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Old 03-24-2014, 07:34 PM   #1
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Wrangler driver seat: professional tune, improved support, OEM appearance. Photos.

Issue: 2014 JKU driver’s seat was too soft, at least for me. It is good build quality and fit me well; I’m close to the 50th percentile designers target, at ~5’11” 175 lbs. But my back is not great, too many years jumping out of military aircraft. If I was younger and less beat up the stock seat might be fine. But I needed help.

My Wrangler seat (standard cloth, no power adjustments, no side air bag) was comfortable in a soft way, but I don’t need cushy comfort in a driver seat. I want support for a good driving position and alertness on long drives. My driving seat needs to be more like a work chair than a living room recliner.

Driving position: the Jeep driving position is good, fairly high as is appropriate in a light truck or military vehicle. This is good for alertness and visibility. But the Jeep seat bottom (non-adjustable except for height) had too much ‘down angle’ for me, and this plus the softness put all my weight back on my tailbone. I also had to recline the backrest more than I liked to get a correct base to back angle. I think this is referred to as the ‘gangsta lean’. Not what I needed.

If you want to study up on seat design, read what the trucking industry has learned. For one thing, those aftermarket ‘lumbar support’ pads that press in your lower back usually do more harm than good, at least with modern seats. I also learned that ergonomics experts advise a roughly level driver’s seat with knees at or slightly below hip level to avoid lower back pain, with a backrest angle (from plane of the seat bottom) of 100-110 deg.

This is how I had the power seat adjusted in my old Range Rover, which was also firm and high, trucklike. For the Jeep, with its sloping seat base more like a passenger car, I tried a firm orthopedic wedge butt cushion. It helped, but I didn’t want something on the seat that could slide around. Plus it looked completely lame.

Solution: I took the Jeep to Budget Tire and Auto Service, a local shop in Tequesta, FL. Recommended by my buddy, a deputy sheriff. He takes his pristine G35 Infiniti there; cops seem always to know the good car shops. Client base includes older car aficionados (~1940s-70s) and customizers (American hot rod style more than ‘tuner’ cars). They also serve plenty of normal folks looking for good indie mechanic work at a reasonable price.

Frankie, owner and chief wrench turner, has a true seat and upholstery guru on staff, Mikey, who works not just on cars but also airplane seats. Pilots can’t just pull over into a rest area and stretch it out if their back starts killing them at 30,000 ft. Mikey (these guys even have real mechanic-sounding names) poked up and under my JK seat. He noticed the seat cushion rested directly on the spring suspension (see photo below of stripped seat), so it sank a lot once weighted. I can only imagine what would happen with a really big guy.

This ‘sinkhole’ effect was the source of my back pain. Mikey suggested fabricating a durable fabric suspension from ballistic nylon similar to the way racing seats are built, laced firmly into place with 550 parachute cord, to support driver’s weight better.

He would also add some extra firm foam in a wedge configuration to reduce the seat slope. And he would add a tailbone cutout which he does for aircraft seats, to eliminate pressure on the coccyx. The human anatomy was not designed for sitting, and that stubby vestigial monkey tail reminds us we are built to run and climb, not sit.

I left the Jeep with the ‘doctors’. Next day Frankie called me, asked me to come over and ‘test sit’ the seat before they buttoned it up. Felt great. $216 later I was on the road; much better than $1000+ for a Recaro (way too fancy for a Jeep anyway). I was considering a PRP aftermarket seat at ~$300, reasonable and also built on a suspension, but didn’t want to lose the stock seats functionality. The seat looks OEM but it honestly feels better than my Range seat, which was the best driver seat I had ever used. Until now.

Photos below. Note the two-layer suspension piece Mikey custom fitted, and the layered foam wedge construction. He told me seat disassembly was not trivial, also air tools helped. Jeep builds these seats strong. So this is a job best left to pros or at least an experienced DIY-er. Budget Tire & Auto Svc in Tequesta, FL - Reviews and Directions

Photos (photo credit to Frankie and Mikey):

1) stripped seat base showing spring suspension
2) Mikey's fabricated suspension piece
3) seat base with fabric suspension installed
4) 2-layer foam wedge built onto suspension
5) seat reassembled, OEM appearance
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Old 03-24-2014, 07:52 PM   #2
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awesome write up! well done.

