The last few years have seen the number of miles on the Tacoma explode. It took 16 years for me to put the first 60K miles on the truck, and now - almost exactly 5 years later - it's sitting at 188,994! It's been a great ride overall, though I must say, it hasn't been quite so nice for my ass - and more importantly, back - recently.
It's the seats, of course. Over time, the foam in them wears out, and while mine are still in fantastically good shape compared to other 21-year-old seats - a fact that I owe in no small part to the custom Wet Okole Seat Covers I installed, I've felt myself sinking into them more and more, and my back sometimes hurts after 18+ hour drives.
I've really liked my seats since I installed the Wet Okole covers. I knew I was going to miss not having them.
So, I decided it was time to do something about that. There are a few options of course:
- Stick with Tacoma seats and try to make them better - either by finding new insides (likely by taking them to an upholstery shop) or entirely new seats.
- Buy some aftermarket seats from a places like Corbeau.
- Buy some seats from another vehicle and adapt them for the Tacoma.
All of these solutions have their pros and cons of course - and those are different for everyone. Initially, I thought I might go with option #3, because I've really liked the seats in @mrs.turbodb's 2008 Audi A4. Every time I sit in them, I feel like I'm hugged by the seat and floating on a cloud at the same time. Unfortunately, it's a station wagon, so the seats don't fold forward - ruling them out. In fact, it turns out to be difficult to find seats that maintain the functionality of 1st gen Tacoma seats and fit in a Tacoma (essentially, a manual-everything seat from some sort of coupe). Plus, buying new OEM seats is expensive - on the order of $2500 (or more!) per seat in many cases.
I didn't really consider option #1, because I figured that a completely new seat - be it from an auto maker or company that specialized in seats - would necessarily be better.
So that left option #2 and I started looking for the perfect seat. My criteria were (in order):
- Comfortable for long drives.
- Maintains the ability to slide + fold forward for getting stuff out of the back of the cab.
- Reasonably easy to fit into the truck.
- Seat heaters (because my regular passenger really likes them).
- Lumbar support.
- Good looks.
The first two of these were must-haves, and the rest were high up on my want list. Looking online, the Corbeau Baja XRS seats seemed to tick all the boxes - I hoped.
The perfect seat?
- Comfort - they are suspension seats, using a combination of injection molded foam as well as woven strapping, to provide comfort and support for extended trips.
- Functionality - they fold forward
- Fit in the truck - Corbeau offers a custom mount for 1st gen Tacomas to make them a bolt-in seat.
- Heaters and Lumbar - available as options.
- Good looks - they looked great online.
The problem was, I couldn't find a vendor - within the state of Washington - that had a set in-stock that I could sit my tukas in, in order to verify comfort. So, I gave Corbeau a call and chatted with Tyson to see what he suggested.
Tyson was great, and suggested that I order the seats from Corbeau and then try them when they arrived to see if they were comfortable. If not, he'd send me some return labels so that I wouldn't be out any money - just as thought I'd gone to a local retailer to try them. That sounded great to me, and a couple days later I placed my order.
Christmas in July!
OK, so they aren't quite bolt-in - not for me anyway. But they're close.
The process begins - obviously - with taking the Tacoma seats out. I figured that before doing so, I out to measure a few things, so I could better compare the OEM seats with the Corbeaus, once the swap was complete.
Removing my trusty seat. Possibly for the last time.
Hoping that everything would just be a bolt-in process, I figured it was a good idea to verify that the bracket would fit before I went to all the trouble to attach it to the seats.
Looking good so far.
The only concern that had about the bracket was that it sits much closer to the carpet than the OEM bracket. That won't be a problem for me on the driver side, but on the passenger side, I have the ham radio mounted to the bottom of the seat, so I knew I'd have to figure something out for that.
Next was mounting the bracket to the seat - a bolt-on process - and installing the whole assembly in the truck. I was about 15 minutes into the project at this point and feeling pretty good about things.
Made for each other. Mounting hardware is included.
Then, I sat in the seat for the first time. Immediately I could tell that I was sitting too low. For me - at 5'9" tall - it suddenly felt like I was sitting in a 3rd gen Tacoma, and I could barely see over the hood. It was time to take some measurements.
|Floor to thigh||11 inches||10 inches|
|Highest part of bottom cushion to headliner||29 1/2||30 3/4|
|Lowest part of bottom cushion to headliner||35 3/4||36 7/8|
|Access to Xtracab with seat folded forward||17||17|
Essentially, the Corbeau sat an inch lower than I was used to. I was surprised how noticeable that was.
So, with what was obviously a test fit complete, I unbolted the seat and pulled it out of the truck. It was time to raise it an inch and also get the seatbelt receptacle installed. And for that, I needed to buy some parts. The quantities below are per seat.
- 36" of 1.5" diameter aluminum round bar - to make the four (4) 1.25" spacers that I'd use to raise the seat up to my preferred height. This was a lot longer length than I needed, but I figured I'd be able to use it in the future, and it was nice to have a baseball bat length of aluminum bar to swing around.
- 4, M8x1.25, 45mm long stainless steel socket head cap screws - to secure the spacers between the mounting bracket and chair slide.
