New Seat Cushions for Our Second-Gen Dodge
Fixing and heating our old truck’s seats.
Our old 1998 Dodge Ram 2500 4x4 is old yet reliable. It seems to want to keep on giving, and we are happy to keep on taking it up on that offer. With almost 170,000 miles on the 12-valve Cummins, we've been told the engine at least is just barely broken in. And we agree, the old girl pulls hills even while towing better than any 22-year-old truck has a right to. Still, at the end of the day, the truck is getting older. The paint isn't great, there are small dings and dents everywhere, and a couple spots where rust has reared its ugly mug. The truck is an old ranch truck and is very basically optioned. It has A/C, and that is a must since we live in the Southwest. It has the Quad Cab with full front doors and mini rear doors that fold forward, but otherwise the options list was left un-checked when this particular truck was built and sold.
Truth be told, that is just fine with us. We've added a newer radio and some new speakers to replace the blown-out factory units in the door. With help from the guys at Diesel Power Products, the Old Dodge also received some upgrades to the engine and suspension Since then, we haven't done much with the truck except drive it, usually towing a trailer, and rarely if ever taking it truly off-road. Still, the truck does see some dirt, albeit generally while towing, so towing and road trips are definitely its main uses.
Second-Gen Dodge Seat Repair
One area where our Dodge was really showing its age was in the driver's front seat, with the passenger seat close on its heels. Years and years of getting in and out of the truck had shown its effect on the upholstery and seat cushion, which was riding low in the seat frame. We spent lots of time looking into fixing the problem and upgrading the seats in our second-gen, but we didn't find much help until we bumped into Geno's Garage and all the parts that they sell for these trucks and a passel of others. And while our truck is what folks call a unicorn (cause it was only built in this configuration for half of 1998 with the 12-valve and Quad Cab) Geno's had the parts we needed to renew and upgrade our factory seats. So we got new seat cushions, right and left (PNs GG-SC9801 and GG-SCP9801, $125.00 each), new seat upholstery in light gray (PNs HU-L98QDX-R1C3 and HU-L98QPX-R1C3, $199.00 each), and since we would be in there anyway and always like an upgrade, we added in a pair of Dual Element Seat heaters (PN ROSTRA_250_1870, $58.00 each).
Getting the Old Seats Out
Luckily for us, the bottom seat cushions of both the driver- and passenger sides of our truck are comically easy to remove. Each side is retained with four bolts (with a 10mm head) that go up from the bottom of the seat frame. This means we didn't even have to pull the whole seat, just the seat bottoms. With the seats out, you can open up the bottom of the upper seat covers. The bottom has a channel and a tab that snap together or apart. This will allow us to weasel some heating elements into the seat backs without pulling them from the truck. Getting back to the seat bases, there is some more disassembly that has to take place. We need the metal seat trays with the seat springs to swap to the new seat cushions. To get at them, we used a screwdriver to pop the plastic upholstery channels that hold the fabric and cushion in place on the metal seat frame. Be careful, though. The edges of the metal seat frame are sharp, and there are springs and wires in there that want to poke you.
Installing the Heating Elements
The seat heaters come with very detailed instructions, and the install is pretty basic. The heating elements or heating pads can be trimmed down (no more than a third of their original size) to fit and stick to the seat foam cushions. The hard part is getting them positioned, making sure they fit down in the groves in the cushions, and routing the wires out the back. In short, they are pretty easy to install. If you do cut an edge or open a window in the heating element/pad, you do need to cover up the cut ends with the special fabric tape included in the kit. You also want to make sure that the heating element fits between these two strips of industrial Velcro since they help locate the seat fabric on the cushion. For our seat backs, we trimmed down two of the heating elements and slid them up into the seat back from the bottom, removed the adhesive, routed the wires out the inside side of the seat cover, and snapped the channel back together.
Adding the Seat Covers
The seat covers we got from Geno's Garage aren't exact matches for our seats. That could be because our truck is a half year only truck, or it could be because our seats have been in use for 22 years while these seat covers are brand new. Either way, the seat cover fabric won't (and doesn't) look identical. We don't care. We may add some aftermarket seat covers to make things more uniform, but for now we are happy to have the new seat feel under our rears and our eyes on the road ahead. Next step is to wrestle the seat covers onto the seat foam. The seat covers came with three hog rings that are intended to secure the center of the seat to a bar of metal molded into the foam. We bypassed this step and may regret it (and could go back and add them later if we need to), but meh (and in hindsight our seats look and feel great). We started by squeezing the front of the foam into the front of the seat cover and used our body weight and some secret wrestling moves we've mastered over the years to work the cushion into the fabric cover. You can push and pull slack through the seat cover from one corner or side to the other, to slowly and slightly move the seat cushion inside the upholstery. Then install and snap the plastic retainers over the metal edge of the seat tray, and you are done. Reinstall the seat tray using the four retaining bolts per side and route the wires for the seat heaters to the center of the car.
Wiring the Seat Heaters
The wiring for the seat heater couldn't be much simpler. All you have to do is supply the red wire with a 20-amp source of keyed 12-volt power and ground the black wire with a ring terminal. The rest is routing the wires and deciding where you want your seat heater switches to live. Our dash is a solid 5 out of 10, which means that it hasn't aged terribly well. Apparently these trucks are known for that. We've done a few repairs to the dash, so we know it pretty well. To start, we pulled off the outer surround of the dash and removed two screws to get behind one of the lower panels where the switches would be easy to get to. We then drilled two holes in the plastic to about .80 inch or really close to inch. You can then unplug the switches from the wiring harness, pass the plug through your hole, and secure the switch in the hole and plug the harness back together. From the bottom of the dash we then routed the plugs that need to be attached to the seat heating elements under the shifter console and then under the center of the front seat. Plugging the wires in is a snap. Pretty simple. And although it's currently 100 degrees plus right now, these seat heaters will come in handy on those cold winter morning drives. For now we will just have to trust the little red (for high) and yellow (for low) indicator lights on the switches.