How to repair cracks in vinyl?

Just like leather, vinyl cracks as it ages and desiccates (dries out). Unlike leather, however, cracks in vinyl often have sharp edges that curl upward. These must be carefully shaved away or melted with heat. Even the most skillful repairs often result in a slightly elevated mound. Repairs on high-stress areas (like the side of a driver seat or the center console in a car) cannot be expected to perform any better than the original and may re-crack if exposed to the same stressors.

Picture of cracking vinyl with sharp edges

While you can use a low-temperature putty like our Soft Filler, the superior method for cracking vinyl is to use a higher-temperature heat-cure putty. This requires a heat gun and graining papers.

If you plan to make this a hobby or vocation, invest in a graining kit to make your own, as graining papers crease over time. The graining kit is comprised of a compound and a catalyst. Mix these together and pour onto an undamaged horizontal surface and allow to cure (about 20-30 minutes). You’ll have a strong, floppy, heat resistant pad with a negative of the material’s grain for embossing. Buy only as much as you need, as the compound and catalyst spoil within a few months. Or commit to making a variety of grains, as they will last decades.

Here’s how to repair cracking vinyl with a heat gun and grain pad. This method also works for leather, but take care, as leather can shrink and pucker if it is overheated. The video below gives more detail.

  1. Subpatch and glue any holes.
  2. Holding a clean, new razor blade almost parallel to the surface, carefully shave away any sharp, curling edges that stand high above the surface.
  3. Those too low-profile or risky to shave can be gently melted with the heat gun ~550°F at a distance of 2″-6″ for 5 to 15 seconds (we’ve even ‘nuked’ some heavier duty vinyls with 1000°F and a reducer nozzle, but be cautious). The vinyl will begin to get more glossy.
  4. Remove the heat gun, and immediately apply the grain pad. Use a small board or block to apply even pressure and avoid dents in the upholstery. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds.
  5. Repeat as necessary. The vinyl needs to be room temperature and as level as possible before filler is applied.
  6. Clean the vinyl with denatured or rubbing alcohol.
  7. Using a palette knife or needle tool, apply a thin coat of heat-cure filler. Level and remove excess with a plastic spreader.
  8. Use the heat gun ~550°F at a distance of 8-10″ from the repair and warm until the filler begins to change from a glossy white cream to a more translucent, frosted appearance. If it gets very hot, it will become glossy again and will better receive the grain, but be careful not to melt the surrounding area.
  9. Immediately apply the grain pad and wooden block using gentle, even pressure. Hold for a 5 to 10 seconds. This will emboss the filler as it cools. The pressure imparted will also help level any ridges or high spots.
  10. Allow the surface to return to room temperature before continuing. Some pros invest in a chill block, but water and a few minutes will do the trick.
  11. Repeat steps 7-10 until the surface feels even.
  12. If necessary, apply a final thin coat of heat-cure filler and texturize with a gloved hand to blend any lines or inconsistencies in texture. Heat and emboss with grain pad once more.
  13. You can also use a spray grain like SEM Chip Guard to further blend texture.
  14. Apply Rub ‘n Restore® color and Clear Prep+Finish™ if desired.
  15. If the repair needs, re-working, use our Flite™ cleaner or rubbing alcohol to remove the color before applying more heat-cure filler.

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Use of a heat-cure putty on leather is demonstrated in this video:


  1. I need to Fix a Leather or Vinyl car (2013 Ford EDGE) center-arm rest. its slightly cracked and now opening up – its about 3-4 inches long. Where can I buy a repair kit?

    Your Info is appreciated! Much!

    • Your idea is a good one, but you want a negative, not a positive, to emboss. Also, the graining pad is used just as the filler has been heat cured. Doing so when it’s still uncured and goopy will just make a mess of things. This is why, if using an air-dry filler, we complete the repair with a final thin coat and emboss it with a gloved hand while still wet.


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