How To: Reupholster Your Arm Rest

Hello all. This is my first tutorial here on although not my first tuturial on the web by far. I love writing tutorials and how to’s. By my nature I’m a DIY enthusiast, so any time I can help others do it themselves is just an added bonus to my passion.

This is a very simple, but effective tutorial. Today I decided I was going to reupholster my arm rest. I was lucky enough to buy my DA with an armrest installed. If you are one of those lucky individuals or you manage to grab one from another DA chances are the arm rest isn’t in the best shape. This literally cost me nothing to do. I had all of the supplies on hand, but will list the prices roughly for what you’ll need.

Vehicle: 1991 Acura Integra LS KA5MT

Tools Needed:

Phillips screw driver
Flat-head screw driver
3M General Purpose Trim Adhesive or another form of fabric glue (~$10)
Foam (Any foam will do, but get something that feels good to you) ($10)

Start off by disassembling your arm rest from your arm rest base. You don’t need to pull the whole arm rest base, just the top that opens up. To do this, open your arm rest and look for two phillips screws located at the hinge. Mine also had another hinge type thing, I assume for cup holders or some sort of other divider in the arm rest.

After you remove these screws the arm rest will be free from it’s base. Take it to your work area.

Flip your arm rest over so that the fabric side is down and you will see two more additional screws holding the plastic frame in place. These two screws are located near the latch. Unscrew them and set them aside with the latch assembly some where safe. You don’t want to lose them.

Remove the plastic frame. It should slide up easily. There may be a little glue on it from the factory holding it place. If you need help, use a flat-head screw driver to pry it up carefully. Set it in your parts pile.

After the frame is removed you should see some foam and fabric. My foam from the factory was green. Yours may be another color. The fabric all around the arm rest is glued into place. Just slide a finger under it to separate it from the frame, it should lift off with minimal effort. The corners gave me a little trouble. Just pulled harder.

Then begin to peel the cover off like a sock. You will want to turn it inside out anyway to remove any of the left over foam in the cover. Dump the foam and trash it.

Here you can see the cover removed and the naked arm rest frame.

Now would be a great time to throw the cover in the washing machine as suggested by:

One suggestion to others…throw that old nasty fabric in the washing machine before re-install.[/QUOTE]

And here the majority of the old foam has been removed from the arm rest.

I had an extra seat cushion from some patio furniture which is what I used to salvage my foam from. If you want to use memory foam, the pillows run about $10 (Family Dollar). They’ll give you more than enough foam. As I said before this is your preference. If you want a more firm feeling get a really dense foam. If you want something that is softer get a less dense foam. You can also use mattress toppers, old pillows, seat cusions, etc. Foam will be much easier to work with than say poly-fill or cotton and you can shape it much easier.

My foam was about 1.25" thick.

Here is the arm rest frame almost completely clean. I didn’t go too crazy on cleaning it. I just used some acetone to remove any of the old glue’s residue and some 800-grit sand paper to smooth it out. This is not necessary, but if you want to do it you can. Lay the arm rest frame on your foam. I left about two inches on each side of the frame with a total dimension of 12" x 7". Use your scissors and cut out the basic shape of the arm rest.

Apply a liberal amount of glue to the foam. Again I used 3M General Trim Adhesive

Press your arm rest into the foam and hold it until it starts to stick well.

Trim the excess. Test fit your cover and see if it sits how you like it.

Not pictured. I ended up doubling up the foam on the top and front to give it a more full look and extra padding. You may or may not want to do this, just experiment with what feels good with you. Slidding the cover on and off again and again will not harm it as long as you don’t rip it. (It’s pretty tough so you should be fine).

Reassembly the arm rest in the reverse order. When you are putting the plastic frame back on you will need to tuck the edges of the arm rest cover. Use a flat head screw driver to help you. It helps if you get one side first and then the other. I chose not to glue the cover’s edges back into place because I am going to see how I like this foam over the next few weeks and I may swap it out for something more dense.

Here is the arm rest completely reassembled.

Feel free to post any comments or questions!


And here it is re-installed in the car. 100% softer on the arm and elbow. It’s like a brand new arm rest.


Thanks for the write up!

I’ve been wondering how I was going to accomplish this myself. Glad to have something to base off of. Anyone know good places to go for more dense foam?

One suggestion to others…throw that old nasty fabric in the washing machine before re-install. Soooo glad I did.

[QUOTE=da6YO;2288990]Thanks for the write up!

I’ve been wondering how I was going to accomplish this myself. Glad to have something to base off of. Anyone know good places to go for more dense foam?

One suggestion to others…throw that old nasty fabric in the washing machine before re-install. Soooo glad I did.[/QUOTE]

No problem! I’m glad I could be of help.

I was going to make a run Joanne’s Fabric’s (local craft store here in Florida), but I was feeling really lazy. I have been in there for a lot for fabrics for re-upholstery use and they have a ton of different types of foams as well. So pretty much any of your big box craft stores will have it (Joanne’s, Michael’s, Hobby Lobby). You can also check online, because I’ve recently checked for another project (making my own couches and chairs), but being able to get up close and feel how dense it is really going to help you here.

I also was going to wash my fabric in the washing machine, but I was feeling too lazy :stuck_out_tongue:

Nice write up. I ended up getting my foam for free. Just went to a local foam and fabric store and brought the arm rest in. They just brought me over to the back and cut me some foam. Then some little old guy ended up doing it all for me, for free. Just wanted to see if they had scraps, lol…

God, what a win. That’s an awesome story. Hopefully anyone else looking to do this will take that tip and check for scraps!

VERY nice write up… hopefully the pictures dont go anywhere. keep those links alive…

Nah man. I’m not about killing my pictures. This is my tutorial from back when I had a Del Sol in 2004.

Here’s a few more from when I had a Chevrolet Colorado and CRX.

Not to blow my own horn or anything. LOL.

Yeah, I recommend checking your local mom and pops stores for sure!
And go ahead and toot your horn, we just need another person who keeps their pics up forever! Lol…