“I'm the one with the bad back,” Roger said, when Lynn complained of a sore seat while driving.
Our 1995 Dodge 190 Popular Roadtrek has more than 160,000 miles on it, and it seemed that somewhere around 120,000 miles and 17 years the seats started to get uncomfortable. We love our Roadtek and are not about to trade it for a shiny new one. The Dodge 318 engine is good for a few hundred thousand miles and the transmission is still original (we've been told to expect 200,000 on the transmission). We did give it a deluxe paint job, and we figured the seats would be next. From trolling the Internet we knew you can buy new RV/van seats in leather, vinyl, or cloth. They swivel, massage your back, and will heat your backside in winter. Each additional feature added about $50 to the cost. They come in a wide range of colors and start at about $400 each, plus shipping. But there was no way to sit in one before purchase, and none of the blues looked like it would match our Roadtrek's interior.
So we purchased a thick “Professional Driver's Cushion” thinking that would solve the pain problem. It just elevated our position about 2 inches while driving. It didn't help the numb butt problem a bit.
Then our Roadtreking friend Loren said he had replaced the driver's bottom seat cushion once before (he is 100,000 miles ahead of us in his 1994 Dodge 190 Versatile). The seats in our vintage Roadtreks were built by Roadtrek, not the van manufacturer. Roadtrek even emphasized the quality of their seats in their brochure. Loren got a new seat bottom from Roadtrek, but now that he needed to replace it again, but found that Roadtrek no longer had any. He went to an auto upholstery shop in his town and they found that the foam was okay but the supports were cutting into it. They reinforced the bottom to prevent that and the seat was fine. The 1995 Roadtrek brochure emphasized the quality of the seats, so they should be worth fixing.
So we asked around the Dayton, Ohio area and the name Crager's came up most often as the best auto upholstery shop. Soon we were in Kent Crager's driveway. We stripped off the Wal-Mart fleece blanket seat covers (cheap functional seat covers can be made by splitting a king-size blanket in three strips to cover front seats, and another blanket split to cover the rear.) “Are these seats ready for the dump, or can they be fixed?” we asked. “Are we better off buying aftermarket seats?”
Kent said aftermarket seats are a real gamble, many of them have inferior materials and you will not know it until things start to break down in a couple of years. He conducted a few tests and said, “They are sagging, but they look like they were well made originally. If I were you, I'd let me rebuild them.” So we turned the passenger seat at a 45-degree angle and unscrewed a single 1/2″ nut. The seat lifted out. Did we want to select another covering from his many samples? He'd be glad to order anything we wanted. Then he said, “But these cloth seats covers look pretty good — I could just reuse the them.” He had a seat he had just rebuilt that we sat in. It was firm and resilient, just like those in a new Jaguar!
Roger's minivan has heated seats that we like a lot.
We found on the Internet 2-tempereature seat heaters including the cable harness and switches, so we bought two. Crager had installed them in many car seats. In a week our rebuilt seat was ready to install. “I was right,” he said, “that seat was well built in the first place.”
He found the supports were cutting into the one piece foam base and causing the sagging. It was excellent quality foam and still in otherwise good shape. He reinforced the side bolsters and arm rests. We then dropped off the driver's seat. The cost per seat was about $300, and we had no worries about whether a new replacement seat would fit, be the wrong color, or take the camper out of commission for weeks or months. Roger hasn't hooked up the seat heater wires yet — they're coiled up inside the bottom of the seats awaiting a nice day for us shade tree mechanics to hook up the heat.
We have about 700 miles on the seats now, on our way south to beat a predicted storm, and feel like the king and queen of travel! Farley and Tate, two of our Standard Poodles, like the seats, too. If you have a tired seat or two in your camper, check around for references. There may be a seat magician in an auto interior trim shop or auto upholstery shop near you.