How to Reupholster Bucket Seats in a Van

Reupholstering bucket seats in a van is a fairly easy job even for someone with no experience. The upholstery is basically a pillowcase that pulled snugly over the chair and held in place at the bottom. In order to replace it you will have to remove the old upholstery, copy it exactly on a new material and place it back on the chairs. It is a simple job but it requires you to have a few tools and preparation. Follow these steps to reupholster your van’s bucket seats in no time.

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Fabric (used to cover the seats)
  • 2 yards of muslin
  • 2 yards poly foam
  • Heavy duty scissors and cutter
  • Aerosol glue
  • Car wrench set
  • Stitching machine
  • Chalk or a pencil and paper

Step 1 - Choose the Covering Fabric

There are a lot of fabrics that you can use to cover your bucket seats. Choose a fabric that is strong and preferably stain resistant. Don’t pick a material that is too thick to fold easily. Velvet is a good choice when upholstering.

Step 2 - Remove the Van’s Chairs

Remove all the chairs that you’re going to reupholster. Bucket seats are usually held down to the van’s floor by nuts or bolts. Unfasten the bolts using your wrench and remove them. Working on the chairs outside of the van is a much easier undertaking. Place them on a flat surface to have easy access.

Step 3 - Remove the Old Upholstery

Using the heavy-duty scissors or cutter remove the old seat upholstery. Start from the bottom up and cut only the seams. Don’t make deep cuts when cutting the old fabric. Make short precise cuts to the places where the fabric is held in place. Some seats have rubber bands holding the fabric together. These are placed and masked underneath the seat. If your seats have rubber bands remove them without cutting them. Remove any pieces of existing vinyl, as you’ll want to use them for the new fabric. The old padding can also be used if it is in good condition. Remove that as well.

Step 4 - Install the Pleats into the New Fabric

Pleats are the grooves you will find in car seats. They act as extra padding and also support for the existing padding. They give the seat a good shape to support a body. Place the polyurethane foam pieces in the spots where you want to make the grooves. Hold them together with the old or new padding. Place the muslin on top of the foam, creating what is essentially a material sandwich with the foam in the middle. Use the aerosol glue to stick everything together, or you can stitch them.

Step 5 - Tracing and Cutting

Unfold and place the old upholstery on the ground. Use the chalk to mark the shapes of the upholstery on the ground. Alternatively use the pencil and paper. Place the new fabric on the spot and use your scissors to make cuts on the lines. Sew the new fabric according to the one you removed. This will give it a snug fit on the van’s bucket seats.

Step 6 - Install the New Upholstery

Use the stitching machine to stitch the new fabric following the old model. Place any existing vinyl parts in their original positions. Pull the new upholstery in place over the chair. Pull towards the bottom to get a perfect fit. Stitch the material at the bottom or use any existing rubber bands to hold it together. Your bucket seats are reupholstered.