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New Head Restraints - Safety, Torture, or Both?

Karen_SKaren_S Posts: 5,092
edited November 2014 in General
Head restraints are designed today for safety, but people can't stand them and either ditch the car or lean their seat back to compensate, which defeats the safety purpose. How are the head restraints on your vehicle? Comfy or a pain in the neck?


  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,439
    Seems when Honda started putting them in the Civic people were pulling them out or turning them around. They made driving very uncomfortable. All to satisfy some safety nut in the Government.
  • You definitely know that its they're there but it's not a big hindrance for my wife and I. I'm 6' tall and the wife is 5' 5". I the best advice that I can give is that the seat adjustment makes a big difference on the interaction with the head rest.
  • jlcjlc Posts: 30
    I think they are fine, However I did remove the rear seat ones, if I have rear seat passengers it's easy to put them in..

  • euphoniumeuphonium Great Northwest, West of the Cascades.Posts: 3,425
    How are they to be removed? One salesman tried to accomodate wife's comfort zone by reversing them and could not pull them out.
  • I would blame the IIHS and the insurance industry in general not the gov't. They do work very well though and in the Volvos most people don't have a problem with them. The most common problem I see is women with big pony tales and the head rest hits their hair in just wrong way scrunching it into the back of their head.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    If nothing else, you have to love the graffiti on the headrest. There's a biz opportunity there somewhere.

    "Those annoying headrests have aroused the ire of automotive journalists and the driving public alike. Ford, in particular, is finding a lot of haters."

    Why Are My Car's Headrests Driving Me Crazy?! (Edmunds Daily)

  • greenponygreenpony Chicago, ILPosts: 531
    I own three recent Fords with three distinctly different headrests. The first is a 2002 Mustang with laughable headrests; I can lay my head back and look at the headliner. My 2007 Focus is at the opposite extreme; I can barely keep my head level, and the top of the headrest raps the back of my head with every bump; very annoying! And finally my 2005 F-150 has perfect headrests; cushioned and practically upright, there's enough room to actually rest your head comfortably (hence "head rest") but still enough rigidity to protect in a whiplash situation. Why can't ALL headrests be like this?
  • That's good to know, Greenpony!
  • Karen_SKaren_S Posts: 5,092
    Edmunds editor writing about head restraints (a.k.a. head rest) would like to email or speak with someone asap who drives a fairly late-model vehicle and who has suffered whiplash. Please send email to [email protected] if you fit that description and would like to talk.
  • Lil' safety and a lot of torture :mad:
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    There's no question in my mind that the head restraints in newer model cars permit less freedom of head movement than older models. I assume that this change enhances safety. However, depending on ones anatomy, it can also increase discomfort.

    I don't think any blanket statements can be made regarding the comfort of head restraints, or the comfort of one restraint versus another, because many variables come into play. In addition to peoples' anatomies; posture; individuals' tolerances, in terms of movement; the shape and contour of the seat; the amount of adjustment permitted; and the amount of time one spends in the car, all play a role in terms of comfort. What may be comfortable or tolerable for one individual may not apply to another.

