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Summary
  • Make DIY heated seat installation easier with tips like disconnecting the battery and applying the correct torque on the seat rail bolts.
  • Compared to car heaters, heated car seats enjoy advantages like faster heating, precisely directed warmth, and energy savings.
  • Consider installing heated seats if you want better heating, health benefits, fuel savings, and higher resale value.

Winter is the proverbial wonderland–right up to when you leave your well-heated home and drive in freezing weather conditions. While your car’s heater does its best to keep you warm, it can’t reach everywhere. And that heat goes to waste when you roll down a window or open the door.

Luckily, you can beat the winter chill by installing heated seats in your car. Once exclusively found in luxury cars, heated seating appears in many recent models. And don’t fret if your vehicle predates this development. You can install heating elements in the car seats, turning them into heated car seats.

Heated Seat Installation Tips

Adding heated seats to your car is easy. You can even do it yourself, which can help save on labor costs.

Try these tips for easier and safer DIY heated seat installation process:

Cut the Battery Connection

The first thing you must do is disconnect the battery from the rest of the vehicle. Detach the connector from the negative battery terminal. Then, test it by opening the door to see if the interior lights turn on or stay off. If the lights activate, the battery is still connected. After confirming the battery’s disconnection, wait at least 30 seconds before working on the seat.

Disconnect the battery for safety reasons. The seat airbag is near where you will install the heated seat. If you accidentally trigger the air bag, you might get injured and have to replace it afterward. Fortunately, the seat air bag runs on power from the battery, so disconnecting the battery turns the air bag off.

Note, however, that this step is only necessary on vehicles with airbags in the seat assembly (usually in the side next to the door pillar). If there is a driver airbag in the seat, however, the wire connection for the seat airbag will be underneath the seat, and when you disconnect the wire harnesses from the seat, you will have neutralized the seat airbag.

Get Some Help To Move the Seat

A car seat is a bulky and heavy part. Unfortunately, you must remove it from your vehicle to upgrade it to a heated seat. This means unbolting the seat from the floor of the car, which, in some cases, means disconnecting the seat belt latch from the floor of the car as well if it’s “married” to the seat as well as bolted to the floor. The seat belt latch will have its own wire harness that has to be disconnected.

While you can extract the seat yourself, look for a helping hand. Ask someone to assist you in moving the seat out of the car for modification and returning the heated car seat later.

Also, cover the corners of the seat rails before hauling the seat out of your car. You’ll want to avoid damaging the door and upholstery with the sharp tips.

Apply the Recommended Torque on the Seat Rail Bolts

Seat rail bolts secure the car seat to the floor and prevent the seat from moving. Unfasten the bolts before you can take the seat out of your car. Use a torque wrench to remove the bolts.

After returning the modified car seat and reconnecting its wiring, you must tighten the seat rail bolts. Consult your owner’s manual for the manufacturer-recommended torque, which can vary between vehicles. If you use excessive torque, you might damage the bolts. Conversely, applying insufficient torque will leave the seat loosely attached to the floor, which is unsafe.

Proper Placement of the Heating Element

The heating element is the part that turns a car seat into a heated seat. An adhesive strip attaches the element to the seat foam. This means you’ll need to strip the upholstery off the bottom part of the seat, so you’ll need to separate the seat back from the seat bottom, which can be extremely difficult. So know this before you start: it’s harder on some vehicles than others.

As you attach the heating element to the seat foam, ensure that the adhesive strip sticks smoothly and seamlessly to the foam’s surface. You want to stop air bubbles from forming between the strip and the foam, which can loosen the element’s attachment to the seat.

Use Other Fasteners When the Hog Rings Don’t Fit

Hog rings secure the upholstery cover to the seat. You must remove enough rings to strip the cover, exposing the seat foam to attach the heating element. After installing the element, you draw the cover back over the seat and apply new hog rings.

However, some parts of the upholstery cover might prove unsuitable for hog rings. Instead, use alternative fasteners like cable ties, clips, and Velcro strips to secure the cover to the seat.

Secure Wires With Cable Ties

The heating element has several wires that connect it to the car’s electrical system. The black wire attaches to a ground, while a fuse-equipped red wire connects to 12V power.

