How to Fix a Broken Power Seat in a Car (DIY Guide)

Electric front power seats interior of a car

You never realize just how convenient a power seat is until it breaks. Once broken, your seat is stuck in its position which could be super uncomfortable for you. In an effort to save your back and neck, I put together a quick guide to fix your broken power seat in your car.

A large part of fixing a broken power seat has to do with troubleshooting the source of the problem. Check the switches, fuses, wires, connections, and motors before moving forward. From there, it’s just a matter of replacing the broken part. Remove the seat from your car so you can easily work on the broken piece.

The following sections are going to outline how your seat works, some important troubleshooting steps, a temporary fix, and then a permanent fix for your seat.

What Does a Power Seat Do?

If you have a modern car, your seats probably move automatically by simply pressing a button. These are called power seats, and they’re the new alternative to seats that required you to pull a lever and wiggle your seat into a new position.

A power seat will typically let you move forward and backward at a minimum. Other ones will also adjust lumbar support, rotate the back of the seat, move the seat up and down, and angle the bottom portion of the seat.

How Power Seats Work

There is one or multiple little electric motors in the base of your seat that accomplish this motion. When you press the button to move your seat forward, a motor will drive a gear that moves your seat along a track.

Electric seat adjustment buttons in a car

There can be a number of different tracks and motors that allow your seat to achieve some of the more complicated motions outlined in the previous section.

If you move your seat all the way to the front or back of its range of motion, you can see one of the tracks that your seat rides along.

Do You Need a Mechanic to Fix a Broken Power Seat in a Car?

In reality, there’s nothing forcing you to use a mechanic in order to fix your broken power seat. At the same time, this isn’t necessarily an easy process. The troubleshooting takes a little time and the repair can be pretty annoying.

In my opinion, it’s worth trying to fix it on your own before going to a mechanic. Even the most honest mechanic can charge hundreds of dollars to fix your seat.

Troubleshooting Your Broken Power Seat

As I mentioned, troubleshooting is the first step in fixing your broken power seat. This might take a while, so make sure you have time to spend and you’re in an especially patient mood.

How Broken Is it? Check Each Switch

The first step is to figure out just how broken your seat is. If your seat has multiple switches that move it, then give them all a try.

If only one of them is broken, then that dramatically narrows down the repair you’ll have to do. It is probably a problem with the switch or motor.

If none of them work, it’s still a good clue as to what the real problem is. It could be a wiring issue, fuse, or power problem.

Toggling the electric power seat adjustment button

Check the Rails

It’s also a good idea to look at the rails themselves. It’s not rare for something to get lodged in the rails and prevent your seat from moving.

Before going through an annoying replacement process for parts that are fine, clear out your rails and try again.

Look at the Fuse

As you might know, fuses can wear down over time before eventually dying. They can also blow if there was a surge of power that could harm the electronic component on the other end.

In the case of your power seat, you have at least one fuse that’s dedicated to your seat’s circuit.

If the fuse is blown, just replace it and try again.

Check the Incoming Wiring

Power seats are useless without power. The power is fed to your seats through a number of different wires.

The first step of troubleshooting is to go through and check the incoming wires. Look for damaged, frayed, or cut wires. If you have a mouse problem in your car, this could be the cause of your problem.

Car electrical plug connectors inspection for any cut or frayed wiring

Check the Wire Connections

The other side is to make sure each wire is properly connected to its final plug. Depending on how complicated your seat is, you could have a lot of different wires to track down.

Personally, I’d suggest unplugging and re-plugging every wire connection you can reach. Be sure to disconnect the battery first so you don’t shock yourself.

Another good practice is to check the wires at each connection. There’s a possibility that a wire got bent or damaged at the connection point which is why your seat isn’t moving.

How to Manually Move Your Seat Before Fixing it

Even when your power seat is broken, you’re not stuck. You can still move it and avoid driving in an awkward position.

This is a fix that won’t officially fix your seat, but it will allow you to comfortably drive your car until you have the time to fix it. Keep in mind, this isn’t a super quick fix and entails using some tools.

There are two general methods to manually move your seat. One entails ripping the seat fabric apart while the other requires you to fully remove the seat from your car.

In both cases, you’re looking to get access to the mechanical parts that drive your seat’s motion. This will let you move the seat without power.

Before starting, make sure you’re parked in a safe location with plenty of space to work on your vehicle. Also, disconnect your car battery so there are no accidents during the fix.

Option 1: Cutting Open Your Seat

The first step is to open your seat that’s having problems. This can be done in a few different ways. The quickest and most damaging option is to use a knife to cut your seat from the rear and remove all the trim.

For reference, the trim is the fabric part of your seat that covers the metal framework and padding.

Certain seats have an option to remove the trim. You might be able to remove a few bolts and pry the trim away from the seat.

