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Installing a fixed-back seats - info and considerations

Wes7

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#1
I just got done installing a Recaro SPG seat in my 2016 Fiesta, so I thought I’d compile the info on installing an aftermarket, fixed-back seat in one spot for folks, along with the info on how I set mine up.

Considerations

First of all, before installing any aftermarket seat, particularly in a street car, understand that you are compromising the factory safety system. Regardless of what seat you use and how you set it up, you are still moving from a tested, known setup to an unknown setup on a critical safety component. Maybe it will still protect you in a wreck. Maybe not. At a minimum, you are giving up your side impact airbag.

Most fixed-back seats are not made to work with 3-point seat belts - they are competition parts meant to be used with a full cage and 5+ point harnesses. Notable exceptions include the Recaro Pole Position ABE (this is a Euro-only seat that is different than the Pole Position FIA available here) and the Cobra Nogaro. The main difference, as I understand it, is that most seats make no accommodation for properly routing the waist belt of a 3 point belt. Many people deal with this by leaving the female buckle outside the shell, routing the waist belt over the edge of the bolster. In most cases, this will not allow the belt to function properly, and could allow you to submarine under the belt, resulting in severe injury even in a relatively minor wreck. For the belt to work properly, it must closely wrap around your hips.

For folks on the shorter end of the spectrum, seat height may also be an issue. I’m 5’9 and, with the height maxed out on my Sparco side mounts, with sliders, I am at about the same height as the factory non-Recaro seats in their lowest position.

One final note - using an aftermarket seat is almost never cheaper than just swapping to factory Recaros. Factory Recaros are often available for $1000 or less. A quality seat from a manufacturer like Recaro, Sparco, Cobra, or OMP will easily run you $600 and up, and you’ll still need to buy the parts to mount it, which will cost several hundred dollars. If the factory Recaros meet your needs, just get those and be done with it.

Parts

To mount the seat, you will need:

-A seat
-A seat base - Sparco and Planted are the most common
-Side mounts that mate up to your seat
-Sliders that will mate up to both your side mounts and base (unless you are fixing the seat in place, in which case you may need to drill your seat base)
-Hardware to put it all together - both Planted and Sparco sell hardware kits to make this easy
-A 2.2ohm resistor to fool the car into thinking the side impact airbag is still connected
-A nut for the female seat belt buckle if you are retaining your 3-point belts
-Technically, according to the factory manual, you should use new bolts for the seat

Install

To mount a fixed-back seat, you’ll start by assembling the seat to the base. I used a Sparco 600 series seat base, Sparco sliders, and Sparco 90” aluminum side mounts to mount my Recaro SPG. That arrangement mounted up pretty effortlessly.

When you remove your stock seat, you will unplug the seat harness from the body harness. You’ll then remove the seat harness to transfer it over to your new seat. The seat harness has the following plugs:

-Side Impact Airbag
-Seat Belt Sensor
-Seat Track Position Sensor
-Seat Heater (if you have factory Recaros - I didn’t)
-Plug to body wiring harness


Side Impact Airbag: Since you no longer have this airbag, you’ll fool the RCM into thinking the airbag is still there using a 2.2ohm resistor. I just jammed the ends of the resistor into the plug, and taped it up very securely. Others have also used vampire clips to wire the resistor in. Either way works fine.

Seat Track Position Sensor: This is a Hall-type sensor that detects a metal plate on the stock seat rail when the seat is within a certain distance of the steering wheel. While the manual does not say so explicitly, I imagine this controls whether both stages of the dual-stage main airbag are deployed, and possibly if the airbag is deployed at all. How you mount this depends on your seating position. In most cases, you will want to be sure the sensor is mounted away from anything that it could detect so your airbags deploy normally. For some short drivers, it is possible you may need to mount it where it senses metal.

Seat Belt Sensor: This plugs into the seat belt buckle - be sure it is mounted where the wire from the seat belt buckle will reach throughout the adjustment range of the seat.

Here is how I mounted my wiring harness:


Close-up of the Seat Track Position Sensor and taped-up airbag sensor plug:


You’ll also need to move over your seat belt buckle if you are retaining your 3-point seat belt. It should be torqued to 48 Nm.

Again, lots of folks just leave the buckle outside the shell, so that the waist belt runs over the top of the bolsters. In most cases, I believe this is very unsafe. The bolsters keep the belt from hugging your hips. Instead of the belt tightening along your hip and pelvis in a wreck, holding your lower body in place, you will likely slide down and forward, with the waist belt contacting your abdomen, potentially damaging your internal organs. This is called submarining, and it can cause serious injury even in minor wrecks.

To avoid this, you want the waist belt routed through the harness holes in the bolsters on both sides. This is easy enough on the door side - just unbolt the lower mounting bolt for the seat belt, route it through the harness slot, and bolt it back. It should be torqued to 40 Nm.

