Personal Watercraft Seat Cover Replacement

With exposure to water and weathering, the seat cover on a personal watercraft (PWC) might need to be repaired or replaced. Boat owners have the choice between purchasing a seat cover or making one themselves. 

How do you replace a personal watercraft seat cover? Replacing a PWC seat cover involves installing a new vinyl seat cover using staples and a heat gun. You may be able to install the new cover over the top of the old one, or you may have to replace the cover entirely. If the foam is damaged, you will need to repair it as well.

This removal and replacement process can be completed at home or with the help of a trusted professional. In this article, we will walk you through the process.

Types of PWC Seat Covers

Personal watercraft seat covers can be purchased directly from a manufacturer or supplier. They can be self-installed or taken to a local shop to have the work performed.

The majority of seat cover manufacturers provide installation guides and videos on their websites to make the re-covering process more straightforward. Boat owners can also make their own seat covers using easily-found materials.  

Manufactured Seat Covers

Most manufacturers offer the option of either creating a custom seat cover or buying from the stock inventory. Both choices result in well-made purchases that can easily be installed at home.  

Upon request, companies will send vinyl samples for free, making it easier to choose the ideal color. The majority of seat covers are designed to fit over the existing seats if there is no serious damage, mold, or mildew.  

The company, Jettrim, has been in the upholstery business for over thirty years. While their price point is a bit higher than competitors’ lowest pricing, Jettrim’s innovative designs and high-quality products are popular with many PWC owners.

Jettrim’s seat covers are made with a foam backing to decrease the chance of mold or mildew. They also offer a variety of slip options that fit both racing and recreational watercraft and attire. 

Averaging a few hundred dollars for Kawasaki, Sea-Doo, or Yamaha seat covers, Jettrim’s wide selection covers many years and styles of PWCs. The seat cover price ranges for these brands is competitive and roughly comparable (source).   

Pro Rider Watercraft Magazine provides a strong and positive review of Jettrim’s traction mats and seat covers.

According to the magazine, “Countless hours of development, fitting perfection, and testing under the most extreme condition assures the safest, most effective products on the market” (source). 

Hydro-Turf is another company that has manufactured seat covers for thirty or more years. They have won many industry awards and make products for PWCs, stand up paddleboarding, and motorcycles. 

With the two different categories of Standard Hydro-Turf Seat Covers and HT Premier Seat Covers, Hydro-Turf offers an incredibly diverse selection of choices for most PWCs and budgets. 

The Standard line of seat covers tends to be less expensive for Kawasaki and Yamaha and more for Sea-Doo. For a little more, you can get the Premier seat covers with those of Sea-Doo and Yamaha being on the more expensive side (source).   

The Watercraft Journal touts not only the newly redesigned Hydro-Turf website but also their products. The magazine states, “The crew prides themselves on products that look good, fit well, and are made with high-quality materials and workmanship” (source).

BlackTip Jetsports is another company that manufactures PWC seat covers. While lesser known than Jettrim or Hydro-Turf, BlackTip offers an impressive line-up of products.

Seat covers can be purchased exclusively through two dealers: SBT, Inc. and Watercraft Superstore.  

Both suppliers provide either the option to customize a seat cover or purchase a premium cover that is already manufactured to ship and install. SBT, Inc. and Watercraft Superstore are comparable in price, making either vendor a solid choice for purchasing a BlackTip seat cover.

Custom Kawasaki or Yamaha seat covers are going cost more than premium seat covers. The same goes for Sea-Doo’s custom seat covers which tend to be on the higher side compared to Kawasaki and Yamaha.

The premium option works well for customers trying to stick to more of a budget while not compromising on quality.

The custom option allows for more creativity and personalization. All seat covers are made from high-quality vinyl panels that are sewn together for a long-lasting fit (source; source). 

M-Line Custom Skins is a smaller manufacturer that offers custom seat covers for quite a few models of PWCs. Within each PWC model type, customers have a variety of color schemes that work with the various years the model was produced. 

