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Jeep Wrangler - Restoration & Custom Outfitting
All photos, diagrams, and text on this page Copyright 2013 - David Todeschini - all rights reserved - see Copyright Terms

 

Racing Bucket Seats

 

17 years (or thereabouts) {My Jeep was manufactured March 20, 1996} can take its toll on upholstery; particularly foam rubber. When I worked for IBM (1973 1996) the company used some very dense (black) foam rubber as sound-deadening on the IBM 3890 and 3895 Check Sorters and other mechanical machines that I worked on. No doubt it worked, but after 15 years in the machine, most of that foam rubber turned to a greasy mess, and the older white foam that was used previously turned yellow and eventually disintegrated into dry dust. In our shop, we replaced all the customer machine's foam sound padding every 6 years.

 

It is no different with foam rubber used for the pillows in your couch, your mattress, or your car seats. Given the age of the original Jeep when I bought it, I was surprised that the seats were not completely shot to hell down to dust, springs, and Naugahide. However, one of the previous owners must have had a dog with separation anxiety, because a huge chunk was missing out of the cushion of the driver's seat, and I had planned to re-upholster it or replace it with a "junkyard seat" eventually.

 

As the Good Lord or His Angels that watch over me would have it, I was trolling on Craigslist for Jeep seats a few nights ago, and found an Airman at McGuire AFB that was selling Jeep parts, and among them was two 3A Racing Racing Seats that I had seen on auto parts Web sites for more than $200 apiece. His ad said that the seats were removed from a '98 Jeep Wrangler by the Jeep's previous owner. His asking price: $100 for the pair. I emailed him, and I went up there the following day. {Someday, I pray I'll be blessed with a winning Powerball ticket}.

 

When I got there, we took the passenger seat out of my Jeep and tried to mount the racing seat to the original seat frame. No good. These seats were originally installed in a '98 Wrangler, so I knew they would fit somehow. The mounting holes were about 3 inches wider in each direction on the seat than where the bolt holes on the seat frame were. There seemed to be some adapter hardware missing, and the seller said he didn't have any adapters, but it looked simple to make the new seats fit to the old frames by using  steel bars as adapters. So I drove home with the seats. I stopped at Home Depot to pick up a heavy steel bar and 12 sets of bolts, nuts, and washers to secure the seats to the existing seat frames with adapters I was going to make from the steel bar.

 

These particular seats are NOT designed for Jeeps, and the manufacturer does not make an adapter frame or brackets for Jeeps. Too bad. These seats are so comfortable, that I was determined to adapt them to my Jeep; after all, if they were installed in a Jeep previously, then someone figured out how to do it. I don't know how he did it, but I will show you here in detail how I did it.

 

The color of these seats doesn't match my Jeep at all; but the seats are MAD comfortable. I'm going to cover them with the black Dickies  Heavy Duty High Back Canvas Seat Covers I already have anyway, to keep the dog from tearing them up, so the color doesn't matter. Maybe somebody will think it's a 'fashion statement'; I could care less. I could always change the color later with a commercially available spray product. They are also a bit wider in the seat, and narrower at the back than the factory seats, and they had really nice lumbar and kidney supports. The narrower back "racing seats" would also fit better with the Locking Center Console, which was a tight squeeze between the factory seats. They also worked out well with a 4-Point Restraint seat belt system.

 

Original Jeep Wrangler passenger seat - removed from seat frame. This is the factory passenger seat (taken off the frame). The driver's seat was apparently eaten by the previous owner's dog or perhaps the driver wore razor-wire underwear. I made do with it until pushing wads of foam into the holes, taping rips with Gorilla Tape, using padded moving blankets for a seat cushion, I finally had enough. I threw it in the dumpster as soon as I knew that the seats I just bought could be made to fit.

3A Racing seats - great lumbar and kidney support - The most comfortable seats for a Jeep, EVER!

Two really nice (but not-so-great color for my Jeep I prefer Earth tones) 3A Racing  Seats in damn-near new condition bought for a fraction of their new price from a private seller on South NJ Craigslist. You can get these exact seats or you can shop for other styles and colors (see below) at the best prices around from Amazon.

 

These are the most comfortable seats I ever drove in, and as soon as I got them installed I took a nice, long ride, and then went off-road in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. 3A Racing, I discovered, is the only company that offers a warranty on their seats but the way they're built, you are unlikely to need it.

3A Racing seats installed in my Jeep Wrangler. Lots of room between the seat and the door, very comfortable on long trips.

