Earlier this year, we reported on Nissan’s controversial use of “do not resew” tags on new vehicle seat covers. Nissan had implemented the restriction without giving an explanation as to why it had been put in place or what other repair options were available to auto trimmers. Not even SEMA was able to get the automaker to comment on the issue.
Well, after months of no response and then endless back and forth, we finally got Nissan to talk.
Paige Presley, a communications associate for the automaker, told us:
[S]afety is a top priority for Nissan, which is why tags have been placed on the driver and passenger seats to warn owners and mechanics against re-sewing seat covers, as this could affect occupant classification sensor or seat-mounted side airbag performance.
Granted, we had already assumed that airbag safety was the reason for the restriction, but it’s still good to have it confirmed by Nissan itself.
In response to our questions regarding the use of special airbag thread, the availability of repair certification programs and legal repercussions, Presley responded:
In the event a seat cover is damaged, Nissan recommends the vehicle be taken to a Nissan dealership for appropriate diagnosis and repairs.
In other words, professional auto trimmers should not attempt to repair new Nissan seat covers. There are no other options available to us, and Nissan is passing potential liabilities onto those who do not comply.
To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. The new restriction effectively forces auto upholstery shops to turn away business or accept a significant amount of risk.
Yet in their sweatshops throughout the world, those seat covers are being sewn using thread and sewing machines just like in our shops. I do not believe any automaker cares enough about occupant safety to engage special threads that will hold fast during use and miraculously explode when an airbag is employed. They would much rather pay off a few lawsuits at less cost and keep on sewing and building as normal.
My customers will not pay the extra. Right now they are willing to have airbag-equipped seats resewn and repaired vs. the cost for new. As we’ve discussed before, if really doubting that a couple thousand pounds of force just can’t seem to break #92 thread, then use #69 in the seam.
In actuality, the automakers should thank upholstery shops for repairing their seats. I have taken apart numerous seats from all manufacturers and bolted the airbag capsules back into place where they have either come loose and fallen into the seat or were never attached in the first place. Shoddy workmanship on the assembly line strikes again.
Nadeem Muaddi says
It is hard to believe that an airbag can’t burst through a seam, but I suppose Nissan’s thinking on this is that it’s better to be safe than sorry. I’m sure that the extra revenue generated from seat cover sales/installations is nice too – especially for dealers.
Personally, I’m worried that this trend of restricting repairs might catch on with other OEMs. With more and more automakers placing airbag technology in seats, it’s become a real possibility.
What the aftermarket industry needs is a sanctioned method of dealing with these types of repairs. Whether that’s using a specific type of thread or undergoing certification, I don’t know. But it’s too damaging to the industry to simply say that no one can fix or replace Nissan seats but Nissan.
It also stinks for customers. Imagine having no choice but to go through a pricey dealer every time you need to have a repair done.
A possible solution would be to add a rider to any contracts to limit or remove liability from the shop. It just is an added way to make sure that the customer is aware of the potential risks they are taking.
Nadeem Muaddi says
At this point, that may be the only real solution available to us. I just wonder how many customers will feel comfortable signing a piece of paper that says, I’ll fix your car, but if your airbag doesn’t deploy because of what I did, it’s not my responsibility.
I agree. But we do that already – it’s in the terms & conditions of almost everything that has such. This would just be a new line on the contract for service. It would impact shops that don’t use any sort of contract, but if you already have something drawn up, it would fade into the existing legalese.
Melissa Kaufman says
The sad thing is we are already using the same thread as they do, but they would rather steal money out of our pockets to outsource over seas rather then help people like us out. Not to mention that there are schools out there saying that if you go there you will be certified. There are NO certifications as of yet for us. Unless your a big company with a lot of money working with the OEM
That might be worth a look – after all, various ‘official’ organizations for certification exist because the founding members wanted to promote their own industries. They are no more official than a fan club, but have the respect of an official organ because of time and dedication. There is no reason at all trimmers cannot have a similar certification process and group overseeing it all.
Nadeem Muaddi says
Good point Geoff. I’ll try to look into this. It would make sense for a school like WyoTech to offer a certification program – or even a thread manufacturer – for the reasons you mention.
Andy B says
I think what will happen is the dealership will send the car with the new cover to a trim shop.
While working for Classic Soft Trim, I cannot count how many times, a high end Dealership sends their work out due to techs refusing to try and flag the jobs… They are mechanics not trimmers lol.
