Damaged upholstery can be one of the more embarrassing and unsightly blemishes your vehicle can suffer. Heavily damaged fabrics, may require a professional upholstery repair shop, but these repairs can be time consuming and very costly. A better option for many is to attempt a home repair.

While the results usually will not look quite as good as a professional repair job, for many people, they are more than good enough considering the money saved.

Home auto upholstery repair kits come in two main varieties: needle and thread, or patches. Both types are available at most auto supply shops, and you can sometimes find them at fabric shops and home supply shops as well.

The type of action you take to restore damaged upholstery depends on whether you are facing a tear, a hole, or a burn (such as from a cigarette).

Most needle-and-thread kits will include threads of various common upholstery colors. Remove the needle from the kit and choose a thread that most closely matches your seat. Sew the torn area with an X pattern to close the gash.

Sometimes for fabric, and almost always for vinyl and leather, the kit will also include a gel that you apply to the sewn-over area. This seals the repair and provides a smoother finish. If the sewing is skilled and the thread colors a good match, the repair will be nearly invisible.

Some kits instead employ a patch method of repair. These kits will have a number of small patches of various common colors, just like the thread in a sewing kit. The patch is cut to the required size and shape for the damage and applied using a clear adhesive.

These kits work better for holes and burns than they do tears, since tears can be normally be made invisible with skillful sewing. For especially small holes and burns, you may be able to find specialty gels that fill in the damaged area without any thread or patches at all.

But what if your car upholstery is free of physical damage, but is dirty or dingy? Steam cleaning will remove dirt and grime set deep into the seat cushions, as well as disinfect them (due to the high heat associated with steam cleaning).

It is safe to use on all types of car upholstery, as well. Be sure to vacuum thoroughly before steam cleaning to avoid spreading loose debris and dirt around during the process.

If there are any stains set into fabric, you can attempt to remove them by leaving the steam cleaner over the stain for about 15 seconds; avoid doing this with leather, as that much concentrated moisture can cause damage. Let the seats dry thoroughly before getting back into the vehicle.

Stains in leather upholstery can be more difficult. Most often you will want to try a leather cleaner and conditioner, but untreated leather can be especially difficult to clean thoroughly. You may need a professional cleaning service to remove set-in leather stains.

Even if they are not stained, conditioning your leather every six months or so can help extend its life considerably.

A deep cleaning and repair of your car upholstery might not be the easiest thing to do on your own, but it is a significant money saver over taking it to a professional repair shop. If you think a home repair will be good enough for you, always consider putting in the time and effort yourself before taking your car to a professional.

Natalia Jenkins is a writer for Osseo Auto. She loves writing on cars, history and reading classic books. She also is secretly a car aficionado. Osseo Auto is a leading car dealership in Wisconsin that sells new and used Eau Claire Ford and Chevy cars in La Crosse.