These are the seats installed temporarily in the Jeep. Despite the fact that the color doesn't match the Jeep, all the neighbors are "oooohhh-ing" and "ahhhh-ing". I guess I made a fashion statement after all! I could always change the color later. There are several options for  mounting these seats depending upon the dimensions and mounting centers of the seat frames in your particular vehicle. I will attempt to cover the different possibilities in this article.

 

 

Rusty frame on Jeep Wrangler stock passenger seat.

This photo is the bottom of the passenger seat (it has a black canvas seat cover on it). Despite the frame rust (which is inevitable without paint), and cracking of the plastic mesh fabric, the foam rubber was pretty-much intact.

 

Why is it that vehicle manufacturers never put a coat of paint on the seat frames? Would it really "break the bank" for a few spritzes of RustOLeum before they put them together? Ever hear of Galvanized steel? Rusty springs connected to rusty frames create annoying squeaks that are hard to find. If you have a squeak in your Jeep, look under the seats. Applying a coat of paint in such a case usually solves the problem.

Jeep passenger seat showing seat position cable.

On the original passenger seat, there is a cable (red arrow) that ends in a 'Z'-hook (green arrow). The 'Z'-hook connects to the seat back release lever (the one you can't reach on a factory seat without being a contortionist if the seat is back too far), and is connected on the other end to a pull-loop at the edge of the seat, facing the door. Great Rube Goldberg, afterthought-engineering by Chrysler. Why not put this lever on the SIDE of the seat? (well, duhhhh, Chrysler!).

 

When you replace the factory seats with the 3A Racing series seats, the release lever will be on the side of the seat where you can see it and reach it easily. When mounting the seat, you must make sure this lever and its mechanism clear the seat belt retractor mechanism when the seat is pushed fully back.

Jeep Wrangler seat frame - de-rusted, painted, and lubricated with white silicone grease.

I think it is foolish to go through the trouble to take something apart, and not take an additional few minutes to do minor repairs or preventive maintenance while you are at it. It costs nothing but a few minutes of your time, and can save you the trouble of taking it apart again later.

 

Perhaps old habits from being an IBM Customer Engineer for 25 years die hard. Clean off the dirt, and paint that rusty seat frame, and put a dab of white silicone grease on the rails and rollers, and you won't have to struggle so much when adjusting the position or folding up your seats.

Passenger seat frame installed over new carpeting.

Original passenger-side seat frame cleaned up and painted the same color (RustOleum "Hammered" Black) as the Jeep.

 

Photo shows the passenger seat frame sitting on the floor bolts without the Racing Seat adapter brackets (this is the unmodified factory seat mechanism with the seat removed). The carpet is also new industrial-grade, rubber-backed custom carpet over (rubber) Rhino Lining.

Front seat frame captive bolt can be removedby pounding it out  with a hammer.Keeper washer on seat frame captive bolt.

REPLACING CAPTIVE BOLTS

 

The Front Adapter Bracket is a single " thick x 1" wide x 17" steel bar which crosses over the seat adjustment handle. In order to provide clearance for the seat adjustment handle to move upwards sufficiently to operate the seat position latch, two front captive bolts on each seat frame have to be removed and replaced with longer screws, and the adapter bar fastened to the seat frame with shims (use 'fender washers').

 

Removing the captive bolt involves pounding the top of the bolt with a hammer until the head of the bolt disengages from the seat slide, and a thin 'keeper' washer (red arrow) breaks off. Some later Jeep models may require drilling the bolts out of their mounts if they have been pressed into position with a hydraulic press (these will not have the 'keeper washer').

 

You can also remove the rear bolts if they are not long enough to hold the rear brackets properly. The bolts should be long enough to fully engage all the threads in the nuts, coming at least flush to the top of the nut; if not, replace the bolt with a longer one.

Front Adapter Bar installed on Jeep seat frame.

View of the front adapter bar from underneath with the seat pushed all the way back on the rails. This is the side of the seat furthest from the door.

 

Left bolt: Adapter bar is secured to the seat.

 

Right bolt: Front Adapter Bar attached to seat frame with new (longer) bolt, and shim washers (see photo below) to provide enough clearance to be able to raise the seat adjustment handle.

Adapter Bar must be shimmed in order for the bar to not interfere with the seat position lever at the front of the seat.

SHIMMING THE FRONT ADAPTER BAR

 

This is the TOP VIEW of the seat frame (which is sitting on the bottom of an upside-down, unistalled seat). Note that 2 fender (wide) washers (red arrow)The original washer (blue arrow), and three 5/8" washers (which are not visible in this photo indicated by green arrow) are used as shims between the top of the rail and the Adapter bar.

