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E36 M3 (1995-1999)

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  #1  
Old 03-07-2012, 04:16 PM
CTBimmerGuy CTBimmerGuy is offline
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Leatherique Seat Restoration 98 M3 w/Magma & Black Leather

After reading many helpful Leather restoration DIYs on this site and at the Leatherique site I got up the courage to give it a shot. George at Leatherique was great with helping me decide what products to buy and how to perfectly match my Magma leather.

I'm the second owner of a 98 M3 in Hellrot Red with Magma and Black Interior. The car is in great shape except for the front seats. The back seats are fine as is often the case. Both front seats have the same problems with the dye cracking near the bolsters and elsewhere and per usual the driver side is the worst.

To start the project I bought Leatherique Kit#2 which includes restoration oil, cleaning agent and prepping agent and two ounces of crack filler. I also bought wet sanding sponges in 300 grit, 600 grit and 1000 grit at my local hardware store.

The first step is pulling both front seats out of the car so I watched a couple of You Tube vids. Each seat is held down with four bolts and you must unplug three electrical connections. Pulling the seats out was easy and took about ten minutes. Here's a pic of the car after I pulled the front seats out.

In the pic you can see the four posts where the seat and bolts are fastened and the electrical connections.
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  #2  
Old 03-07-2012, 04:24 PM
CTBimmerGuy CTBimmerGuy is offline
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Once the seats were out it was a bit of trial and error as I got comfortable with the utterly counter intuitive idea of wet sanding leather. I've not worked with leather much and I have never sanded it so that idea was foreign to me. I used the pink colored prepping agent like concentrate and cut it by 50% and poured it into my spray bottle. Then I started misting the seat and wet sanding with my 1000 grit (extra fine) sponge. I started with the driver side seat since it was worst. Here are some "before" pics of the seat. You can clearly see how badly it's cracked in all the usual places.
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  #3  
Old 03-07-2012, 04:31 PM
CTBimmerGuy CTBimmerGuy is offline
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As it happens my passenger side seat won't recline. A common problem with e36 M3s. I watched the DIY You Tube vids on that problem and know it's almost always caused by a broken plastic gear inside the seat transmission. Might as well fix that problem too while I have the seats out so I removed the two Bosch motors on the back of the seat and opened up the transmission and confirmed the green colored gear (reclining gear) is indeed broken. I pulled out the broken gear and went online and ordered a replacement on Ebay for $39. It hasn't arrived yet but the gear is easy to press onto the shaft with a vice and then you reinsert the shaft into the transmission box and bolt the motors back in place. Don't want to know how much the dealer would charge for this job. I'm a perfectionist so I couldn't live with the idea of having perfectly restored leather seats if they both aren't working properly. Here's a picture of the passenger seat with the transmission box open so you can see the pink gear and where the broken green gear used to be.
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Last edited by CTBimmerGuy; 03-07-2012 at 11:10 PM.
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  #4  
Old 03-07-2012, 04:43 PM
CTBimmerGuy CTBimmerGuy is offline
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So I started spraying the prepping agent on the leather and sanding it. By trial and error I determined for my seats the 300 grit sponge was fine enough not to scar the leather but rough enough to quickly remove the old dye with wet sanding. Spray on a fairly generous amount of prepping agent and it begins dissolving the dye while you sand. It's scary at first but eventually you get a feel for it and the process of removing the dye goes fairly quickly. Never having done this I thought the cracks in my seat were in the leather but the cracks are actually in the old dye that has failed. As you remove the dye you remove the cracks and get down to the actual leather which is remarkably supple. Here are some pics of the spray bottle of prepping agent with the seat in various stages of preparation. The white stuff you see on the seat is crack filler. There is only one spot on my seat where the leather is actually cracked a bit and it's on the driver's side bolster which is typical. The crack filler is like a flexible bondo. I chose to apply it into the cracks using a cue tip then let it dry for a bit and apply more until the cracks are filled. Pretty much the same idea as using bondo or glaze to smooth out body work. It took several coats to fill in the cracks and make the leather nice and smooth so it will look like new once the dye is applied.
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Last edited by CTBimmerGuy; 03-07-2012 at 05:11 PM.
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  #5  
Old 03-07-2012, 05:10 PM
CTBimmerGuy CTBimmerGuy is offline
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Here's a close up of the crack filler being applied with a cue tip and what it looks like after several coats have been applied. I'm very happy with the results. I think it will take the dye well and hide the cracks in that area. I thought about gluing a piece of leather there and then smoothing that over with crack filler which I've seen done in other DIY threads but I decided to try this first and see how it works out. I can always do the leather repair in the future if the crack filler doesn't hold up.
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  #6  
Old 03-07-2012, 05:18 PM
CTBimmerGuy CTBimmerGuy is offline
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It's amazing how supple the leather becomes once you remove the old dye. In most places it's really like new. No wrinkles whatsoever. Not having worked with leather before I would never have believed you could sand dye off leather and make it like new again...but you can! To show you how supple the leather is and that there aren't any cracks once you remove the dye I pressed my finger into the leather in a bunch of places so you could see how it responds when compressed.
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  #7  
Old 03-07-2012, 05:21 PM
CTBimmerGuy CTBimmerGuy is offline
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So I'm pretty much done removing the dye and prepping the driver's side seat. I'm going to coat it once more with restoration oil then hit it with cleaner and prepping agent and then begin applying the custom magma dye. Here's a pic of the seat now that it's ready for the dye. As soon as I dye the seat I'll post the pics and show you what the final product looks like and tell you how I decided to apply the dye and anything else I learn in the process.
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  #8  
Old 03-07-2012, 09:17 PM
CTBimmerGuy CTBimmerGuy is offline
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Once I get started on a project like this I'm compulsively driven to finish ASAP....so I grabbed a contractor grade 1" angle brush and some really small model paint brushes for detail work and small container for the magma dye. I poured the die in the container and found an area on the back of the seat to test and I applied some die. I have read some folks cut the die with water and others use spray guns. I own a spray gun but decided to try the angle brush first. Turns out the brush works great. I used the die at full strength and like that for the first coat. I can see why you might cut it with water just a bit on the third or fourth coat. There's really nothing to it. You just carefully paint it on and if your seat is well prepared the leather takes the stain perfectly and it dries fast in a low humidity environment. The results are far better than I could have hoped for. After just one coat my seat looks like it's brand new. No more cracks anywhere and the magma color is a spot on match with the back seats and magma door panels. I think ultimately I will do three coats. I'm not using much stain. Right now I'm finished with one coat except for the area where I'm still allowing the crack filler to dry. That will be dry by tomorrow so I will be able to dye that section and put a second coat on the rest of the chair tomorrow. Here's what I have after just one coat.
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  #9  
Old 03-07-2012, 09:23 PM
CTBimmerGuy CTBimmerGuy is offline
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I'm doing some other style mods and maintenance to the car while I have it apart as well as fixing that gear in the passenger side seat. I installed rear trunk struts, an aluminum M handbrake and M Shifter yesterday which was easy. Tonight while I was waiting for the dye to dry I took out the chrome kidney grilles and installed flat black grilles with a nice M badge on the driver's side. I think the flat black grilles and M badge looks much better especially on a red car.

