Front seats & belts

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same topic.

sunsparrow Junior Member posted March 22, 2004 04:06 PM

The driver's seat of my 73 Westie is toast, as in right down to the bare springs. The passenger seat is worn as well, although serviceable. I would like to renew both, if possible. I noticed GoWesty has the foam, etc for sale on its own... does anyone have experience reupholstering the seats and are there any special tools required? I have made fitted custom covers for everyday furniture before, but never attempted an actual reupholster job.

If it is not terribly difficult I'll take a go at it. Any experiences with this? Suggestions or reference materials?

tarmadilo Member posted March 22, 2004 05:23 PM

I had a '69 Bug that needed the seats fixed. I bought some seat covers and taped some foam to the seat before sliding them on. Worked just fine.


Capt. Mike Tech Writer posted March 23, 2004 06:42 AM

Usually the only tools needed after the seat is removed are a pair of hog-ring pliers (& small hog-rings). I've occassionally used a leather needle & leather thread (available Tandy and many hobby suppliers) where I thought a stitch or tack was superior. The headrest guides have a hair-pin style retaining clip underneath. These can be pulled with a small screw driver &/or needle-nose pliers.

Smooth duck-bill pliers are often nice to pull material tight with without damaging the material.


New member
Hi, I had a questions too. Does the passenger seat in my 76 Westy swivel? I have seen my friends but I don't know if mine does. Thanks for the help.


New member
Look under your passenger seat and see if there is a swivel- if there is, the seat will sit about an inch higher than the driver's seat, there will be a black contraption visible on top of the seat pedistal with a wire lever sticking out the front. Lift this lever up and the seat will swivel- problem is that over the years, they get dirt and grime and sometimes rust in them and they get stuck. If that happens, pull the seat off the sliders, then you can undo the four bolts that hold the swivel in and remove it. Remember how it goes back together (it's only two pieces). Clean any rust and grime (usually mixed with old dried grease), regrease it with a light coating on the parts that contact each other, and reassemble.

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same topics.

barryf Member posted September 01, 2004 05:16 PM

Does anyone know how to get the front seat belts to retract better? My '87 Westy belts just sit there when I unbuckle and I have to manually help it back into the reel. I see a few screws on the forward and aft faces of the reel but havnen't taken them off.


Barry Friedman
1987 Westy GL
with a Subaru 2.2 Engine -- Vroom!
Grass Valley, CA


New member
I am replacing the padding in the seats of my 78 Bus. (I have found great instructions for doing this on the web posted by Richart Atwell and Caspar de Lint.) I have a question about the seat springs. I have taken everything off the seats and am now down to the springs and frame. While the frame looks good with black paint, the springs are all rusty. They are in good condition otherwise. None are broken and they have good "spring" to them. My question is Should I try to remove the rust with a chemical solution such as CLR or something different before repadding the seats or is this condition typical/normal and I should leave them alone. Thanks Rhonda

Capt. Mike

CLR is NOT a rust remover -- it supposedly dissolves mineral build-up. The condition occurs because of human moisture and sweat getting through the breathable upholstery. It is not serious, but could eventually stain the upholstery from behind. A chemical deruster may leave a residue harmful to the upholstery, so using one requires the appropriate removal and rinsing -- something not easy to achieve in a home shop.

There are a number of products that will 'seal in' surface rust. Remove the worst with a wire brush and/or steel wool, then use one of those products. Check the Eastwood (topic in SUPPLIERS) forum or some of the ads in Hemmings Motor News (also a topic in SUPPLIERS. Some paints like POR-15 or Glyptol are good sealers over minor rust -- my suggestion. Others seal the rust with a latex sealer but then should be painted over.

Big Bird

New member
Can anyone help me? I posted a question recently in the westy interior forum. It was removed an I got the attached message. I guess I am supposed to post it here.

I have an 82 diesel westy. I was asking if anyone can tell me which seats from cars other than VW vans will fit on the rotating rails under my front seat. The answer is supposed to be in this forum but I can't find it. Can anyone help me?

Heres my email to Capt Mike:

Capt Mike,

Thanks for your email.
Sorry to have troubled you with my inappropriate post.

You said my post was removed because
a. wrong forum
b. previously posted
c. Thread already established

your comments were:
"Front Seats . . ." topic is already established in the INTERIOR (Except Westy) forum -- front seats are NOT unique to the Westy Interior.

Following your advice I searched the forums for every conceivable permutation of my question. I also read every word in the entire "except westy" forum. I must be doing something wrong because I just cant find a post that tells me which seats from which cars other than VW vans will fit on the rotating rails in my westy. Are there archives.

Would you be so kind as to take a minute and direct me to the post which answers my question?


Bruce Flinn
"Big Bird"

Capt. Mike

The June 2, 2003 post in this topic above asked basically the same question and a reply, with suggested vendor of aftermarket seats, was given. Later in this topic, another asked about a seat swap with a GTI that apparently didn't find anyone with experience to respond.

The 2nd paragraph of the guidelines clearly states that questions may not get a response. If it's not a popular option it may not have someone experienced enought to provide an answer. By requiring a question be posted into it's appropriate topic, it at least has the best chance of a learned response because it will be read by members that have an interest in that area. Guideline #7 suggests modifications are not likely to get much interest.

Big Bird

New member
Thanks Capt Mike.
I guess that means the answer isn't here. Perhaps if I post the question someone who reads this thread will know the answer. No expectations or obligation, just a question.

