Car Seat Modification for Tall People: Lowering for More Head Room 14


This adaptation poses some serious safety concerns and Tall.Life will not be held responsible for any resulting injury. Do this adaptation at your own risk. For further info, see the full disclaimer.

Ideally, a tall driver could raise their car seat to make space for their longer legs. However, the limited vertical space within a car means that a tall driver needs to lower their seat. In fact, some tall drivers might even wish for their seat to be even lower than allowed by the built in adjustments.

To test this out, I lowered the seat in my own car by removing the seat cushion (I had to take the seat out of the car to do this) and replacing it with a thin layer of EVA foam (the kind used in garden kneeling pads) and attached a vinyl covering via double sided tape. Please note that it is very difficult to get a seat cushion properly back on after removing it.

Modifying a Car Seat for Tall People

The resulting low position has some excellent pros:

  • The forward and side visibility are way better
  • The shoulder belt goes properly above my shoulder rather than beside
  • I can see the speedometer better (it’s no longer blocked by the steering wheel)
  • The path of the airbag lines up better
  • The head rest now matches up better with the back of my head
  • The seat curvatures line up better with my spine’s natural curvatures
  • It would take a much larger speed bump before I hit my head on the roof

cons:

  • Sitting in the lower position places your hips in a tighter angle and prolonged sitting in this position can be a problem
  • My modified seat ended up being shorter, so less support under my thighs
  • Less seat padding means a bumpier ride
  • Less seat padding means less insulation from the metal seat frame and thereby a frigid ass on those cold winter mornings
Lowevering a Car Seat for Tall People

As great as this lowered position was, I had to go back to the original seat cushion due to some issues with my hips. If you do try this modification, be mindful how your hips and other parts of your body feel.

What I did was just a test. If I was going to make it more permanent I would have hired an upholsterer or similar to make the modification. I’ve heard there are some places that can just remove some of the foam from the seat.

No matter how you do it, it’s a revolutionary experience to suddenly be at near normal height in a car!

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14 thoughts on “Car Seat Modification for Tall People: Lowering for More Head Room

  • Bruce Brown

    In terms of the seat comfort, that sounds like sort of a bad mod from the get go in an Element. At least in my 2005 Elements, I've got a lot of adjustment with the seat height and actually enjoy jacking mine up quite high in spite of my height. Allows me to rest my arm on the window rest much better and I like the view from "above" as there is plenty of head room.

    I don't think the steering wheel poor sight line to the speedometer issue is height specific, it's more of a poor design by Honda to begin with, but the good news is that the wheel tilt angle can easily be adjusted on the go so if you are driving in residential speeds, you can tilt the wheel up to see the 25 mph area, and then drop the wheel tilt down when you are going at faster highway speeds to see the top of the speedometer area.

    Did you have to buy a new seat to get things back together?

    Have you tried tilting the seat back more, and dropping the wheel tilt all the way down to get "lower". Sort of a like a recumbent bike riding position. That's what works for me, but it also results in poor view of the lower speeds on the speedometer. Not that I care to see the speedometer…

    • Tall Adaptations

      Excellent thoughts!

      I intended it to be an adaptation not just for the Element, but any car people want to get more headroom in. There may be some huge benefits as mentioned in the post…

      For me, it allowed me to keep the steering wheel in the top position and still see the entire speedometer without moving the steering wheel. By getting your head into the region intended by the car's designer, this should be the affect. However, results will definitely vary!

      I have the old cushion just resting on the seat frame (I couldn't get the snaps back on). So people should not take their seat off if they are worried about getting it properly back on. That being said, I really can't tell that I don't have the cushion on properly.

      When I tilt the seat back, it means I have to hunch in my neck and upper back to get my head vertical, particularly because now the steering wheel is out of reach. I find this to be hard on my upper back. I think an upright position is more conducive to spinal health, though other people feel differently I am sure…

      Thanks for all the great insight!