However you do it, the goal is to have a seat without any cushioning or cover by the end of this step. You should be able to see inside of the “seat skeleton.”

Car seat frame where the seat bolts down to
Car seat frame where the seat bolts down to

With the back removed, you’ll also need to cut through some mesh at the bottom of your seat.

After the mesh is removed, you’ll be able to manipulate the long shaft that determines the position of your seat.

Use a pair of pliers or Channellock’s to mechanically operate the gears and drive your seat forward or backward.

It might take a lot of turns to get a final seat position that you like.

When it’s in the right spot, put the seat trim back on firmly and consider adding an aftermarket seat cover to help with appearances.

Option 2: Removing Your Seat

Some people opt for removing the entire seat and working on it. If you have an open space that you can move around, this is the perfect option.

You will probably need another set of hands to help you remove the seat.

Start by removing all the bolts that tie the seat’s rails to the floor of your car. There should be at least 4 bolts that you need to remove.

Car electric power seats removed from the vehicle

With these removed, you can take the seat out of the car completely. Flip the seat on its side and look for the gear that drives the seat’s motion forward and backward.

Use pliers or Channellock’s to drive this gear and position the seat. Again, it might take many rotations to get the perfect position of the seat.

How to Fix a Broken Power Seat in a Car: Step-By-Step Guide

This is the section that covers the official way to permanently fix your broken power seat. Since there are a ton of reasons why the seat might be broken, you’ll have to do some troubleshooting first.

My suggestion is to split the repair into two sessions and two different days. On the first day, focus on steps 1 and 2. On the second day, focus on the remaining steps.

Step #1: Troubleshoot

The actual troubleshooting step will probably be the part that takes the longest for this repair. As I mentioned, there are a lot of things to test and look at before knowing what the culprit is.

You can try to replace parts without spending the time troubleshooting, but you’ll wind up wasting a lot more time and money than what’s necessary.

Like any other repair you do on your car, knowing the cause of the issue is the first step in fixing the issue.

Refer to my previous section about troubleshooting to know what to look for.

Step #2: Disassembly

Another big problem with fixing your broken power seat is that everything is pretty much hidden from you. The motors, wires, and gears are nearly impossible to get to from the front or rear of the seat.

Close-up of interior of a car with car seats removed

Since the seat won’t move in the tracks, you won’t be able to maneuver it around to help out, either.

The best thing to do is to disassemble your seat. Earlier I walked you through how to do this. The preferred method is to fully remove the seat from your car. You’ll have to watch the wiring and ensure the main power is disconnected so you don’t tear it out when moving the seat away.

Step #3: Replacement

Almost every reason why your power seat isn’t working can be traced back to a part that isn’t working properly.

In most cases, a replacement is the best (and sometimes only) solution. Replacing the part should be pretty straightforward once you have the seat disassembled from your car.

Take note of the part number and take pictures of how it’s assembled. Replacing the part will vary a lot depending on what you’re replacing.

Front car seats in black leather with power electric buttons

If it’s just a fuse, the replacing process takes a few minutes. Take out the old one and throw in the new one.

If you’re changing out a motor, it might take up to an hour. Make sure you really check the screws and connections before calling it a day and reinstalling the seat.

Keep some tools handy like a set of socket wrenches, some screwdrivers, and pliers.

It’s also a good idea to stick with OEM replacements for your defective parts. Seat components can vary a lot, and it would be easy to pick the wrong aftermarket part. Doing this will just waste even more time.

Step #4: Test the New Part

With the replacement part installed and secured, put your seat back where it belongs. Reconnect your battery and fire up your car.

Cross your fingers and hit the power button on your seat. If it works, then go through the full range of motion that your power seat has.

If it doesn’t work, then take a deep breath. It’s common for car repairs not to work on the first try.

Go through the steps again and pay special attention to the troubleshooting stages. Re-check all the wiring connections and take a close look around the part that you just installed.

It could be something as simple as forgetting to finish a connection from your newly installed motor.

Don’t Be Afraid to Call the Mechanic

If you went through the steps I outlined and you still can’t get your seat to work, don’t worry. There’s nothing wrong with going to a mechanic after you tried to fix the problem on your own.

At least now you know more about what parts aren’t working. Tell your mechanic this and it could save them a lot of troubleshooting time. This ultimately means that you’re saving some money when it comes time for the bill from the mechanic.

Conclusion

At this point, you should have a functioning power seat or know exactly what to do to get started. I outlined some troubleshooting and repair steps that should help you a lot. Leave a comment below if it helped. Also, be sure to check out my list of tools and accessories that you should have. If you liked this article, check out the rest of my site for more.

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Ernest Martynyuk

An automotive enthusiast who's been tinkering with vehicles since I was 15-years old. Repairing automotive electronics has been my main job for over a decade now and have a passion for everything technical regarding cars.

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