Seat covers are currently produced for one Kawasaki PWC model, eight Sea-Doo models, and two Yamaha models. These include the Kawasaki Ultra seat cover, the Yamaha GPR, and the Yamaha GP (source). 

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Do-It-Yourself Seat Covers

PWC owners also have the option of making their own personalized seat covers for their watercraft.

This process is different from installing an aftermarket seat cover as all of the materials and tools are purchased to create and put the cover on the PWC on one’s own. While it may be more time-consuming to make one’s own seat cover, it is not a difficult task to accomplish.  

For this project, having the correct tools and materials makes a huge difference in the ease of the project and durability of the seat cover.

Seat covers need to be constructed from marine-grade vinyl that is designed to withstand the elements. Vinyl is available for purchase from online vendors or local upholstery shops.

A pneumatic or electric stapler is also necessary for this task. These staplers are heavy-duty with stronger staples than a standard stapler. They are made to be used with thick upholstery.

Using stainless steel staples is a sensible choice for owners wanting to ward off rust and have a long-lasting seat cover.

Does The Seat Cover Need to Be Cleaned, Repaired, or Replaced?

It is not always essential to replace a PWC seat cover. Sometimes the problems one is experiencing with a seat cover can be solved with a deep cleaning or small repair.

Fortunately, if seat cover replacement is the necessary route, it is a straightforward process.

Cleaning

Once mold or mildew has made its way down into the foam of a watercraft seat, it becomes necessary to replace the seat cover. However, if the stains are just on the seat, there are several cleaning techniques and products that can help solve the problem.

Mold and mildew bathroom cleaners can be effective in cleaning PWC seat covers, as long as the cleaners are thoroughly rinsed off and proper care is taken.

Scrubbing too hard can damage the vinyl, but some extra effort may need to be applied to get rid of stubborn spots. Products marketed toward the automotive industry can also work on seat stains.

Detailing solutions such as leather cleaners also work well on vinyl watercraft seats. Applying a vinyl or leather protectant after cleaning will help protect the surface from the elements.

Seat Repair

There are some cases where the real damage is to the foam in the seat backing. Upon removal of the seat cover, one can assess the foam situation.

Missing chunks of foam can be repaired by filling the holes with smaller pieces of foam. Adding layers of cloth-backed foam can help increase the cushioning.

Foam pieces can be adhered with a foam adhesive spray. Finding an adhesive that is foam-specific will help ensure a long-term hold. Once the adhesive is applied, allowing for adequate drying time is essential before replacing the seat cover.  

Replacing the Seat Cover

If a seat cover does need to be replaced, and the owner is doing the work on his or her own, there are two options for completing the process.

PWC owners can either purchase an aftermarket seat cover and install it themselves, or they can make a new seat cover with simple tools and materials.

Aftermarket Seat Cover 

Most seat cover manufacturers have designed their covers to fit right over the existing covers, so the foam underneath does not need to also be replaced.

So, after gathering the necessary tools to complete the job and purchasing the new seat cover, the actual installation process is relatively straightforward.

To complete the seat cover installation, one will need to have the following tools: a screwdriver or pair of pliers (for pulling out old staples), hairdryer or heat gun, pneumatic or electric stapler, and stainless steel staples.

Once the tools are prepared, the seat cover must also be prepared. The existing seat cover should be cleaned and repaired before putting on the new seat cover. Cleaning will get rid of any mold or mildew that may have formed.

Rips in the old seat cover can be repaired with duct tape, as the new seat will hide them. The new cover should be set out in the sun or heated with a hairdryer to loosen up the thick vinyl and get rid of any wrinkles.

Although the seat cover is made to fit one’s specific make, model, and year of PWC, the material will need some manipulating to get it to fit perfectly.

After heating the seat cover, place it over the existing seat cover and check to make sure the seams and seat edges are lined up.

Staple the seat cover in a few anchor spots to keep it in place while the rest of the work is completed. As the remainder of the staples are placed around the seat cover, make sure to pull the vinyl tight to keep it smooth. 

