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After 22 years of use, the seats in my 1990 Camry DX were in need of some work. My goals for this project were to:

  • clean the upholstery
  • repair the seat foam
  • rotate the driver's and passenger's upholstery and foam (the passenger's side sees much less wear)
  • upgrade to a power driver's seat
  • add the LE lumbar support
  • keep the DX cloth upholstery
  • add seat heaters
If you just want power seats and don't want to bother reconditioning them, this project can be very easy. If you have an LE already, just buy a power seat from a junkyard (only $50 for me), bolt it in, and connect the 3-pin wiring harness that's already in your car. Right now, it's just being used for the driver's seat belt buckle sensor.

If you have a DX (or base) like me, you're going to need to do some simple wiring. Toyota gave us the wires for the power seat in the floor wiring harness, but the power pin for it is missing on the integration relay located in the driver's kick panel. Pretty simple fix though as it's just one wire. You must have power windows to wire it the way I have it. If not, it's still possible, you'll just have to be more creative in finding a power supply.

Another complication is if you want to keep your original upholstery like I did, you're going to need to do a little basic sewing machine work. Otherwise you can keep the LE cloth or leather the seat comes with.

Finally, for a little added comfort in the winter, I added seat heaters to both the driver's and passenger's side. I used the 'Innovative Heat II' kit from heatedseatkits.com. It's pretty decent for the money ($90).


So for any of you who want to do a complete tear down and rebuild ... here's a DIY!

Advice: as you work, take pictures and put all parts into labeled bags so you can remember how everything goes back together. I'm going to present steps here in a way that I think makes sense, but not necessarily in the order I did it the first time.


Power Seat Disassembly:
Buy an LE power seat from a junkyard that matches your interior trim color (gray for me).


Take off the back panel with 2 screws. Unclip the lumbar support lever with a screwdriver.


Start cutting hog rings on the back with some heavy duty snips and unbolt the back supports.


Peel the upholstery back. There are a number of metal rods connected to the foam and frame with hog rings. Snip the rings off and slide the rods out.


Work the upholstery over the headrest supports and pull away. Reach inside and press out the supports to free the seat foam.


Go to the base of the seat and unclip the carpeted gear cover. This is designed to keep grease from dripping down on your carpet.

Take the side panels off. The power seat joystick pulls straight off. The back reclining wheel has a retaining clip you can press off with a screwdriver. Remove the joystick wiring connector.


The driver of this car was a slob. I found chewing gum, candy, hair, and of course, a quarter. The seat was now only $49.75.


Undo the hog rings in the front and remove the black face shield for the motor with 2 screws.


Important: to unbolt the seat, the rear height adjuster MUST be set so that the bolts are visible through these holes on either side. If they are not, you need to plug in the seat and run the rear motor so that they do.


Peel the seat upholstery back and remove the hog rings.


There's a rod that connects the seat frame uprights together to recline the seat. Press the uprights outwards to pop the rod out.


Remove the rest of the upholstery and you're left with the foam.


Unbolt the lumbar support from the back frame. Clean up and re-grease the mechanism.


If your seat frame is rusty like mine was, wire-brush/sand it down and paint it if you like.



Motor Unit Disassembly:
Here's the motor assembly! Rear motor in this picture is the slide adjust, right is rear height adjust, left is front height adjust.


In this next step I'm going to show you how to repair Toyota's DC brushed motors. This same procedure could also be done on the power window or seat belt motors.

Serious warning: this is optional, very 'delicate', and very difficult to get back together properly. If you want/need to repair the motors, unscrew them, but leave the white plastic gears in place. The motors in my seat worked, but were weak. I wanted to restore their performance so I took them apart and refinished the commutators and brushes.

Notice the scoring on the commutator below.


Use some 1000+ grit sandpaper (I followed with 2000) wet with alcohol to polish the commutator and brushes. The goal is to remove the scoring to improve conductivity but NOT get the commutator lopsided which will cause wear in operation.


Place the springs and the brushes back in their holders and hold them in place with wire ties, paper clips, or anything else you can think of.


Align the brushes over the commutator, pull the wire ties out gently and get the brushes seated properly on the commutator. This is by far the hardest part as there is little room to work.

Grease the shafts and bearings and reinstall the spacer washers. Carefully reinsert the assembly back into the motor housing. There are 2 permanent magnets in the housing and it will try to pull the assembly away from you.


Unscrew the end-caps on the white plastic gear boxes and add a little grease if they need it. Don't overfill. Clean up the entire assembly, mount the motors, and re-grease the worm gears and chain.

