The World of Auto Upholstery

Cars would not be anywhere near as comfortable as they are if not for the upholstery inside them. These are part of what makes the driving and riding experience so pleasant. Yet, this little thing that most people take for granted can be quite important to the modern car. Auto upholstery is more than just the covers of the seats but includes a number of other things in the interior of the vehicle.

Auto upholstery encompasses a number of details both great and small. In many ways, being taken for granted is a positive thing, because that means it’s doing its job. Let’s take a moment to look at just what is upholstered in the typical automobile.

The Business

Sometimes known as coach trimmers, upholsterers have worked with vehicles since long before the advent of the motor engine. They provided the finery and interiors of the horse-drawn carriage, before modifying their practices for building the custom interiors and upholstering of these new machines. They work on everything from everyday drivers to luxury vehicles and often rely on industrial machinery like a double circular knitting machine to get the job done.

What Do They Do?

The typical auto upholsterer doesn’t just cover the seats, of course. While experience and area of expertise can dictate some specific functions or services, there are tasks that are universal. There are various tasks that can range from repair and replacement to restoration and waterproofing.


One of the most common tasks would be replacing existing upholstery. This could be the car seats, the interior trims of the vehicle, or even the carpeting. The owner might have existing ones that are beyond repair or they might prefer something different from what came with the vehicle. Depending on how much of the interior the owner wants to be replaced and the size of the vehicle’s interiors, this could be a quick job or one that can take up to days.


Upholstery repair is also a common task for car upholsterers. Mending damage such as ripping and tearing is pretty typical tasks. Burns is also possible on some fabrics. Auto upholstery experts can work with vinyl, leather, carpeting, plastic, and other materials. In some cases, a repair job can also include a patch job over a damaged area by matching the new fabric to the existing one as much as possible. This prevents the need for a more extensive replacement.

Headliner Repair

The headliner is the upholstery in the car that is attached to the interior lining of the roof. Strong adhesives are used there, which usually make it difficult for it to sag. However, it can happen and it requires specialized procedures to both correct the damage to the headliner and to reattach the material. Depending on the cause of the sagging, this could be a simple process or part of a more extensive repair job.


Auto upholstery may also involve restoration. This is usually for those who own vintage cars, from before a time when mass-produced machinery was used to make the fabrics and upholstering. This means that new upholstery isn’t readily available and the most viable option is to clean up and mend the older fabric.

Related tasks would be to preserve existing upholstery to prevent further decay or to use new fabric meant to mimic the look and feel of the original materials.


Some upholsterers may also be called upon to handle custom jobs. These allow for a more personalized look but take expert craftsmanship and more time to complete. This is because a custom job typically won’t be able to get the required materials from a mass-produced source, but instead need to make it from scratch. This will often be very expensive and take time to create, but balances it out with individual uniqueness.

It should be noted that auto upholstery also covers marine and boat covers. The basic principle is the same, though the nature of aquatic upholstery means that specific fabrics are avoided and certain properties are prized over others. For instance, water-resistance and UV degradation are greater concerns for any vehicle that gets in the water than it would be for the average car.

Where the Covers Come From

Most auto upholsterers get their seat covers and such from suppliers, and will often have common makes and models in stock. These make it easier to do replacements for various cars and speeds up the process.

In these cases, the upholstery will likely have been made by the same factories that produced the original ones the vehicle came with, held to the same standards. However, this becomes less true for anything not used by the manufacturer themselves. Quality will vary based on the individual upholsterer for truly custom or unique upholstery.


Upholstery for vehicles is more than just the seat covers. It includes the lining of the dashboard, the fabric that runs along the interior roof, and even the carpeting you put your feet on. There’s even a little of it on the steering wheel, for a more comfortable grip. They’re a part of the driving experience and are among the many products of the textile industry that people tend to take for granted.

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