Is My Dashboard Leather or Vinyl? (11 Easy Ways To Tell)

Is My Dashboard Leather or Vinyl?

Are you trying to figure out whether your dashboard is made of leather or vinyl so that you better take care of them? Here’s a quick guide on how to tell the difference between the two materials.

Leather is a natural product made from the hide of an animal. It is then treated and dyed to give its unique look and feel. On the other hand, Vinyl is a man-made plastic material that has been designed to look and feel like leather but without a high price tag.

One easy way to tell if your dash is leather or vinyl is by looking at the grain patterns on the dashboard surface. If the surface has a very consistent grain pattern, then the chances are that you have a vinyl dash. On the other hand, if the grain pattern is more natural-looking, inconsistent, and blemished, then it’s likely that your dash is made of leather.

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Keep reading to learn more about how to tell if you have a leather or vinyl dash. But first, let’s briefly take a look at what leather and vinyl dashboards are.

Leather Dashboards

Leather is a luxurious material that has been used in car upholstery for many years. Leather is comfortable, looks great, and ages well. But it’s also one of the more expensive materials you can get for your car.

Leather dashboards are dashboards that have leather wrapping or leather inserts on them. The leather is usually perforated so that it can breathe and prevent the formation of mold and mildew.

One key advantage of the leather dash is that it breathes, which helps to keep the dashboard cooler in hot weather conditions.

A disadvantage of the leather dash is that it can be damaged by sunlight exposure and heat if it is not constantly treated and protected. Spills can also stain leather, so you’ll need to take care when eating or drinking in your car.

Vinyl Dashboards

Vinyl dashboards are made of a plastic material that has been designed to look and feel like leather. Vinyl is not as expensive as leather, but it still offers a luxurious look and feel for your car.

Vinyl dashboards are easy to care for and can be cleaned with a damp cloth. You can also find vinyl dashboards that are treated with an anti-microbial agent to help keep your dashboard looking clean and new.

Vinyl dashboards are a great option for those who want the look of leather without the high price tag. If you are looking for an affordable way to upgrade your car’s interior, consider a vinyl dashboard.

How To Tell The Difference Between Leather And Vinyl Dash

Now that we have some basic understanding of leather and vinyl dashboards, let’s take a look at how to tell the difference between the two so that you can take care of them using the proper methods.

Important Tip: You would want to look at a combination of factors to help you determine if your dash is leather or vinyl. Don’t limit yourself to only one factor.

1. The Material Source

One of the first ways to determine if your dash is vinyl or leather is the source of the material.

Leather Dash:

Leather is a natural material sourced from the hides and skins of animals like cows, pigs, and sheep.

As mentioned before, these animal skins are treated through a process of tanning to turn them into a material that will not decay or decompose.

To know if your dash is leather or vinyl based on the material source, you would want to look out for the real leather symbol or stamp on the dashboard.

Usually, manufacturers will proudly display this on the leather dashboard so that customers will know what they are paying for.

Vinyl Dash:

On the other hand, vinyl is a man-made material that is created by combining polyvinyl chloride (PVC) with various chemicals and fillers. PVC is a type of plastic that is durable and easy to mold into different shapes.

In most cases, manufacturers will market vinyl dash and vinyl interiors as vegan or synthetic leather to appeal to customers who do not want to use products made from animals.

So, if you see terms like “vegan leather,” “faux leather,” “pleather,” or “synthetic leather,” it is likely that you are looking at a vinyl dash.

2. The Grain Patterns On The Dash

The patterns in the grains refer to the way the material is textured. So when you take a closer look at the dashboard, you should be able to see some patterns in the material.

Leather Dash:

On a leather dash, the patterns will be more natural and irregular. This is because each animal’s hide has a unique grain pattern that is determined by the animal’s age, diet, and environment.

As a result, no two leather dashboards will look exactly alike. In addition, you may be able to see some wrinkles or scars on the surface of the leather, which adds to the uniqueness of the dashboard.

Vinyl Dash:

On a vinyl dash, the patterns will be more uniform and regular. This is because vinyl is a man-made material that can be easily molded into different shapes. As a result, manufacturers can create vinyl dashboards with a consistent grain pattern.

If you take a close look at a vinyl dashboard, you may see some horizontal or vertical lines running through the material. These lines are called “plasticizers,” and they help make the vinyl more flexible.

So by looking at the patterns in the grain, you should be able to tell if your dash is leather or vinyl.

3. The Feel Of The Dashboard

By touching or feeling the dashboard, you should have a good idea of the type of material. Although not very easy to do, this may be one of the most definitive ways to tell if your dash is leather or vinyl.

Leather Dash:

A leather dash will have a smooth, soft, and supple feel. It will also be slightly cooler to touch than vinyl. If you run your hand across a leather dash, you should be able to feel the natural grain of the material.