I believe I fall within the guidelines if I just post my deleted question now. I am not looking to buy anything, and I acknowledge that the answer will be sustantially the same for non westys as for westys.
Please let me know if I am mistaken in this regard.

Here goes:

The front seats on my 82 diesel westy are worn out. I have been unable to find replacements locally, and I can't afford to have them shiiped in.
I have seen other westys with nice comfy looking seats that obviously came from other types of vehicles.
Does anyone know which vehicles other than VW vans have front seats which will fit on the turntable rails of my westy, peferably with enough clearance to rotate the seats and get under the wheel. Since this is the non-westy forum I should mention the rails on the turntable are the same as those on non-westy vanagons but the seat sits an inch higher and clearance from the sink is a factor.

Capt. Mike

I notice you haven't received any responses for seat swaps; it's not a popular option as the Westy seats are designed around some very tight specs as far as size, function and turning room.

"Worn out" is very subjective. The metal frame is probably fine and everything else can be rebuilt. It's done by the antique auto restorers all the time. They can make all new springing, padding and custom covers. Not necessarily cheap, but very competative with aftermarket seats. I've mentioned one rebuilder I have experience with elsewhere on this site (Auto Interiors, Raleigh NC). Check Hemmings Motor News (own topic in SUPPLIERS) for others. In the long run, you'd probably be more satisfied because it will fit and function just like the original and you can then spec things like real leather (Not as expensive as you might guess!) or a superior fabric to VW's idiotic velour.


New member
Re: front passenger seat. I have an '82 Westfalia, love it, but... my back hurts riding in the passenger seat that does NOT recline. I need a seat that will recline considerably, even go all the way flat. I don't care if it never swivels again. I just need to lie back for the ride. Any ideas on seat replacement? I'd appreciate it very much.


Greetings, I too have an 82 Westy, but my seats,both drivers and passengers rotate, recline and otherwise behave the same. I had both seats rebuilt last year.
As the Captain mentioned,the steel inside the seats is usually in good shape. The horsehair however was shot,the back as well as the seat.
The upholsterer removed the original fabric, had it dry cleaned and totally rebuilt the seats with materials of "today".
I cant say how happy I am since this work was done. No more back aches what so ever.
The total cost was $350.00 for both seats AND its some of the best money Ive spent on my Westy.
Now, when I get my oil changed,which is done every 3000 miles,I have the mechanic switch seats for me (no charge). This way Im sure to get even wear on both of the seats.
I should add that at first, I sat a bit higher than usual because of the new innards, but after a few weeks, everything had settled and I was; as I said quite happy that I had the work done.......RCB

Capt. Mike

'82's came with reclining (about 45°) passenger seats. If yours doesn't, it's broke or has been replaced by a non-0E.

Options: Fix yours (if it is OE), buy new OE, locate a salvage yard seat, or switch to an aftermarket. None of these options preclude having it still swivel since the swivel is in the base, not the seat. RCB is correct in that most seats are rebuildable.
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New member
I did a cheap fix on the worn seats of my '81 westy:
1. Cut layers of egg crate foam into a shape that is ergonomically sound for your body size.
2. Procure some cordurouy or upholstery from the local thrift store.
3. Cut and sew some new seat covers to hold everything in place. I used elastic to anchor it, but regular cord would be better.

It's comfortable and costs under $20 to do both front seats for those of us who can't afford to have it professionally done. I'll email specs. if anyone is interested.

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate same topic.

skinnyguy6-6 Junior Member Posted May 28, 2006 03:14 PM

'87 Westy. The adjustment mechanism broke, so that the seat can only be held back when my body weight keeps it in position, otherwise it is sprung into the forward position. It would be nice to have it fixed. I'm not a techie, but is there a way I can fix it?


Capt. Mike

Go to your dealer (Guideline #8) and look at the parts diagram blow-up. You could have something as simple as the spring unhooked or broken, not re-engaging the arm, to a broken arm tip, or worst (and least likely) a broken/stripped quadrant in the backrest shaft. All 3 are visible by just removing the plastic cover per Bentley 72.2, diagram 72-112 (Guideline #2 & 3). All 3 are repairable. You can then decide which is within your shop ability & resources.

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consoslidate similar topics.

spitsnrovers Member Posted September 26, 2006 09:21 PM

Since there isn't a topic for seating (other than extra seating), I'll post here.

I just installed a set of Ford Club Wagon seats in my van. Two reasons - more comfortable cushion foam, and power seat options for driver's seat.

If you're interested, please see

F & W & Turtle


New member
'82 diesel Westy - My OE captain seats are in really bad shape. I've considered refurbishing them, but I'd really like to add armrests. Is this possible in a refurb? I'm searching the local salvage yards for seats from a newer Vanagon, but no luck yet.

Also, I just found a decent pair of front seats from a Eurovan for a decent price. Anyone know if these will fit into my Vanagon?

Capt. Mike

Since you are refurbishing your seats, you will be able to look at the backrest frame itself. Check your dealer's parts fiche; frame 128-20 shows the frame reinforced with the welded on mount base for the arm rest on some models, which is then a bolt on attachment. Other frames like 127-00 don't show that and would have to then be reinforced with a base plate.

Either shows the arm rest mount itself and appropriate parts. IF you can find arm-rests, it shouldn't be that difficult since you are doing a custom refurbish that will take it down to the frame anyway.

If you find the arm rests too scarce or expensive, you might consider the portable arm rests at Driving Comfort. The left driver side is the one I notice missing the most when I drive a car without arm rests.