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Due to limits of 25 images per post, I'm going to do a multiple stage posting here....

Hi everyone,
We bought our RAV4 in May 2012 for a trip from California to Colorado and back, and have since used it as a road trip vehicle for camping, etc. We also just took it up to Seattle and back for Thanksgiving. It’s been fantastic, with good comfort, reliability. V6 power when we need it (276HP – wahoo!) and pretty good fuel economy (average about 25 MPG). We LOVE this thing – but, with all our travels, and even in California, cold mornings and evenings make us miss heated seats in our other cars.
I first heard of this modification through the RAV4World newsletter, linking to this thread. After reading it and some other threads on the mod, I decided to take the plunge and bought the same set of heated seats (2), switches and relays – on eBay HERE. It was $90 shipped with no sales tax. I spent about $10 in wire taps from Radio Shack, so the whole job was under $100, plus a weekend of my time.
Tools/Parts needed:
- (1) RAV4
- (1) set of heated seats/switches/wiring harness (see link above)
- 10mm wrench – to adjust the parking brake – optional, but easy to do while you’re in there
- 13 mm wrench (battery terminal – disconnect the negative cable before starting)
- 12 mm socket – to remove bolt for ground connection
- (1) Smaller and (1) Larger phillips screwdriver (smaller for seat trim removal, larger for cupholder removal
- 14mm socket/ratchet – for seat anchor removal
- Needle nose pliers or hog ring pliers (to remove hog rings on upholstery)
- LOTS of zip ties (to replace hog rings and do some wire management)
- Scissors (to cut zip ties and cut the heating elements to size
- Sharpie pen (for marking out areas to cut on heating elements)
- Wire strippers and wire connectors (I got the T tap ones from Radio Shack, which allow you to tap into the wire using a spade connector)
- 1 Large ring terminal to ground the wiring harness to an existing bolt under the shifter
- Utility knife
Time: This took me all weekend. The first seat took me 6 hours, the second 1.5 hours – you get better at it the second time around. I spent a considerable amount of time (with help from my neighbor) discerning exactly WHICH wires to tap for the 4 I needed for each seat’s harness.

Step 1:
Disconnect negative batter terminal using 13mm socket. Reason for this is that there are airbag sensors on the seats, and if you disconnect them while the battery/ECU is on, you’ll throw a code, which will require the dealer to reset it for you (and no one wants to explain they were installing aftermarket heated seats while still in warranty, let alone pay for a reset).
Step 2:
Remove the seats (I started with passenger side so the car would still be drivable if I tot
ally screwed up). Remove the plastic trim covering the 14mm bolts on the backside of the seat – they just come off with a firm pull – they slide toward the rear. Slide the seat forward or backward to gain access to the other bolts – there are 4 – 2 front and 2 rear. Tilt the seat back or forward once bolts are removed, to expose the wiring (airbag sensor, etc) – carefully undo the electrical connections and remove the seat. Taking headrests off first is recommended.







Step 3:
OK, once the seats are removed, you can dig into the guts of the center console to see where you’ll be tapping into and installing the switches.
First, remove the kick panel trim by getting your hand under the rear part and tugging outward (it’s anchored in the front, toward the firewall, as you can see in the photos – it will just pop free.



Then, pull the shifter trim out – pull firmly/gently up and toward the back of the vehicle.


Once you’ve taken those trim pieces off on BOTH SIDES of the shifter console, you can remove the shifter trim. Make sure to unscrew the shifter knob first – it just unscrews counter clockwise. Pull up from both sides to snap loose the shifter trim – careful – it has wires underneath you don’t want to pull too hard.



Unplug the wire.


Unscrew the 2 phillips screws holding the cupholders in place, and lift it out.



The panel with the traction control button now can lift out – you can knock out the 2 dummy pieces where your heated seat controls now will go.




Behind this panel you can see the wiring for the traction control, cigarette lighter, and a bundle that I think was for the OEM heated seats – we’ll use these wires later J

 

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Discussion Starter #2
Step 4:
Time to dismantle the seats! I placed these on a rag towel in my office since there is some grease on the seat runners. I started with the lower cushion. There is an elastic band that connects the upper seat back trim to the bottom of the seat – simply undo that first.

Then, that same trim is connected via 4 balck plastic snaps that connect to the underside of the seat frame- these unsnap pretty easily.


Now, it’s time to take the side trim off. There are recliner adjustment levels that simply slide onto a metal part and are held there by a snap fitting in plastic – I pulled back on these to expose the inside where the plastic tab was “snapped” onto the metal piece, and then used a flathead screwdriver to pry the plastic tab back while pulling the plastic piece away –it was pretty easy. Careful – the metal part will snap back down as soon as you pull the plastic part off.



For the rest of the trim on that side, there are a couple phillips screws you have to undo. Once out, you also have to disconnect the seatbelt indicator wire so it’s out of the way – it snaps into the plastic trim. Be careful here – I actually snapped a piece of plastic that I had to later superglue – be firm, but slow when you do this and you’ll understand how it all fits together.






