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Old 10-20-2009, 10:29 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default How To: Heated Seat Repair and Install

I recently installed OEM heated seats into my 1999 Subaru Forester. Before I began, I headed to the boards and FSM references to understand the process, and to figure out how to install them into a car that didn't come with them from the factory. This thread is the result of everything I've learned so far. By no means am I an expert, nor do I guarantee that what I offer here is 100% accurate. I've done a lot of searching, a lot of asking, and a lot of soldiering. With that disclaimer I present to you my findings.

Why would you even bother? I feel old, I feel cold! But seriously, if you even have to ask, then don't waste your time.

How does it work? It's just like having a rear defrost installed in your seat. Voltage flows through skinny wires which get hot due to resistance. It's a very basic system!

Is it hard? Hard is a relative term, but if you can find 12v power, ground, and remove the seat covers, you can get some heat into your seats.

What seats can I add heat to? Any! Subaru's been installing heated elements in seats for a LONG time. Heated seats are nothing more than a standard seat with a heating pad installed below the seat cover. Forester seats are no exception.

What do I need?
  • Heated seat elements (the pads that go under the seat covers)
  • Switches (to turn your heated seats on and off (even hi and lo)
  • Wire
  • Heavy wire cutters (to remove the seat hog rings)
  • Electrical tape
  • Soldiering Iron (optional but recommended)

Where do I get the heated seat parts? There are a few options here. You can buy a universal heated seat kit from an online auction website and install them. You could buy OEM heated seats and OEM heat switches. OR (my favorite) go to a junkyard and source the seat elements, switches, and wires from another Subaru. Heated seats were a standard feature in all winter package equipped Subarus. Your best bet is to check in a Legacy or Forester.

I sourced my seat elements, switches, and wires with plugs from a 1996 Legacy Outback with the winter package. Total cost for parts was $6.

The remainder of this how to will detail an install using factory components.

Gather your parts! When pulling these parts from a junkyard, you can either take the whole seat and use it, or remove just the heat element (options will probably be determined by junkyard policy). I was able to take a razor knife to a pair of JY seats like a psycho ex girlfriend and cut out the elements. This is obviously the quick and dirty solution. The other option is to remove the entire seat skin by taking off the plastic clips. Straightforward to do - just remove all the clips and metal rings (called hog rings) until the heat element is exposed and free.

If going the psycho ex route, here's a seat roadmap to use so you don't cut the parts you need (note there may be a piece or two you will need to unclip to free the heat element even when cutting):


Try and remove the switches and seat harnesses as one piece if possible. Worst case scenario, get the switches and plugs, and run new wires between the two.

So I have a bunch of wires and 2 switches - now what? There isn't much to wiring these in, as I mentioned. The relays are built into the switches. There are only 3 different wire inputs required to make these work
  • 12v Switched Power
  • Ground
  • Illuminiation (optional)

Factory Wiring Diagram:


Understanding the Diagram

Power- you can see that there's 12v coming in on a blue wire from the rear power supply relay. If you look at your Forester fuse panel, you'll see that it's already marked rear power supply/seat heater! You could also source power from the front 12v outlet as well.

Ground - There are about 6 ground wires that can be grouped together and grounded anywhere. Half are for the seats, the other half are for the illumination wiring

Illumination - There are two white and yellow wires for each switch that provide illumination power. In my opinion, it's unnecessary. The switches work and light up as normal without it wired in. Save yourself some headache and just ignore the wire.

Understanding the Switches Not much to do here, the FSM explains it best:


What it all looks like
Seat plugs


Heat Power wires


Heat ground wires. I grounded them out underneath the center console on the Ebrake plate


Switches!


But wait, I'm still confused about sourcing power! I simply spliced into the 12v wire that ran along the passenger side floor back to the plug in my Forester. Guess what color it is - that same fun blue! The arrow shows where I found the wire at:



----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ok, I wired everything in, but one of the heating pads won't get hot. What did I do wrong? Odds are everything is fine. If the switches amber light kicks on when you flip the switch you're getting power. Chances are the element has a broken wire. It's a very common issue in heated seats. Now you just need to track down the break!

So where do I start? Take the element out and hold it up to a light so you can see the wires hiding inside:


My break happened to be surrounded by burnt wiring and was very easy to spot. I marked it with blue pen:


Cut into the pad with a razor knife to expose the wire. See the break?



