Replacement Seats

If you are on a budget for your CJ or Scrambler, replacing the seats can be a very expensive venture. The cheapest a person can skimp on purchasing new Jeep seats is around $200 for a set of 2 front aftermarket bucket seats. And even then, these seats are probably the bottom-of-the line vinyl seats that are not very comfortable. If you are attempting to find used original Jeep bucket seats in good condition, this can be a very long search and can be almost as expensive. Many Jeepers have replaced their front buckets with various car seats and I thought it was time I give this a try. Many late model car bucket seats can very easily be adapted to fit to the Jeep OEM seat brackets with a little ingenuity and patience. This isn't of course the route to go for the person who is restoring to OEM specs. Regardless of even saving money, I have seen some $15,000 and $20,000 built up Jeep and Scramblers with late model Honda Prelude, IROC, Acura, and the older Pontiac Fiero seats in them. There is also a comfort factor involved as well.

The one assumption in this article is that you already have the Jeep factory seat brackets that mount to the floorboard. If you don't have these, you will need to locate some used (which are very hard to come by used) or purchase them from a Jeep parts place. In either case, these brackets can be very expensive. 4WD Hardware sells them for $185. At any rate, lets hope you already have the floor brackets.

When I purchased my Scrambler it had a bench seat mounted into the cab via some non factory holes drilled into the floorboard. The seat was NOT one of the rare OEM Jeep bench seats and it had a huge pit where the previous drivers butt had molded the seat. It appeared to be something from from a Mazda or Ford mini pickup. Regardless, it had to go. So, with a friends help and advice on finding some seats, I went on a junkyard search for seats.

Here are the things you need to look for when searching at the salvage yard for replacement seats.

  1. The obvious. Look for seats that are in good condition. No blood stains (jeep seat salvage searching is not for those with weak stomachs), no tears, no bent frames or seatbacks. Look for seats that the cloth is still in good condition. Look for cars that the doors have been closed or covered and the passenger compartment has not been open to the weather. If you retrieve seats from a car that has had major damage and is missing the doors, chances are the seats have been sitting out in the rain and they will probably stink or be mildewed.

  2. Look for sporty type cars. These seats will have a firmer frame and foam. Some of the more popular choices I have heard others choosing are Honda Prelude, IROC, Camaros, Honda Accords, and Mitsibishi Eclipses.
  3. Look for seats that have a thin base seat portion. By this I mean, the part of the seat that your upper legs rest on to the part of the sliders underneath must be a fairly short distance. (see diagram) This is because the seat must sit low enough below the steering wheel that your legs do not bind getting in and out of the Jeep. If the base seat portion has a very thick base, it will be harder to adapt to a Jeep floor bracket.

  4. Look for seats that have parallel, flat sliders underneath them. You may or may not use the donor sliders. But, you must be able to mount the seat using the sliders or the subframe onto the jeep floor brackets. To do this, the slider or subframe must be parallel and flat.

  5. Stay away from electric seats. This is probably more hassle than it is worth. I'm sure it is possible but it wasn't in my scope. Although heated seats might be interesting.
  6. Personal preferences issues. Do you want the seat to recline? Do you want cloth seats? What type of headrest do you want? Integrated into the seat or a pedestal, removable type headrest? And of course color which can sometimes be a very limiting factor.

In my case I was looking for a for a simple looking, but sporty, firm cloth seat that was able to recline. After poking around a while in the junkyard, I came across the Saturns. Most of them had the pedastal type headrest pedestal which I did not like. But the seats structure looked perfect for mating up to the floor bracket. I then came across several of the low end model of Saturns that had a different style of seat and headrest to them. I found one of base model Saturns right away that already had the seats removed from the floor of the car and they were stuffed in the back seat. I dug them out, did a quick inspection for dirt, grime, smell and tears and they appeared to be fine. I also verified about the seat frames inspecting them to see if they would be easily adapted. So, without even knowing how much they were, I threw them in the back of Scrambler.

The first thing I did was remove the side plastic trim pieces on the base of the seat. This then exposed what type of frame the seat was mounted to. Make sure you save all the hardware, screws and trim panels. You may be able to reuse them later. You must start by removing the recliner seat lever.


I also removed all of the seat belt hardware. Remove the old set belt receptacle from the side of the Saturn seats. You will probably want to use the original Jeep seat belts rather than trying to adapt any car seat belts. After I unbolted all of the hardware I was able to unbolt the metal sub-frame of the seat. I unbolted each side independently but each side was held together by the Saturn seat factory sliders. Make sure you mark each side bracket as to which seat and which side of the seat it mates up to.


