- 3 Min Read
- By: Michael Hallock
Should You Put Racing Seats in a Daily Driver?
On older cars, where a car seat is nothing more than a chair bolted to the floor, people could easily swap their stock seats for aftermarket racing buckets. But modern car seats present numerous challenges with their weight sensors, air bags, heating features, etc.
While you might think it looks cool to have racing seats in your daily driver, one must consider the practicalities of it. Is it legal in my region? Will it be comfortable for road trips? Will it provide proper lumbar support? If you have something like a BMW 325i E30, will it even fit in my car?
If you opt for a fixed back seat in a coupe, then you also must question how it will hinder access to the rear passenger area, assuming you even have a back seat.
Unknown to many people, modern factory car seats can easily way upwards from 80lbs! With racing buckets weighing between 15-30lbs, that is a huge weight saver. Though, be mindful of your passengers. It might look cool to have matching racing seats up front, and it will save a good bit of weight, but your wife, parents, or overweight friends may think differently.
What about safety?
This is a valid concern. Modern day car seats have features to protect you in the event of an accident. Anti-whiplash headrest, side impact air bags, and specified seat belt angles, just to name a few. Doing away with the factory seat means you are ditching these safety features. Just because race cars have racing buckets does not mean they are safe for a daily driver. Racing teams invest hundreds of thousands of dollars for tailored seats specifically for their drivers, you will not get this from an off-the-shelf Recaro.
If you are willing to ignore all these cautions, at least install a name brand seat: Bride, Sparco, Recaro, Corbeau, etc. You will be paying top dollar, but you are investing in design and quality. Be very cautious of knockoff brands and do not waste your money on universal ebay seats; you would be better off bolting a folding lawn chair into your car. You also want to make sure your seats are DOT approved, otherwise it is an illegal modification.
Assuming these warnings have not dissuaded you, the next challenge will be installation. You can rip out the stock seat, slap in a racing bucket, and enjoy all the warning lights on your dash board, or you can take the time to research a proper installation; every vehicle will have different challenges and requirements. Especially if you are replacing a modern electronic seat, I would suggest familiarizing yourself with your vehicle's wiring diagram.
That being said, I did achieve a successful installation in my 2008 Volvo C30.
Airbags can be bypassed with resistors or properly transplanted into the new seat, so long as that seat has a tearaway skin for airbag deployment. In many modern cars, if an airbag detects any signs of tampering, it will throw an urgent service message. Generally, this message can only be reset by a dealer or with proper software, so proceed with caution. Messing with airbags is something I highly discourage.
We managed to survive for 80 years before heated seats made their way into cars, so we should be able to survive without this feature. Though, I personally did not want to. Transferring the heater pads into the lower cushion and backrest of my Sparco have allowed me to preserve the factory heating element. It has been quite nice on those cold winter mornings!
Because my Sparco seat is fixed back, angle adjustability was pointless. However, I did build a bracket to maintain use of the forward / backward adjustment on the stock seat rails. A little cutting of trim pieces, and I now have a cleanly installed power / memory racing seat.
If you plan on installing a racing seat in your daily driver, I would advise using the factory seat belt for daily use. On track days, you may consider a DOT racing belt mounted to a harness bar or cage, but this is not a proper accident restraining device for public roads.
I have been using a Sparco racing seat in my daily driver for six months with zero complaints. It is comfortable (for someone my size), it sits at the same level as the factory seat, and access to the rear storage area is still possible. It did take a few days to master entry and exit of the vehicle, the first few tries were a bit undignified, but for my weekend track days, this has been a much appreciated modification.
Michael lives in Dahlonega, GA where he works full time as manager of an accounts receivable department. Despite a bachelors in New Media Arts, his true passion is in modifying and maintaining the cars that he and his wife own; Volvo for life. Many in the Volvo community might recognize his screen name, MyNameIdeasWereTaken.