Ok, found it. Now what? Just add a short piece of wire to jumper the break back together. Either soldier or crimp and you're set.


Notes

That's the basics. I'll add more pictures of adding the seat elements to existing seats later. If there are any questions just ask!
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Old 10-20-2009, 10:44 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I like your write up! And your psycho ex method :)
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Old 10-20-2009, 10:52 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Sweet write up! Very usefull information.
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Old 10-29-2009, 07:04 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I have a somewhat strange issue in my 04xt...

The passenger seat works fine on both high and low settings. The driver seat, however, doesn't.

On the low setting, the only the back pad heats up. On the high setting, the back pad heats up a little, and the back pad on the passenger seat gets very hot.

It's been like this since I've owned the car. Does this sound like mis-wiring, or do I have some shorting going on? And if I dig into this, what color wire should I be looking at?
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Old 10-29-2009, 08:30 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Great write-up, link added to the knowledge base!
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Old 10-30-2009, 07:15 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FecalFajita View Post
I have a somewhat strange issue in my 04xt...

The passenger seat works fine on both high and low settings. The driver seat, however, doesn't.

On the low setting, the only the back pad heats up. On the high setting, the back pad heats up a little, and the back pad on the passenger seat gets very hot.

It's been like this since I've owned the car. Does this sound like mis-wiring, or do I have some shorting going on? And if I dig into this, what color wire should I be looking at?
Sounds like a short in the heating element, though I have no idea why that would be crossing over to the other seat as well. If you look at the diagram, each seat is wired separately at the switch, though they share a common power and ground. But if the butt pad on the drivers side doesn't work, the only way to fix it is to open the seat up and go to work. Is the heating setup factory or did a previous owner wire it in?

Quote:
Originally Posted by pleiad7 View Post
Great write-up, link added to the knowledge base!
Thanks
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Old 12-29-2009, 08:21 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Awesome write up! Used it to guide me on my install.
However, I'm installing an aftermarket set of seat warmers and have a Q.

While looking for a good power source I decided to tap into the same wiring that would've powered the factory seats. Auto electrical is not my strong suit, so bare with me.
Facts:
According to diagram that'd be Yellow/Black wire at the back of the accessory fuse box (subaru-car.ru/for1/for_01_wir_1.pdf). Although the diagram has 2 fuses that allegedly power the seat warmers (Yellow/Black and Blue/White).
The box itself points to a Blue/White wire. At least that's my understanding of fuse location (front) vs wire location (back)
The factory seats are powered by same wiring as the rear 12V outlet.
At the rear outlet the wires are Yellow/Black (+) and Blue/White (-)
The Blue/White wire at the fuse box is powered ALL THE TIME regardless of key position or presence.
The rear 12V outlet is only powered when the key is present and in ACC or ON positions

I've decided to tap into the Yellow/Black wire right next to the fuse box for power (this gives me the power and makes sure I do not drain the battery accidently). However, I'm trying to decide if I should tap into the Blue/White for ground (like the rear 12V outlet) or just ground somewhere on the body (don't want to get electrocuted every time I touch the car). The fact that the Blue/White wire has a fuse confuses me, but the rear 12V is wired this way. Perhaps the Blue/White color combination is used twice?

Any thoughs would be very helpful. I'm at my wit's end and my butt is COLD! :)
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Old 12-29-2009, 08:34 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Just curious, is there any good way to get the elements to stay solid in the seats? Stock they have little plastic price tag things that hold them down, and the metal bars slide through them. Will they stay in place if just sandwiched between the foam and seat cover? Also, does anyone have a pic showing where they routed the wiring on an 02/03 wrx seat? I pulled the elements out of my old seats but forgot to note how the wires ran from the elements to the underside of the seat (dont want them to get caught between the raising/lowering mechanism or something like that)
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Old 12-29-2009, 08:37 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Great job, I vote for Sticky!


