There are all kinds of new gadgets you can get as options on a new car these days. Mirror de-fog, tire pressure monitors, you almost don’t even have to work at it anymore. In the old days, when the weather turned cold, you had to run out to the car and crank it for a few minutes to get it to start, fire up the defrost and go back inside for 20 minutes. Eventually, the car would warm up enough to loosen the ice frozen to the windshield, allowing your plastic scraper to chip off enough for you to see. It was not uncommon to see high schoolers driving down the road at 7 a.m. Ace Ventura-style (head hanging out of the window) because they were late. And yes, that is a personal anecdote. With new cars, all you have to do is grab your keys and hit the remote start. The great thing about all this new technology is that you can always add it to your older car through the aftermarket. One such technology is seat heaters.
They may not be brand-new technology, but seat heaters have not traditionally been an easy retrofit. The Check Corporation, the only OEM supplier to offer aftermarket seat-heat solutions, is changing that. Using traditional resistive-wire heaters and the newly-released PTC (Positive Temperature Coefficient) heaters, you can retrofit any seat with fast-acting heaters. Vintage Mustangs are not the most comfortable in terms of fighting the cold, but throw in a set of seat heaters, and you will be nice and toasty on demand. We installed a set of resistive-wire heaters into a 2005 Mustang GT under the stock seat covers. You might be surprised at just how easy it is.
The Check Corporation products, unlike most everything else on the market, are USA made, so you get top quality and are supporting U.S. workers. These are the same heaters that are used in many of the OEM cars, including all 2012 Cadillac models, which are getting the new PTC design. Since each order is custom made, you can get heaters for anything from an early muscle car to a motorcycle seat. Each heater has separate controls in four levels, to adjust for your comfort. Within a few minutes of installing the seats, the surface temperature increased 10 degrees. It takes up to five minutes for the full increase to soak through the padding and leather. We also added Check’s massage option. The massagers are basically four separate motors that when energized, vibrate (with four levels- four hi, four lo, lower on, upper on) to massage your back after a hard day’s work. They work great to ease the tension when stuck in drive-time traffic.
It took us about two hours to install the heater/massagers into one seat and into the car. The kit comes as a direct wire, meaning it needs to be hardwired to the car, but you could easily wire it to a plug and use the accessory port, if you are lazy. The Mustang has 12-volts right there under the seat already, which is fused and can support the amperage, so we used that. The hardest part of this job is the hog rings, which are not difficult, but you do need a set of hog ring pliers.
With the seat removed, we started the process by removing the release lever. This is just like a window crank, there is a hidden spring clip that you need to pop loose. It will go flying across the room if you are not careful, so pay attention. We used a mini hook tool.
The side plastic (we did the passenger side seat first) has one screw in the back and snap clips for the sides. Once the screw is removed, it will pop off.
The lower upholstery is retained by plastic clips that hook onto bars which wrap the perimeter of the seat. Just pull them off.
Under the upholstery are two strips of Velcro®, one on either side, that attach to the cover. Carefully pull this apart. If you pull to hard or fast, you can tear the Velcro® out of the foam, and that is not good.
The front edge of the seat in held in place by hogrings. You need to cut these off with side cutters, and they are stiff. Make sure you get the rest of the ring out of the foam.
You can pull the upholstery off the seat to expose the main section of the seat bun. This is where the lower heat pad will go.
Each heater is made of a think foam self-adhesive pad and the wire. The protective back MUST be removed from the foam to expose the adhesive. This paper backing will burn and cause a fire, so don’t leave any on the pad.
Line up the heater between the edges of the foam and press it down.
We pulled the upholstery back over the cushion and used a set of hog ring pliers to secure it in place. There are three positions for rings, in the center and on either side.
The wire for the lower heater was threaded around the back of the cushion and out the bottom of the seat.
The front of the seat uses a plastic J-hook that flips over itself onto the flat metal edge shown here.
This is what it should look like once it is done. Make sure you press it down to lock it in place.
Moving on to the seat back, the rear flap on the Mustang has two separate attachments, the main leather cover and secondary black fabric cover that is underneath the leather cover. Both use the same J clips.
We originally planned to leave the seat together, but that didn’t work out. This push-pin plug requires the top be separated from the bottom of the seat in order to get the cover off. The Mustang upholstery has several redundant strips of fabric that cover the bracketry of the seat itself.
There are three hog rings at the bottom of the seat, just like the seat base used, as well as the Velcro strips. The massage option comes with a template for you to mark the foam for the massage motors.
A razor blade makes quick work of the foam, which needs to be cut 1 1/8-inch down. There needs to be at least ¼-inch of foam left behind the motors. Once cut, carefully tear away the foam.
A bead of the supplied superglue was laid around the metal base of each motor.
Then the motor was pressed into the foam and held in place for about 60 seconds. Do this one at a time.
We cut a slit down the center of the foam to create a channel for the wires, carefully running the wire across the listing groove.
The heater pad is then installed over the massage motors. We placed a strip of thin foam across the wire channel that we created on the lower section of the seat. At this point, the upholstery can be reinstalled and the seat bolted back together.
In this install, the wires were run under the factory plastic trim, just like the airbag wires.
Back in the car, we tested the power plug under the seat. Using a multimeter, we found a solid ground and +12V. You need to make sure you get a switched 12V lead, so the seats will shut off with the key.
A set of T-taps were installed on the power wires for the seat and plugged into the control box.
We decided to install the switch in the center console, next to the shifter. This requires 54/64-inch drill bit. We didn’t have one that big (a universal bit would be perfect, but ours was broken), so we used a ½-inch bit and then opened it up with a carbide burr on a die-grinder.
The switch requires four wires be attached in the correct positions, you have to pay attention to the diagram.
The finished switch installation. Click the button up for massage settings and down for heat settings. In hindsight, we should have moved this back a couple of inches, the passenger’s knee has a tendency to bump it and turn it on or off.
Check Corp (248) 680-2323 www.checkcorp.com
GearWrench Danaher Tool Group (800) 688-8949 www.gearwrench.com