Cradled in comfort

| July 08, 2008

A new seat might make your old truck feel good as new.

Your seat, more so than any other part of the truck, dictates how comfortable the ride will be – and just how tired you’ll get while driving. Replacing a truck seat is a do-it-yourself job, if you’ve worked on your truck before and can use standard hand tools. But first it’s important to know your options.

The choice
The chief reason to upgrade your seat is to improve comfort, and seat manufacturers have come up with numerous innovative ways to maximize just that. But how do you decide which features you want and which ones you need? First, look at the seat you have. What do you like about it, and what would like to change?

“A lot of people like the seat that’s in the truck already,” says National Seating’s Michael Brunetti, director of business development for aftermarket and specialty products. “Look at the make and model of what’s there. If you find something you like, it makes sense to keep the basic design. You may want to replace the original seat with something similar, but upgrade the features.”

Be aware of why you’re replacing the seat and try to avoid its problems in the future. Brian Sabo, sales manager at Recaro North America, casts this point as a question: “Are you replacing your seat because you don’t like it, or because it’s worn out or broken?” Set the price you can pay and choose the seat within that range that has the features that are most important to you, keeping in mind, Sabo says, that more features don’t necessarily translate to more comfort.

If bells and whistles are your cup of tea and you’re willing to pay top dollar for top comfort, you might consider a higher-end seat with bonus features like electric seat heating, a cushion extender for shorter-legged drivers or an adjustable shock absorber, which can be helpful if you run off road.

“You can tighten up the dampening to prevent you from banging your head on the cab roof,” Prime Seating national sales manager Jerry Daly says. “On smooth roads, you can adjust it so the ride is soft and gentle.”

If you’re a long-haul driver, says Daly, choose a premium seat with all the creature comforts. “Whatever you do, if you are a long-haul driver, get a seat designed for long drives,” he says.

If you have back trouble – or want to avoid having it in the future – you might spring for lumbar bolsters and cushions or something like the Back Cycler from National Seating. “It keeps the spine moving because it is static sitting that leads to discomfort,” says Ray Miller, vice president of sales and marketing at National Seating. National’s Brunetti says the Back Cycler raises and lowers the air pressure to help prevent disc compression.

Recaro’s Sabo says, “We offer a three-cell lumbar support system, because adjustability is better with three cells – lower, middle and upper, each with its own switch.”

It’s important to actually sit in the seat – several seats, in fact – to test it, paying particular attention to adjustability. “Sit in the seat, and try adjusting it,” says National’s Miller. “Can you find the right position?”

“Some seats have a cushion with a fore and aft adjustment,” Brunetti says. “Many drivers are very sensitive to where the front end of the cushion hits their legs because it cuts off their circulation. It may also help if the cushion can be tilted up and down.”

Recaro’s Sabo agrees that adjustability is an advantage. If you move to a team operation, it may well be the key to fitting your partner’s needs in addition to your own.

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