    I wouldn't consider buying a car with uncomfortable head restraints, regardless of how safe it may be, and some of the restraints on newer cars are uncomfortable for me. I also think there's a correlation between safety and comfort. How safe are you, especially on a long drive, if you're uncomfortable?
  • acdiiacdii Posts: 753
    The head rests in the Veracruz are adjustable, you can move them forward or backwards, but in the event of a crash, they move forward to prevent whiplash injuries. Why other car companies haven't done this is unknown. They only have them for the front seats due to the folding of the 2nd and 3rd rows.
  • nine51nine51 Posts: 78
    We recently bought a 2010 Subaru Outback Sport (Imprezza) . I absolutely hate the head restraints. I am 6 ft tall and stand and sit fairly straight up. When I drive, I like to have the seats reclined back so I am quite a ways back from the wheel and my arms are just slightly bent. In the OBS I have to recline the seat even farther back than normal or else the head restraint pushes my head to look down at the steering wheel. When I turn my head to check my blind spots, I get whacked in the face by the head restraint. There is little adjustment in the restraint, it only goes up and down. If I pull it out and reverse it in it's track, then it is so far back it would not give any protection in a rear-end crash. Until now, I hadn't realized there was a change in head restraint design and thought maybe it was only Subaru that has changed them. Reading this thread and checking out a few newer cars, it looks like most of them have gone to this madness. Is this another way the Government is trying to get us out of our cars? :)
  • euphoniumeuphonium Great Northwest, West of the Cascades.Posts: 3,425
    A few months ago I was offered a helluva deal on a 06 Mustang Convert 4.6L, AT with only 4,000 miles. Red with Tan interior. The wife flunked the headrest test and they couldn't be reversed. Who are these designed for?
  • No problems with my '06 Volvo S60. I'm 5'11" and SWMBO is 5'6" but neither of us experience any problems. We have a 6'4" friend who thinks the front seat is the best he's ever sat in. The head restraints are there should you need 'em, (God forbid), but don't intrude when you don't.............same comments for the rears. IIRC, the front restraints move forward in the event of a collision, to eliminate whiplash. No experience of that, (thankfully), and it's too cold to go outside to read the handbook.

    I've driven the new S60 and that's the same, (but with much better suspension).

    But.............they're head restraints, not head rests. In the same way that airbags are safety restraints not sleepy-time pillows.
  • nine51nine51 Posts: 78
    "But.............they're head restraints, not head rests. In the same way that airbags are safety restraints not sleepy-time pillows. "

    I was very specific to use the terms "head restraint" No, I do not think they are pillows to rest ones head on while driving. I don't like head "restraints" that intrude on my mobility in the drivers seat. Until this recent Subaru OBS, and a few rentals I have driven in the past couple of years (including one 2009 Subaru Outback) I have never had this much of a problem being comfortable in the drivers seat with head restraints that force my head too far forward. I would prefer to have at least an inch of space between the back of my head and the restraint, but with the new designs, I'm stuck with having my head right up against them most of the time,and I am one who reclines the seats pretty far back. I can see that some shorter people who don't or can't recline their seats back might really have a problem with these new head restraints.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    I agree with you.
  • acdiiacdii Posts: 753
    They need to copy Hyundai's design, at least you can adjust the forward position to make them more comfortable, and in a crash they move forward for better protection. Since I learned how to use my mirrors from driving a semi, visibility around the headrestraint is a non issue, but I also find some are uncomfortable.
  • morin2morin2 Posts: 399
    My own head restraint is fine, but I have seen the problem in other models and it is real. Has anyone tried to modify the head restraint internally on a car they love otherwise? Its just foam inside and would appear to be reasonably easy to carve a new shape and then recover at an automotive upholsterer.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    I didn't save the link, but someone around here took their headrests off and ran over them. Bent them just right. :)
  • morin2morin2 Posts: 399
    Ran over them on purpose or in hindsight "I meant to do that"? :)
  • fintailfintail Posts: 48,397
    Headrests are for wimps :shades:

  • morin2morin2 Posts: 399
    My 09 subaru outback head restraints saved me tonight. I was stopped at a long red light and got slammed from behind. The kid driving an Impala said he was "going at least 60" when he hit me. I always keep a good distance between me and the car ahead of me at red lights, like 15', but this impact was so severe, it drove me into the jeep ahead of me and peeled back my hood to the windshield. It was so sudden I don't remember hitting the head restraint but I must have. The car is a no-doubt, easy-call total, but I was able to open my door and get out by myself. The car crumpled and sacrificed itself as designed to save me. It was too dark for pictures.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    Oh jeeze, that's terrible. Bet you're still going to be sore even with the restraints. Hope you got checked out by a doc too. Dang, hate to hear that. :sick:
  • morin2morin2 Posts: 399
    edited November 2010
    Thanks Steve,
    Yeah, I'm a bit sore and stiff with moving the head & neck, but will get checked out tomorrow just to be on the safe side. I hate to lose my beloved '09 subaru because I don't like the new ones, but I also felt sorry for the 22 year old kid who admitted it was entirely his fault. His dad came & wasn't happy with the kid, but accidents happen and nobody tries to do this, so I spoke to the dad and asked him to be gentle with his son because he already knows he made a mistake. I've got a son a few months older than this kid and I hope if he does something like this, somebody won't go off on him.

