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Damage to seat - any advice?

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CPO Roadster #1089
Mar 24, 2013
Fairfax, VA
I had an very unfortunate event yesterday - a can of insect repellant (30% DEET, by Sawyer) leaked in a bag, and soaked through onto my Roadster's passenger seat. This is nasty stuff - it damaged my binoculars, the bag, and worst of all, the seat. The stuff seems to have an ingredient that makes rubber, plastic, and apparently, leather seats sticky and discolored. My black leather now has a blotch of grey and is a bit sticky. I called Tesla, who suggested leather cleaner, but it had no effect I could detect. I also tried Dawn, since I think it is the oils in the stuff. Also no difference. If anyone on this forum has experience with this, I would be most grateful for any suggestions. TIA! P.S. - too late for me, but never let this stuff anywhere near your vehicle!

damage to seat from DEET 10-24-15.jpg
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Uggh - sorry to see that. I'd be really upset, too. There are places that refurbish leather interiors by dying them - sounds like that would be helpful for you. Call some vehicle upholstery shops near you and ask if they do that. They can do pretty amazing things.
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Try mineral spirits (paint thinner) on a clean white rag. Keep an eye on the rag to make sure you don't remove the black dye. I have used lacquer thinner for real nasty stuff, but it will almost certainly remove the dye if you rub too hard. It all depends on the quality of the dye job. After it dries, put on some leather conditioner. Its not the best thing to do for leather, but it usually works when typical cleaners don't.
Before you F___ things up permanently, go to an experienced and upscale auto interior shoppe and have them take a look at it. Either that or an experienced leather restoration place.

Why would you ever think of fixing this yourself?



+1 Exactly!!!

Only route I'd take to try and attack this myself is to use a native leather high quality cleaner and conditioner. I am also a big fan of neem oil which I've used on the Roadster to condition the seats and is used on leather as a conditioner by others, high dollar horse leather saddles, etc.

Also don't use shoe polish, but a polish/dye that won't rub off when you try to blend things in. On a positive side, your leather is black, so it won't be all to hard to match. I'd also have the other/drivers seat done so that both blend in together and that the eye won't be drawn to one conditioned and polished up seat.

I did a search on this in google, and people with BMWs and high dollar leather couches asked in forums how to address this. In all the forums the best answer was don't make it worse, take it in to a professional.

You honestly got away easy. I saw a Roadster seat that also had a solvent spilled on the seat, it melted the foam inside the seat causing it to shrink / shrivel. It was a total loss and needed to be fully reupholstered.
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Update: Having been to several places, it now appears my options are: to wait around 3-6 months to see if the solvent evaporates so the stickiness is gone, then there's a 50% chance it can be fully restored; or go for reupholstery (no cost estimate on those options yet), or replacement of the entire seat which if available, is around $3K! My concern with reupholstering is that it will not be original anymore, and of course I'd have to do both seats. Has anyone been able to only redo just the seat cushions and not the backs? Then I'd at least preserve the Tesla lettering. My S.C. is looking into whether they can get a new seat. Don't know just how generous State Farm will be if I try for a whole new seat....
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I had some damage repaired on several vehicles by Custom Color. It's a franchise, so there maybe someone in your area. She was able to match the color and texture on four vehicles that I own. My only complaint was at tear on the seat bottom of my Audi S4. She had to pull the leather together which made it more tight there. I'll see if I have any before/after picture.