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Old 03-24-2014, 07:57 PM   #3
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awesome write up! well done.
Thanks! Hope it helps others; I see a lot of posts about seat problems. So thought I would share my fix. I've sure learned a lot reading this forum.
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Old 03-24-2014, 09:07 PM   #4
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Thanks! Hope it helps others; I see a lot of posts about seat problems. So thought I would share my fix. I've sure learned a lot reading this forum.
we all have! that's what makes the WF a cool place. threads like this one
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Old 03-25-2014, 04:42 AM   #5
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Wow, impressive. Good job !!!
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Old 03-25-2014, 06:10 AM   #6
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I might have to take a ride down to tequesta since its only 20 minutes from me.
Thanks for the great write up.
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Old 03-25-2014, 07:03 AM   #7
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Wow, impressive. Good job !!!
Thanks, Mikey did the good work, I just documented it. I am thrilled my back won't kill me on trips any more.

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I might have to take a ride down to tequesta since its only 20 minutes from me.
Thanks for the great write up.
Thanks, and you are welcome! If you need seat work or tires etc... it's worth the drive. Give a shout if you're in the neighborhood.
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Old 03-25-2014, 07:43 AM   #8
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ANOTHER reason to make me wish I were still in Florida...

Sounds like an awesome seat you got, Baxter!
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Old 03-25-2014, 09:23 AM   #9
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What we need now is a fix for the backseat in the 4 door!
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Old 03-25-2014, 11:58 AM   #10
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What we need now is a fix for the backseat in the 4 door!
That would be awesome.
Maybe someone has a solution?
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Old 03-25-2014, 12:07 PM   #11
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Thanks for the write up. After driving 2 hours to wheel, then being on the trail for 5 hours, back home for another 2 hour drive- I am pretty freaking miserable. But I am a little perplexed- most folks I talk to that have lumbar have no complaints. But I also figured at 5/6"/120 the seats aren't designed for my height so the seat was hitting me wrong. I was planning on adding lumbar with my new seat covers to fix what I thought was the problem. Also scouring Craigs list for factory seats (with lumbar). But I can see how the suspension fabric would help. I can't imagine anyone in CA would do what your guy did for $200- but I now I have hope. And some ideas.
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Old 03-25-2014, 12:34 PM   #12
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What we need now is a fix for the backseat in the 4 door!
I spent a good deal of time last weekend trying to figure out a mod for that back seat. Due to the design, I cannot get it to recline independently of the bottom cushion. You cannot move the seat back any further either, due to the tub shape. I was able to buy a box of big fender washers, and was able to "rotate" the entire seat bracket up about 5 degrees. It's only marginally better - but as far as I can tell, the only solution short of replacing the seat altogether. I would LOVE to get my hands on 2 more front buckets and try to mount them back there and see how they fit.

Funny about that front seat, I did something similar on my 2012. The 13/14 seats are considerably more "supportive" (but I still keep a small black towel handy for road trips).
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Old 03-25-2014, 12:56 PM   #13
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[QUOTE="JK LOL;9331778"]

I spent a good deal of time last weekend trying to figure out a mod for that back seat. Due to the design, I cannot get it to recline independently of the bottom cushion. You cannot move the seat back any further either, due to the tub shape. I was able to buy a box of big fender washers, and was able to "rotate" the entire seat bracket up about 5 degrees. It's only marginally better - but as far as I can tell, the only solution short of replacing the seat altogether.