    I don't think the insurance company will want to rebuild this one. About the only things undamaged are the stereo and the roof racks.

    So now the question is to either replace it with something new & safe or some old depreciated junker that I won't love so much as my sweet subaru. I see accidents every day on my 110 mile commute and fatalities about once every 2-3 weeks, so its not a matter of "if" there's another wreck so much as "when" and "how bad". So far, my plan to win the lottery and quit the commute of carnage hasn't worked out.
  • acdiiacdii Posts: 753
    Glad to hear you are OK. Cars have made major leaps forward in safety, if that car was 10 years older, chances are you would have had to be cut out of the car, and would be laid up in the hospital now. I know a lot of people complain about the head restraints, but as you experienced last night, a little discomfort can go a long way after seeing just what they can do for you. If the car was crushed front and rear, and glass was broken, then its a good chance it will be totaled, but in some cases cars can be rebuilt after a crash like that, all depends on what got bent.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    With that commute, I'd want all the airbags I could get.
  • morin2morin2 Posts: 399
    It could have been much worse. The kid admitted to 60mph+ but I see much higher speeds there, and I was completely stopped. About a mile from my wreck site is the only place where I have ever seen a severed head in the road from an accident about two years ago. Talk about your nightmare commute. So, yes, I am very grateful for modern car - subaru design.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 48,397
    Wow, what a nightmare, glad nobody was apparently very hurt. The fact that you were posting here so soon after is a testament to modern cars. An old car might have exploded or something from such an impact.

    Thinking of head restraints, the new style 5er I drove in Germany had the new style large somewhat forward oriented units - so just normally sitting, my head would rest on the headrest. It maybe made me a little too relaxed - it seemed I got drowsy on long drives as I was so supported by the seat - maybe not the best thing for 100+ mph driving.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    edited November 2010
    Whatever happened to those "active" headrests that went forward when you got hit? Like an airbag, they stay out of the way until you need them.

    btw, any idea if the kid was texting, talking on a cell, spacing out to some tunes or just oblivious?
  • morin2morin2 Posts: 399
    I just got back from my doc and he asked the same thing. I don't do any of those things while driving so it never even occurred to me. And I kept my distance when the police interviewed the kid. Actually, fintails' mention of an explosion is more like the experience as the car quickly compressed ahead and behind me in a cloud of smoke and steam as fluids spilled on the exhaust. It was very surreal and seemed to happen in slow motion. I got out quickly because the smoke from oil on the exhaust was so thick I thought it might be on fire and found the ground covered in oil, coolant and transmission fluid, but not gasoline.

    It was about 1/4 mile of backed up cars behind a red light and it was very dark with low clouds. The kid didn't know how he did it, but I was thinking he might have focused on the traffic light 1/4 mile ahead rather than the line of cars backed up before the light. Its possible that when the light turned green, he kept at speed. He never touched his brakes. At least he was honest and admitted that it was all his fault, so his insurance should easily determine liability.
  • stickguystickguy Posts: 34,072
    Back in 2005, we were shopping for a new family (aka wife mobile) vehicle. I wanted a Volvo XC90 (had a killer lease deal worked out), but ended up with an Odyssey. Size was a factor, but the head rests came into play too. I loved them, it was like a catchers mitt cradling my head (and I like to lean my head back when I can), but they hit my wife (8" shorter than me) wrong, and pushed her head forward I think.

