Note: This is an ongoing post, which will be receiving updates as I gather materials (pictures, working designs, etc) to show off as much as possible.
Picture the following:
You have a fairly modern vehicle, and while it may or may not have anything fancy, it has everything you need to get you by every day. But, let’s say, you want to add a few things to your vehicle without breaking out the credit card or simply prefer to do it yourself while saving a few dollars.
You install an alarm w/ or w/o remote start and find that simple enough to work with and decide to add a few more conveniences installs to your trusty vehicle. So you decide to make a few enhancements here and there but you want to keep your vehicle looking stock (no modifications to your dash that leave a part exposed and different from how your vehicle looks to any other from the same brand and model).
OK, let’s say your car had the option to add heated seats. And you can still add it if you buy the parts, so let’s go with that. I will use my vehicle to demonstrate this work process.
Finding parts for your vehicle can be hit or miss but if you know where to look then it is only a matter of knowing which part you are looking for and then making the order arrangements. For my vehicle, the seat heating components are not sold on their own – so if I had no other option, and the cash available, then I would have to buy the driver and passenger seats. That’s not the only catch though, my seats are powered seats – nice and heavy and expensive – about $3,000 too much if I were to buy from a parts distributor.
My best recommendation here is that if you are looking to get a hold of parts like these, then look for a local auto salvage yard – if you are lucky, you may find everything you need there.
But I don’t like those odds so I usually look for alternatives. If you look at the aftermarket side, Rostra provides plenty of accessories for your vehicle (and often any accessories you may have installed at the dealer is from them) so I opted for one of their ComfortHeat kits, specifically the 250-1872.
Why this kit? Look at it this way, if you wish to keep the look of your car stock, then you have to think as if you were buying the stock parts in order to modify to your needs. A vehicle with the option to add heated seats may have the buttons for the heated seats as blanks (meaning the electronics are not populated and the buttons are missing) so you may have to buy that dash panel from eBay or find in a salvage yard – but still cheaper than buying all parts OEM. In my case, I needed an A/C Climate Control Unit with the heated seat buttons populated and I needed the heat components to support the driver and passenger kits. I also needed the heat components to support multiple heat levels (in the case of my vehicle, HIGH, MEDIUM and LOW) and the kit below this one only has two heat levels – so this is the kit to get.
I need to mention a few other things that will make your vehicle upgrade adventures either good or bad, depending on your vehicle:
Most modern vehicles of today are built in factories optimized to save as much money as they can without sacrificing too much quality. Therefore a few things have been streamlined to make the process smoother while the vehicle is under production. One of those things is wiring, which means that even if your vehicle did not come with a factory option installed the wiring is likely already there.
Now, in regards to wiring, but more specifically, in regards to electronics, the majority of vehicles are wired similarly but with a few discerning differences. For plenty of the electronics in the engine bay, you will find a relay powering a device on or off – but, more common in Japanese made vehicles, you will find that while the same +12v powers it all, it is the grounding of a circuit that turns on many of the electronics in the cabin. Please research your service manuals before plugging anything in, you don’t want to burn out your fuses, or the device behind it.
With that out of the way, here is the plan: My vehicle has the wiring already there leading from the A/C Climate Control Unit and to the seats. The control box (to power the heated seats) is not there though, so we’ll have to address that. As for the heat components, the Rostra kit will take care of that. I will not address on how to install the Rostra kit into your seats as it takes time to do such a thing and your experience will be different than mine (we may not have the same vehicle) but here are a few tips:
- Before you start anything – unplug the positive terminal from your battery – then wait for 1 – 5 minutes before you get started.
- If you cannot keep track of wiring then label them – shouldn’t be an issue with modern vehicles as the connectors will not fit anywhere else and most importantly, they won’t reach a connector they are not intended for since they are premeasured and tied down.
- As you unbolt components, be sure to store each nut, bolt, and screw in a safe container – don’t lose your nuts.
- You will be removing the seats from the vehicle (work on them one at a time), taking them apart will be different for each vehicle, but you shouldn’t need to cut any materials (except for what the Rostra kit requires you to cut) since each section of the seat separates without having to cut anything out.
- If you are not sure how to approach this, gather your kit components, grab a truck (rent it, your own or a friend, U-Haul, etc), put your seats in there and drive to a local car detail shop (preferably one that does custom work) – they should know what to do.
In my case, it took me two nights (one per seat) to add the heating elements to each seat. Follow the instructions according to your kit and install it in your vehicle as if you were using the kit on its own in order to test your install. This will be temporary so don’t drill holes and don’t tie stuff down. I would say don’t solder any wires just yet, but make sure your install is good enough to test, but not permanent enough to remove if needed.
This post is not over just yet – on the next update I talk about the steps I took in order to install this kit while keeping my vehicle’s stock look. Look forward to it.
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