Front Seat Adapter bar - side view - showing washers used as shims.

This is the SIDE VIEW of the seat frame of the driver's seat installed. Note that 2 fender (wide) washers (red arrow), the original washer (blue arrow), and three 5/8" washers (green arrow) are used as shims between the top of the rail and the Adapter bar. Note the edge of the radiator hose (to the left of the arrows) that is split and taped over the seat position adjustment handle (at the front of the seat).

Rear adapter bracket bolted to the seat frame.

Rear seat bracket bolted to the frame (view from underneath). Note the cut corner and broken (rounded) edges on the metal. There is a flat washer under the bracket where it mounts to the frame, in order to provide clearance for the captive bolt (red arrow) and the original shoulder nut is used to secure the bracket. If the screw in the frame is not long enough to hold the bracket, you can pound out the captive bolt (see above) and replace it.

Rear seat bracket showing it bolted to the seat, but not in its final position.

Rear seat bracket showing where it will be bolted to the seat. Note the cut corner and broken (rounded) edges on the bracket. This is necessary to prevent injury to a hand while fumbling about for something dropped on the floor, and to prevent snagging on lose-fitting clothing. The seat frame will be moved directly over this bolt once it is secured hand-tight, and both the bolt and the nut on the other end of the bracket will be tightened with a box wrench.

Transverse bar on passenger-side seat frame (rear) padded so that rear seat passenger can't hurt his feet.

The rear transverse bar on the seat frame is covered with a length of split radiator hose, and wrapped with PVC Electrical Tape (see diagram below). This protects passengers in the rear seat from contacting bare metal with bare (or stocking) feet, and provides a soft surface for feet shod in canvas or sneakers.

 

The front seat adjustment lever on the seat frame is also padded with a length of split radiator hose, and wrapped with PVC Electrical Tape. This ensures a good grip when adjusting the seat back & forth.

Diagram showing how to pad and tape the transverse bar on the seat frame.

The diagram shows how padding was applied to the seat frame crossbar that faces the rear seats.

 

A length of radiator hose split lengthwise, then placed over the bar and wrapped with PVC electrical tape. The end of the tape is secured to the rest of the wrapping with a drop of Super Glue to keep the tape from unraveling in the Summer heat.

DIY Seat Adapter Brackets

 

Seat Frame Adapter Bars for adapting 3A Racing seats to Jeep Wrangler.

Front Adapter Bar (red arrow) secured to the front, left side of the passenger seat. Rear adapter bar (green arrow) secured to the rear of the seat. The other end is fastened to the bolt that used to attach to the seat frame. Notice the broken and rounded corner on the bracket (blue arrow) that prevents snags and scraping of hands when reaching under the seat .

Seat Frame Adapter Bars for adapting 3A Racing seats to Jeep Wrangler.

Front Adapter Bracket is bolted to the front seat hole closest to the door through the seat frame and shims (red arrow).

Front Adapter Bracket is bolted to the seat frame using shims between the bracket and frame (blue arrow).

Front Adapter Bracket is bolted to the left side of the passenger seat (and right side of the driver's seat) (green arrow).

Seat Frame Adapter Bars for adapting 3A Racing seats to Jeep Wrangler.

Here you see the "door side" of the passenger seat, showing the rear mounting bracket. The rear Adapter Bracket (red arrow) is bolted  to the rear of the seat closest to the door (green arrow), and bolted to the seat frame with the existing bolt and nut  (blue arrow) which is not visible in this photo see photo immediately below).

Seat Frame Adapter Bars for adapting 3A Racing seats to Jeep Wrangler.

Here you see the "door side" of the driver's seat, showing the rear mounting bracket. The rear Adapter Bracket (red arrow) is bolted  to the rear of the seat closest to the door (green arrow), and bolted to the seat frame with the existing bolt and nut  (blue arrow).

Seat Frame Adapter Bars for adapting 3A Racing seats to Jeep Wrangler.

This is the passenger seat installed in my '97 Jeep Wrangler. Note that the edge of the seat is almost flush with the seat frame, and there is plenty of room between the seat and the edge of the tub. The bracket shims between the seat frame and Front Adapter Bar (red arrow) can be clearly seen. The seat adjustment mechanism (blue arrow) and adjustment lever (green arrow) clear the seat belt retractor mechanism with the seat pushed all the way back.
In order to mount the 3A Racing Seats shown in the photos in my '97 Jeep Wrangler TJ, I needed to DIY some adapter brackets. I used a 1" wide, " thick x 5' long, cold-rolled steel bar to fabricate the front brackets, and 1" wide x 3/16" cold-rolled steel bar for the rear brackets.