- 4, M8x1,25 stainless steel nylon nuts
- 1, 7/16-20, 0.5" long Grade 8 hex bolts - to secure the seatbelt receptacle to the Corbeau bracket.
- 1, 12mm ID, 17mm OD flanged brass bushings - to adapt the 7/16" bolts to the seatbelt receptacle.
- 1, 7/16" Grade 8 washers - to allow movement between the seatbelt receptacle and the Corbeau bracket.
All the parts.
I decided to install the spacers first. First, I cut four (4) 1.25" long spacers from the 3' on round bar I'd purchased. Then, I used the drill press to drill a center hole in each spacer.
With the spacers in hand, installation was easy. I removed the existing socket head cap screws that secured the bracket rails to the frame, and replace them with the spacers and longer hardware that I'd purchased.
The "help shorty see over the hood" bracket mod.
With the height taken care of, it was time to attach the seatbelt receptacle. There were a few steps to that process, and the first was removing the receptacle from the OEM seat. A #2 Philps screwdriver, and a 5/8" socket were all that were necessary for this step.
Remove the cover with a single screw and a clip near the front of the trim.
Interestingly, this is a 5/8" nut. Probably some NTSB requirement in the U.S.
Next, I had to cut the flanged brass bushing so that it would hold the seat belt receptacle snugly. To do this, I drilled a hole in a piece of wood, inserted the bushing, and then cut through both with the bandsaw. Worked fantastically!
Prepping for the cut. Push the bushing into the hole, then carefully cut through the wood and bushing.
One down, one to go.
I also discovered that for the seatbelt receptacle to fit next to the center console, I needed to bend it slightly from its stock form. I did this with my 20 ton shop press, but a vice or other method would work just as well.
Before and after.
With that, it was a simple matter of sandwiching the seatbelt receptacle between the flanged bushing and washer, and threading the bolt into the Corbeau bracket.
Seat belt receptacle installed.
And then, it was time to install the seat into the Tacoma. Having already installed it once before, the second installation was a snap, and everything fit well. The aluminum spacers also meant that I'd have plenty of room under the seat to secure the ham radio - just as I had with the OEM seats. Perfect!
Driver side complete. Repeat for passenger side.
The spacers give plenty of room under the seat to lose things.
Access to the Xtracab is great.
I haven't really had a chance to try out the seats in any meaningful way yet, but for now I'm only installing the driver side just in case it's not as comfortable as I hope. My plan is to put it through the paces on my next trip in a week or so, and then install the passenger side if everything goes well.
I've driven about 20 miles in the Corbeau Baja XRS seat - just around town running errands over the last few days since I installed the seats; no long trips yet. Unfortunately, I'm planning to send them back. Here's what I like and don't like.
Like. I really like the bolsters on the seats. They support both my legs (seat bolsters) and my body (back bolsters) unlike the OEM seats, and would help keeping my body aligned on long drives. I also like the height of the seat. With the spacers, it's about a quarter inch higher than the OEM seat was and that puts me at a better driving angle, even though it's not much different. The look is great as well. I already had two-tone seats, but I really like the red center stripe of the Corbeau's - matches the TRD accent color well.
Dislike. By far the biggest issue is comfort - the seat is just too firm. Every time I climb into the Tacoma now, it almost feels like I'm sitting in a wooden chair. It's not quite that bad, but sitting in the seat is jarring as I go over bumps. I also don't really like the lumbar support. It inflates by a hand pump, which is fine and works quickly, but its position in the seat isn't quite right for my body - it feels too high. Lastly, I don't like the seatbelt connection to the bracket. As the chair moves forward and back, the seatbelt receptacle should as well (and did with the OEM seat). As it is now, it can get "lost" behind the seat or be too far forward when the seat is back.
I could actually overlook everything except the comfort and be happy with these seats if they had a similar feel to our Audi seats that I mentioned above. But they don't, and for me that's a showstopper. After-all, seats are the main connection point between the driver and vehicle; I interact with the seat more than any other component in the Tacoma. And so, I'm back to looking for another solution.
I will say that Corbeau - specifically Tyson - has been great through this entire process. I'd still highly recommend them to anyone, knowing that it's all personal preference if a seat feels good or not - so my experience may not be yours!
In the short term, I've swapped the seat bottom between the driver and passenger seats. This is not a hard process - the steps are as follows. (Note: Swapping the seat back is a similar process, but I didn't feel the need to do that with my seats.)
- Remove the seats from the Tacoma.
- Use a #2 Philips screwdriver and some careful prying to remove the plastic seat trim along both sides.
- Use a 5/8" socket to remove the four (4) bolts that secure the seat bottom to the frame.
- Swap seat bottoms and reassemble.
Access to, and unbolting of, the seat bottom.
Seat surgery to get a few thousand more miles out of the original seats.
Since the passenger seat has many fewer buttock-miles on it than the driver, this should tide me over for the time being. Of course, it won't solve the problem forever, so I'm still on the lookout for good seats that meet my criteria (either option 2 or option 3). I'm also seriously considering option 1 again - rejuvenating the OEM seats with new, slightly firmer foam - from an upholstery - shop that will hopefully last another 190K miles.
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