Staples should be placed close enough together to protect the seat cover underneath from mold and mildew and hold the new cover on tightly. Stapling in a back and forth pattern will help the cover stay aligned. Any extra seat material can be trimmed off along the staple line (source). 

Detailed installation guides can also be found online, either on the manufacturer’s or vendor’s website. Videos and pictures are also available on forums and blogs to assist with putting on a new seat cover. 

Do-It-Yourself Seat Cover

Just like with the installation process for an aftermarket seat cover, tools for removing staples, heating the upholstery, and adding new staples should be acquired before beginning the project.

In addition, marine-grade vinyl needs to be purchased to create the new seat cover.

After getting prepared for the project, the first step is to remove the entire seat from the personal watercraft. There are usually screws, bolts, or straps that secure the seat base to the rest of the PWC.

Different PWC manufacturers use different materials in construction, so consulting the owner’s manual can help answer questions if difficulties arise.

Once the seat is removed, the next step is to take off the old seat cover. To do this, flip the seat upside down to be able to see the staples holding the cover in place.

The easiest way to get the staples out is to start in one place and use a flat head screwdriver to pull out the staples. Once a good section of staples is removed using the screwdriver, the rest of the staples can be removed using a pair of pliers.

Using the pliers to pull and twist sections of the vinyl will help make the staple removal process a bit less time-consuming.

After the staples have been removed, it is time to check the foam on the seat. The foam might be damp from recent use and will need to be completely dry before continuing the process.

Sitting the seat out in the sun for at least a day will make sure all the water is removed. If the foam is still damp, mold and mildew can set in and ruin the seat.

Removing the seat is also a good way to remove water from the hull of your PWC, as we point out in that post.

In addition to laying the seat out to dry in the sun, it’s also a good idea to lay out the upholstery for the new seat cover as well. Warming up the vinyl will make it stretch more as it is being attached to the seat base.

The vinyl for the new cover should be stretched as tightly as possible over the seat and have extra material over the edges so staples can be placed entirely around the perimeter.

Adding a few staples in a few key spots around the seat cover will help keep the seat aligned as the rest of the vinyl is stapled to the seat base.

After putting in the temporary staples to hold the cover in place, one can lay the seat cover back out in the sun to help it stretch more. Doing this will make the material easier to reposition and make the rest of the process less frustrating. 

It is easiest to start in the corners first by pulling the material tight and stapling right in the middle of the corner. Finish each corner by adding a few staples on each side of the center staple to hold the material in place.

The rest of the vinyl can be stapled in place by working around the outside. Make sure there are enough staples to keep the material adhered to the seat, thus protecting against mold and mildew in the foam. 

After finishing the stapling, any extra material will need to be trimmed off underneath the staples. Make sure the vinyl is not cut too close to the staples, or the staples might not hold the material.

If there is too much material left on the cover, it will be more challenging to put the seat back in place. The last step is to put the seat back on the PWC. Again, consult the owner’s manual for specific instructions on reattaching to ensure it is securely fastened to the PWC.

Final Thoughts

If the seat cover on one’s personal watercraft needs to be cleaned, repaired, or replaced, it is important to do so in a timely manner to protect the life and longevity of the PWC.

There are a few solutions to getting the seat cover back to pristine condition. If a replacement is needed, it can be as simple as ordering a new seat cover from a number of manufacturers.

Boat owners have the choice of completing the process themselves or having a shop help with attaching the new seat cover. Either way, the installation process is fairly straightforward and will only take a few hours. 

Maintaining the seat cover by keeping it clean and in good repair will help it last longer and ward off potential mold and mildew issues.

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Tim Conner, M.D.

Tim Conner, M.D. started boating in 1974. He has been involved in recreational boating continuously since then. Dr. Conner has been active in boating and watersports safety education for decades. He rode his first jet ski in 1997, and rejoined the personal watercraft arena in 2012 with a Sea-Doo GTX 155, followed by 2 supercharged SeaDoos. Scuba certification came in 1988, and he and the family have traveled the world snorkeling and scuba diving for decades. The family has recently taken up paddle boarding. Click the photo for a lot more.

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