"I Love My New Car, but Hate the Seats!"
Pretty much everyone likes getting new toys, and buying a car is no different. Having a new car to enjoy, and maybe show off a little, is great! Let’s be honest. We shop around for the right one, take a test drive, make sure it fits our budget, and off we go. When we shop, we look for style, color, passenger capacity, engine size, fuel economy, towing capacity, and many other things. We have our checklist, whether it’s real or just in our heads, and we know what we want, right? Sometimes we miss little things, though, and they can come with a cost.
The thing about a test drive is it’s usually kind of short. I bought a car once without even driving it! I was nineteen, had just joined the military, and wasn’t sure I’d even get financed. The salesman told me to pick one, so I pointed at the cheapest, fairly new car on the lot and said, “that one.” He called me the next day, and I went and picked it up. I traded in a car that had developed this ticking sound that reminded me of a time bomb. I got $100 for it! When I went to pick up my new car, he tried to get me to take the old car back! HAHA!
Back to the things we sometimes miss. The seats. There is a big difference between a fifteen-minute test drive and a cross country road trip. I’ve been doing auto upholstery for just over fourteen years. In that time, I would guess that at least once a month we have someone come in with this problem. For whatever reason, they end up buying a particular car, and can’t get comfortable in the seats. And uncomfortable can be just the beginning. Back problems, hip problems, Sciatica, and all sorts of other things can be aggravated and inflamed due to the seats.
We are all different. We’re built different. We’re shaped different. Our extremities are different lengths. And just like some people love a soft bed and others need a firmer one, there is no one perfect seat for everyone. Your new car seat might make your legs go numb, but someone else might think it was perfect. This problem isn’t related to a particular manufacturer or style of seat; it’s just something we sometimes overlook when we get caught up in the whirlwind of activity surrounding buying a new car.
The first thing I would suggest is researching the seats in the car you’re looking to buy. Especially if you drive a lot. Try to find honest customer testimony, but remember, just because other people say it’s comfortable, doesn’t mean you’ll agree. Next, take your time when you go to the car lot. Sit in the driver’s seat for a while. Depending on the type, style, and cost of the car, there are all kinds of adjustments available on car seats today. Are the seats electric or manual? Is there lumbar support? Is the headrest comfortable? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people take their headrests out and flip them around backward. This usually allows your head to rest further back. I’m not sure if I ever even use my headrest, now that I think about it. Do you?
I would also recommend paying close attention to where the seams are on the seat cover itself. Seams aren’t that bulky, but if they’re located in just the right place to rub you the wrong way, they can be quite a nuisance. I’ve changed multiple pieces into one piece on customers’ seat covers, just to eliminate seams that were causing discomfort. ON A BRAND NEW CAR! The type of material can even play a part. If you’re buying a used car with leather seats, beware of a previous owner that didn’t correctly condition them (more on this topic later). Dry leather can get hard as a rock, and can completely alter the feel of a seat.
If you’ve already bought a car and realized that the seats are, eh, lacking, there may still be hope. It all depends on where the problem lies. A common complaint we run across at our shop is simply that the seat is too hard. If that’s the case, a simple solution may be to remove the covers and add a half-inch of soft foam across the faces of the existing foam. That’s everywhere that your body touches the seat. We’ve done this numerous times, and even though a half-inch may not sound like much, our customers find it makes a huge difference. If the problem area is in the lumbar region (the back part), this cover can be removed, and foam can be added to fit the individual. If a customer is really having difficulties and wants all the foam altered, we usually like them to hang around until we get the seat out and the covers off, so we can custom fit the foam precisely to what they need. We have them sit on the bare seat foam, and try different amounts and densities of foam until they are comfortable with it. The way a car seat sits can be altered as I’ve described, but only to a certain degree.
There is only so much that can be taken out or added before the covers also have to be altered. Adding a half an inch to an inch in certain areas is often tolerated by factory covers. In other words, everything will still fit right. Any more than that and the cost will go up substantially, because the cover will have to be altered, or possibly even completely redesigned. So, if you’re car shopping now, or will be soon, be sure to pay attention to how you feel in the seat. We spend a lot of time in our cars. They should be comfortable!