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Seat heater burned hole in seat, path forward?

3253 Views 5 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  Ddaddy
I'll get some pics up this evening, cant get that done from work. Cliff notes:

1. Car is a 2006 SRT-8, over 185,000 miles. Probably more than %70 of those with a passenger.

2. I occupied the passenger seat for about 5 hours, while driving with the son yesterday (his familiarization ride around DCs beltway). about hour four, while getting back in, I noticed what looked like a small cigarette burn ( smokers will know the kind) in the seatback, about 6 inches up from the bottom. I made a joke that his Mom, who drives the car 80% of the time these days, needs to be more careful about her crack pipe.

3. Car has never been smoked in. I quit back in 2003 thanks to my SRT-4 :)

4. Trip resumes, I set the back heat on. Not long after, I feel a hot spot in my back. Boy says "You smell something burning, Dad?"Unbuckle, lean forward, see small black hole in the suede, about an inch and a half lower than the first one.

So, early in the investigation, and thinking options. Gonna try and find time to swing by dealership. I'm way out of warranty, but who knows, this is a pretty off the wall failure mode. Seems they should shut down before getting hot enough to burn a hole in the suede. But that's sort of besides the point. Path forward? Find newer seats (what is the newest MY seats that fit?) just replace the heater elements? Anywhere besides Dodge to get those?
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Waaaay back in the early days of the Forum there were pictures of an '06 R/T that burned up due to a malfunctioning seat heater control. It made the rounds because the hood melted and everyone wanted to know why (aluminum hoods weren't well known then).

Anyway, back to your car. The seat heater elements inside the seats are simple pads like an electric blanket and can be replaced. They just sit flat under the cover on top of the cushion foam. Any good upholstery shop can remove the cover and replace the heater pad. They can also replace the suede insert on the cover while they have it apart.

The casing on the wires that run through the heater pad can become cracked over time and expose the wire inside leading to a hot-spot like you experienced. Since the resistance in the wire doesn't change, the system controls won't shut it down until it burns enough to start to melt the wire, then it will kick off the system.

In general, the combustion resistance of the foam and the suede is enough that it may char and smoke, but an actual fire won't occur before the system fails safe and shuts off the power. The cover and foam will be damaged but the car won't burn up as long as the control system is functioning properly.

In the rare cases that the controls fail to operate properly and kick off (like that old Forum R/T case) a fire may occur.

Also, carrying heavy hard angular objects on seats with heater elements can cause spot damage to the wire casing (like driving 1000 miles with a 27" CRT TV belted in on the passenger seat)
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Seems seat covers cost almost as much as seats. I'm also sure I dont want to pay someone hundreds of dollars to put them on. Add covers and upholstery fees, nice used seats seem like a better way to go, once I find a grand in the budget, that is. So, what seats cross? Chally seats? Grand Cherokee? Model years up to what?
Having just that seat heater element replaced along with the suede insert is your cheapest option. Talk to a good auto upholstery shop.
Yeah, but how much do I put into seats that have nine years of wear already?
Do you simply want to repair the defective parts or restore the interior? A new heater pad and suede insert is a few hundred bucks but a new interior (even used) is 3-4x that much...or more.

The question sounds like "should I just replace a bad tie rod or rebuild the entire front end?"

The entire car has 9 years of wear. Where do you want to draw the line?

If you want a new looking interior, it a much different answer than fixing this issue.

You weren't looking to restore the interior yesterday, but now you are since this happened? There seems to be a disconnect in this somewhere. :dunno:
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