I've been through this before. Not all that long ago really. But the story bears repeating - at least partially - because, eventually, we all need new seats. And now - at long last - I have some!
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 205,597! 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 the seats. 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).
Initially, 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 requirements, and the rest were high up on my want list. Looking online, I originally found the Corbeau Baja XRS seats, which seemed to tick all the boxes. I bought some, and waited.
Turns out, Corbeau's customer service was fantastic, and I didn't have to wait long. Everything showed up and I set about with the install. Really, at this point, I'm getting into details rather than backstory, so if you're curious about the Baja XRS installation, you can check it out here: Replacing My Seats with Corbeau Baja XRS...Or Not.
I must admit, the Baja XRS looked great in the Tacoma.
Unfortunately for me, the new seats weren't comfortable, and I ended up sending them back to Corbeau. Great customer service they have, that's for sure.
And so, I was still on the hunt.
While I still needed new seats badly, a stopgap was swapping the lower padding between the passenger and driver seats, which gave me a bit more support as I continued my search.
It was Zane @Speedytech7 who put me on to the next - and last - set of seats I would buy.
You got coin? Scheel-Mann seats, nuff said.
I'm never really one for wanting to spend more money, but I am also one who recognizes when it's important to do. With regular (2-4 times per month) 20+ hour drives, and 40,444 miles of butt-in-seat-time for 2021, getting the right seats is just admitting the obvious and doing the right thing.
So, I found the phone number of scheel-mann usa and gave them a call. Actually, first it was an email, but when Toby suggested chatting on the phone, I was happy to oblige. Toby was awesome - he clearly knows his stuff and was quick to run through all the reasons that these seats would be great for me - ticking off all the requirements and desires I'd had on my list - as though he'd seen it before (I'm sure he has, from others who buy from him). Plus, he mentioned, a local company - Planted Technology - made seat brackets that would allow them to bolt right into the Tacoma.
Still, there was that issue of price. Where the Corbeau seats felt expensive at $1,500 for two, the scheel-mann were going to run closer to $2,200 each by the time I bought brackets and whatnot. I certainly couldn't fathom that without sitting in them first. To do that, I'd have to make it to Portland.
The scheel-mann seats seemed to tick all the right boxes.
It was August, and we were headed for a family vacation in Northern California when @mrs.turbodb, @mini.turbodb, and I all stopped at the scheel-mann offices. Once again Toby was awesome. He'd opened specially for us - we were travelling on a Sunday - so I could give the seats a plonk down.
Well, I like the idea of perfected seats.
And boy, as soon as I did, I knew they were for me. I ordered two on the spot, asked Toby to send an invoice via email that I could pay when we got to fabulous getaway on the Sacramento River.
And then, it was a waiting game. Since I'd opted for larger hip bolsters - to support my legs on the long trips - as well as custom red stitching, it was going to be 6-8 weeks to receive the seats from Germany. This was fine with me - I figured I'd just pick up the seats on my way back from some fall-or-winter trip south.
Sure enough, right at the six-week window - as I was rushing to summit Mt. Patterson before the winter snow set in - I got a call that my seats were waiting for me! Oh man, was I ever excited on that trip home!
Stopped in Portland to pick up a little present for the Tacoma.
As with most parts that I get for the Tacoma, the seats sat around for a while. What can I say - I do my best to prioritize trips into the wild. So, five trips - plus a fixing a broken rear axle housing and swapping out a disintegrating transfer case - later I was ready to get started.
After my experience with the Corbeau Baja XRS, I was under no disillusion that the scheel-mann seats would be a direct bolt-in process. I mean, sure, they would mostly bolt in, but I expected to have some of the same fitment issues - at least as far as height went. But first, I needed to do a test fit - and to do that, I needed to unbox them.
Each seat is extremely well packed.
Boxes: Candy store.
The first order of business was attaching the seats and sliding rails to the brackets that I'd picked up locally from Planted Technology in order to avoid the shipping fee. Regardless of pick-up or shipping, I definitely recommend calling Planted in order to place your order - for two reasons: First, when I mentioned I was installing scheel-mann, it turned out that the bracket used a different bolt pattern than their "normal" bracket. Second, I was able to customize the bracket (at no extra charge) to omit the seat belt tab, since my scheel-mann seats had a special accessory for that - one that allowed the receptacle to move with the seat, just like the original Tacoma seat.
Attaching the sliding rails to the brackets - with hardware provided by scheel-mann.
And the brackets to the seats - again, with supplied hardware.
And just like that - well, after removing my original seat - it was time for a test fit. I must say, I was happy to see how far off of the floor the Planted brackets sat - plenty of room to mount my ham radio under the seat on the passenger side - and at least at a quick glance, it appeared that the scheel-mann seat was positioned at just about the same height as the OEM seat. Nice!