Vinyl Dash:

A vinyl dash will have a smooth but slightly sticky feel. It will also be warmer to touch than leather. If you run your hand across a vinyl dash, you should be able to feel the uniform grain of the material.

Also, a vinyl dashboard will have a plastic feel that is slightly different from leather. So by touch, you should be able to tell if your dash is made of leather or vinyl.

4. The Smell Of The Dashboard

Another way to tell if your dash is leather or vinyl is the smell. In most cases, the smell will be a good indicator of the type of material.

Leather Dash:

A leather dash will have a natural and slightly musky smell. This is because leather is a natural material that is made from animal hide. If you take a deep breath, you should be able to smell the natural oils in the leather.

Vinyl Dash:

A vinyl dash will have a chemical smell that is similar to plastic. This is because vinyl is a man-made material that is made from PVC. If you take a deep breath, you should be able to smell the chemicals in the vinyl. So by smell, you should be able to tell if your dash is made of leather or vinyl.

5. Porosity Of The Dashboard

Porosity refers to the ability of a material to absorb water. This is also an important way to determine your dashboard type.

Leather Dash:

Leather dashboards are porous, which means they can absorb water. For example, if you spill a glass of water on a leather dash, you will see the water beads up on the surface. Over time, the water will eventually be absorbed into the leather.

If you look closely at your dashboard, you should see tiny pores on the surface of a leather dashboard. These pores can be easily seen when the leather is wet.

If you’re finding it hard to see, drop a bead of water on the surface of your dashboard, and if the water is absorbed, then you have a leather dash.

Vinyl Dash:

Vinyl dashboards are not porous, which means they cannot absorb water. So if you spill water on a vinyl dash, you will see the water beads up on the surface, and it will eventually roll-off.

If you look closely at your dashboard, you will not be able to see any pores on the surface of a vinyl dashboard. This is because vinyl is a non-porous material.

Suppose your vinyl dash looks like it may have pores on it. In that case, it may be that the manufacturers intentionally perforated the vinyl to give it a leather-like appearance and enhance its breathability.

So by testing the porosity of your dash, you should be able to tell if it’s made of leather or vinyl.

6. The Price Points

The price point is another way to determine if your dash is leather or vinyl. In general, leather dashboards are more expensive than vinyl dashboards. This is because leather is a natural material that is more expensive to produce.

Leather Dash:

If you’re looking at a leather dashboard, you can expect to pay a premium price. This is because leather dashboards are made from high-quality materials, and they offer a luxurious look and feel.

So check how much you paid for your dash. Usually, leather dashboards are upgrade options, so you should be able to find a price point quite easily.

Vinyl Dash:

If you’re looking at a vinyl dashboard, you can expect to pay a mid-range price. This is because vinyl dashboards are made from lower-quality materials, and they offer a more budget-friendly option.

A vinyl dashboard may come as a standard option in some cars, so finding a price point may be more difficult. But usually, you can find a price point by looking at the car’s options list or by checking online.

So the price point is another way to help you determine if your dash is leather or vinyl.

7. The Maintenance Requirements

The maintenance requirements are another way to determine if your dash is leather or vinyl. In general, leather dashboards require more maintenance than vinyl dashboards. This is because leather is a natural material that needs to be conditioned and cleaned regularly.

Leather Dash:

For leather dashboards, you will be required to use leather cleaners, saddle soaps, or mild dish soaps. You will also need to condition your leather dashboard regularly. Lastly, you will need to protect your leather dashboards since it’s constantly exposed to the sun.

All of these maintenance requirements can be time-consuming and expensive. But if you want to keep your leather dashboard in tip-top condition, you will need to follow these maintenance requirements.

Vinyl Dash:

You can use a damp cloth for vinyl dashboards to wipe them down. You may also use vinyl cleaners, but you don’t need to condition or protect your vinyl dashboard.

So the maintenance requirements are another way to determine if your dash is leather or vinyl. If you have a leather dashboard, you will need to follow a more intensive maintenance routine. But if you have a vinyl dashboard, you can wipe it down with a damp cloth.

8. The Durability

The durability is another way to determine if your dash is leather or vinyl. In general, leather dashboards are more durable than vinyl dashboards. This is because leather is a natural material that is more resistant to wear and tear.

Leather Dash:

A leather dashboard can last for many years if it’s properly maintained. With time, you can expect a leather dash to become richer, darker, and develop a beautiful patina.

Vinyl Dash:

A vinyl dashboard can also last for many years if it’s properly maintained. But you can expect a vinyl dash to crack, peel, or fade over time.

So if you see parts of your dashboard having cracks or peeling, then it’s most likely made of vinyl.

9. Stain Resistance

The stain resistance of your dashboard is another way to determine if your dash is leather or vinyl.

Leather Dash:

Leather dashboards are not stain-resistant. So if you spill something on your leather dashboard, it can be difficult to remove the stain. This is mainly due to the porous nature of leather.

