Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cab Seats

Seat comfort, vibration and the lack of a swiveling capability are relatively common complaints from Lazy Daze owners. Essentially all Ford Cutaway Cab chassis are bought by RV manufacturers without seats. For many years the front seats in LDs were made by Butterfield Interiors in Upland, CA and were essentially aftermarket items. LD changed suppliers 2-3 years ago. You can address both vibration and swiveling by replacing the seat base.

First, you should that your insurance covers you if you modify the seats. It's pure myth to say otherwise. This comes from a Lazy Daze owner who is a retired claims manager. I have heard him say that your insurance covers stupidity. Not that changing your seats is stupid, but it underscores that you are covered.


Comfort
Since an aftermarket seat is not unusual on the E450, a good starting place for replacing an uncomfortable driver's seat would be a RV show, sitting in other E450 based Class C's. If one has a comfortable seat, look at the seat tag under the seat and buy a set from that seat manufacturer. You could even order them in a neutral Ultraleather and upgrade your cab appearance at the same time.

Don McGlothen went so far as to open up his seat to modify the front edge - you can read his full report in the Driver's Seat Modification FAQ.

Swiveling & Vibration
Both of these problems can be resolved with the replacement of the standard seat base plate, at least on the passenger's side. Caution: One LD'er was leery of making a seat-base change due to insurance considerations - if the installation is not "approved", your insurance company might refuse to cover you in case of an accident.
Replacement bases are available from a number of sources. Two cited by LD'ers are:
Discount Van & Truck
Kustom Fit .
8990 Atlantic Ave.
Box 3004
South Gate, CA 90280
323-564-4481

Installation
For reasons known only to the Ford engineers, the standard seat mountings use #55 Torx bolts in the front and regular nuts-and-bolts in the rear. They require a 1/2 inch drive. You might squirt some WD-40 on the bolts the night before to help free them up. There's an electrical wire that comes up through the floor and attaches to the seat frame, but it has a connector junction which, by trial and error, and error, etc., comes apart quite easily in the end. Disconnect that, unbolt the four floor bolts, and rock the seat back to gain access to where the old base attaches to the seat frame. Four more nuts and it's off.

The swivel base has pre-drilled holes that line up perfectly with the floor bolts. HOWEVER! Make sure when ordering that you order the passenger-side seat, not the driver's. The bases are not the same. Just reverse the steps to reinstall and you're done. Cut away the carpeting to the edge of the base plate so that there is metal-to-metal contact between the cab floor and the base plate. The electrical wire for the seat is routed up through a new hole in the carpeting, and there should be enough slack to re-connect it to the seat fitting.
Problems. The base may mount the seat just a smidge too far to the right. As a consequence, when at the final portion of turning it around, it hits in two places - the seatbelt roller box and the armrest. You can file off a corner of the roller box, and removing the armrest will solve that issue. You'll have to move the seat all the way forward on its track to fully swivel the seat.

Lumbar Support
- Both seats have built-in lumbar support, adjusted by using the knob on the aisle-side of the seat. Some folks want even more, however.
- I had tried a variety of lumbar supports over the years, but none was more than marginally helpful. Then a friend recommended the Obusforme CustomAir, and I found it worked very well for me. I have not had a backache while driving since I started using it.

 Here is another step-by-step set of instructions, very detailed:

We recently installed a swivel base for the passenger seat in our 2015 TK, and it went so well I thought I'd share some tips with the group in case anyone else is wondering how to do this. We used to have a '93 Sportsmobile with a swivel base already installed, and have been wanting one in our Lazy Daze ever since. I'm happy to report that this is a relatively easy upgrade that two people can easily accomplish.

1. Order the swivel base from Sportsmobile -- this is the one that actually fits. It's worth the extra cost compared to the "cheap" ones which have misaligned holes and other problems. As far as I can tell, this particular swivel base is sold only by Sportsmobile, but obviously it will fit any Ford van from the early 90s to the current model.

2. Watch this extremely helpful video for some basic information on removing the OEM seat from the base, and removing the seat base from the cab. The seat isn't especially heavy (at least the standard cloth seat in the '15 model anyway), but it's big and bulky, so a helper will make it easier to remove and reinstall the seat.

3. IMPORTANT: There's a wire harness for the seatbelt tensioner that has to be disconnected before you can remove the seat from the seat base. Follow the instructions in the video carefully and don't just yank it apart.

4. Also important: You will need a TORX T55 socket to remove the bolts holding the seat base to the floor of the van cab. You will probably need to get this from Sears, as Harbor Freight didn't have them. You'll also need a couple of wrenches for the other bolts. Make sure you have a clean surface to store the seat once it's out, so it doesn't get dirty.

5. Once you have the seat and the original seat base out, unclip the seat belt tensioner wire harness from under the front of the seat so it can be routed around the back. This will allow you to revolve the seat without having to detach and reattach the wires or add an extension.

6. Put the swivel base in position and loosely fasten the bolts to hold it in position. You'll need to cut the carpet away so there's enough threads to fasten the bolts properly. Use a Sharpie to trace around the bottom of the seat base where it meets the carpet. Sniffing the Sharpie is optional, but don't get carried away and get all light-headed or you'll cut yourself in the next step.

7. Use a utility knife to (carefully) cut the carpet away where the seat base will sit. Count your fingers before AND after this procedure. Miraculously, this is one area where the Mothership didn't use a gallon of mil-spec adhesive to stick the carpet down.

8. Take the wire coming from the floor and position it straight back towards the rear of the coach.

9. Possibly optional, but worth the extra trouble: Use something on either side of the wire to act as a spacer between the seat base and the floor, to avoid pinching the wire.

10. Lower the swivel base into position and tighten the bolts.

11. Reinstall the seat on the new base, routing the seat side of the wire to the back, and reconnect it to its other half.

12. Throw out or recycle the OEM seat base. You won't need it, and even if you do, there's sure to be a junkyard nearby with a good selection.

Rotating the seat after installation is straightforward, but takes a couple of steps:

1. Return the seat back to the upright position (yeah, we've all heard that announcement), then move the seat all the way forward. You might want to do this from outside, with the passenger door open.

2. Pull the unlocking lever on the seat base (it starts out on the left side of the seat) and move the seat counter-clockwise. At some point it won't move any further, and you'll need to move the seat "back" to get it to go the rest of the way. Pay careful attention to the seatbelt tensioner wires to make sure they don't stretch or bind -- you may have to de-clipify it some more from the seat to free it up.

3. Depending on the model year, the arm rest may be a tight fit against the passenger door once the seat is facing backwards. Make sure not to hurt anything (or yourself) while closing the door. We'll probably just remove the armrest eventually.

Reverse the procedure before driving the coach again. It's (probably) illegal, and definitely unsafe to occupy the passenger seat while facing backwards when the vehicle is moving.

DON'T attempt to put the driver's seat on a swivel base. Just don't.

We've found that this instantly adds useful living space to our small coach. The passenger seat sits slightly higher than it did before, but that's not really a problem, and you gain some of that back by excavating the carpet during installation.

Revised: 15 September 2016 

Contributors: Don McG, Will, Jon, Thefuofus

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