Looks pretty sharp for just plopping it in. Maybe this is more bolt-in than I thought it would be.
Hmm. Or maybe not.
I bolted in two of the fasteners - just to make sure the seat wasn't going anywhere - and then, I sat in it. Woo wee, it was nice. The height seemed very close to what I was used to - perhaps just a tad lower - and after enjoying the seat for a few minutes, I hopped out to take the requisite measurements.
|scheel-mann Vario F|
|Floor to thigh||11 inches||10 inches||11 inches|
|Highest part of bottom cushion to headliner||29 1/2||30 3/4||29 3/4|
|Lowest part of bottom cushion to headliner||35 3/4||36 7/8||36|
|Access to Xtracab with seat folded forward||17||17||15|
The initial fit of the scheel-mann is much closer to stock, though the backrest is significantly thicker.
For a moment, I debated whether I really cared all that much about a quarter inch difference in my seating position. I knew the sliding seat belt brackets would raise the back of the seat 3/16", and so figured that I might as well make some small spacers for the front so that everything was just right.
An added benefit was that I could make the front spacers just a bit taller - 9/16" - to give my thighs a bit more support on long trips.
I cut the spacers at a shallow angle to match the angle the seat would sit at due to the difference between the spacers and the seat belt bracket.
Seat belt bracket (rear) and aluminum spacer (front) installed.
I had just one more thing to do - install the seat belt receptacle. I could have used the receptacles from my original seats - like I did last time - but this time I decided to just purchase a couple more receptacles, rather than pillage from the original seats. Part numbers, for anyone who wants to go this same route are:
- 1995-2000 Tacoma
- 2001-2004 Tacoma
If you want to reuse your original receptacle, here's how to access the nut that secures it.
With the receptacles in hand, installation was easy since I'd already fabricated all the parts the last time I replaced the seats. For anyone who missed the process - the following items are used to secure the receptacle:
- A 7/16-20, 0.75" long Grade 8 hex bolt - to secure the seatbelt receptacle to the scheel-mann bracket.
- A 12mm ID, 17mm OD flanged brass bushing - to adapt the 7/16" bolt to the seatbelt receptacle.
- A 7/16" Grade 8 washer - to allow movement between the seatbelt receptacle and the Corbeau bracket.
The brass bushing - at least the one I could get - needed to be shortened quite a bit, which I did by embedding it into a scrap of wood and then cutting the entire assembly in the bandsaw. Then, it was a simple matter of assembly.
Prepping for the cut. Push the bushing into the hole, then carefully cut through the wood and bushing.
Seat belt sandwich.
With the driver seat taken care of, I moved on to the passenger seat. While I had no plans to use a custom spacer on the passenger side, I did need to modify the Planted bracket slightly in order to mount my Kenwood D710G dual-band ham radio. After noodling for a few minutes, I settled on a simple design that required two threaded holes in the bracket where I could secure a crossmember to hang the radio from.
Drilling and taping an M8x1.25 hole for the crossmember.
Looks like it's going to work.
I like this design better than the one I had with the Toyota seats, where the radio would move forward and backward as the seat moved. Now, the radio is fixed as the seat moves above it.
Both seats prepped, the next thing I had to deal with were the seat heaters. I'd ordered heaters with the Corbeau seats as well, but I'd never gotten far enough along to even think about hooking them up. A good thing too, since electrical work always seems to be the most time-consuming part of any project - and this one was no different.
As I always do, I began by taking stock of the wiring harnesses that were included by scheel-mann. And, as usual - since the wire lengths are meant to work in a variety of vehicles - I didn't like them, and I immediately set about cutting them up and creating my own.
When I was all done, I had two streamlined harnesses with wires that were the correct length. And a bunch of stuff for the trash.
All that was left was the most nerve-racking part of the wiring - making holes somewhere for the switches. Luckily, the scheel-mann switches were round - a shape that's significantly easier to make than a rectangle - and eventually I settled on the center console as a place that would work.
No going back now.
Relief. Looks pretty descent.
And then, it was time to install everything. I started with the wiring harnesses, running the wires under the rug from the center console to each seat, and also under the rug to my power source - the house battery that I have in a custom cabinet behind the passenger seat. I also wired everything into my Blue Sea 12-Circuit Fuse Block, using a couple of 10A fuses to protect the circuits.
A clean install takes more time, but it is always worth it in the end.
With the center console and wiring all in place - and with both seats already prepped for install - all I had left to do was bolt in the seats with the original bolts. The passenger side bolted right in - the bracket fit perfectly - and a little persuasion on the driver side got the fourth bolt to align well enough to get started, and then I zipped them all in with a 14mm socket.