    Might not have been a big deal once she got used to it, but we never did have to find out.

    One thing that does get annoying is the size. I was driving someone elses car recently (must have been a new MDX) and it was impossible to check anything over your shoulder (either one).

    2019 Acura TLX A-spec 4 cyl. (mine), and 2013 Acura RDX AWD (wife's)

  • iluvmysephia1iluvmysephia1 Alamogordo, NMPosts: 7,615
    edited November 2010
    I'm so glad nobody was hurt worse. Sounds like your Subaru Outback saved your bacon, man. Great testimony to the Subaru build product!

    With that commute, I'd want all the airbags I could get.

    Yeah, Kia puts a driver's knee airbag in their Sportage model and yet another reason why I may one day trade for a new Ford Fiesta is because Ford also installs driver's knee airbags in their new little subcompact. I don't know, haven't test-driven a Fiesta yet, but the size of our '08 Mitsubishi Lancer GTS might just be about as small as I would want to go (compact sze), especially after hearing about wrecks like morin's here.

    2011 Kia Soul Sport 5-speed

  • This is why all cars' headrests are terribly uncomforatble:

    Headrests are now designed to accomodate a male who is 50th percentile in height. Short people like myself suffer. Headrests no longer adjust back and forward, they just crank your neck down. Every car I have test driven and rented since 2007 has this problem.

    Thanks, but I'll keep my 06 Subaru until there is a better option.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    I've experienced the same problem with some newer models. Reclining the seat back, or a combination of tilting the seat back and reclining the seat back can mitigate the headrest problem. I suggest you try it.
  • . . . it didn't work. Otherwise I wouldn't mind the issue. I travel frequently for work and leisure and usually rent a car. GM's, Ford's, Hyundai's, even a Volvo S40 had the issue to some extent. What a pain in the neck! Another member mentioned reshaping the headrests and having them reupholstered -- that is what I'll have to do.
  • shorty43shorty43 Posts: 1
    I am 5'3" and my husband is 6'3". He has a much easier time with the new head restraints than I do, but still finds them uncomfortable unless the seat is reclined. At best, a telescoping steering wheel helps with the reclining seat, but you still feel like you are driving from the back seat. I, on the other hand, have found very few newer vehicles that accommodate my short stature. Even highly adjustable seats are not really able to get me in the prime driving position. I typically sit up straight and slightly rest my head against the head rest/restraint due to past neck surgery and fusions in 3 vertebrae, and since I curently drive a 2002 VW Jetta, I am able to do so.
    I have been looking for over a year at newer model vehicles with very little luck finding one that is comfortable enough to commute in without laying me almost flat on my back to avoid the head restraint nightmare. Comfort is imperative because I commute. I have had several salesmen try to switch out and turn head rests around but then you end up with nothing to protect your head at all. It seems to me that if they insist on building a head restraint that forces your head forward and down that they could at least build up the top of the seat so that you aren't sunk in at the shoulders. Sounds like we are either forced to be uncomfortable or pay extra on top of the vehicle cost to modify the interior. I realize that almost everything is manufactured for a set height range, but a few little added adjustments to the head restraints like I have seen on one Focus and Kia Sorento would solve this issue in it's entirety.
  • The 2012 Impreza has a tilting headrest, too.
  • I know this was asked once before by euphonium, but I never saw an answer. Does anyone know how to remove Subaru headrests that were installed backwards?
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    edited November 2014
    What make and year Subaru?

    Just pulled them out on mine, but it was an old '97 Outback and that was long before all the "improvements". There was a little button but you didn't need to press it when you put the restraint in backwards, probably because there was no detent on the back side of the head rest rod.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Soemtimes you have to press the sides of the seat where the "button" is internal. Sometimes you just yank real hard. One way or the other, they all come out.
    bill493 said:

    I know this was asked once before by euphonium, but I never saw an answer. Does anyone know how to remove Subaru headrests that were installed backwards?

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