The use of Leather in car seats and car upholstery dates back a long time. Skins and hides were transformed into leather using the vegetable tanning process without any surface colouration, which were made water repellant by the use of oils and grease just like saddles.
Leather surfaces were later coloured to make them more resistant to humidity and general soiling. One of the disadvantages of vegetable tanning is the amount of time the process takes (sometimes unto 18 months) With time, this process was largely replaced by chrome tanning which was deemed a more viable industrial process. To this day, most automotive manufacturers use chrome tanned leather apart from Audi, Volkswagen & Porsche who prefer synthetic tanned leather.
Automotive manufacturers carry out various tests on leather prior to approving and using them. Typical tests include the tear strength of leather, vapour permeability, squeaks and rattles test, flammability, soiling and smell. The smell of leather is probably the only test carried out without the use of a machine. Due to the rigorous testing processes, car leathers have become very uniform in appearance, almost always single coloured, smooth leather. These standard leathers are used with different combinations like Alcantara (synthetic material) is used on Porsche Steering Wheel and side panels. A combination of Nubuck and semi aniline leather is used in the Bugatti Veyron. Semi aniline leathers are softer to touch in comparison to the normal pigmented leathers as they have significantly less surface colouration but also extremely hard to maintain as water will penetrate through the surface. The exclusive Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 coupé was also made with semi-aniline leather interior. We recommend waterproofing these type of leathers to avoid permanent marks. Good care and prevention is the only way to retain the natural qualities of this type of leather.
Real Luxury: Bugatti type 46 Superprofile aka La Royal Petite in Real Ostrich Leather
Interesting: Bentley mainly use bull hides from Northern Europe as the farms there do not have barbwire fencing thus reducing the risk of natural marks and scars on the cattle.
How to clean and maintain car leather seats?
The following instructions would only apply to leather that is not open pore i.e water does not penetrate through the surface. Car Leather is one of the easiest forms of leather to clean and care for. Depending on the degree of soiling, we recommend cleaning car leather seats with one of our Mild or Strong Leather Cleaners supplied in a foam dispenser bottle and the Colourlock LeatherCleaning Brush. Foam dispenser ensures minimal use of the product and most importantly ensures the leather does not get too wet which causes it to get dry and crack with time.
New car leather seats and upholstery do not need any type of protection, feed or care products within the first 3 years. New car leather seats have a heavy layer of colour on them and any care product applied will not penetrate the surface. It does however need protection from surface colour damage caused due to friction. Entry and exit areas of driver seats are the most common areas for this type of damage but there might be other areas which get affected depending on the use of the car and the type of seats for e.g. bucket seats. Colourlock Leather Shield is an ideal product to prevent these type of damages. It also prevents against dye transfer onto leather, commonly found on lighter colour leather interiors.
Older leather, (cars older than 3 years) – The vapour permeability of leather is inherently high. However, the use of fats and greases during the manufacturing process improve water resistance of the leather. As the leather gets older and is used more, the pores become open (visible only under a microscope) and the leather becomes more receptive to care products. Colourlock Leather Protector has UV filters that protect from sun damage and antioxidants that keep the leather soft and prevent it from drying and ageing. It gives a matt finish.
Colourlock Elephant Leather Preserve is another care product we provide. It is a purely synthetic, acid free leather wax and an ideal treatment for antique leathers,glossy leathers in Classic Cars. It refreshes and waterproofs the leather and prevents mildew growth. Ideal treatment for old, dry and cracked Leather.
We hope that you find this information useful and would love to hear your comments and feedback.If there are any particular leather issues you want us to blog about in the future, please let us know.
Upcoming Blogs on Car leather: How to clean and maintain Alcantara car seats. How to restore extremely old, dry and hard leather seats. How to repair car leather seats, plastic and Vinyls using Colourlock Leather repair kit and leather dye