If left unsecured, these wires might move around and distract you with odd noises; or if the wires are routed wrong they may chafe, and you need to leave some coiled slack in the wiring to allow the seat to move. Bind the wires with a cable tie to stop them from bouncing around.

Furthermore, you can fit the heating element’s wires next to the older wires hidden under the carpet or under the threshold. Alternatively, you can drill a hole under the center console or doorsill and run the wires through the new opening. Or you can let the wires pass under the console or sill, although that approach exposes the cables to potential damage.

, Heated Seat Installation Tips

Pro Tips are nuggets of information direct from ASE-certified automobile technicians working with CarParts.com, which may include unique, personal insights based on their years of experience working in the automotive industry. These can help you make more informed decisions about your car.

Pro Tip: To route the wires through the console, you’ll probably need to remove part or all of the console itself.

Advantages of Heated Seats Over Car Heaters

Are you wondering if installing heated seats is worth the cost and effort when your car has a heater? Heated car seats offer several benefits that HVAC-based heating cannot provide. Together, the two heating methods keep you warm during winter driving.

Faster Heating

Heated seats warm up faster than the car heater. The heating element raises the temperature of its seat and nothing else. In comparison, the heater must warm the whole cabin, which takes longer. Of course, a heated seat does nothing to warm cold hands and fingers unless you sit on your hands while driving, which is very dangerous.

Directed Heating

Another advantage of heated seats is delivering heat to where it’s needed. Instead of heating the entire interior, you can directly warm occupied seats. If you drive alone, you can heat your seat and leave the other seats unheated. But note that it doesn’t cost any more to heat the whole car with the cabin heater than it does to heat just half the car, so you aren’t saving anything by not using the cabin heater.

Personalized Heating

Each heated seat comes with its own temperature control. The person occupying the seat can change the temperature setting to their preference. Since each heated car seat operates independently, everyone can enjoy their preferred heating without inconveniencing other occupants about being too hot or cold.

Energy and Fuel Savings

If you like to sit for long periods without running the engine, there could be some energy and fuel savings from heated seats compared to using a heater. The seats’ heating elements run on battery power. Meanwhile, many heaters rely on heat produced by the running engine. Some car heater models use electricity. However, they consume more energy than heated seats since they heat the vehicle interior instead of just the seats.

But, again, this is only pertinent if you want to sit for long periods without running the engine. If not, you can wire the seat heaters so that they won’t work with the key switched off because it could result in a dead battery. Note that if you have to switch the key to accessory or the ON position just to use the seat heaters, you’re chewing up quite a bit of battery power.

Why Should You Install Heated Car Seats?

button for heating the car seats pressed close up
While heated seats offer many advantages, they might not fit everyone’s needs.

While heated seats offer many advantages, they might not fit everyone’s needs. You should install heated car seats in your car if you want one or more of the following:

Improved Heating

Is the car heater not keeping you comfortably warm when it gets cold outside? Heated seats can complement the heater and restore missing warmth. You can even ditch winter clothing like coats and gloves that might interfere with driving your car.

Possible Health Benefits

Heated seats can reduce the effects of cold weather and long drives on your health. Their heat might improve blood flow, which helps relax muscles that have gone stiff. They might also reduce the pain caused by certain health conditions like arthritis and chronic back pain, which often worsen in cold weather.

Higher Resale Value

Eventually, you might need to sell your car. You’ll want a favorable price without driving away too many potential buyers. Installing heated seats is one way to increase your car’s resale value with minimal investment. People generally want to stay comfortable. Thus, they might want a car with heated car seats.

But also ask yourself how much more you’d pay for a vehicle with an aftermarket seat heater installed in the area where you now live. This would probably be more of a selling point in cold northern states than, for example, in the deep south.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Technical Reviewer at CarParts.com

Richard McCuistian has worked for nearly 50 years in the automotive field as a professional technician, an instructor, and a freelance automotive writer for Motor Age, ACtion magazine, Power Stroke Registry, and others. Richard is ASE certified for more than 30 years in 10 categories, including L1 Advanced Engine Performance and Light Vehicle Diesel.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

File Under : Interior , DIY
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