Vinyl Dash:

Vinyl dashboards are more stain-resistant than leather dashboards. So if you spill something on your vinyl dashboard, it will be easier to remove the stain. This means vinyl dash will be easier to clean and maintain than a leather dash.

10. Heat Resistance

Dashboards typically can get very hot because of the sun.

Leather Dash:

Generally, leather dash will feel cooler to touch than a vinyl dash. This is because leather has natural moisture, which helps keep the heat down. Also, leather is a breathable material, so it helps to keep the air circulating.

Vinyl Dash:

Vinyl, on the other hand, is not a breathable material. So when it’s hot outside, the vinyl dash will absorb the heat and make the inside of your car very hot. You can even get scorched by touching a vinyl dash that’s been in the sun for too long.

11. The Car Brand

Last but not least, the car brand can also be a way to determine if your dash is leather or vinyl.

Leather Dash:

Some brands of cars come with leather dashboards as standard—for example, BMW (6-series), Audi, and Mercedes-Benz. So if you have one of these brands of cars, then chances are your dash is leather.

Vinyl Dash:

Some brands of cars come with vinyl and plastic dashboards as standard—for example, Ford, Honda, Toyota, and Chevrolet. If you have one of these brands of cars, then chances are your dash could be vinyl or plastic.

How To Clean Leather Dashboards

There are a few things you can do to clean your leather dashboard.

  • The first thing you can do is to vacuum the dust and dirt from your leather dashboard. Then, you can use a soft brush attachment to avoid scratching the surface.
  • The next thing you do is clean the surface with a leather cleaner. You can either use a commercial leather cleaner or make your own leather cleaner at home.
  • Mix one part vinegar with two parts water to make your own leather cleaner. Then, apply the solution to a clean cloth and wipe down the surface of your leather dashboard.
  • Finally, apply a leather conditioner to your dashboard. This will help to keep your leather dashboard looking new.

How To Clean Vinyl Dashboards

  • Cleaning a vinyl dashboard is pretty straightforward.
  • The first thing you need to do is to vacuum the dust and dirt from your vinyl dashboard. Then, you can use a soft brush attachment to avoid scratching the surface.
  • The next thing you need to do is to clean the surface with a vinyl cleaner or a damp cloth.
  • You can also use any household mild dish soap for tougher stains. Just make sure to rinse thoroughly after cleaning with dish soap to avoid damaging the surface of your vinyl dashboard.
  • Once you’re done cleaning, you can apply a vinyl protectant to help keep your vinyl dashboard looking new.

Leather Dash vs. Leather Summary

Leather Dash Vinyl Dash
The Material Source From animals Made of plastic materials
The Grain Patterns On The Dash Irregular grain patterns Regular grain patterns
The Feel Of The Dashboard Feels cooler to touch Feels hotter
The Smell Of The Dashboard Musky smell Chemical smell
Porosity Of The Dashboard Porous Non-porous
The Price Points Pricey Budget-friendly option
The Maintenance Requirements High maintenance Low maintenance
The Durability Becomes richer and darker with time Cracks and peels with time
Stain Resistance Non-resistant to stain Resistant to stains
The Car Brand Eg. BMW 6-Series Eg. Ford
Heat Resistance Breathable Non-Breathable

FAQs

Q: Can I replace my vinyl dashboard with a leather one?

A: Yes, you can replace your vinyl dashboard with a leather one. However, it is a more expensive option and you will need to take care of the leather to keep it from drying out.

Q: Can I replace my leather dashboard with a vinyl one?

A: While a leather dashboard may seem like a luxury item, it’s actually quite common in many vehicles. In fact, most dashboards are made of vinyl. Leather is simply a covering over the top of the vinyl.

Q: How do I care for my leather dashboard?

A: Caring for a leather dashboard is relatively easy. You can use a leather conditioner to keep it hydrated and looking its best. You should avoid using harsh cleaners or scrubbing the surface too vigorously, as this can damage the leather.

Q: How do I care for my vinyl dashboard?

A: Keeping your dashboard free of dust and dirt is the best way to care for it. You can use a soft cloth or brush to remove any debris. If you need to clean your dashboard, use a mild soap and water solution. Avoid using harsh cleaners, as they can damage the vinyl.

Q: Are there any benefits to having a leather dashboard?

A: A leather dashboard can give your car a luxurious feel. It’s also relatively easy to care for, as you can use a leather conditioner to keep it hydrated.

Q: Are there any benefits to having a vinyl dashboard?

A: Vinyl dashboards are very common in many vehicles. They’re easy to care for and can be wiped down with a damp cloth. Vinyl is also a more affordable option than leather.

Kwabena

Hi! I’m Kwabena, the owner and founder of Favored Leather. I’m a huge Leathercraft enthusiast and I’ve been that for almost 13 years now. I'm excited to share my experiences and all the new stuff I learn each day about leather craft, leather cleaning & care, and everything in-between!

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