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Subaru seats

I have yet to find a post on this subject but I'm desperate enough to start asking around. I'm one month into a new '12 Outback, after previously purchasing a '12 Forester and trading up to the OB. Both cars have proven (to me at least) to have the worst front seats I've ever encountered in any car I've driven in nearly 30 years of driving. The adjustments on the Forester were limited to forward and backward, but even with the power adjustment on the OB, I'm having all kinds of back problems (including likely sciatica problems) that I've never experienced before. No amount of seat adjusting, or extra cushions or pilllows, does anything to fix the problem. I'm facing a visit to the chiropractor to investigate the cause, but everything seems to point to the dang Subaru seats. I'm not at all unusual in my body type/frame/weight, so this is incredibly frustrating, especially since the OB, and even the Forester, are otherwise good vehicles and had everything I need at a good price. Any feedback is appreciated.


  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 13,086
    edited October 2012
    The power adjustable seat is, I believe, a ten-way setup, which means you can do quite a bit to adjust your ride height and angle. I find those two features to be the most useful when improving my comfort. Many folks talk about firmness and lumbar support as major issues for them, but those things have never caused me problems as long as I get the height, angle, and head rest set properly. Even the manual adjustable seat has the height adjustment feature for the driver.

    The electronic controls are highly intuitive. Just grab the finger-contoured adjuster on the forward side of the seat, and pull up (or push down) to the height you want, then tilt forward or back as you like. I find that fairly high, with a tilt toward the steering wheel, works for me. Also, the best setting for those adjustments may not be what you initially think is the most comfortable.

    Also, if you carry a wallet or anything in your back pocket while you drive.... stop doing that! Your back and hip both will thank you! The more bolstering the seat has, the more a wallet impacts me.

    Finally, and this moves away from cars altogether, if your back is bothering you on a regular basis now, try moving away from sitting for long periods at your job (or at home). Years ago (2006), I started using a ball chair ("Sit-A-Round" from a company called Jobri, but I don't think they make that style any more) for a short time and my back started feeling better after the initial adjustment/strengthening period. After a couple months of that, I went to a standing workstation (with a stool for when I want to sit) and haven't had a lick of back issues since then.

    The biggest benefit I have found, other than less fatigue and no back pain, is that my body is far more tolerant of car trips now. A six or seven hour trip to Anchorage was torture for me in the past, whereas now I can make the trip in comfort, or minimal discomfort by the end, and am fully recovered within only a short time (overnight sleep, etc).
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I move the wallet for the front pocket when I drive. Especially with well bolstered seats.
  • thanks for the reply. I'm not sure if this is just a matter of adjusting to a new seat over time, and I long ago stopped sitting on my wallet. It just seems that the coincidence of a new car and these sudden back and leg issues is odd. I even wonder if the problem is maybe not the seats but some other aspect of car. I've noticed a steady vibration, especially while idling, that I've not noticed in other cars I've had. Would the all wheel drive cause this?
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 13,086
    It is probably not coincidence; it always takes the body a while to adjust to a different car... though I prefer when it is not a painful transition!

    I don't think AWD would, by itself, result in increased vibration. The engine does vibrate more at idle than an inline because it is naturally balanced (horizontally opposed cylinders) rather than using a weighted balancing system. I haven't noticed increased vibration at speed, though, which I would think is where most drivers spend their time. That said, I also don't deal with a crawl-style commute. If you do, maybe it is impacting you.

    With no small amount of irony, I tweaked my back on Tuesday night. I am now reminded why I went through so much effort to reduce/eliminate my back pain when it was chronic! There's nothing worse. :sick:
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • thanks again for the input. I do spend a good deal of time in stop and go traffic. In fact, today I did quite a bit of it and I'm having more noticable back and leg issues. Also, I'm realizing that the angle of the seat cushion, which isn't fully adjustable (only the front thigh support actually adjusts) is planting my butt so deep into the seat that the circulation to my legs is affected - and my hips. Sad to say but I'm getting close to giving up on the subie. I hate to take another financial hit but certainly can't afford permanent physical damage. I just wish that problems like this were more widely circulated.
  • easypareasypar ColoradoPosts: 191
    I can (almost) feel your actual pain. I'm 64 and when I got my 2010 Legacy the seat really hurt my lower back. To the point that we started making more frequent stops on road trips. As the car has over 60,000 miles now we have put a lot of road miles on it. I found a small ish lumbar support in a thrift store and tried it and it help a lot. Prior to that I had kept a rolled up towel positioned at just the right height.

    A few weeks ago we got my wife a 2013 OB and the seats are quantifiably BETTER. The lumbar support on the driver's side is close enough to the one in my old "work" car-Mercury Grand Marquis and slightly better than my wife's '04 Lexus RX (traded on the OB). On a recent 2400 mile road trip I left the padded thingy home and was well pleased. Even when I was in the pax seat I noticed no problems.

    I'm so impressed with the difference in ride and handling; even over the 2012!

  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 13,086
    I just wish that problems like this were more widely circulated.