Once that’s off, you can remove the white plastic clips that hold the corners of the upholstery to the frame:



On the backside of the cushion, you’ll see that there are hogrings holding the metal frame wire into the foam. I don’t own a hogring plier set so I used my smaller needle nosed pliers to get in there, spread the pliers, and undo the hogrings and remove them. You’ll be doing a lot of this…





On the sides of the seat, you’ll see more white plastic trim pieces that hook the upholstery onto the frame – simply unclip them.


 

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Under the front of the lower cushion’s frame, you’ll see 2 black tabs – fry them back. The “lip” they are holding in place is simply a tough piece of plastic that is glued to the upholstery and it wraps around a few inches on each side. This is tough, but I used a combination of prying with my fingers to “break loose” the plastic piece and pull it off the frame. It’s delicate, but you’ll understand once you’re doing it. The second seat was easier than the first, once you’ve done this.






Once that’s free, you can actually lift the entire cushion out of the frame.



Here you can see how each upholstery piece is attached to the foam via hogrings. Basically, there are wires (like coat hangers) running through the “Seams” of the fabric on the underside, which are hooked by hogrings to corresponding wires that are embedded into the foam. The close proximity of these wires creates the “seams” we see in car seats. I then undid all the hogrings – it’s a time suck but you get good at it fast.





Once I had the entire upholstery part off the seat foam, it was time to lay down the heated seat element. Now, you can cut these, but only between certain areas, so you don’t break the electrical circuit throughout the pad (instructions in kit tell you where you can and can’t cut. I cut these to make a gap where the center “Crease” was, because you don’t want the metal wire in the seat making contact with the bare heating element. So I stenciled out where I wanted to cut out, in the same shape as the OEM seat indentation.





I then replaced ALL the hogrings with zip ties (small) in the same places.



OK, see that lump in the heating element in the lower right? That’s the thermostat that tells the system how hot the seat is. You need to carve out a small area of foam where it will line up with the cushion, using a utility knife.


 

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The next steps are tricky…. You need to use the provided felt tape to cover up the edges where you cut (to avoid metal on metal contact). Then you pull of the sticky tape on either side of the element and lay it against the foam. THEN, you begin the very careful process of replacing the upholstery, using the zip ties you have in the foam. You need to thing this through, making sure you tighten the right ones first, leave room to cut the long part of the tie, and keep the heating pad smooth. I had to cut a couple zip ties and start over, but once you get the hang of it, it’s not that bad.



Tackling the upper portion of the seat was a little easier I thought. First, you have to take off the plastic shell on the back. There are a couples of screws that hold it on at the bottom with 2 white plastic tabs – remove these, then firmly/gently pry the hard shell up and away from the seat – you’ll see there are 2 plastic hooks on the shell that hold it to the frame.







Once the plastic shell is off, you’ll see that the sides of the upholstery are held to the frame with longer black plastic snap pieces – simply undo them.




The white plastic piece on the lower trim is held to the frame with hogrings - remove them. There are also some hook/Velcro pieces on each corner that are pretty self-explanatory – undo those too.



WARNING: There are side airbags in each of the seats’ upper cushions – do not F*** with these! Each is held in place with a “Tamper resistant” white cloth piece – leave it as is. I simply removed all the hogrings carefully, and peeled the upholstery back so that it was off, yet did not tamper with the area around each airbag – you can do this and allow enough room to get the heating elements in without issue.





I then replaced all the hogrings in the foam with zip ties.


Once I laid out the template and cut it, it was the same process as the lower cushion to line it up, cut a hole in the foam for the thermostat, lay it down, and then carefully tighten the zip ties. Don’t be hesitant to tighten those ties down (using needle nose pliers) – you want a snug fit.



 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Step 5: Wiring it up!

The wiring harness was very adequate – I ended up with lots of extra slack that I had to tuck away and tie up – no problem. There was a harness for each seat/pair of pads. Basically you had 3 ends: a long wire with plugs for two elements (top and lower seat), a relay and wire to the OEM-looking switch, and then the power source wiring with 4 different wires you needed to tap. When I set this up, I simply stripped and spliced each pair of identical wires to the same T Splice unit.

There were 4 hookups you needed:
1) Ground
2) Night Light (tap to wire that gets power only when parking lights/headlights were on)
3) ACC (Tap to wire that gets power only when key is in ACC position)
4) ON (tap to wire that gets power only when car is ON)












These plug into the OEM switch panel like they belong – really impressed by the fit/finish for this price.






I had some help during the electrical install. She was worthless identifying the colored wires, but I love her anyway.



Running the wiring: I wanted as OEM a look as possible, so I ran the wiring for each seat from the center console, under the carpeting along the transmission tunnel, and out the same carpet opening as the OEM wiring – it was easy to pull the plastic trim/carpeting back just a little and work the wiring down there.





