Heated seats are usually an option reserved for expensive luxury cars, but i decided to add the feature to my 1998 Crown Victoria Police Interceptor using an aftermarket kit.

Installation sounds simple in theory: remove the seat covers, place the heater pads in between the seats foam and the seat cover, and reassemble.

Airbag Warning:

2000 and earlier crown victorias use a single stage airbag system that deploys both passengers side and drivers side airbags regardless of whether the seats have someone sitting in them at the time of impact. But use caution if retrofiting this unit onto the passengers side seat of a 2001 or later crown victorias that has a seat occupancy sensor incorporated into the seat. If the passengers side seat occupacy sensor is damaged, the passengers side airbag may not properly deploy in a collision. The airbag control circuitry automatically assumes that the drivers seat is occupied, so a sensor to determine whether the seat has someone sitting in it or not is not needed on the drivers side of 2001 and later crown victorias.

Also, starting in the 2003 model year, crown victorias were avaliable with side airbags as an option. Use appropriate precautions if working around live airbags.

Acquiring the Parts:

The universal seat heater kit used for the installation documented in this article is from:

Rostra Precision Controls
Part #: 250-1550

The Parts:

Here's the parts that need to be installed for the project. In the upper left are the two heating pad elements. A little bit below the pads is the control switch. The box towards the bottom is the temperature regulator for the heating elements. Each heating element has a thermostat incorporated into it, and the control unit will cycle the elements on and off as needed to maintain a steady temperature of around 140 degrees fahrenheit.


1/2" drive metric socket set and ratchet
metric wrenches
wire cutters

Note: the front seats in 1998 crown vic police interceptors do not use "hog rings". they instead used a combination of velcro and "j-clips" to hold the upholstery to the seat.

Removing the seat:

Are 3 bolts and 1 nut that retain the driver's side front seat to the vehicle's floor floor pan. It is not uncommon to snap the heads off the front two bolts when attempting to remove them. If the heads do break off, you'll need an electric drill, a set of taps and some oversized bolts and washers to fix the problem.

After all the fasteners are removed that hold the seat in the vehicle, unplug the electrical connector that comes out of the floor covering and connects to the seat. Now carefully maneuver the seat out of the front drivers door taking precautions not to damage the vehicles paint or interior door panel.

Disassembling the seat:

First remove the recliner handle from the seat, it is retained in the same manner as window crank handles. Slide the c-clip off the handle, the handle will then slide off the recliner mechanism splines.

Flip the seat over so that the seat tracks and "j-clips" are accessible.

Unclip the "j-clip" that hold the upholstery to the seat frame on the side with the recliner lever. Remove the two bolts which hold the reclining mechanism to the bottom seat tracks. Now unbolt the seat tracks from the seat frame.

Remove the seat tracks from the seat.

Slide the remaining "j-clips" off the seat frame.

Bottom seat frame will easily seperate from the seat foam and upholstery.

Carefully slide the reclining mechanism out from the bottom portion of the seat.

The question is sometimes asked whether the front seat covers are interchangeable from the passengers side to the drivers side.

The driver & passenger seatback covers are symetrical on both sides and have identical dimensions. During the 1998 model year, the only difference between the two is that the drivers has a cloth side and the passengers a vinyl side. Starting mid-way into the 1999 model year, police interceptors got cloth sides on both the drivers and passengers seat too.

But the bottom seat cover is not symetrical on both sides, and is not interchangeable between the passengers and drivers side. Notice the hole in the upper right and the difference in shape between the two sides?

Installing the heating pads:

Bottom portion of the seat has plenty of physical space to fit the heating pad.

Top portion of the seat is a little bit more difficult to fit the heating pad in. At a quick glance from the outside, the heating pad will appear to fit without a problem.

But there is a complication, the seat upholstery is held to the seat back foam using velcro at the locations highlighted below in red

Placing the heating element in between the velcro and seat cover will prevent the seat upholstery from laying properly and also cause crinkling sounds whenever someone sits in the seat. The solution to stop the crinkling sound appears to be to remove three elements from the heating pad so that it will fit in between the bottom of the seat and first red line. The blue item with the tan stripes to the left in the picture below is the portion of the heating element that was removed prior to installation.

Note that the base model civilian crown vics use the same velcro pattern to attach the seat upholstery to the underlying foam as police interceptors do. But some civilian crown vic lx's use a different pattern of velcro for attaching the seat upholstery to the seat foam. Instead of the half circle and straight line pictured above, the upholstery is attached in a rectangular pattern. Seat heater installation in such seats would be considerably easier for the top portion of the seat because the entire heating element pad could be placed in between the upholstery and the cover without cutting or other modification.