  • Bruce Brown

    Trust me, getting comfy in my Element has been a nearly futile lesson in terms of the seat comfort, steering wheel tilt, blind spots, vision and what not. My wife hates the car, but my son and I both own 2005 EX's – and we're both tall. Not as tall as you, but I'm 6'4" and have struggled in just about any car. The Element is surprisingly comfortable for me, but I am constantly adjusting the seatback, steering wheel tilt, seat height during longer drives to "mix things up a bit" and make do. The seats are better with seat covers on them and I prefer the steering wheel all the way down in the lowest position which lets me tilt the seat back a bit and still reach it without any issues.

    I wonder if you could lower yours by a mod to the seat frame itself rather than the cushion? I'm about to tear the seat out of my son's E as his has developed the dreaded rocking and I have a new bushing kit to install to take care of that. I'll take a look at the frame and floor to see if there is a reasonable mod possibility that would lower things an inch or two for you.

    That being said – it is a pretty comfy truck/car for we tall drinks of water.

    • Tall Adaptations

      I tried making lower profile seat brackets before, it was a nightmare… The Element would be particularly difficult the way it's all so integrated below floor level. Besides, I decided lower didn't work for me cause of the hips, so I gotta be happy with it a stock height… It's doing OK for me, though some day I hope to turn something like a Ford Transit into an ultimate tall car!

      Interesting you mention the rocking, I've been noticing something like that too! Perhaps you could provide me a link to where you got the bushing kit, I might need it sometime soon!

  • Scott

    To remove a layer of foam, I would think that a hot-wire foam cutter would work well. Use a guide (brace two straight pieces of wood to slide the cutter along on), make two parallel cuts by adding spacers for the second cut, and save the removed piece.
    Hot-wire foam cutters are available, or there are many plans for hot-wire foam cutters on YouTube.
    Practice on a different piece of (scrap) seat foam first, or get a chunk of the appropriate foam (or layered foams) and cut on that, saving the original for when you sell the car.
    As a backup, might want to find an upholsterer or check the availability of replacement pre-shaped foam first.
    Note that foam degrades with age; your current seat foam may need replacement anyway. Find foam with a suitable lifetime.

    • Tall Sam Post author

      This is a brilliant idea. I once used a hot wire cutter to create the profile for a wing to be used on a robotic sailboat. Random, I know… I can’t quite visualize how you are suggesting to get at the concave curvature of the car seat. If you ever get the time to draw something up or actually do it and take photographs, I would love to see them.

      • Scott

        I was thinking that there may be a height where parallel cuts would work.

        If not, things get more elaborate. A pair of plywood guides could be cut (A ‘V’ or flat-bottomed ‘V’ shape? Linear segments?). I’d pre-arrange alignment pins (dowels or bolts in holes) to shift down for the second cut. Cuts should probably start at the highest cut. Practice piece first.

        I’d expect someone sells CNC-cut foam as a service.

        Or – I see CNC hot-wire foam cutters for sale, allowing trying different designs for the price of the foam. One kit needing shafts added is $350. The kit version that comes with pre-made shafts is too small – or I would have to cut and assemble smaller sections of foam, and am dubious about foam glue strength. Solid outer sheets?

        Uh oh, another hobby…

  • Patrick

    I am 6’6″ and when I bought my current truck, a 2000 Mazda B4000 (Same as a Ford Ranger), I had very poor sight lines and no peripheral vision because the seat was too high and it is not electronically adjustable. I was able to lower the rear of the seat two inches by cutting off the legs and re-welding them back into position. I’m sure I voided the warranty, but this works beautifully. When I sell the car I’ll simply grind the welds off and weld the legs back in their original position (and tell the buyer this is what I’ve done). The would likely work on many trucks.

    • Tall Sam Post author

      Awesome you have welding equipment, that sure would come in handy on a lot of projects! Modifying the brackets might have insurance implications depending on where you live, but I figure not making this kinds of adjustments carries hazards of its own. Congrats on the mod and thanks for writing in.