How To: Install 1981-87 Chevy/GMC Bench Seat Reupholstery

Project Overview

In this video Kevin Tetz will show you how to install an LMC Truck Reupholstery Kit on a 1981-87 Chevy/GMC pickup truck.

Project Difficulty
Estimated Parts Cost
Estimated Project Time
2-3 hours
Leather/Vinyl Bench Seat Kit

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Bench Seat Cushion

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Bench Seat Hinges

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Seat Heater Kit

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3-Point Retractable Seat Belt Kit

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Lap Seat Belt

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Required Tools
  • Basic Hand Tools
  • Torx Fastener Remover
  • Locking Pliers
  • Hog Rings & Hog Ring Pliers (included)
  • Sharpies
  • Single Edge Razor Blades
Video Transcription

Hey guys, I'm Kevin Tetz working with LMC Truck to bring you some tech videos and how-to information that we hope is going to make your truck restoration project go even smoother and turn out even better.

In this video we're going to walk you through the process of replacing the seat covers on your '81 through '87 GM truck. Ours is showing its age, it's the wrong color and it's going away. So we’re going to show you what we're going to replace it with and what we're going to use to do it. Seat upholstery can be a little bit challenging on a scale of 1 to 5, I'm going to give this a 4 just because it can be touchy sometimes, although you don’t really need a whole lot of specialized tools, basic hand tools, maybe a Torx fastener remover, some locking pliers and of course hog rings and hog ring pliers. Never hurts to have some sharpies and single edge razor blades on hand, as well as something to cut the fabric with.

LMC Truck offers a nice replacement for the seatback hinge covers. Ours are crusty and one's missing so it's nice to know they have replacements but there's also ColorBond spray if you want to color match yours if they're in decent shape. LMC Truck also offers an easy to install seat heater kit and we'll show you how to install it under your upholstery as well.

Also available is a seat repair kit with the carpet section that replaces the old burlap, some 1" foam and some wire to repair the perimeter wire or broken springs.

Now the seat foam itself this is really the whole heart of the restoration and it's simple to install. The upholstery kit it's a two piece kit upper and lower fairly straightforward. It's the premium leather and vinyl kit, it's beautiful, it's all here and ready to go.

So you've got to pull off these hinge cover trim pieces to get access to the hinge bolt because it's got to come apart both seats have to be separated in order to remove the upholstery. I've pre-lubed these with some penetrating oil yesterday and it really helps unfreeze something like this that something like this that may have a little bit of surface rust on it. Make sure you keep your parts organized these are typically non universal parts and need to be separated left and right so you’re not confused at reassembly. Keep that separate this is the tension wire that ties the seat adjusters together. Remember where it's attached. The electric impact is not necessary, it just speeds up the process a little. Now the seat tracks and the adjusting wire they stay attached. I'm going to put them down here where I can keep track. Now I'm going to pull all the hog rings off. Now we just peel it off like an old dry banana... [laughing...] Now I think this will just.... and that's it. Bob's your Uncle. This goes away, and now we can take a look at the frame and the springs. Now I'm very happy with this, none of the spring wire is broken, the springs themselves are good and the seat frame is very solid. There's no rust on here other than a little surface rust, so I'm going to clean this up, scuff it down throw a coat of paint on it. We're ready to upholster.

Now the seat frame prepped the foam goes on gets centered up and the upholstery is what holds it down. Now before we put our seat cover on now is the time to put a seat heater kit in if you have it. We do and this is a two-piece kit where you can either have a lower and an upper on your seat itself or you can do to see bottom warmers are going to elect to do the seat bottom warmers it is on this same switch, the harness comes with the kit we're going to deal with this later but for now, now's the time to sandwich it in between the new seat foam and the sit cover itself.

Now this is very simple. Peel and stick adhesive. Just want to center it in the seat itself right about where the driver seating position is. Same thing center it where the passengers going to be sitting. This tape comes with the kit and it just make sure that you're exposed edges don't roll up under the upholstery it will stay where you put'em over time. Now your best-case scenario is when you've got a nice sunny day and you can set this outside in the parking lot in the sun for about an hour. What that does is relaxes the cover and makes it more flexible and easier to install.