Because the seats I was installing have their seat back adjustment mechanism on the door side of the seats (the stock Jeep seats have this mechanism in the seat and a lever in the back), and because the seats are two inches wider than the factory seats, I had to mount them slightly off-center (yellow shaded area in diagram below) to keep the seat from hitting the door, and to keep the seat back adjustment mechanism from hitting the seat belt retractor mechanism when the seat was pushed back all the way. This position also allowed the seat to clear the Roll Bar
when the seat back is fully reclined in either the forward or full-back position. The brackets (
shown in red) are between the seat frame and the seat.

Diagram showing position of Seat Adapter Brackets for 3A Racing seats in Jeep Wrangler.

QUICK CHECK for JEEPS With the original seat removed from the seat frame, measure the distance between the centers of the front captive bolts. If the distance is 11 inches (see front bracket dimensions below), and the distance from the front bolts to the rear bolts is 13 inches, you have a standard Wrangler seat, and these brackets will fit with the 3A Racing Seats.

The diagram below gives the dimensions for mounting this style of 3A Racing Racing Seats to the seat frames of a Jeep Wrangler. The dimensions shown are for a 1997 Jeep Wrangler TJ Sport model. If you are mounting a different seat, or have a different Jeep model, verify that the seat you are attempting to mount will fit onto the brackets with the holes drilled as shown, otherwise, move the holes to suit.

In order to verify that the new seat will fit, remove the old seat from the frame, and sit the frame on the floor bolts (without bolting it down).

Mark the position of the holes on the front bracket with a narrow piece of masking tape, using the diagram below.

Install the front bracket on the seat frame, and use a ruler to place the new seat in position on the bracket (see photos) lining up the mounting hole on the front, door-side of the seat with the outside seat bracket rail captive bolt.

With the seat sitting on the bracket and frame, check to see that the seat will clear the seat belt retractors. Also move the seat fully forward and fully backwards (using the frame seat position handle) to ensure that the seat is positioned properly.
 

Diagram showing dimensions for Seat Adapter brackets for mounting 3A Racing seats in a Jeep Wrangler.
 

OTHER SUVs and MOUNTING POSSIBILITIES

IMPORTANT

PLEASE NOTE
I am told by reliable sources that there are several seat frame designs with different mounting dimensions, depending on the interior package the Jeep was manufactured with. In light of this information, I believe it is prudent to remove the seat frame from the original seat, then put the seat frame back on the floorboard bolts, then place the seat you want to put in the vehicle on the seat frame to observe how it will look. Make sure that the replacement seat will fit in the space with the seat frame articulated in both fully forward and fully rearward positions, and with the seat back upright and reclined. Most important of all, make sure that he driver's seat is centered on the steering wheel, because if you install it off-center, you may find the position awkward.

Seat Adapter Bracket arrangement for centering seats on frame.

 

The diagram shows bracket  position relative to seat frame mounting holes. If the seats you have must be mounted on the Seat Frame center, this is the bracket arrangement you would have to have to adapt  a seat with different bolt locations to a vehicle that has seats with the identical physical dimensions as the ones you are replacing them with.

 

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you use the arrangement shown at the left with the 3A Racing Seats in a Jeep Wrangler, both seats will end up with their centers 2 inches closer to the doors than the original seats. This might not be noticeable to a passenger, but the driver will notice that something is not "right".

 

When you remove the factory seats in a Jeep Wrangler, turn them upside-down and notice that the seat is NOT centered on the frame.

Seat bracket arrangement for offset seat mounting.

In order to maintain proper seat centering, in the passenger compartment, the seat brackets must compensate for any offset between the seat and the seat frame (shown by the yellow-shaded area). If the seat mounting bolts are NOT symmetrical on the bottom of the factory seat, the dimensions and hole centers on the brackets must be moved to compensate for the new seat.

The Locking Console I installed is a tight fit with the stock Jeep seats. The Locking Center Console is a bit of a tight fit with the "stock" Jeep seats. If I was going to keep these seats, I would have had to either re-mount them an inch father away from center, or get a new Locking Center Console that wasn't so wide. However, replacing the seats was my next project.
Locking Console with new 3A Racing Bucket Seats. A lot more space to open the console lid. New seats are a bit narrower and give a bit more space to clear the Locking Center Console I installed earlier. Compare the photo at the left with the one immediately above it.
 

3A Racing Seats at great prices available from Amazon

 

If you want to change the color of any replacement seats you install, or want to restore the color and finish of your existing, color-worn seats, the following products should prove helpful.

 

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