Truck Transformations: 2015 Ram 1500 Tradesman


There are a few dramatic changes you can make to transform your pickup truck's personality: a new paint job, new wheels and tires, power modifications or replacing cloth seats with custom-fit leather. Or you can do it all.

We are using a two-wheel-drive 2015 Ram 1500 Tradesman with a Hemi V-8 to highlight how simple it is to improve the look and capability of a used pickup with some simple modifications. Our projects won't be wild or excessive, and they will allow us to report on the results of each improvement along with each improvement's relative value.

For this first of a series of stories about how we transform our 2015 Ram 1500, we took the Tradesman with a standard cloth interior and brought it to Katzkin Automotive Leather for a quick interior upgrade. In just a few short hours we completely changed the look, feel and overall personality of the truck, at least from inside.

We had front and rear seats, as well as the center console, completely restyled in leather. The process is pretty simple and will work for any pickup; the seat-cover replacement kits can be ordered in just about any color and combination you could want; in fact, you can have your favorite logo, sports team or even your own name stitched right into the seat covers.

We wanted to see how easy leather replacement seats would be to install, so we watched the entire process — done with steam guns and only a few tools — at Katzkin headquarters in Montebello, Calif. We ordered the color and style we wanted ahead of time at Katzkin's website and received an email telling us the order was finished a few days later. Seat-replacement kits vary in price depending on complexity and material choices, but expect to pay somewhere between $1,300 and $1,800.

For more information, call Katzkin at 888-528-9546 or visit

Here's how it went: photos by Mark Williams


Removing Bolts

Unlike some smaller cars, removing the seats in a full-size pickup is pretty simple; just locate and take out the four large bolts that hold each of the front seats, and the two overlapping bolts for the center console. The rear seats have even fewer bolts to remove since the Ram's seat bottom folds up and floats above the under-seat storage bins. Once the bolts are removed, it will take two people (one on each side) to lift the rear seatback off the bulkhead loops.


Removing the Cloth

With the seats out of their cab housings, our Katzkin experts stripped the factory cloth covers from the front and rear seats, being careful not to tear or damage the frame and foam core.


Front-Seat Substructure (Airbags)

Depending on what kind of front-seat setup you have (dependent on trim level), you could be dealing with one or two seat-mounted side airbags. Our Tradesman seats had an outer airbag to protect the driver and passenger in case of side impact or rollover crashes. The airbag needs to be disconnected and removed, then reinstalled before the leather outers can be wrapped.


Stretching the Material

The leather has to be wrapped around the substructure and foam padding in a specific order and precise manner to prevent wrinkles and lumps from forming. Once in place, the material is stretch-fitted with special flat-nosed tools.


Rear-Seat Material

The biggest pieces of material in a leather kit are for the backseats. After dismantling the bottom from the seatback, the material is stretched and smoothed over the foam. Our installers found and located the indent seams first, then stretched the rest of the material to the outer edges.


Rear Seats

The rear seats are relatively simple to cover because they require just two big pieces of custom-fit leather and a few headrest wraps. Katzkin has templates for just about every pickup interior trim level from just about every model year. The fit is surprisingly tight.


Head Restraints

In order to get the right fit for the head restraints, our installers had to heat up the leather material and vacuum-shrink the head-restraint foam to slip the new plastic liner and leather wrap over the foam.


Center Console

Although it was one of the smallest parts getting a new look, the center console had the most moving pieces so it took the most time to transform. The package we ordered uses soft, black leather with red stitching, and it looks pretty good.


Console Hinges

Our Ram 1500 did not have hidden storage underneath the center seat bottom, so that was one less hinged door to worry about. Katzkin distinguishes the center console with hidden storage as a three-piece part; our non-hidden storage unit was a two-piece part. This information is important when ordering a kit.


Front Seats on Side

The final step, once the material is stretched around the back and bottom of the seat, is to make sure all the seams are hidden and properly connected.


Holes for Head Restraints

One of the trickier parts of the front-seat install was correctly locating the head-restraint holes. The seat covers are made without any pre-cut holes, so the installer must poke through the leather and wrap the material around the adjustment slots.


Final Results

We were surprised by how much better the interior looked after the leather seat installation. The seats look like they were factory installed. One of Katzkin's secrets is that installers put fabric fasteners on all the seams to make sure the leather maintains the factory contour of the seat, and they add some extra seat and back-support padding to give the seats a sportier or more comfortable feel.


Before and After

This just might be the upgrade that provides the most significant reward for pickup truck owners since every time they drive it they'll reap the benefits of this quick-hit truck transformation.



Latest expert reviews