|I'm working on a '96 Chevrolet S-10 that I purchased from a friend of a friend. That guy purchased it at an auction, could not get it running and turned it over to my friend who, after about $700 in induction/exhaust/electrical parts, got it running and passing the VA state inspection.
That's when I purchased it, intending to re-sell it to my 20-yo cousin who need some basic transportation.
He didn't want it, so I did some minor cosmetic work and kept it.
My work involved replacing the very corroded battery tray ($20), knocking out a big dent in the driver's door (just enough so it didn't look too bad, so $00), replacing a broken window handle ($3), replacing the headliner($30) and repairing the seat ($00).
All that other stuff I have done before. but I've never worked on a seat and know little about upholstery, so I did some Internet searching. The best HOWTO I found was here: http://www.hotrodders.com/forum/seat-spring-repair-145733.html. Dan TwoLakes does an excellent job of providing an industrial-strength repair and always provides useful upholstery advice on this board.
But this time I wanted to try it myself. His method uses 9 gauge sinuous wire springs and requires some special clips and tools that he has, but I lack. I figured that since this was going to be the shop truck and driven only infrequently, an industrial-strength solution was not needed.
The special springs; that were broken are actually the non-spring part of a cushion suspension system know as a Flex-O-Lator for about 40 years with the improved version known as Seat-O-Lator. I figured I would check with local auto upholstery shops to see what was available. They called them wire mesh and had no idea they had a trade name.
It turns out the size I needed was not a standard size, but I did score a piece larger than I needed and figured I could modify it to fit.
It's always good practice to examine a failed part and try and determine why it failed, In this case, a defect in the seat foam, a large internal bubble, placed stress on the Seat-O-Lator and helped it cut into the foam. Over time, the wires fatigued and broke right at the bubble.
The first step was to fill the hole, so I used some of the foam-covered fabric left over from the headliner installation, winding it into a roll that fit the void in the foam.
Because the seat foam had been cut by the Seat-O-Lator wires, I need something to separate it and the foam to keep the wires from digging in and losing support. I had some 1/8-inch closed-cell heavy foam sheet that I had cut and glued leather to and used to cover the '39 Coupe (all-leather floor, no carpet-- very cool) so I used that.
To cut the Seat-O-Lator to size, I fabricated a jig from 2x4's as shown. The wire is similar to piano wire in stiffness, so it takes some effort to bend it. The end rods needed to be cut with an air-powered cutoff wheel.
After bending the wire around the end rod and gently crimping it, I placed it in a vice to finish the bend.
There was a 30 degree bend in the wires to accommodate a similar bend in the seat frame, so I re-purposed the jig to bend the wires uniformly.
Installation was, as the Haynes Manual always says, the reverse of removal. I used a hooked tool that is normally used for headlights springs to pull the springs through to hook to the Seat-O-Lator rod.
Now it's just cleaning and lubricating the seat runners and putting it back in the truck. I'll edit the post later to comment on how well the repair succeeded.
My total cost for this repair was zero. The upholstery shop gave me a 16-inch piece left over from another job and all this cost was my time. Is it as durable as Dan TwoLakes' repair? Probably not, but I may not need that kind of durability and I can always implement his repair at a later date if necessary.
As always, it was fun and I learned something new.
The spring I repaired seem to work fine, but I discovered that the Seat-O-Lator from the passenger seat was broken as well.
So I dug the split bench seats I had from a '93 S-10 out of the storage unit.
While the seat mounting brackets were different, the basic seat frame appeared similar and , lo and behold, the Seat-O-Lators were identical and were undamaged in the '93 seat.
A quick swap and the '96 seat is all good.
The useful piece of information is that the part that is prone to breakage, the Seat-O-Lator (who comes up with these idiotic names?), is the same for '93 and '96 and likely over other years. This means that a quick fix for your broken seat does not need to involve the total replacement or an involved repair.
It's easy to remove the Seat-O-Lator by removing the springs without dismantling the seat using a tool like this:
(This particular one is a Draper 24317 Brake and Headlight Spring Hook)