Introduction: Repairing a Car Console Armrest

My wife an I recently purchased a "new" used car, and one of the defects was damaged upholstery on the armrest, which also serves as the lid for the compartment between the two fronts seats. This wasn't a deal breaker, but it was annoying enough that I set out to replace it.

What I quickly found was that it was near impossible to replace just this part, without replacing the entire console. I found replacement consoles online, and I even found one in a local salvage yard, but both options involved removing and replacing the entire console - way more time and money than I was willing to invest! And why scrap a perfectly good console when all I needed to replace was the armrest/lid upholstery?

So here is how I reupholstered a damaged armrest in under an an hour, for less than US$5!

(My car is 2007 PT Cruiser, but I imagine there are plenty of damaged armrests out there on different make/model cars, that can be restored in the same way;-)

• A few feet of vinyl
• 3M Spray adhesive
• Packing foam

* Torx bit & screwdriver
• Stapler
• Scissors

Step 1: Remove Armrest

This is pretty easy, as long as you have the correct tool. I believe I used a 10 or 15 torq bit to remove the three screws holding the armrest in place. Yours may be held in place with different screws, but still likely easy to remove.

Step 2: Disassemble Armrest

My armrest is made up of three layers of plastic parts; the part that screws into the base, the underside of the lid, which also include plastic tracks that allow the armrest to slide forward, and the top cover (with the damaged vinyl).

First remove the two screws that attach the base bracket to the underside of the lid, then remove the six screws that hold the remaining pieces together.

(One of the plastic tracks on my armrest was broken, likely from a previous owner who tried to pull the lid open without first pushing the release button. I glued this piece back in place during this process).

Step 3: Remove Vinyl

The vinyl cover is held in place with way too many staples. REmove these staples with a needle nose pliers or a small screwdriver.

Step 4: Spray Mount Foam

To give the armrest a bit of cushioning, I used a bit of packing foam that came with some electronic component I bought ages ago.

Place the plastic lid on top of the foam, and then spray the lid with adhesive. i used 3M 90 HI-Strength spray adhesive, which did he job perfectly.

My foam wasn't quite large enough to cover the lid, so I mounted one piece, and then used a second to complete the job.

Once the top surface was covered, I sprayed a bit of adhesive on the underside, then folded the foam over the lid.

Step 5: Cut Vinyl

I decided to use a piece of vinyl that matched my car's interior, a light grey. But of course any material can be used; scrap leather denim, or your favorite old sweatshirt. But keep in mind that this piece will get a lot of wear, and vinyl is very easy to clean (and cheap! I paid about US$4 dollars for a half yard at a fabric store).

Step 6: Staple Vinyl

This I found to be the trickiest step in this process. The difficult part is getting the vinyl to wrap around the lid as tightly as possible. i chose not to glue it with spray mount, as this would make replacing it in the future more difficult.

The trick I used was to first staple the vinyl on the underside length wise, then widthwise, then I folded the corners in towards, creating as bit of overlap in the corners. You want to try and make the corners as tight as possible, to make the final product look close to factory original.

I chose to staple the vinyl, rather than using spray adhesive, to make it easier to replace the vinyl in the future shoul I need to. 

Step 7: Reassemble

Once your done stapling the vinyl inside the lid, now you're ready to reassemble the whole cover, reversing the steps you used to disassemble.

Step 8: Finished

Here are a few photos of the finished product. Had I purchased a replacement console, it would have cost me between $50 and $100 dollars, and it would be in the same range to have it professionally installed.

This isn't my most exciting or creative Instructable, but it saved me between $100 and $200 dollars to spend on more important things, like fuzzy dice!;-)

3rd Annual Make It Stick Contest

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3rd Annual Make It Stick Contest