he does that the simple fix is worth doing every year or two. While I was doing my seat restoration, I used the Tuff Stuff cleaner on my carpets and it did a very nice job on them as well. I didn't think the carpets were faded so I didn't use the coloring.

All in all I am very pleased with the results and would recommend the products to others. I'm also very happy that I read the mailing list regularly and got these great tips from other Miata enthusiasts.