Now that both heating pads are installed, it's time to reassemble the seat. If all goes well, your seat will be nearly identical to when you started.

Using the cable ties supplied in the kit, secure the wires in place that connect the heating elements to the control module. Make sure to provide some sort of strain relief for the top heating element to prevent excessive force on the wire from detaching the wire from the heating pad when the seatback is reclined backwards. Since my seat had manual adjustment tracks, the location where the power seat motors would go was unoccupied and made a good location to mount the seat heater control module.

If you'd like to install a new bottom cushion while you've got the seat apart, below are the ford service part numbers for police bucket seats:

Front Drivers Seat Repair Kit (Includes cushion, support grid, and springs) 1998-2002
Front Drivers Seat Cushion 1998-2002
Front Passengers Seat Cushion 1998-2002

Note that if your vehicle your vehicle was ever in active police use, it is very likely that the bottom seat cushion will be collapsed to some extent and installing a new seat cushion would provide a noticeable improvement in driver comfort. Installing a new bottom seat pad will also correct the "leaning" seat issue because new service parts have additional foam added to the inboard side of the bolster.


The control module has three wires to attach to the vehicle, a ground, hot with ignition on, hot in accessory position.

The ground can be attached to the thick guage black wire on the underside of the seat that normally provides a ground path for the power seat & lumbar support motors.

The black with small white stripe wire on the underside of the seat is always hot and has a 20amp fuse in it. The heating elements draw less than 7 amps, so this wire could be used as the accessory power wire. But it might be a better option to use a lead that was only hot when the key is in the accessory position.

The hot with ignition wire is a sense wire and draws only a few milliamps, so any wire that is hot with the key in the "run" position can be used. Take precautions not to choose a wire that is also hot with the key in the "accessory" position as the heated seats can draw close to 100 watts and will quickly drain the battery if the seat switch is turned on but the engine is not running.

If you want to test the seat before permanetly wiring it into the vehicle, attach the black lead directly to the vehicles battery. Then twist the ignition and accessory wires together and connect them to the positive terminal of the battery. Start the vehicle's engine and turn the heated seat switch to the high position, within a couple minutes both heating pads should be warm to the touch.

Other thoughts and issues:

The bucket seat covers in police interceptors are constructed physically thick upholstery to extend life under severe duty. The seat heater works acceptably with the top portion of the seat. But the bottom portion of the seat has a cover that is very thick compared to the back of the seat. Cover is so thick in fact that barely any heat is transmitted through it.

A few people have asked about air conditioned seats. The lincoln navigator starting in the 2000 model year had this feature avaliable as an option, in the winter the seats are heated, in the summer they are cooled. The setup consists of a control module, a couple thermoelectric devices that work on the "peltier effect", duct work, fans to move air around and special seat upholstery. For more details on this subject, visit the manufacturer's site at http://www.amerigon.com and follow the links to the section on the "climate controlled seat system" (CCS).

Question & Answer:

I just purchased a crown victoria police cruiser from auction with only 50,000 miles on the odometer and the drivers seat is really worn. Why is this?

This is likely because someone sat in the drivers seat of your 50k mile police cruiser for thousands of hours. These cars often spend several hours a day idling without accumulating any mileage on the odometer. In some police enviroments, police cruisers are used more as a stationary office building rather than moving transportation. Observant people will notice that padded office chairs in a business enviroment also wear out even though they don't accumulate any mileage.

How much does a whole new seat cost to purchase from ford?

Ford dealerships do not sell complete seat assemblies for these cars. You must purchase each part seperatetly and build your own seat.

I'm over 6 feet tall and weigh around 300 pounds. Why does the seat in my car wear out so fast compared to the seat in my 150 pound friend's crown victoria?

You are exceeding the designed capacity of your seat. It should be noted that high body weight is not necessarily detrimental to a person's health as long as the body fat percentage is within acceptable limits and no evidence of joint damage exists. For example, competition weight for many athletic bodybuilders is over 300 pounds even though they are running under 6% bodyfat. Observant people will also notice that home living room funiture often has a rather short lifespan when frequently occupied by a 300 pound person.

My local upholstery shop said that they can restore my driver's seat to "like new condition" for only $500. Should I have them repair my seat?

Local upholstery shops often do good work constructing new seat covers. But their ability to repair worn padding inside the seat is usually rather poor. This is because most aftermarket upholstery shops don't install new foam padding, but instead fill the seat with polyester fiberfill unit the seat looks good cosmetically. Polyester fiberfill compacts into a solid inflexible mass very easily under load unlike the ford factory installed cushion foam.

Does my 1995-2002 police interceptor really have "stab proof seats"?