You always want to start from the center, so establish your center line. We've got ours, we've also got the seatbelt pockets that will help us locate it. Make sure everything's symmetrical. Now this guy, the first sides not going to be too difficult it's the next side you may have to stretch a bit. When you’re pulling you want to make sure just if you have to pull to get pressure make sure it's gentle pressure so you don't pull or tear any of the seams. This one is not giving us too much trouble. There now this cover has what's called a "J" channel right here that hooks over top of this edge right here, that takes the place of a metal listing wire and makes this job a lot easier so we're going to start with our center, work your way out from the center. There’s that...there... now this is a listing wire this is that firm wire actually piece of plastic in this modern seat cover that has to be attached to these holes in the perimeter of the seat frame. This is called hog ringing now I've had my own hog ring pliers fora while but remember that a set comes with every upholstery kit from LMC truck or you can buy them separately.

You're going to start from the center and work our way around. Just one at a time working from the center outward gives even tension to the outside of the seat cover and prevents wrinkles from being pulled into the upholstery. Going to check my progress. That's starting to look good. By the time we pull some tension into the sides, it should be great. There nice and smooth. Does not look like grandma's wrinkly pantyhose.

Alright now our seat hinge mechanism comes out right there so I'm going to confirm it from the backside. I've got one chance to make this hole in the right place. And there it is, so I'm going to mark it, confirm it, and make a little x with my razor blade not too much, just enough to get that bolt through there. Now when you're happy with how your upholstery looks, I'm very happy with how this upholstery looks so we can flip the seat over to reinstall the seat tracks. Our seat tracks were in good shape they were just a little bit dirty so we cleaned them up, threw a coat of paint on them, we're going to put them back where we found them. Our seat adjustment wire gets hog ringed to the frame so both adjusters work at the same time. If you remember, it came off like this. We put it back like we found it and good to go. Perfect time to lubricate the seat tracks a little bit of lithium grease.

We're finished with this for a while, while we take care of the seat back. This cover comes off the same way to get rid of your hog rings.

Now this the fun part. Sometimes you just never know what you're going to run into when you're doing upholstery work. I'm not going to wrestle with this thing I'm just going to cut it off since were not using the old upholstery anyway. And I want to see what that foam looks like.

It's OK, it's usable there's no broken springs and I think we're good for the new upholstery to go on. Now I'm clamping my seat frame to the bench top cuz I'm doing this by myself, if you got to buddy he can hold up for you, but this is a way where you can work on it and apply the pressure that you need. Now some people like to use a silicone spray on the foam to lubricate it, make it easier to put the upholstery on. This helps the seat cover slip over top, and make it a lot easier to install your new seat cover, and then you can pull the bags out after you’re done. Now we'll just try and work on our cover, a little at a time. This is like putting socks on a rooster. OK, now that couldn't have been any easier. This is a nice fit. This is awesome.

Now this is the metal wire that the hog rings this clip to on the original seat, ours has a plastic or nylon wire on both sides so we no longer need this, we can go with what's here. Once your upholstery is fit you can attach the seat back to the seat frame using the original hardware. Be extremely careful when cutting holes in your seat covers, a small opening will allow the threaded hardware through. Cut too much and it might show up as a tear or even grow over time.

Alright, the new LMC hinge covers look great, fit great and are the perfect final touch on this seat restoration. By the way using an awl for locating screw holes will save you tons of time.

The finished product looks fantastic, and this same kit covers bench seats from 1973 to 1987. The blend of Italian leather and vinyl will give this seat a longer life than the original. The perforated seat inserts stay cool and supple, and the Madrid grain vinyl blends perfectly with the leather./p>

This gives this DIY project a very professional look. Well man, it's the right color, it's an upgrade in style. The new seat foams going to make it ride like new and we got the luxury of seat warmers on each side. Lots of room on the dash to plumb it in.

We hope we passed on some good tips to make your seat upholstery replacement a little bit easier and don't forget about the catalog or for other ideas for your truck restoration. For now, I'm Kevin Tetz thanks for watching.

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