IS YOUR SEAT UPGRADE LEGAL?

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Your seats are the one part of your 4WD that you’re in direct contact with every time you drive your 4WD. But ask yourself this question – how much influence did the seats fitted to your 4WD have when you purchased it? If you’re anything like us, probably not much.

There are many reasons for fitting alternative seats to your 4WD. Comfort aside; the wrong seat can do serious damage to your neck and back – especially if you’re doing long stints behind the wheel. Uncomfortable seats also increase driver fatigue, and if your seats are worn badly enough, they become a roadworthy issue, too.

The good news is that fitting a decent set of seats doesn’t have to be a pain in the backside. Which is why this issue we’re taking a closer look at what options you’ve got, what’s legal and when you need to consult an engineer. So pull up a pew, get comfy, and let’s get stuck into it.

LEGALITIES

Before you consider pulling your old seat out, you’ll need to check what you’re planning is okay with your local authorities. It’s different in every state, but essentially, if you need to modify the seat, seat-belt, anchorages or anchor points, you want to remove an airbag seat, or replace a ‘lap-only’ seat belt with a ‘lap-sash’ belt; you’ll need to have the modification engineered.

If you’re buying a set of aftermarket seats that are sold as ADR compliant direct bolt in units, make sure the seat, rails and fitting kit all come with an ADR approval certificate for your vehicle. Just because a seat is ADR compliant in one type of vehicle, doesn’t automatically make it compliant in another.

THE EASIEST LEGAL SEAT UPGRADE

The easiest legal seat upgrade is having your current seats reupholstered. This not only gives you the benefit of having them tailored to your exact size, shape and weight, but because you’re not changing anything structurally, the seat will remain legally roadworthy. The only exception to this rule is if you’ve got airbags fitted within your seats – read on if that’s you…

VEHICLES FITTED WITH AIRBAGS

Airbag-equipped seats usually have a label on the side, and seatbelt pre-tensioners look like long cylinders attached to the bottom of the seatbelt behind the B-pillar trim. There will also be yellow-coloured electrical cables attached to the seat if airbags are fitted.

If you’ve got these, you can’t change the seats without approval from an engineer. Also, don’t attempt to remove or disconnect your air-bag equipped seats or pre-tensioners unless you carefully follow the workshop manual. Severe injury may occur if you accidently set it off during disassembly.

SEATING POSITION

If you do fit a different seat, there are some key measurements you’ll need to keep in mind. You need to make sure it provides adequate height so that you can see over the bonnet, but not so much you’re head butting the roof. Most states have a minimum head clearance requirement designed to minimise injury to your head in an accident. There are also guidelines for seat belt location, back rest inclination angles and their proximity to the side pillars.

BENCH SEAT TO BUCKET SEAT SWAPS

Swapping out your bench seat for a pair of buckets is an easy way to free up space for extra storage. Chances are you’ll be able to find an upper spec model with buckets to replace it with. You’ll need to grab everything from the donor vehicle; including all nuts, bolts, washers, the seat rails, seat and belts. So long as you’re not down grading to an older model or from airbag seats to non-airbag seats, you shouldn’t have too many hassles with the boys in blue.

The one thing you’ll need to check with your local roads and traffic authority is whether you need to re-classify your vehicle’s seating capacity having just removed your middle seat.

COMMON SEAT SWAPS

Because many 4WDs use similar mounting frames and runners to sedans, a wrecker is an excellent place to start looking for new seats provided you adhere to the legalities we discussed earlier. Here are a few examples.

TOYOTA HILUX (1997 – 2005): SR5 model buckets can replace bench or three-quarter buckets with no runner or seatbelt modifications.

TOYOTA LANDCRUISER: GXL or Sahara seats will bolt straight into the front of a standard model 100 Series. It’s a similar story with the 80 Series, too.

MITSUBISHI PAJERO NH-NK: The second-gen GLS model Pajeros seats will bolt straight in to other second-gen variants.

OLDER LANDCRUISERS: 1993-1998 Camry seats bolt into early LandCruisers, but you’ll need to swap the seatbelts so the clasp and buckle match. This will obviously need to be signed off by an engineer, but it’s fairly straight forward.

COMMON SENSE DISCLAIMER

Always remember that there can be huge differences between all makes and models, some of which might not be noticeable to the untrained eye, which is why the information we’ve provided in this article should be used as a guide only. Given your 4WD’s seats play an integral part in the safety of your occupants, it’s always best to consult a vehicle engineer in your state before carrying out any modifications.