After all the brackets are removed, the Saturn seat brackets were placed into a vise. A 4 1/2" cutoff wheel on a electric grinder was used to remove the Saturn factory sliders from the Saturn side brackets. I did not use the Saturn sliders at all. I retained the Jeep slider that is part of the floor bracket on the drivers side . Since the passenger Jeep seat always seems to be higher than the drivers side, I did not use sliders on that passenger seat at all. I also felt it wasn't necessary since that seat flips forward as well.


While the Saturn brackets were still in the vise, they were then cut down the middle lengthwise . This provides 2 flat, parallel surfaces for the steel flat bar stock to be welded to. After you have cut all 4 brackets (2 side brackets per seat) down the middle, bolt them back onto the seat. Now you are ready to mark and mount the steel flat bar stock.


With the Jeep floor brackets bolted into place in the Jeep, place the seats on top of the Jeep floor brackets. Square them up and try to center space the Saturn seats directly over the 4 holes that are in the Jeep sliders (on the drivers side) and the bracket itself on the passenger side. Use a grease pencil or a marker to mark location on the Saturn brackets where the holes in the Jeep floor brackets match. This is the place where you will weld the flat bar stock to the Saturn brackets.


Now, turn the seat over on its back. Place the flat bar stock onto the Saturn brackets and cut the flat bar stock to exact width of the Saturn seat brackets. Cut 2 pieces. Now weld those to pieces in the exact spot you marked. Secure the welds very well. You may want to weld more flat bar stock between the two Saturn side brackets. This would provide the seat more strength. Repeat these same steps for the passenger seat as well.


After the welds have cooled, place the seats back onto the Jeep floor brackets in the Jeep. Center them exactly as you will want them to sit on the Jeep floor brackets. Now, mark the exact locations of the 4 holes on the Jeep sliders or the Jeep floor bracket. Once those are marked, drill at least 1/4" hole to match up to the size of hole in the Jeep floor brackets. Now, use some small short nuts and bolts and bolt the Jeep floor bracket to the Saturn seat. I found it easiest to remove the Jeep floor bracket from the Jeep, mount it to the seat, and then bolt them both back into the Jeep. Be sure to check door closing clearance and rear rollbar clearance before drilling the mounting holes into the flat bar stock cross pieces. If the seats are mounted too close to the outside of the vehicle, you may have problems closing your doors. My seats are mounted just perfectly that the recliner lever is still accessible and when the full steel door is closed.


I was very happy with how they turned out. They have a very similar shape to the new TJ seats and really do not look all that out of place. As far as comfort goes, these seats are much more comfortable than any other aftermarket or factory Jeep seat I have ever sat in. They have a lot more arch support in the lower back part of the seat which was the failing point of my 1994 Wrangler Sahara seats. They also have more leg support both side from the sides up vertically. Here are some pictures of what they look like after they have been installed. Notice the recliner levers and plastic trim pieces are reinstalled after use to cover up the metal Saturn side brackets. The seats still do recline as well when I have the half top off and the bulkhead removed.






In the picture to the left you will see that you can reuse the side plastic trim pieces to help cover up the welds and also help retain the Jeep OEM floor seat belts holders. The pictures still show the weld marks but be sure to touch those up with some black paint to prevent rust. Click on the picture at the right if you want to see a larger image of it.


Here is a view from the rear of the Scrambler. As I mentioned earlier I did not use a slider on the passenger side. In this picture you will notice that the passenger seat appears to be a little higher than the drivers. By design, the passenger Jeep floor bracket is higher than the drivers side. I did have to remove and re-drill flat bar stock a second time to get the position of the passenger seat in the correct position. If you use your Scrambler with the half hardtop mostly you may want to install the passenger slider to have access behind the seat. I am not planning on having my half hardtop on that much (mostly a full softop or full hardtop). Because they are tan colored, I am hoping to find either a tan colored CJ, YJ or TJ rear fold and tumble seat to match them at a later date. Watch for that tech HOW-TO in future.


In summary, I would recommend this route to anyone else who needs to replace their seats. I initially did this just as an interim solution until I completed the full restore of the Scrambler. But, I may end up keeping these in here even after I have the Scrambler repainted and the interior DuraBak'd.


Pair of Saturn Car seats from a U-Pullit junkyard - $75 for the pair
Qty of 2 1/4" thick 4 Ft pieces of steel flat bar stock - ~$8
8 short nuts and bolts to fasten seat to bracket - ~$3
2 hours of Don's time and welder - priceless
------------------------------------------------------------------------ Total ~ $86