    Unfortunately, issues of comfort vary widely from person to person. When an issue is not universal, it doesn't tend to circulate widely. Hopefully you are able to arrive at an agreeable solution, without the financial hit! :(
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • I have a 2013 Outback Limited. The passenger seat is too low for my wife and we have not found a comfortable seat cushion for her. Does anyone know if there is a way to raise the seat height i.e. with shims or adjustment?
  • ateixeiraateixeira Posts: 72,587
    I wanted to do the same for our Forester but the seat track appears to be riveted on rather than screwed on.
  • xwesxxwesx Fairbanks, AlaskaPosts: 13,086
    Yeah, it's awkward. I probably wouldn't ever notice it if the driver seat did not adjust upward so nicely! From what I can see, the only point the height could be adjusted is at the floor, where the seat track bolts to the vehicle's body pan. But, the bolts are not horizontal (in the front at least); they bolt at an angle. If you shimmed it, it would bring the whole assembly up and forward. The only practical way to raise it would be to fabricate a lift that maintained the fore/aft positioning to bring it up (and not lose strength/integrity in the structure in the event of a crash).

    And, that brings me to the point where I wasn't bothered enough by it to pursue a fix. :blush:
    2014 Audi Q7 TDI, 2008 and 2013 Subaru Forester(s), 1969 Chevrolet C20 Pickup, 1969 Ford Econoline 100, 1976 Ford F250 Pickup
  • spondaxspondax Posts: 1
    I've been having a hard time with the seats in my '12 OB as well. For me I can feel the frame through the bolster to the point that after only a few miles in the car my right leg begins to ache. I've complained to Subaru to the point they replaced the seat cushion and springs (so they said) but the problem persists. From my perspective the car is so uncomfortable to drive that it is distracting. The problem is there is little foam in the seat bottom and the bolster so sink into the seat to point where my thigh bones rest on the outside rails of the seat frame. I took the seat apart to see for myself what was going on and found the front of the seat is solid to allow for adjustment. The rear half of the seat has three springs that connect the front of the seat to the back of the seat and they are supposed to support the majority of a drivers weight. The problem is it looks like they were engineered to accommodate someone about 150 lbs max. The inadequate springs allow my back end to fall to low in relation to the front of the seat. I suspect that many of the back problems people have been reporting with the OB front seats is due to the sag in the seat bottom placing the lumbar support too high on the driver and also placing too much pressure on the drivers thighs. I placed a foam seat pad on the spring when I had the seat taken apart. That has helped to firm up the bottom of the seat, but I can still feel the frame on the sides meaning there is still too much sag. Since Subaru will only replace the seat with their own inadequate parts and will not pay for an upholsterer to do the job I'm left to do the job on my own. I would not buy another sub after this one. I have not been impressed. Tragic, since I have a 06' legacy wagon with great seats.
  • lyndap1lyndap1 Posts: 1
    edited July 2013
    I have a similar problem. My husband bought a new Outback and the seat is so low I can't see over the dash. Whenever I ride in it my hips hurt for days afterward. We have tried a pillow and a Tush Cush but neither of them work to alleviate the pain.
  • Thanks for your posts. I bought a 2002 OB new 11 years ago and after one month of driving it I developed a sore chronic backache. The only thing tht helped was putting a very thick Tush Cush on the cushion but that made my head almost touch the roof and the rest of my body did not fit the seat back in this new higher position. I ended up buying a Recaro seat to replace it $$$ and that worked. The problem with the seats is in the cushion. They do not support. You sink too far into the seat and if you have any kind of disc or wear on your spine you will feel it. Now I am in the market for a new car and just test drove a new OB. I could tell that they still have those faulty seat cushions and all the automated adjustments in the world will not help this design flaw. I will not go through that night mare again. I did feel that the Forester seats are firmer and so may not give the same result. But i'm not sure I can take the risk again.
  • Thanks for the detective work and taking apart the OB seat. Everyone thought I was crazy when I replaced my seat with a Recaro because of the sudden onset of chronic back pain from it. For me it was lack of support in the bottom cushion and your spring theory may be the explanation. I weigh 120 lbs. Do you know if the Forester has the same seat design with the spring as you describe? It feels firmer to me but that could just be the foam they used. If that is the case the seat will no doubt eventually cause the same pain. I'm in the market for a new car.
  • kennyh123kennyh123 Posts: 1

    I have to weigh in here. I just bought a 2012 Subaru Legacy, the first Subaru I have ever owned. Within 2 weeks of driving it (I drive a lot), I started having bad lower back and right leg pain (where the torso meets the leg). I've never had this kind of pain before. Its progressively gotten worse, and the first 15 minutes or so when I first get in the car now are horrendously painful.. But it hurts all day now, even when I'm not driving. ... I have a constant throbbing pain in my upper thigh that radiates throughout my entire leg, and as I said, when driving it is really really bad...