Check that the motors run properly! Plug in the joystick, get a car battery, and connect it to the 3-pin connector with some alligator clips. White-blue stripe is +12V, white-black stripe is ground.


Passenger's Seat Disassembly and Repair:
At this point it's time to strip the passenger's seat from your car. I used this upholstery and foam for the driver's because it was in far better condition. There are some changes to the tear down procedure for the passenger's seat, but I'll trust you have the basic idea by now.


Once you have the upholstery off, throw it in the laundry on the slowest setting possible. I used warm (not hot) water and dried it for a short while on delicate then let it air dry. If you over dry it will wrinkle.

You may find that the seat foam has broken apart a bit. I used 3M Super 77 and some Sunbrella fabric to reinforce it.


Sewing Mods:
There are 2 sewing mods that need to be done to the DX fabric to make it work for a power seat. There's an undercover that protects the carpet from the grease on the gears and there's a fabric cover in the front that handles the extra height of the seat thanks to the motor assembly.

I learned to use a sewing machine for this project so if you're thinking you can't sew, it's really not that hard. For all my sewing I used 92 gauge bonded polyester thread and a #20 needle.

First measure for the undercover that attaches at the back of the seat bottom cover. I used some soft auto carpet and 15 mil HDPE plastic as a grease shield.


I laminated these together by first roughing up the HDPE, rubbing it with alcohol, and passing a blow torch over it very quickly. This is a general procedure I've learned for gluing anything to plastic. I then used Super 77 to glue the carpet and HDPE together.



Next, remove the loop of fabric from the rear of your upholstery that holds the hog ring rod with a seam ripper.


Sew the upholstery, cover, and loop together so that the loop is on the inside.


Measure the difference in height on the front of the seat between the LE fabric and your fabric. I used a piece of the same soft carpet material to cover the front. The fabric needs to be long enough to loop around to the back to be hog ringed to the bar there.




If your head rest cover velcro is shot, sew on new 3/4" black velcro and reinstall.



Seat Heater Elements:
Lay the heater element out over the seat foam and press it down into the 'trench'. You need to make holes through the element to attach the upholstery to the foam. These holes expose the conductive fibers, so they need to be covered with some tape to protect from shorts.


The tape provided turned out to be terrible, so I took it off and used Sunbrella + Super 77 instead. Attach the element to the foam with double side tape and Super 77 and do the same for the other cushion.



(continued in part 2 below ...)
 

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Discussion Starter #2
(part 2)

Driver's Seat Assembly:
Time to start putting things back together! Installation is the reverse of the tear down so I'll just show a few pictures.



Cut a small hole in the fabric for the different mounting position on the seat frame.



Mount your seat belt attachment. Bolt tension is 14lb-ft for the small one and 32lb-ft for the big two.



Install the lumbar support and cut a small hole for the handle. The seat back bolts on at 13lb-ft.




Wire in an inline fuse (10A) and connect the seat heaters to the seat wiring harness. I wired the heater into the same plug the power seat uses so there's only 1 connector to plug in when you install the seat.

Cut the power and ground lines (white-blue is + and white-black is -) and crimp the seat heater power lines in-line with them. I use adhesive lined heatshrink crimps so the connections are waterproof.




Old Driver's Seat Disassembly and Modification:
Now it's time to unbolt the driver's seat and unplug it.



Strip that seat down as before and wash the cover. You'll be using it for the passenger's side. There's only one minor sewing mod to do on this one. There's a cover for the seat slide lever that'll be on the wrong side. I sewed on some more of that carpet material all the way across.




Mount the seat heaters and wire tie the harness to the frame.


Center Console Work:
Time to finally install everything to the car! Remove the center console. Take out the all the screws, pry out the switches, and unbolt the shoulder belts at the top.





Use a 20mm hole saw to cut and mount your switches where you like them. I put them just behind the gear shift.


I cut and crimped the switch harness to fit the distance between the switch in the center console and where the wire will come out under the seat. This is so that it's easy to unplug.


Driver's Side Wiring:
If you have a DX or base you need to connect the power line for the seat. Go to the driver's kick panel and remove the trim.


See the missing pin in the blue connector? Thanks Toyota you cheap *&#[email protected] :)


Take the harness that went into the blue connector (G1) and snip the power seat line (white-blue, G1-pin 12) and the power window line (blue, G1-pin 5). Crimp a jumper in-line. By doing this the key will need to be on for the power seats or seat heaters to work. This is different than the factory config of having it work all the time.