Shims under the back seat, and adding support under the middle section are the most common fixes in the back seat. You can find threads on both with a search. You can even buy pre fab pieces for both if you want.
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Old 03-25-2014, 03:02 PM   #14
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Said it before and I've said it again- the rear seat is the biggest piece of useless junk Jeep makes. Why I cringe when people say "it's just a Jeep". Gives Chrysler an excuse to use stuff from their 1998 parts bin. It is the exact same seat design (albeit a little different in a 4 door) from my 1998 TJ. Still doesn't lock in and flips forward/backward on a whim. Seats fold up like origami nowadays; and this is what we're stuck with. I am not asking for a massaging chair or AC seats or fancy perforated leather made from cows that get daily massages. Just a fairly comfortable and practical seat.

Sorry. Had to get that out.
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Old 03-25-2014, 06:58 PM   #15
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I need to figure something out with the driver's seat. I'm 6'4 and about 260. I drive a stick and I'm always finding myself more to the left side of the seat trying to move over to the middle. I have considered the big boy brackets to see if the 2" movement back would help reposition me. I don't know what I should do.
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Old 03-25-2014, 07:11 PM   #16
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Thanks for the write up. After driving 2 hours to wheel, then being on the trail for 5 hours, back home for another 2 hour drive- I am pretty freaking miserable. But I am a little perplexed- most folks I talk to that have lumbar have no complaints.
Thank you. Let me preface this by stating that I am not a medical specialist; these remarks are based on what my doctors have told me and what I have read.

I understand your perplexity and misery. I’ve been dealing with lower back pain for awhile. People who write that their stock seats are comfortable are fortunate.

The reason lumbar pads are often a negative is geometry. The most comfortable position for the back is roughly in line with the legs, either standing up or lying down. This gives us approximately a 180 deg leg-back angle. Sitting is inherently uncomfortable, involving ~90 deg leg-back angle.

With a good standing posture, e.g. military attention, the pelvis is tilted slightly forward, giving the spine a correct S curve shape. This S curve is key to avoiding back pain, whether standing or sitting. Hence modern car seats, including the current Wrangler's, are built with such curve to the seatback. Proper spine alignment is maintained even though (ideally) the leg-back angle is now in the 100-110 deg angle.

In a sitting position, with a lumbar pad, as the pad presses in the lower spine, the angle between spine and legs narrows. In effect, the seatback is being tilted forward. This further compresses discs in the lumbar region (lower 5 vertebrae). As the discs compress, they squeeze against the spinal cord, causing lower back and (occasionally) sciatic nerve pain.

If the seat bottom is leveled, as was done with mine, the pelvis tilts forward, like the ‘at attention’ posture, opening up the angle between spine and legs. Not as good as standing, but better than a more acute angle.

This assumes a well designed modern automotive seat. With a flat seatback like an older American car, a lumbar pad may help.

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But I also figured at 5/6"/120 the seats aren't designed for my height so the seat was hitting me wrong.
Good possibility of this. You are not completely out of the design envelope, but the curve of the seatback may not be optimal for you.

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I was planning on adding lumbar with my new seat covers to fix what I thought was the problem. Also scouring Craigs list for factory seats (with lumbar).
Seat swaps can be difficult. If you decide to do this, i would suggest going with a totally mechanical seat from a good quality smaller European car, maybe an Audi A4, Porsche 911 etc.

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But I can see how the suspension fabric would help. I can't imagine anyone in CA would do what your guy did for $200- but I now I have hope. And some ideas.
Yes modern suspension is the way to go. Read Jerry Bransford’s excellent thread on PRP seats for his TJ (OE Seats leave a lot to be desired, I just replaced mine with PRP suspension seats). PRP is a California company. They build modern suspension seats for daily driver use. I was impressed with what I saw on their website, and what Jerry had to say.

You might get a seat custom made by them to your needs, for less money than what a CA custom shop would charge to rework your JK seat. Jerry had really good results after visiting them.

But this is really a matter of seat bases, and I’m sure it could be solved. Planted Technology and others make seat bases for the JK that should accommodate a PRP seat. They fit Recaros and other high-end seats.