Yes, the factory installed seats in 1995-2002 police cruisers have a thick metal plate welded onto the upper seat frame to prevent a backseat prisoner's knife from penetrating though the seat into the officer's back. You can see some pictures of this plate if you look at the pictures above.

Can I retrofit "stab proof seats" into my civilian 1995-2002 crown victoria?

Yes, you can disassemble your seats and weld in the metal anti-stab plate. But most prisoner transport cars have a metal cage divider installed anyways, so the only result in adding these anti-stab plate would be a slight decrease in fuel economy due to additional weight. If you are running any uncaged car, you might notice backseat passengers complaining of sore knees if you install these anti-stab metal plates too.

Why do the back of the seats in my police interceptor have wear and abrasion marks on them?

This is likely caused by your seats rubbing against the prisoner partition

Where can I acquire a complete seat for my crown victoria from?

Your options here are limited mostly to automotive salvage yards. You might have to hunt around for a while to find a "good" seat set. Look closely for mold and rust on junkyard seats. Also look for bent metal frame parts from the forces of the collision that made the car a total loss.

What is "an interior"? My local salvage yard said that I must purchase one of these to get a driver's seat.

Most salvage yards consider "an interior" to be a collection of all the interior parts in the a car. A car with the interior removed would be a bare metal shell on the inside without door panels, headliner, dashboard, seats, etc. Some junkyard's definition of an interior is less inclusive than others. So inquire exactly which parts are included at your particular salvage yard prior to making a parts purchase commitment. Do note that many salvage yards will sell interior parts seperatetly after a few months has elapsed (even though when they first acquired the car, they wouldn't "part out the interior").

I just purchased a 10 year old police cruiser from auction for only $500 with a really beat up interior and my local salvage yard wants $800 for a complete late model leather seat set. Why is the local junkyard trying to rip me off? This car also needs a new paint job, four new tires, a transmission rebuild, and some front end parts replaced too.

You have purchased a car that is beyond economic repair. Cut your losses now and sell your $500 clunker to the junkyard or local taxi shop for parts. Then purchase a different crownvic in better condition that is worth investing money in.

Why is the upholstery worn through on my driver's seat around where the driver's waist would be located?

This is likely caused by the duty belt that the officer carried to hold their firearm, handcuffs, radios, and other police duty items.

Why does my back ache really bad after taking a long trip in my 1995-2002 police interceptor?

The upper seat upholstery in 1995-2002 police cruisers attaches to the cushion foam underneath with a thick strip of fabric. When the foam underneath collapses, you are left with a big glob of fabric grinding against your back in one concentrated area. As a test to see if this is the cause of your back ache problem, visit your local department store and purchase a "memory foam" bed pillow. Then wedge the foam pillow in between your back and the upper portion of the seat where the red half circle is shown in this picture. Now take a long drive and see if your situation improves. Do not use a polyester fiberfill pillow for this test, these pillows don't dampen road vibrations well and are unsuitable for automotive use. If you are unable to locate a foam pillow locally, you can order one on the internet.

What parts wear out inside a crown victoria car seat?

Most every part inside a car seat wears in some way. Even the metal frame fatigues with use and can crack. Some taxicab fleet owners have also observed that the vehicle's floorpan undeneath the seat sometimes develops fatigue cracks when the mileage creeps up to around 400k.

I ordered a service part for my police cruisers seat from my local ford dealership and it doesn't fit. Why is this?

This is likely because someone installed a complete seat assembly out of another car prior to you purchasing your vehicle. To obtain the proper service part for your car's seat, you must supply the ford dealer with the model year of the donor car that your seat was obtained from. Seats are wear items, and seat swapping is very common in some police & taxi fleets.

Can I swap seats between different model years?

Maybe. All 1990-2009 crown victorias, grand marquis, and lincoln towncars use the same floorpan design where the seat mounts. This means that seats from any of these cars will physically mount to the floorpan. However, if you own a 2001+ crownvic, there are airbag electrical system issues to contend with. If the electrical system of your car and the electrical system of the seat don't interface properly, you'll have a non-functional airbag system. And in many states, your car would then fail it's safety inspection and could no longer legally be driven on public roads. It should be noted that skilled electrical technicians can likely adapt seats from a different model year to fit in their car. But the unskilled backyard mechanic that doesn't know how to interpet factory wiring diagrams will probably never get their airbag system working properly after the seat swap.

I own a 1992-1994 crown victoria, are there more durable seats avaliable for my car?

Yes. The front seats in 92-94 crownvics are particulary weak. The full load of the backrest in these early cars is placed on the thin pot metal lower seat frame. In the 1995+ cars, the backrest load is placed on the track underneath the seat that's constructed of thick structural metal.

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