RICK Z says
The Thread issue has been around for quite a while and it is not going away. I agree with their needs to be some standards and certification to resolve this problem. The OEM’s are always trying to steer work to their dealerships and will continue to so. If they are successful at getting customers to have everything repaired at the dealership they will just hire more people and cut everyone else out. In today’s world if a technician refuses a job it will be a matter of time and he will be replaced. I have been in this business for many years to see the changes in the dealership mind set. They don’t look at how long a technician struggles, just the bottom line. Sorry to say they haven’t figured out that the same technician could be working on something else more productive.
The C6 Corvette has a similar tag
Printed Do Not Repair, Replace only
Love reading every ones opinions
Just seems like it is one more way of
the dealers trying to get the consumers
Naseem Muaddi says
I agree. It’s just not right Cindy. Car owners should have the right to take their car where ever they want for repairs. It’s unfair for dealerships to monopolize the repair industry and charge their outrageous prices.
In the mid 1990’s Gm tried this by producing seats that were foam injected making it a real pain to repair them , I’m sure many of you know of this problem ,But we found a way to repair them and got around the dealer repair /replace option . The correct information is out there because the aftermarket leather seat cover manufacturers are doing it . Who assumes the liability when the dealership sends the new car out for leather seat cover replacements ?
Zeke Ricoy says
Airbags explode with the force of about a 12 gauge shot gun. I know, I have set off a few intentionally. There is no reason to believe that Nissan has any other agenda but to make money, through their own service departments. They dont want any taking away their buisness.
Eric's Auto Upholstery says
I agree it’s another way for the dealerships to monopolize. Although it don’t stop them from calling the local upholstery shop for their upholstery needs.
Edward Munday says
Retired.. To Be Safe I Would Have Rather Just Put On The New Cover. There’s A Lot About Engineering I Dont Care To Know About My Brain And Computer Will Only Hold So Much Info. Once You Get Into Engineering You Sort Of Loose A Lot Of The Art Procees It Seemed To Me. Unless Theres A New Law Passed That Says We Can Do What Ever To A Car Sort Of Like Whats Going On With The Clasic Cars, 30’S 40’S aND !950;s And 1960’s Cars. I Mean Tops Are Chopped Roofs Cut Off Bodies Streched, I Wonder If There Is A Limit To What Years You Now Have To Put Em Back Like You Found Them Going To Be Say If Tha Auto Is 10 Years Old 15 Or 20. Or Will It Stay This Way From Now On. Ive Always Considered A Classic Auto To Be 20 To 25 Years Old My Mistake. Now There Called Late Model Restorations. I Suppose It Only Qualifys For Being Street Legal I Mean Really Wheres The Office That Qualifys Them Street Legal.
Timothy Cardon says
So what type & thickness of thread do you use to repair airbag stitching? 69? nylon?
I sew them all the time 46 thread , then fold one side to top stitch , then I make customer sign off my liability
If you look on youtube you will find many videos on exactly how they sew seat covers on the airbag side. They do not sew it the same way we do, they have a computerized machine which measures tension of thread & stitch size to an exact requirement & if it does not meet it then its rejected. Every cover they sew the computer prints out a label marking it as passed & that label is then attached to the finished cover. the threads they use are very specific & are not just general threads.
Unfortunately there is a science to it & they are engineered to explode in a certain direction & exactly at a specified time of impact in an accident & if it does not then it may injure or even kill the occupant.
If you really know what you are doing then you dont have to turn the job away, in most cases you may buy the replacement airbag module & new cover from the car dealership spare parts & install for your customer. Not only do you get payed for your labour but you can markup the parts 20%. Once you have installed the genuine parts you will need to have the car put on a diagnostic tool to remove the airbag error code.
The most important thing is that you must install the module to exact factory specs so you cannot take shortcuts or leave something out
Jack Davis says
Sometimes the dealers can’t get the original Upholstery any more does the customer have to get rid of his car?
Jack Davis says
I talked to lawyer friend of mine and he said having the customer signage a release doesn’t always work.
If the customer is injured or killed you could find yourself in a terrible law suite or even jail time.
On air bag seats I use nylon thread for the inner stitch and Dacron for the external stitch. I have chased off body shops off who wanted to put the old exploded air bag back in and I say I’m not going to jail for you. If the customer is hurt.
The judges or lawyers are going to be on the customers side.
On Nisan buy the Factory upholstery and install it .I don’t know what’s going to happen when Nissan runs out of covers for the cars junk the cars?
Jack Davis says
Many of the body shops are buying salvage cars and restoring them and putting them back on the road those cars may have more damaged air bags then just the seats.
drift boss says
A rider that restricts or eliminates the shop’s liability could be included in any contracts as a potential solution to the problem. This is simply an additional measure that can be taken to ensure that the customer is informed of any potential hazards associated with their actions.