Good luck, and let us know your solution!
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Old 03-25-2014, 07:22 PM   #17
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Ironically I know Jerry well- thanks for the thread. I'll have to try his seats. And thanks for the great technical information. My back doesn't bother me any other time- only after hours in the JK. I told my husband he might come out one day to find the seats in his Ranger, or his G35, gone.
Planted, Trek Armor, and some other company I can't think of right now are all in Southern California. This might warrant a road trip. Trying to get my Jeep in SEMA next year so this might be the perfect excuse, I mean timeframe, for a custom JK seat!
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Old 03-25-2014, 07:24 PM   #18
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I need to figure something out with the driver's seat. I'm 6'4 and about 260. I drive a stick and I'm always finding myself more to the left side of the seat trying to move over to the middle. I have considered the big boy brackets to see if the 2" movement back would help reposition me. I don't know what I should do.
You are a big guy; I cannot imagine the OEM seat being comfortable for you, even if relocated. Would suggest asking around for recommendations on a good local seat reupholstery/ rebuild shop, ideally one with experience on custom work. Or maybe an indie mechanic hot rod type shop that does custom builds.

Truck seats may also be worth looking at; the long haul trucking industry takes seating real seriously.
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Old 03-25-2014, 07:32 PM   #19
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Ironically I know Jerry well- thanks for the thread. I'll have to try his seats.
Perfect, call him. Very nice guy; he sent me the phone number and name of the PRP president. Unfortunately I never connected; just talked to front office people.

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And thanks for the great technical information. My back doesn't bother me any other time- only after hours in the JK. I told my husband he might come out one day to find the seats in his Ranger, or his G35, gone.
G35 seats are great. As good as any Audi or BMW. That would be another good candidate.

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Planted, Trek Armor, and some other company I can't think of right now are all in Southern California. This might warrant a road trip. Trying to get my Jeep in SEMA next year so this might be the perfect excuse, I mean timeframe, for a custom JK seat!
Yeah I think you are in the land of 'Anything is possible' when it comes to cars. Let us know what you end up with. If you can work a PRP seat into your JK I would be interested in how you did it. Their "Roadster" model might be just right for you.
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Old 03-25-2014, 07:41 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by baxterpass View Post
You are a big guy; I cannot imagine the OEM seat being comfortable for you, even if relocated. Would suggest asking around for recommendations on a good local seat reupholstery/ rebuild shop, ideally one with experience on custom work. Or maybe an indie mechanic hot rod type shop that does custom builds.

Truck seats may also be worth looking at; the long haul trucking industry takes seating real seriously.
Yeah, it's a little annoying trying to reposition myself. I do find I'm pretty good when I move as far back into the seat as I can. But, I have to do it far too frequently. It's why I have been considering the brackets. You are probably correct... repositioning the seat alone may not be enough. Thanks for the feedback.
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Old 03-25-2014, 07:52 PM   #21
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Y<snip>... repositioning the seat alone may not be enough. Thanks for the feedback.
Repositioning combined with a reworking like I did might work, especially the suspension work. I don't think you should necessarily give up on the stock seats, but they might be better for you with some tweaking.

Keep us posted on what you do!
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Old 03-25-2014, 08:05 PM   #22
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Repositioning combined with a reworking like I did might work, especially the suspension work. I don't think you should necessarily give up on the stock seats, but they might be better for you with some tweaking.

Keep us posted on what you do!
Thanks. The challenge will be finding someone in the Ottawa area.
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Old 03-26-2014, 07:57 AM   #23
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<snip> My back doesn't bother me any other time- only after hours in the JK.
You might also try one of these automotive yoga sticks:
| YogawrapYogawrap and

Amazon.com: Yogawrap Spine Support: Health & Personal Care

I bought one before I had the seat reworked and it seemed to help. Kind of in the way for short trips; it's geared to road warriors. If you buy it from amazon returns are no hassle, if it doesn't work for you. Will take it with me on upcoming ~3600 mi road trip and report on long drive results.
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Old 06-14-2014, 09:30 PM   #24
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Headrest Issue