Passenger's Side Wiring:
Next I needed to get power for the passenger's seat heater. Go over on the passenger's side kick panel and remove the trim. Unplug the door wiring harness connectors (blue (O1) and white (O2)).


Thread the power line for the seat heater from an opening near the cabin air intake under the seat through the black plastic wiring protector on the right door sill.


Crimp power in-line with the right-side power window line (blue, O2-4) and ground in-line with the door lock solenoid ground (white-black, O1-7). The ground here is a little undersized, so you might look for a beefier ground line. FYI: the heaters I chose draw 4A on high, ~1.5A on low each.



Clean-up and Done!:
Reinstall the kick panel trim, the carpet, the shoulder belts (14lb-ft) and the center console. Bolt the seats in. 27lb-ft for the 4 mounting bolts and 32lb-ft for the seat belt 'bar'.

Enjoy your new seats! :cool:








- Craig



Disclaimer: Obviously there are some risks here. A few are: The seat and belts must be reinstalled properly or they will not restrain you. Check the bolt tensions yourself and do not rely on my numbers. The wiring and motor repairs can also be done improperly and lead to an electrical fire. In short, I disclaim all responsibility for your actions.
 

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Wow you have incredible patience! I've taken the seats apart but not to that extent, it is a hell of a lot of work. If you were near me I'd pay you to put seat heaters in my car. Very impressive write up, I vote sticky.
 

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Wow! very impressive! Thanks for all the details and pictures! Amazing article! I hope all the information/pictures are available in the future when I hope to have time to do this!

If you get a chance, any rough time estimate it took you with experience and/or without experience? Rough time estimate per section or overall?

Thanks again for all the work in documenting and posting!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Just wanted to say thanks for the kind words guys. Glad you found it useful.

Joey: I didn't really keep track of my hours. The project took place over about a week and a half, but that was working mostly just a few hours a day. It was more time consuming than I thought it'd be, but I am something of a perfectionist when it comes to restoration, so that's mostly my own doing. :lol:

There's a serious learning curve. The way I did it, there are 3 seats to take apart (the junker power seat and my two seats) and 2 seats to assemble. By the time I got to the last seat I had it reassembled in just a few hours.

Keep in mind though that I'd never stripped a seat or done any sewing machine work before this. I have done lots of electrical work before, so that part was relatively simple for me. The Toyota electrical wiring diagram really helped too. The factory service manual was useful for the bolt tensions but had little else to say about the seats.

- Craig
 

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I'm sure I will never do this, but this is perhaps the best info thread I have ever seen on any forum. Nice job, great pics, great info, you did a great service my friend.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I'm sure I will never do this, but this is perhaps the best info thread I have ever seen on any forum. Nice job, great pics, great info, you did a great service my friend.
Thanks! :chug:

It's not as hard a job as it looks though, just time consuming. Since I did this project every time I get in I feel like I'm driving a much newer vehicle. Improving just one thing that you use every time you take the car out for a drive makes a big difference in the overall impression of the car, at least for me.
 

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I didn't know that the Gen2 LE came option for power seats. Only power for the driver side? or Both sides?

Excellent write up :)
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I didn't know that the Gen2 LE came option for power seats. Only power for the driver side? or Both sides?

Excellent write up :)
Thanks! The power seat was available for the driver's side only. I don't think there's any good way to modify it for use on the passenger's side because the controls, trim, and seat belt anchor points are all keyed to be on one side.

The basic LE seats just by themselves are pretty nice as they add adjustable lumbar support and head rests over the base/DX.
 

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Thanks! The power seat was available for the driver's side only. I don't think there's any good way to modify it for use on the passenger's side because the controls, trim, and seat belt anchor points are all keyed to be on one side.

The basic LE seats just by themselves are pretty nice as they add adjustable lumbar support and head rests over the base/DX.
I assume that the LE power seats were on all LE or certain LE (with power package or something?)

From what I recall, the Gen3 Camry (LE) did not have power seats standard with the LE trim unless there was a package (or higher trim) . Then again, starting from Gen3, the 'top-of-line' Camry became the 'XLE' versus the Gen2 and Gen1, which 'LE' was top-of-line.

Pretty awesome stuff. Too bad I can't find any Gen2 LE here in good shape haaa
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I actually still have the sales brochure from when my car was bought. The power driver's seat package was an option by itself on LE models. If you got the leather package, the power seat was included as well.
 
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