Here's a pick of the new grilles. Tomorrow I'll finish up the dye on the bolster where the crack filler has been applied and I'll show you what that looks like after one coat of dye.
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  #10  
Old 03-08-2012, 08:06 AM
CTBimmerGuy CTBimmerGuy is offline
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So here's the seat after two coats of Magma. I have a heated garage so the seat cured overnight and I was able to finish up with the crack filler using a heat gun to expedite curing and then put a second coat on the entire seat. It doesn't need a third or fourth coat. The results are better than I had hoped. The area with the crack filler isn't detectable. It looks great so now it will be a matter of how long it will hold up. The product does have a glossy finish and my rear seats do not so I may wet sand the second coat with a super fine grit to remove some of the gloss or I believe I can buy a flat clear coat to apply over the stain. Regardless, this finish would work fine as is and I'm sure over time the seats would lose some of the gloss naturally. It's such a subtle thing I'm not really concerned. Here are some before and after pics and a before and after close up of the cracked bolster area.
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  #11  
Old 03-08-2012, 08:23 AM
CTBimmerGuy CTBimmerGuy is offline
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I'm happy to answer any questions from anyone that hasn't tried this yet. To me this was an easy job. It took me two days to complete the driver's seat from the time I pulled it from the car through wet sanding and two coats of magma. Hours wise it was probably 10 hours of actual wrenching, sanding, crack filling and dying. Being able to invest 20 hours of time and about $100 in Leatherique products to achieve this kind of result restoring two front seats is the kind of project that excites me. I expect to get 5 to 7 years of use from the restored seats before I have to touch them up again and after I finish the passenger seat I will still have more than 50% of the magma dye left for future touch ups.