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Old 12-29-2009, 11:26 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by funkymonkey1002 View Post
Just curious, is there any good way to get the elements to stay solid in the seats? Stock they have little plastic price tag things that hold them down, and the metal bars slide through them. Will they stay in place if just sandwiched between the foam and seat cover? Also, does anyone have a pic showing where they routed the wiring on an 02/03 wrx seat? I pulled the elements out of my old seats but forgot to note how the wires ran from the elements to the underside of the seat (dont want them to get caught between the raising/lowering mechanism or something like that)
Yes, it is possible to keep the pads down. The aftermarket pads came with some instructions.
Namely you can cut holes in them (I made mine between the wires) and use zip ties to tie the metal rods in the seats/covers to lock the pad in place. Locatiosn are same as the hog rings that are in the sears originally. I think I have 2-4 holes per pad. 4 in the back one and 2 in the bottom one.
As for running the wires, I'm also interested. So far I have the connections coming up from below the seat (there was a T shaped cut) and then I routed it toward the center console and up toward the back of the seat near the seat belk buckle.
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Old 02-04-2010, 06:58 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Sorry guys, I've neglected this thread
Quote:
Originally Posted by mbtyomkin View Post
Awesome write up! Used it to guide me on my install.
However, I'm installing an aftermarket set of seat warmers and have a Q.

While looking for a good power source I decided to tap into the same wiring that would've powered the factory seats. Auto electrical is not my strong suit, so bare with me.
Facts:
According to diagram that'd be Yellow/Black wire at the back of the accessory fuse box (subaru-car.ru/for1/for_01_wir_1.pdf). Although the diagram has 2 fuses that allegedly power the seat warmers (Yellow/Black and Blue/White).
The box itself points to a Blue/White wire. At least that's my understanding of fuse location (front) vs wire location (back)
The factory seats are powered by same wiring as the rear 12V outlet.
At the rear outlet the wires are Yellow/Black (+) and Blue/White (-)
The Blue/White wire at the fuse box is powered ALL THE TIME regardless of key position or presence.
The rear 12V outlet is only powered when the key is present and in ACC or ON positions

I've decided to tap into the Yellow/Black wire right next to the fuse box for power (this gives me the power and makes sure I do not drain the battery accidently). However, I'm trying to decide if I should tap into the Blue/White for ground (like the rear 12V outlet) or just ground somewhere on the body (don't want to get electrocuted every time I touch the car). The fact that the Blue/White wire has a fuse confuses me, but the rear 12V is wired this way. Perhaps the Blue/White color combination is used twice?

Any thoughs would be very helpful. I'm at my wit's end and my butt is COLD! :)
Sounds like you got it. As far as grounding source goes, I tapped into the body (you won't get electrocuted). You could splice into the ground wire too, it's whatever makes you feel good.

Quote:
Originally Posted by funkymonkey1002 View Post
Just curious, is there any good way to get the elements to stay solid in the seats? Stock they have little plastic price tag things that hold them down, and the metal bars slide through them. Will they stay in place if just sandwiched between the foam and seat cover? Also, does anyone have a pic showing where they routed the wiring on an 02/03 wrx seat? I pulled the elements out of my old seats but forgot to note how the wires ran from the elements to the underside of the seat (dont want them to get caught between the raising/lowering mechanism or something like that)
I've had good luck with zipties. When removing the seat covers, I always destroy the hog rings and substitute tiny zipties. I wouldn't trust the element to staying still on their own. Wire routing within the seat had all the plugs pointing to the center of the car.

Quote:
Originally Posted by joe r View Post
Great job, I vote for Sticky!
Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by mbtyomkin View Post
Yes, it is possible to keep the pads down. The aftermarket pads came with some instructions.
Namely you can cut holes in them (I made mine between the wires) and use zip ties to tie the metal rods in the seats/covers to lock the pad in place. Locatiosn are same as the hog rings that are in the sears originally. I think I have 2-4 holes per pad. 4 in the back one and 2 in the bottom one.
As for running the wires, I'm also interested. So far I have the connections coming up from below the seat (there was a T shaped cut) and then I routed it toward the center console and up toward the back of the seat near the seat belk buckle.
I routed the wires when I had the seats out. The plug went through the carpet where the factory seatbelt warning plug is. I snaked that wire up under the carpet to the center console. The wires are after the shifter but before the E brake. This closely mirrors the factory routing.
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Old 02-19-2010, 11:39 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Default I successfully fixed my heated seat!