I just acquired a 2013 JK and I'm pretty much the same physique as Baxter. Just drove on a 500 mile trip and survived, but could tell the seat really didn't fit me.
I found this thread and knew there was hope. I'll have to find someone that can perform the surgery in my area, but one thing that I couldn't get used to the the headrest. It pushes my head too far forward, and I couldn't seem to get it adjusted right. I even thought about pulling it out and turning it around.
Has the headrest bothered anyone else? Am i missing something?
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Old 06-15-2014, 08:22 PM   #25
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but one thing that I couldn't get used to the the headrest. It pushes my head too far forward, and I couldn't seem to get it adjusted right. I even thought about pulling it out and turning it around.
Has the headrest bothered anyone else? Am i missing something?
Just pull the headrest out and bend the posts evenly, and ever so slightly. It doesn't take much of a bend at all to move the headrest 1/4 or so back.
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Old 06-16-2014, 01:51 AM   #26
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I have not liked my seat since I got the the Jeep. I also hated the tilt of the bottom. I understand the whole "anti-submarining" tilt of the front, but it kills my hips. My Charger has a power seat that allows me to adjust this but not the Jeep. I installed about 6 large washers under the rear seat mounts which helped but was not optimal at all. I have even considered taking the seat apart to remove the lumbar support. I was also considering new seats. It would a long drive for me but may be worth it for a comfortable seat. Thanks for the info. This would be much more cost effective and most likely a better end result.
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Old 07-21-2014, 01:19 PM   #27
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I'm in the same boat as you all. I'm 5'11" 185lbs and 27 years old with no history of back issues.

My Land Cruiser 100's seats were great. I could drive for 14hrs straight without issue. I just drove 650 miles in a rental civic without issue. 10 miles in my brand new 2014 JKUR's seat and my lower back is killing me.

The base cushion seems to slope down toward the seat back. The seat back is too soft. So you have the opposite of lumbar support. It seems like this is a common issue and inflatable lumbar supports seem to make things worse. I just paid a lot for leather seats with side airbags, so ditching the oem seat isn't' an option.

Would tilting the front seat forward with some fender washers under the rear mounts help at all without spending $$$$ at a Santa Monica automotive upholstery shop?
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Old 07-21-2014, 01:37 PM   #28
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Man! I can only wish.... I'm 6'5" at 308. I barely fit in my jeep during the summer. Even with the doors off my shoulders stick out past the door sills. During the winter it will be in the garage mostly. With the full doors on I totally understand how a sardine feels.
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Old 07-21-2014, 01:58 PM   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KlausVanWinkle View Post
Would tilting the front seat forward with some fender washers under the rear mounts help at all without spending $$$$ at a Santa Monica automotive upholstery shop?
That is exactly what i did. It helped me tremendously. The one problem is that you can only put a certain amount in there and still have full thread contact with the factory bolt. I made sure that the threads still extended all the way through to the other side. Too many washers without a longer bolt would be a safety issue. I plan to get new longer bolts and add some washers until I get it right. This will of course only be a temporary fix until I can get the cushions reworked properly.
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Old 07-21-2014, 02:49 PM   #30
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So I am confused....I understand what you're saying about the seat bottom sloping down. But doesn't your lumbar adjustment (if that's what they call it) depress it down enough? If I pump it one way or the other I can get my seat nearly flat/not sloped.
I don't know what the heck that lever is supposed to do. It just feels like its pushing the bottom of the seat down or up- like a seat lift. Doesn't do anything to make it more or less comfortable. Baxter- do you have any pics of the inflatable portion of the seat? Interested in what/where its actually deflating/inflating. Doesn't feel like the "typical" lumbar area.
I've ordered one of the lumbar cushions from Brooktstone. Going to try sliding it behind my seat cover. I have a 8-10 hour road trip coming up I am dreading so I am desperate. I've looked at a bunch of 5-point harness reclining seats too- still can't find one that is comfortable.

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