Installation had gone as smoothly as I could have hoped. I'm sure it helps that I did nearly the same thing a few months earlier, but the fit and finish of the components from scheel-mann surely added to the ease of install. It's to be expected really, with a high-end seat like this, and one of the reasons I'm happy to pay a premium.
I've driven about 20 miles in the scheel-mann Vario F seat - around town and a little bit of freeway. Actually, I was busy testing the new (used) transfer case to ensure that it was trip-worthy - or at least, worthy enough to start a trip.
So far, the seats are great - and
exactly what I was looking for, comfort-wise.
- By far the most important thing is comfort. The scheel-mann seats are certainly comfortable. They feel like what I would think of in a high-end German luxury car, though the closest I've gotten to actually sitting in one of those is a 2008 Audi A4 Avant. These seats certainly offer a lot more support than the stock Tacoma seats, and I'm really digging the larger bolsters and thigh support.
- The side bolsters - both on the seat as well as backrest. When driving with my foot on the accelerator, I have often found myself propping my right leg up - by shoving my hand under the middle of my my thigh - to keep it aligned, since there are no bolsters on the stock seats at all. The scheel-mann seats make this a thing of the past; the seat keeps my leg aligned properly.
- I must admit that having the seat belt receptacle move with the seat as it slides forwards and backward is really nice. I didn't like the Corbeau's for that reason, and I'm very happy to have purchased the bracket that allows for the movement.
- The seat heaters seem nice too, though I admit that I only got them since I was spending so much money anyway. I've never missed the lack of heaters in my stock seats, but I am a frequent user of the seat heaters in @mrs.turbodb's Audi.
- I don't love the fold-forward and slider designs in that they not spring-loaded like the stock seats. I'm sure I'll get used to it but sliding and/or folding the seat forward is now less convenient than it was previously.
- The seats weigh a lot more than the stock seats. Each one weighs in at 60lbs with the mounting bracket, which is quite a bit more than the 36lb stock seat. Obviously, I'm not lifting them except to install them, but driving around extra weight is something I'm always trying to avoid. Of course, I'm sure the additional heft adds to the comfort, so this isn't a total detractor.
- The seats look good, but they aren't as snazzy or color-matched as my Wet Okole covers or even the Corbeau Baja XRS. I really wish I could have gotten a custom logo stitched in place of the scheel-mann branding, or that the fabric choices were a better match for my truck, as I've really enjoyed that on my covers. On the flip side, I totally understand why these seats look the way they do - they are perfect for the cars they end up in most.
- Thickness of the backrest. I'd say that it's a good 2" thicker than the stock Tacoma seats. That doesn't seem like much, but when the entire backrest is only 5" thick, it's another 50% thicker and takes up room in the Xtracab. The reason for this is the lumbar support system (which seems very nice so far). I'll need to see over time if it's worth it.
- The headrest in one of my seats doesn't work correctly - as in, it's nearly impossible to make it go up and down. Indications are that this is a manufacturing defect, since "clearing out" the internal runners for the head rests didn't fix the issue; my impression is that the runners weren't welded quite parallel, and so they make pushing the headrest in/out nearly impossible. Frankly, not something I'd expect from this caliber seat.
I've now driven a six-day, 2,600 mile trip to Death Valley in the scheel-mann seats (see Lipstick on the Pig). They are good seats; orders of magnitude better - for me - than the Corbeau Baja XRS that I'd previously installed. The scheel-mann were comfortable for the entire 1200 mile trip down to Death Valley, but I noticed that they were a bit firmer in the butt than I was used to with the original Toyota seats. No surprise there, but the second day of driving - approximately 400 miles due to some re-routes in my original plan - I noticed that, by the end, my butt hurt a little bit.
My hope is that over time as the seats wear in a bit, they become a bit more comfortable as they form to my body, since - beside this issue, all my first impressions still seem to be right on.
A second trip to Death Valley (Hiking Saline Valley) is now in the books. Unlike the prior trip, I never had any butt soreness on this trip - perhaps the seats are wearing in a bit. I will say that there are a couple things about them that I wish were a bit different - or that I miss about the original Toyota seats:
- I find myself missing the spring-slide forward and spring-fold forward. Those features made it easier to get into the extended cab, which is tougher now.
- The scheel-mann get dirty easily. Or, they show dirt more readily.
There are some things I find myself like now more as well:
- The seat heaters. I've now got these hooked up so that they are only powered on when the key is in the Accessory or On position - so I don't need to worry about them draining the battery if they are left on accidentally. I have to admit that they are very nice.
- The bolsters provide much more support - for my legs especially - than the Toyota seats, and that is great for my knees.
- The seats are very comfortable - provide a lot of support and keep me planted - on bumpy dirt roads. I never realized how much I bounced around in the seat prior to my last trip.
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