Special thanks to ChuckG of this site who posted his DIY thread on the work he did on his black Vaders. He did a great job on those seats and the quality of his work and his DIY thread convinced me this project was worth the effort.
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  #12  
Old 03-08-2012, 03:35 PM
CTBimmerGuy CTBimmerGuy is offline
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I stumbled on some fabric paint in the garage and happened to have Red, Blue and White which is all you need to paint the M stripes on the seat! Why not! This probably isn't as good as leather dye but it's what I have. I can upgrade later! So now the head rest is done and the M stripes are painted and the colors are really popping. I'll get started on the passenger side seat as soon as my green gear arrives. I want to fix the gear and transmission first and then prep and dye the seats. So here's what the finished driver's seat looks like now with the head rest and M stripes popping!
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  #13  
Old 03-09-2012, 12:12 AM
RynosM3 RynosM3 is offline
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Wow that looks great! i sure hope it lasts because the knock on leatherique is that it just doesnt last as long as furniture clinic. Amazing work man...

i was just wondering though, since you have the M stripes, what does that mean, does it mean that this leather is not Nappa leather? I have read somewhere that BMW lost the Nappa leather contract so they had to change the leather...
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  #14  
Old 03-09-2012, 06:34 AM
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X3-terrestrial X3-terrestrial is offline
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Nice job! They look really nice so far, can't wait to see them mounted again.
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  #15  
Old 03-09-2012, 06:39 AM
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Originally Posted by CTBimmerGuy View Post
I'm doing some other style mods and maintenance to the car while I have it apart as well as fixing that gear in the passenger side seat. I installed rear trunk struts, an aluminum M handbrake and M Shifter yesterday which was easy. Tonight while I was waiting for the dye to dry I took out the chrome kidney grilles and installed flat black grilles with a nice M badge on the driver's side. I think the flat black grilles and M badge looks much better especially on a red car.
.
Not a fan of M badges on the grille, IMO it just doesn't belong there but if you like it go for it. What kind of M shifter did you get?
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  #16  
Old 03-09-2012, 08:48 AM
CTBimmerGuy CTBimmerGuy is offline
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Thanks Rynos. We'll see how well the Letherique holds up. I'm hoping for five years with minor touch ups. If not then I'll try Furniture clinic. Frankly, now that I've done it the job is easy enough I would have no trouble pulling the seats and doing it again with another product. Ten hours isn't much of an investment to get a brand new looking seat and now that I've done it I could probably do it in five hours next time around with help from a heated garage and heat gun. No idea what the M stripe means with respect to leather so I can't help you there.

X, thanks for the compliment on the work. We'll see how well the new finish holds up over time. If there are problems I will let folks know. I re-mounted the driver seat last night. Took about ten minutes from the time I stuck it back in the car until I had it bolted down and the electrical connections working again. Wouldn't you know the gear sounds like it's starting to act up now! It's rumbling now and it never did before! I have a feeling that seat will be out again in short order. The gear for the passenger seat arrived yesterday and promptly disintegrated when I tried to press it onto the shaft! The vendor is sending me a replacement gear free of charge. Not going to try and re-finish the passenger seat until it's fixed. May be about a week or so until that seat is back in the car.

I get where you're coming from on the M badge on the grille but I really like it. Reminds me of what Audi does and it's removed easily enough and I'm holding onto all of the stock parts I remove in case I ever decide to sell the car to somebody that feels the way you do. Next upgrade is the Depot lights. I compounded my plastic lights and they are 100% better than they were but glass lights are still much nicer. I have the Depo's already. Just need to pick up some bulbs for them and figure out which wire for the harness is connected to which post and the light upgrade should be easy.
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  #17  
Old 03-09-2012, 09:02 AM
CTBimmerGuy CTBimmerGuy is offline
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Here are a couple pics of the driver seat back in the car.
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  #18  
Old 03-09-2012, 09:09 AM
CTBimmerGuy CTBimmerGuy is offline
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X3...here are pics of the new M shifter and the M hand brake handle. Both five minute installations once you watch a You Tube Vid and know what to do. I found the shifter on Ebay. I think it was about $50 with shipping. I really like it. The original shift handle and hand brake handle came off without incident so I can go back to the stock look anytime. My tweeters are blown as they often are so I bought some tweeters on Ebay and will do a plug and play tweeter upgrade sometime soon once the seat work and light upgrade is done.
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  #19  
Old 03-09-2012, 10:56 AM
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X3-terrestrial X3-terrestrial is offline
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Here are a couple pics of the driver seat back in the car.
Looking good!