Where I tapped wires (this is what I used – recommend you use a multimeter to verify before you decide what/where to tap – it’s on you!):
1) Ground (There is a 12mm bolt just to the left of the shifter that threads into the body and is a great ground point. I used a larger ring terminal that I had lying around, to secure the 2 ground wires in the kit underneath this. It was tricky due to the cramped space, but worth it.)
2) Night Light (Recall when we removed the panel where the new switches will go, that there was an unused plug tucked away from the same wiring harness for the traction control button…we’ll tap into this as illustrated below. )
3) ACC (Remember the 12 volt power source INSIDE the center console? It comes on with ACC and is used less, so I thought tapping this instead of the one next to the shifter would make sense so as not to overload the power draw. You have to remove the power mirror assembly – just stick your fingers into the coin well next to the mirror switch and pry – it will pop out. Unplug the wiring for the mirror switch and the 12 volt plug. The WHITE wire on that is hot with ACC - I used my multimeter to verify and you should too just in case)
4) ON (Using the same wiring harness (but different wire!) as the “night light”, I tapped into this this for power. Notice in the photo the wire my finger is holding)



[IMG[http://i99.photobucket.com/albums/l319/philbert1978/IMAG1917_zpsd73f53cd.jpg[/IMG]

 

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Discussion Starter #6
Then it was simply a case of tidying up the wiring, and reinstalling the seats (and wiring underneath!) and trim, and connecting the negative battery terminal of course. Recommend testing the system before doing all that is recommended, just in case you missed a connection.

Feedback: This is the best $100 mod I’ve done on any car and despite the hours of time and patience, I think it’s attainable for most anyone with mild skill (I’m pretty good mechanically but not electrically, so that took me longer to figure out the wiring). As mentioned earlier, the first seat took 6 hours and the second one quarter that time, after I’d learned it.
I don’t notice the pads under the upholstery, and neither does my wife.
The heaters are quick to warm and are HOT. There are 4 settings, each a “click” on the turn wheel you see in the photos. There are 5 positions: OFF, 1, 2, 3, 4 (Caliente!). Unlike OEM heated seat switches, these don’t “reset” once the car is off and turned on again – they remain where you left them since they are mechanical. Small tradeoff in my opinion. I’d buy these again and recommend them to anyone who wants to make their non-limited RAV4 a little more winter weather friendly.

BONUS MOD:
Our parking brake was “soft”, talking about 12-14 clicks to engage fully – I wanted it tighter and came across this handy write up (just needed a 10mm wrench and some patience).


Hope this helps – learned a lot here and wanted to give back to help others interested in this.

-Phil
 

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Our parking brake was “soft”, talking about 12-14 clicks to engage fully – I wanted it tighter and came across this handy write up (just needed a 10mm wrench and some patience).
Amazing write-up!

Re: Adjusting the parking brake -- as I recall from reading similar threads, adjusting the parking brake at the handle is not the best practice.

I believe the best way to do that is at the rear wheels.

I think this is from later within the same thread, starting at post 5 (pictures in post 11, more info in post 12 and beyond).

.
 

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Amazing write-up!

Re: Adjusting the parking brake -- as I recall from reading similar threads, adjusting the parking brake at the handle is not the best practice.

I believe the best way to do that is at the rear wheels.

I think this is from later within the same thread, starting at post 5 (pictures in post 11, more info in post 12 and beyond).

.

Thanks!

I read that thread just now - interesting. The only reason I adjusted it for personal comfort rather than for the brake not working. The car has 15K miles on it and no issues - I just didn't like the "soft" feel and long travel of the brake lever. I imagine, even if I tighten it at the handle cable, when the brake is disengaged, I won't be putting undue stress on the rear wheels right?

I don't smell anything burning when driving around :)
 

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Very clean install. Would these work the same if you just syick them to the seat cloth, then throw some seat cover over the seat? Look like cutting some piece of the heater pad out dies not affect its functionality. Something I need to look into.

Great job on the guides.
 

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Wow, Awesome write up. I just returned the heater kit I bought on amazon, and bought the one you did, mostly because of this write up.
The one I bought, had a massive 2 roller 5 position switch that wasn't going to fit well anywhere. I like the switches this kit has, and how they fit in the knockouts.
 

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How much did the seats cost and where did buy them?
 

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Hey guys! Just wanted to say I ordered this set of seat heaters from AliExpress. This looks to be a new model, and the switch is perfect for my RAV4! It would be placed at the OEM location of the heated seats switch, right in between the traction control and heated wipers buttons. The button works for both left and right seats, with 5 settings. The button should fit the cutout in the panel perfectly (33 x 22.4mm) and it looks better than OEM! Now I know this comes from China, so I'm not getting my hopes up in terms of quality and I hope I actually recieve the product. I'm going to attempt to install this myself ( God help me) with the instructions on this page! I hope I don't regret this decision, I have a feeling this is going to take me forever! Especially trying to figure out the wiring!
 

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I got the same set from ebay for christmas but they didn't come with the instructions sheet they said. How do you know where you can and can't cut? I'm assuming some of the wiring runs along the edges of the pads? And do you need to cut out the section you did to avoid it touching the metal or can you just leave it?
 

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thank you philbert for the great tutorial pictures are worth 10,000 words
dont think i would have even attempted it if it wasnt for this post
i have them installed and they feel fantastic and look great
 

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Hi. Great description but the pictures are probably already inactive because I can not see them. Philbert, could you refresh them?
Thank you.
 
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