On the inboard side, it is a little harder. The best way I found was to remove the plastic sheath from the seat belt buckle. I could then route it through the harness slot, as the buckle is just attached to a length of seat belt webbing. I am 5’9 and 135 lbs, and this arrangement is just barely comfortable for me - the buckle gets forced into your hip a bit because the seat is not set up to allow a normal seat belt buckle in that position. It also may not reach properly on every seat and every mounting configuration. This is why a seat like the Cobra Nogaro, which is made to work with these belts, will be better for most people than running a competition seat.



Note that Ford calls for new bolts when mounting the seat. In my neck of the woods, these were special order. Plan ahead. The seat bolts should be torqued to 35 Nm.

Conclusion


All mounted! The seat is definitely a huge improvement when driving quickly. I also find it pretty comfortable, though I am very used to this particular seat. I have a few issues I am still fussing with. The seat base positions the seat very low - I have to mount the seat in the top slots on the side rails to get the seat high enough. I really prefer it raked back by lowering the rear one slot, but it compromised visibility over the steering wheel to do so. This could be fixed with a spacer - but then the seat belt buckle wouldn’t reach as well. The ultimate fix will probably be a spacer, and either having a fab shop remove and replace the seat belt mount on the base with a longer one, or use some sort of a short bolt-on seat belt extender to give me a little more reach. Or I’ll just get used to sitting very upright.

The seat exacerbates the poor ergonomics of the shifter as well. When shifting into 2nd, 4th, and 6th, my elbow is in the armrest and/or bolster. I’ll fix this down the road with a Coolerworx shifter.

All that said, it is still a big improvement over stock, and I love a fixed back seat. Hopefully this is helpful for anybody installing a fixed-back seat!


Other Good Threads with info on this subject:


https://www.fiestastforum.com/threads/what-aftermarket-seats-is-everyone-running.23459/
https://www.fiestastforum.com/threads/sparco-seat-install-airbag-bypass-16-fist.14686/
https://www.fiestastforum.com/threads/fixed-back-seat-fitment.22905/
 


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Location
West Bend, WI, USA
#2
This is an amazing write up, thank you for your time on this. It may, however, be beneficial to add total prices breakdown in this as an edit? I know I am curious as to what this ran you in it’s entirety. I could always go look across sites I suppose and add all up :) This looks great though! I’d really like 2x red brides in mine. $$$$$ I currently have the fabric standard ST1 seats and dream of moving beyond them some time.
 


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San Diego
#3
When you say that the seat is low, is it too low, or is it low just because you're used to the stock position?

When I test drove the FiST for the first time, I felt like the seats were too high in the car. I'm used to it now, but compared to my old M3 or something like an FR-S, where the seats are mounted low in the car, the Fiesta felt like I was sitting up so high.
 


M-Sport fan

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#4
When I test drove the FiST for the first time, I felt like the seats were too high in the car. I'm used to it now, but compared to my old M3 or something like an FR-S, where the seats are mounted low in the car, the Fiesta felt like I was sitting up so high.
I came from a 4th gen Z28 with a Recaro SPD seat in it, and a Sparco 383 (330mm diameter) suede steering wheel.

When I first drove this car, it felt like I was driving a bus, as far as the sky high seating position goes, and steering wheel diameter feel. [wink]

I'd LOVE to change out the seats, and steering wheel in this car, as it would make the very 'full race' looking Coolerworx shifter NOT seem soooo out of place, like it does in a fully factory interior.

But yeah, I am fearful that insurance would deny me any/ALL medical claims in the case of a bad wreck, even if I informed them about the changes as soon as they are installed, and paid them more in premiums because of that (you KNOW how they are as far as desperately trying to NOT pay claims! [mad]). [:(]
 


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#5
I came from a 4th gen Z28 with a Recaro SPD seat in it, and a Sparco 383 (330mm diameter) suede steering wheel.

When I first drove this car, it felt like I was driving a bus, as far as the sky high seating position goes, and steering wheel diameter feel. [wink]

I'd LOVE to change out the seats, and steering wheel in this car, as it would make the very 'full race' looking Coolerworx shifter NOT seem soooo out of place, like it does in a fully factory interior.

But yeah, I am fearful that insurance would deny me any/ALL medical claims in the case of a bad wreck, even if I informed them about the changes as soon as they are installed, and paid them more in premiums because of that (you KNOW how they are as far as desperately trying to NOT pay claims! [mad]). [:(]
Yeah, the M3 had lower seats and I swapped out the stock wheel for a smaller Nardi wheel and it was great. I'd love to have a wheel like that in the Fiesta, but for the same reasons you mentioned, I don't want to mess with it. Insurance would definitely deny your claims.
 


OP
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Wes7

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Thread Starter #6
This is an amazing write up, thank you for your time on this. It may, however, be beneficial to add total prices breakdown in this as an edit
I already had my seat - I’d guess everything else works out to about $400 in my case. You can save some money with steel side mounts.