Looking at your center console, I never realized they changed the place of the cup holders to the back. On mine I have the coin thingy on the very front, then the two cup holders and then the little compartment without a lid.....
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Old 03-09-2012, 11:02 AM
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I get where you're coming from on the M badge on the grille but I really like it. Reminds me of what Audi does and it's removed easily enough and I'm holding onto all of the stock parts I remove in case I ever decide to sell the car to somebody that feels the way you do. Next upgrade is the Depot lights. I compounded my plastic lights and they are 100% better than they were but glass lights are still much nicer. I have the Depo's already. Just need to pick up some bulbs for them and figure out which wire for the harness is connected to which post and the light upgrade should be easy.
I understand. Just be careful, there is a fine line when the mods/upgrades start to look like you are trying too hard, if you know what I mean
Try to keep it OEM+ and your car will still look amazing, and yes, please keep all your original parts!
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  #21  
Old 03-09-2012, 04:49 PM
CTBimmerGuy CTBimmerGuy is offline
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X3, if memory serves I think you can configure the center console different ways. I think I read in the owner's manual you can re-orient the set up but I never messed with it. I think I read that in the manual years ago and stumbled on it by accident in my last M3 but never really gave it much thought and haven't actually tried moving things around.
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  #22  
Old 03-09-2012, 07:10 PM
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That's interesting....I'll see if I can find it!
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Old 03-09-2012, 08:29 PM
CTBimmerGuy CTBimmerGuy is offline
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X3, after thinking about it I'm certain you can swap the console around and configure it as you like. It's been years since I did it and I actually stumbled on it by accident when I was detailing my last M3 and knocked the works out of the console but I do remember taking the manual out and reading about that or reading about it on line after it happened and then swapping them around a bit in my previous M. If memory serves the components just snap in and out of place (typical German engineering) and can be swapped front to back if you want a change of pace. Now that you bring this up I may move my cup holders forward because they are a bit of a pain in the butt being located under the arm rest. You can't put the arm rest down and use the rear cup holder the way my current M is set up.
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  #24  
Old 03-13-2012, 10:01 AM
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Originally Posted by CTBimmerGuy View Post
X3, after thinking about it I'm certain you can swap the console around and configure it as you like. It's been years since I did it and I actually stumbled on it by accident when I was detailing my last M3 and knocked the works out of the console but I do remember taking the manual out and reading about that or reading about it on line after it happened and then swapping them around a bit in my previous M. If memory serves the components just snap in and out of place (typical German engineering) and can be swapped front to back if you want a change of pace. Now that you bring this up I may move my cup holders forward because they are a bit of a pain in the butt being located under the arm rest. You can't put the arm rest down and use the rear cup holder the way my current M is set up.
Maybe '95's were different, it's one piece on mine.
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2005 X3 3.0i ZPP, Htd seats, Htd strng, Black Sapphire on Terracotta.
1995 ///M3 Coupe, Lux, MT, Htd seats, Cosmos Black on Black.
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  #25  
Old 03-14-2012, 03:05 PM
CTBimmerGuy CTBimmerGuy is offline
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Location: Middletown, CT
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 104
Mein Auto: 1999 M3 Convertible
So I had time last night and today to continue my project. Step one was fixing the problem with the passenger seat not reclining by pressing the green gear I ordered onto the shaft and re-installing the piece back in the seat transmission and bolting the transmission closed then bolting the seat motors back onto the transmission. It turned out to be easy. The gear popped right in place and the cover closed flush no problem. Here's a picture of the gear after I pressed it onto the shaft with a bench vice and another picture of the seat transmission after the gear was re-installed and the cover bolted on. I guess I saved myself about $800 by fixing the seat problem myself.
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