28 August 2022
Dog-eared front seats spoil an otherwise tidy Defender. Here’s a cost-effective way to refurbish them
Need to know
Time: Around 3 hours
Difficulty: 3 out of 5 stars
Models: Defender 90, 110, 130
Tools needed: Scraper tool, spike tool, wire brush, soft faced mallet, small hammer, 13 mm socket wrench and spanner
Parts used: Retrim kit, outer seat in Techno trim, Britpart DA5628, £92.64. supplied by BLRC Ltd
• Wear protective gloves and eye protection when handling dirty parts within rusty environments.
• Wear eye protection when removing and refitting circlips.
• Consider a breathing mask when working with dusty dirty parts.
Many Defenders spend the majority of their working life on a farm, with a construction company or perhaps a utility company – all kinds of arduous environments. This causes an inevitable toll on soft components within the cab, such as door trims, floor coverings and, of course, the seats. The driver’s seat usually is the one to suffer particularly badly, although the passenger seat can have a hard life, too.
Brand-new replacement Defender seats are available and cost around £450 for a basic vinyl finished seat, rising to higher prices for fabric finishes and even more for leather. So if your Defender happens to have two damaged and shabby front seats, there is little change out of £1000 to have them replaced with new ones.
There is a very effective alternative though, costing a fraction of the price of new seats, and needing only a little time and effort to lift the interior of your Defender. Britpart, through their extensive network of suppliers, offer a range of quality retrim kits for Defender, matching the original factory fitted vinyl or fabric covers.
For the front seats featured here, the original fabric was probably grey vinyl (it is a little hard to tell, such is the poor state of the seats). However, it was decided to upgrade them with the Techno fabric, which offers a little more luxury over the vinyl.
So for around £90 per seat and a few hours of time, here is how your Defender can be transformed. We’re showing the job on a driver’s seat.
Dismantling the seat's back-rest
Sometimes absent: With the seat base lifted out, the lever knob for seat back adjustment is tapped off using a mallet, and the cover prised off the back rest adjuster
Mind your eyes: At the other side, the circlip holding the seat back in the frame is eased with a screwdriver, taking care it does not spring off and fly.
Unbolt it: Two M8 nuts and bolts are removed from the seat frame to allow the seat back to be separated. A 13 mm socket wrench and spanner does the job.
Dismantled: With the bolts and circlip removed, the seat back can be withdrawn from the frame, making it easier to work on and allowing the frame to be painted.
Eased apart: We can now begin to remove the seat back cover by separating the seam along the bottom, which is a very effective snap-together type of system.
Peeling it off: The tired old seat back cover is now rolled back on itself towards the fixed headrest, until is it about two thirds of the way up.
Pull it free: Before the seat cover can be rolled all the way up, this metal rod is removed, to allow the clips through the foam to be released.
Find the slot: This retaining clip is knocked in using a screwdriver, allowing the headrest to be pulled free, after which, the old seat cover can be fully removed.
Clean it down: After detaching the foam, it’s best to scrape off as much of the remaining foam and old adhesive as possible, but not imperative that it is totally cleared
Dismantling the seat's base
We need to use them again: On the underside of the seat base, toward the back edge, there are two metal tabs that need to be carefully bent back, allowing the rod to be freed.
Start pulling it back: The rod within the seat base cover can now be pulled, with the cover, over the two locating pins at the back of the seat base.
Don’t worry if they break: There are a series of three plastic trim pins holding the cover on each side that need to be levered off with a trim tool or screwdriver.
A tight fit: The main retaining strip is eased out of the metal groove in the seat base and pulled free, working around the sides and front of the seat cover.
Oh, what a mess: The foam is now removed from the metal base frame. The frame will need a good clean up and will benefit from a fresh coat of black paint.
Rebuilding the seat back
It is all in the box: The Britpart Defender seat retrim kit comes with everything needed to refresh your seat, including spray adhesive and an instructional video on disc.
Glue it: The channels in the rear of the new seat back foam where the metal bars of the seat frame will be located, are sprayed with adhesive.
Slots right in: The frame is then eased into the grooves in the seat back foam, starting at the top and lowering it along, ensuring the alignment is correct.
Inside out: A new metal rod is provided to fit into the sewn loop in the new seat cover. This is fitted so that there is an even amount of rod exposed at either side.
Make three small holes: The three cable ties provided in the kit are fitted through the fabric behind the metal rod, for attachment to the seat frame.
A snug fit: We start fitting the new seatback cover with it inside out, positioning it on the top and unrolling it down over the seatback. As the cover unrolls down it needs to be pulled firmly as you go for a neat fit and to remove wrinkles that might form in the fabric.
Some finger strength needed: With the new seat cover in place, a flap wraps around the bottom and the two seams are snapped together, creating a secure and tight fit.
Tidy it up: At either side there is a small flap of material which is to be tucked in behind the exposed metal attachment areas to create a neat finish.
Miles better: The seat back is finished and ready to be refitted to the main frame. It is a transformation from the raggedy old seat back that we started with.
Dealing with the head rest
Take it apart: The head rest is inverted and a screw driver used to remove the two screws holding the metal finishing plate in place, and it is withdrawn.
Get rid of fragments: The fabric is stapled down and needs to be pulled free. Any remains of the old staples should also be pulled out to create a clear space for the new ones.
Repaint or polish: The old cover is eased off the foam and discarded. It’s a good time to clean or paint the head rest stem where exposed in the finished seat.
As before: The new foam is fitted in place and the new cover material is rolled on (similar way to the seat back), making sure it is pulled tight.
A wooden sub structure: The material edges are stapled to the wood insert in the headrest. The finishing plate is screwed back, covering the staples and the folds in the fabric.
Re-covering the seat base
Old pieces reused: Two pieces of fabric, salvaged from the old cover, are glued to the base foam to hide and protect areas of foam not hidden by the metal base.
A generous application: The metal seat base frame is sprayed with adhesive all over the support pan where the new foam will be in direct contact, avoiding the outer frame edges.
More glueing: The foam is applied to the metal frame, then the centre rectangular area of the foam and the new cover are sprayed with adhesive, to be bonded together.
Line them up together: The new seat cover is now fitted on top of the foam base, aligning the two seamed sections of the cover into the groove provided in the foam.
Stretch it over: The cover is pulled around the foam, locating the stitched bead in the grooves in the metal base and held by the finishing strip, tapped in with a mallet.
Finishing the sides: Holes are made on each rear side of the cover, aligning with the holes in the frame. Plastic pins, provided, push through to secure these sections to the frame.
Don’t spare the rod: A new metal rod is inserted through the fabric at the rear of the seat base cover, in the channel that is sewn there for this purpose.
Clamped down: The two exposed sections of rod are fitted over the metal tabs on the frame and the tabs bent down, holding the back of the cover in place.
As good as new: With the base lever covers refitted, the old seat is transformed from a wreck, to a comfortable and inviting place to sit in your Defender, with pleasing fabric.
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