When you say that the seat is low, is it too low, or is it low just because you're used to the stock position?

When I test drove the FiST for the first time, I felt like the seats were too high in the car. I'm used to it now, but compared to my old M3 or something like an FR-S, where the seats are mounted low in the car, the Fiesta felt like I was sitting up so high.
Too low. At my height, at anything less than the highest setting, you are about eye level or below with the top of the steering wheel. Visibility starts to be an issue. This wouldn’t be so bad if our steering wheels dropped a bit more. As it is, with the steering wheel and the width of our A pillars, it just wasn’t great. Embrace the bus driver position.

I came from a 4th gen Z28 with a Recaro SPD seat in it, and a Sparco 383 (330mm diameter) suede steering wheel.

When I first drove this car, it felt like I was driving a bus, as far as the sky high seating position goes, and steering wheel diameter feel. [wink]

I'd LOVE to change out the seats, and steering wheel in this car, as it would make the very 'full race' looking Coolerworx shifter NOT seem soooo out of place, like it does in a fully factory interior.

But yeah, I am fearful that insurance would deny me any/ALL medical claims in the case of a bad wreck, even if I informed them about the changes as soon as they are installed, and paid them more in premiums because of that (you KNOW how they are as far as desperately trying to NOT pay claims! [mad]). [:(]
I didn’t talk to my insurance this time, but back when I was on Geico, they assured me it would not affect insurance claims whatsoever. YMMV.
 


M-Sport fan

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#7
I didn’t talk to my insurance this time, but back when I was on Geico, they assured me it would not affect insurance claims whatsoever. YMMV.
Given the nature of insurance companies, I find this very hard to believe, but also very encouraging if it actually IS the case. [thumb] [wink]
 


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#8
Are you talking about medical payments via your car insurance? Those are typically capped pretty low. Wouldn’t your major medical cover your bills?
 


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Temecula
#9
You forgot to ad that a fixed seat without at least a roll bar is almost a guaranteed death sentence. Do it right, and install a roll bar at the very minimum.
 


MagnetiseST

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#10
You forgot to ad that a fixed seat without at least a roll bar is almost a guaranteed death sentence. Do it right, and install a roll bar at the very minimum.
You could also use a fixed back seat thats designed to be used with lap belts, like a Recaro Pole Position ABE or Cobra Nogaro.
 


OP
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Thread Starter #11
You forgot to ad that a fixed seat without at least a roll bar is almost a guaranteed death sentence. Do it right, and install a roll bar at the very minimum.
Can you say more about this? Outside of improper harness or seat belt use, I haven’t found anything in my research to show that fixed back seats are inherently unsafe without a roll bar. In fact, many cars are sold from the factory that way.
 


M-Sport fan

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#12
You forgot to ad that a fixed seat without at least a roll bar is almost a guaranteed death sentence. Do it right, and install a roll bar at the very minimum.
Then you have those that say ANY tubes in the interior, even if covered in very thick padding, are a guaranteed death sentence in a crash without a brain bucket constantly on your head [dunno], ALL of the time, so it goes on and on and on. [:(]

Are there 'guaranteed' problems (save for the lack of a side air bag), with using all of the folding back/2 piece, but full race shell appearing/style, TUV/FMVSS approved aftermarket seats, without a roll bar/full cage as well? [???:)]
 


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#13
It's not hitting your head on a tube, its if the car rolls over and the roof collapses and your stuck in a fixed seat, lol. Squish goes the brain housing group. Factory seats are designed to collapse in a roll over which allows your body to collapse and avoid the roof.
 


M-Sport fan

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#14
It seems to me that although the bar could help in that scenario, a full cage is the only thing close to a guarantee of no 'squish', depending on the severity of the roll(s), and what the roof contacts during said roll(s).

Of course, they have not been tested as extensively as the factory seats, but again, would the approved aftermarket folding/collapsing, 2 piece seats possibly NOT be a death trap in the above scenario?
 


OP
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Thread Starter #15
It's not hitting your head on a tube, its if the car rolls over and the roof collapses and your stuck in a fixed seat, lol. Squish goes the brain housing group. Factory seats are designed to collapse in a roll over which allows your body to collapse and avoid the roof.
I’ve seen this on other forums, but I believe it is inaccurate. Factory seats are designed to collapse in a rear-end impact, and even that is controversial. In a rollover, you want to be held in place so you do not leave your seat and hit the roof or other hard surfaces. A failing seat does not allow the seat belts to hold you in place. If the roof fails, a collapsing seat is not going to protect you. I’ve done a substantial amount of searching and haven’t found any mention of seat backs being designed to yield in a rollover (though I have seen a few papers recommending seat backs be strengthened). I’m not an engineer, just somebody who has put a fair bit of effort into understanding these systems, so take this for What you will.
 


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