Friday, May 4, 2012

Adventures in Car Repair

The driver's seat on the Corvette has become increasingly unsupportive, and seemed to be leaning a bit to the left.  I ordered up an upholstery rebuild kit from JW Motorsports.  The cost was $39.95 plus shipping, which, if you look at the price of the materials, is pretty profitable.  (There's perhaps $5 worth of stuff in it.)  If you look at the value of having it all available to order as a package with instructions, it's a decent deal.

The core problem that makes this kit in demand is that the Corvette seat frame is pretty sharp, and the foam that makes up the bottom bolsters slices pretty quickly, reducing their support.  In addition, the wires that form the springs holding the seat bottom tend to cut into the foam as well.  This kit fixes both problems.  There are replacement foam blocks that protect the bottom bolsters from the frame, and piece of 1/4" thick jute that goes on top of the wires, protecting the bottom upholstery from the wires.

I find myself wondering if a thin sheet of aluminum might even be a better choice here--it would add significant support.  Many years ago, a couple of friends bought a Chevrolet Impala and Malibu with the 9C1 police car package.  This was a Central Office Production Order option that many dealers did not like ordering for the rest of us, but it provided a number of significant performance and durability advantages over the sports suspension.  One of the unexpected treats was that instead of the standard GM bench seats, these were vastly more comfortable for long drives.  It turned out that instead of an open spot in the frame under your rear, these had a solid metal sheet.

This meant much better support, and like Mercedes-Benz seats used to be, they felt too stiff for the first fifteen minutes (test drive time)--and absolutely flawless from then on.  My friend's Impala was the weirdest car, because if I was driving it, I felt like I could have driven twelve hours straight without getting out, and I would have felt completely comfortable.  Yet no matter how rested I was, if I was in the passenger's seat, I would start to fall asleep without a few minutes (and that is not something I usually do as a passenger).

I spent about three hours on this project.  Oddly enough, an hour of it was spent trying to untie a fiendishly effective knot in a string that holds the bottom seat cover onto the frame.  By the time I was done, I could not find the other end of the string, but it doesn't seem to much matter--the seat cover isn't moving.

What I discovered, once I had everything pretty much back together, is that while the bolsters needed repair, that was probably not the root problem.  It turns out that there is a plastic support on the left side of the driver's seat that has broken before, and which provides external support for the left side of the seat (rather like a solid buttress on a cathedral).  It was in the process of tearing again, and I believe that is the root of why support has been bad and the seat was sagging to the left.  The last time I had this part replaced, I was still under warranty, but at least I know how to do this now, and it isn't even very hard.  Now I just have to find the part.

UPDATE: Today, I am feeling the awkward position that I was in for this project yesterday.  Some of these muscles don't get much use!  The good news is that the "Seat Adjuster Control Cover, Left," that I need is in stock at Peterson Chevrolet in Boise, and it is $21.  (Amazingly, not every Corvette part is overpriced.)

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