  • I need to let everyone know that it has to be something with the subaru seats. I had a MDX from 2012 until this past July and the whole time I had no issues and I purchased a '14 forester in July and ever since then I have had some severe lower back and right leg pain. It's just so painful that I am searching online now for a replacement seat that will fit in my forester and allow for the heated seats etc... If anyone knows of such a seat please let me know. I'm not looking for these racing seats which is what I have mainly been seeing.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    Try searching out a auto upholstery shop and see if they can help you. They may be able to rebuild your existing seat or have some "spares" around they could fit into your Forester. Another option would be a truck/van conversion place but they may be hard to find.
  • annafanannafan Posts: 1
    After almost 20 years of owning Subaru Outbacks, it's finally occurred to me that the seats are at the root of my extreme discomfort during long road trips, or really anything over two hours. At first I chalked up the lower back and glute pain to other issues, as I'm a woman of normal height and weight and in otherwise excellent health (with a standing desk at work). When I noticed that long rides in friends' cars (five and six hours each) did NOT produce the same pain, I have to look at the Subaru seats. My husband and I love Subaru cars, but we were not aware of the seat problem dating back to our 1998 OB. The passenger side seat cannot be adjusted as much as the driver's side can, and on long trips that's usually the side I'm on. We've just returned from driving 2,500 miles in 10 days through the southwest and we had to stop roughly every two hours so both of us could stretch. By the end of the trip, sitting in our 2011 OB was extremely painful for both of us. I plead with Subaru to look at the ergonomic design of their seats and come up with something better.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,462
    edited June 2015
    I didn't much like my '97 Outback leather seats but the cloth ones in my sister's '05 Forester are just fine (and I've done several 8 hour drives in it over the years). A more upright seating position is my preference - the new Outbacks have gotten so big, their newer seats may "ride higher".

    (stop by and say hi your next trip out. B) )
  • Bought the Subaru Cross Trek and it caused me a great deal of back/tail bone pain. I have been to orthopedic who put me on pain medications, and gave cortisone shots. Never had this happen with any other car I bought. It has been a night mare!
  • I bought my first Subaru a 2013 Outback and I too have been noticing pain in my right leg also where the torso meets the leg and sometimes feels like the circulation is being cut off down in my foot. I have not complained to Subaru as of yet but may do so now that I see so many other folks having similar leg and back issues. I thought it was just "Old Age" creeping in again. My husband had a stroke last year and every time he rides in my car, which is pretty often these days, he just has a horrible time with his left leg and he just cannot ride comfortably for more than 30 to 40 minutes...trips are out of the question. I too have considered having the bottom seat shimmed or something because there is quite a slant from the front to the rear of the bottom seat. Sounds like Subaru needs to address this seat situation.
  • My first Subaru was an 09 impress. The seats were so narrow they'd put pressure on my hips. I'm 150 lbs an narrow hopped but not narrow enough. No amount of adjustments helped.  I paid $600 to have special seat covers made to bring me up above the bolsters. Worked. Traded for a 2013 forested that sounded like a wind tunnel on the highway but no seat problems. Traded forested for an outback 2013. No set problems. April purchased a 2017 outback. Trips to chiropractor weekly. Hip and leg pain terrible. Trying a kitchen chair pad that comes even with bolster  helping so far.  What does a big butt person do????
  • My mom bought a forester a few years back and took the car back three days later because she hated the seats. She went back and got the Outback Limited with the nicer leather and seems to like those much better. I believe she was quoted something like $1500 at the dealer to replace to seats in the forester.
  • bdymentbdyment Posts: 573
    I have a 2017 Forester XT with leather seats. I have owned many vehicles over the years and the Forester seats in this model are fantastic. The best or next to the best we have ever had. Firm, but very comfortable. I think with Subaru you have to upgrade to a more expensive option to get the better seats.
  • My son loves everything about his 2017 Subaru outback. Except the very short seats. The seat does not support the length of his legs, he is 5'9" after driving it for a while ( one hour) his legs began to cramp painful and his lower back hurts as well. My question is : what are the makers of Subaru'S responsibility to provide a solution to their consumers  after all getting a painful cramp while driving can't be very safe. Aren't they concerned about facing liabilities 

  • Oxalis33Oxalis33 Portland, ORPosts: 1
    This thread is the only thing i've found that is talking about this crazy seat/ergonomic seat situation. I started drving my friend's 1998 Forester 2 weeks ago. After one short 2 hour drive I had excruciating left hip and lumbar pain. I'm only 5'1 so I thought it was because i'm so short.

    I've been observing my alignment in the driver's seat. I think the problem is the location of gas pedal being too far to the right and the center console inhibiting the right heal from firmly planting straight on the floor to press on the gas pedal. This causes me to twist my right leg to the left and mis-align my pelvis. However I cannot just put my food to the left, because the brake pedal is also too close to the gas pedal and my right foot gets caught under the brake pedal! It's ridiculous!

    I've now had 2 chiropractic adjustments to be able to sit on a chair. I am using a small lumbar pillow and a towel. I'm going to buy a full Ergonomic Lumbar Pillow for Car Seat to help me with the alignment.

    I may not be able to use the car any longer if this doesn't resolve soon.

    Besides the 2017 forester, is there any word from the manufacturer with resolutions to this bad seat or alignment problem?

    Thanks everyone!
  • DykagaDykaga BostonPosts: 1
    I’ve having the same issues with a brand new 2018. I’m in my car all day for work. I wish something could be done. 
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