For a couple of months the passenger seat in my 2004XT has been without heat which doesn't make for a happy wife when we head to the mountains to go skiing. I had been reading several posts on this site for a while and decided to jump in. I have to say the repair was quite easy, most of the time spent was seat removal, installation and clean up. I wanted to post my experience to help others.

First, remove the seat because it makes life a lot easier. Make sure you disconnect the battery and discharge the power. Don't worry too much because I had actually disconnected the air bag on numerous occasions before I came across the warning. However, I will definitely make sure I don't do that anymore! Also, a small flathead screw driver will help with the wire connectors.

In my case the heat switch was working(light on) so I knew I had a broken wire somewhere. Sure enough one of the connections failed the continuity test. I started by using an ohm meter and checked the continuity of the connector as shown in the diagram above. For those non electrical people out there you can get an ohm meter at radio shack that has a beep mode. If you touch the connections (1-with red lead, 3-with black lead) you will hear a beep if the wires are not broken. Test your ohm meter first by touching the leads together and make sure you hear the beep which indicates you have it in the continuity mode with beeps.

With the seat out I found it best to remove the seat belt connector (female end) and the plastic piece that covers the hinge next to the connector. This is because the wiring runs through that area. Furthermore I removed all the wiring snaps which gives you more freedom to move the wires and get to the heating pads. Getting the seat covers out of the way was easy, they release with a few plastic snaps on the seat rails or zippers on the back. I didn't need any special tools but I will say that the covers do not come fully off unless you cut/break the wire rings holding them to the seat. For the back part of the seat the cover raises just enough that you don't need to do anything special. For the bottom portion I did break the 2 rings holding the cover tight to the cushion but only the 2 rings that are in the middle of the seat. I didn't want to have to do too much rework. You can then pull the cover back just enough to pull the pad forward where you can get access to the connections. Removing those pesky wire snaps on the bottom of the seat also let you move pad further forward.

My issue was on the bottom half of the seat but I checked the top connections as well. Good thing, they were about to break too. It seems Subaru uses tiny wire connections and doesn't do a good job soldering so they break after bending 1000's of times from being sat on. Resolder anything that looks weak. Note that both pads have the connections covered with an additional piece of cloth. The cloth is glued so you can carefully peel it back without worry. I didn't glue them back but a little super glue would work.

I also used zip ties to repair any of the connections I removed. Don't forget to collect all that change while the seat is out!

Attached is a picture of the broken connections I found. Now that the seat is repaired it is heating again and the wife is happy!
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How To: Heated Seat Repair and Install-img_0166-1-.jpg  
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Old 02-20-2010, 07:44 PM   #13 (permalink)
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This thread has inspired me to do the same, I got my parts from a junked forester. Looks to be about an 02, mine is an 03 so hopefully it goes in smoothly. Now I just need a pack of cold coke and a free weekend to get it done.

Thanks for the great write up, I couldn't stand the thought of cutting up the junked foz so I carefully removed the covers and with minimal damage removed all the wiring and elements. It was also good practice for when I do mine. I first encountered an old volvo that was not so lucky...but that forester really saved my day so I took it easy on it.
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Old 04-02-2010, 04:55 PM   #14 (permalink)
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It took a while to find the time but I finally got my heated seats installed, everything went smoothly thanks to this write-up. and the wife is thrilled to have them as well.
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Old 12-29-2011, 07:27 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Well After only having the car 2 weeks I tackled my first repair. Thanks all for your knowledge.

My drivers seat had only heat from the back on low. Took everything apart and found three broken wires in the bottom seat element. The catch was that the wires were broken where they came out of the thermal overload switch.

I thought about removing the thermal overloads but wasn't really keen on lighting a fire under my a$$. Admittedly it took me a while to figure out what the little flat boxes were. I realized when I de-soldered them and I heard one click.

I de-soldered the thermal switch and ground down the side of the case (very gently) to expose the wires the were potted in the epoxy. I soldered 2 new leads to the old wires. I made a dam out of tape, mixed some fresh epoxy and potted the connections. Re checked my continuity and re installed. Were I to do this again I would go to a wrecker and pick up a used element to have on hand in case I needed the thermal switches.

Anyway thank you all for the information. Hope my wife's bum is warm on the way to work tomorrow.

P.S. Hot melt glue is perfect for insulating the re-soldered joints and re-gluing the fabric cover over the connections.
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