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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
DIY: Power Lumbar Support pg.1

Honda Element Power Lumbar Support

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History: After a 350 mile road trip to my parents I decided to add lumbar support to my Element. Many will agree the seats are a bit lacking in this area. I like the stock seats as far as the foam being comfortable but they totally lack lumbar support. I had an old seat from a 96 Ford Mustang with a lumbar bladder (but only the bladder no wires, pump etc.). I undid the back of the Element seat to see how easy this would be so I could have lumbar support for the return trip. Spent all of about 5 minutes putting it into the seat similar to the way it came out of the donor seat pumped it up with a small hand pump, clamped the tube and tried it out. Felt great! I hit eBay looking for the rest of the parts I would need to do this project right and for $30 shipped found this:

Consisting of the pump, tubing, bladder and switch. So now to install it and get full use of it.

Supplies used:
8ft – ¼” Corrugated Conduit $5 (by the foot from the local NAPA)
8ft+ – 14ga Black Primary Wire $1 (by the foot from the local hardware store)
8ft+ – 14ga Red Primary Wire $1 (by the foot from the local hardware store)
1 – Littelfuse Add-A-Circuit $6 (NAPA)
1 – Ring Terminal (for ground) $cheap
2 – Crimp-On or Solder Power Connectors (preferably different styles) $6 for all (Radio Shack)

Male Female Alternative: Combo but smaller and lower max current/smaller ga wire

1 roll – Electrical Tape
Lots of Ty-raps
1999 Ford Explorer Airbag setup from ebay. Or something like this from Rostra (more on this later)

I started by leaning the driver seat all the way forward, removing the headrest and unsnapping the bottom of the seat. The front and the back panels of the seat lock together with plastic strips; the seam is right where the back seat pocket and the carpet textured bottom come together. Follow this to the outside edges and unsnap the two halves by pulling down on the seam. The overlapping outside flaps are also locked into this and should come out. You should now be able to access the zippers on the left and right of the seat. Unzip them all the way to the top.

You can now reach in and unsnap the back panel from the seat back. There are long black nylon snaps on either side. Once these are unsnapped you can fold the entire back panel over the top of the seat to get it out of the way.

Once you get to this point, putting the air bladder in place is pretty straight forward. Just place it between the foam and springs in the position that is most appropriate for you. You can place it lower or higher depending on your preference. Watch out for sharp edges (ANY stamped sheet metal) as these will do a number on your hands and on the air bladder.

At this time it would be a good idea to test out the position of the bladder. I started off having only the bladder and left it in the seat for 3 weeks while I collected the rest of the parts. The clear bladder is from a 99 Explorer and has dual chambers and provides a wider support. The heavy gray reinforced rubber bladder is the original one I had out of my 96 Mustang seat. It pumps up in such a way that it tends to be like a ball in your back. I ultimately used the Explorer bladder.

Inflate and deflate the bladder several times to make sure that it is not going to interfere with any seat components. Fasten it in place any way you see fit so that it does not shift around.

NOTE: I do not have side airbags and I don't know what these components look like or how they might interfere with the install.

Route any air tubes/wires out the bottom of the seat (black air tube visible in the above picture illustrating unsnaping the seat back from the frame) Make sure to note how the wires/tube may interfere with reclining the seat. My air lines were rigid tubing so I put a rubber flex joint in at the pivot point of the seat (also barely visible right by the right plastic seat side cover in the same photo above)

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
DIY: Power Lumbar Support pg.2

Because my install required mounting a pump and I wanted better access to the bottom of the seat for access, I removed the seat from the car.

Unhook the negative battery terminal so you don't interfere with airbag sensors

Disconnect all connections from the bottom of the seat including airbag and setbelt sensors, free all harnesses from the seat required to pull the seat out.

Remove all plastic seat garnishes for access to the bolts and harness clips. Use this for reference: TSB 03-032

Unbolt the four seat bolts according to the Service manual (or common sense).

Move the seat to a clean area to work on.

First I had to get the switch mounted.
On the Ford setup the switch does multiple functions. It switches power to the pump and acts as a release valve for the air.
The Rostra setup is a much lower profile switch and should provide for easier mounting.
This is the inside front of the right hand (or "center" according to the above linked TSB) This location provided the most clearance for my air lines and wires. It also provided the necessary rigidity to the switch so that I could operate the switch without the whole cover warping.
You might consider this: before you remove the panels find a place where the panel is firm enough to support pushing on it without deflecting too much.
Note that I put a quick disconnect on the switch wire. This way the seat side panel can still be removed without undoing wiring!

Make sure when figuring out how much clearance you need behind the switch that you keep in mind the up/down adjustment of the seat as well as the movement of the seat front-to-back adjustment bar. Both could guillotine your wires or air hoses.

I mounted the pump (using locktite and star washers so it wouldn't go anywhere), built an appropriate harness and secured the wires and tubing where everything would clear.
Notice the generous clearance around the airbag and seatbelt wires.
The red arrows point to where the OEM harness still in the car attaches to the seat with Christmas tree plugs.
Note the white connector on the right hand side of the image. This is the connector for connecting to the car and allowing the seat to be removed.

Remove the cushion as needed to drill holes in the sheet metal for wiring or mounting.

Now you'll need to prep the car wiring before you put the seat back in.
You'll need to pull back the flooring and remove the sub cover and enclosure for access
Great pictures for pulling back the floor here thanks to Box4Rox

Route wires contained in the corrugated conduit from the instrument panel, down the left side of the sub area right next to the rear heat duct and leave enough of a service loop for the seat to move fore/aft and up/down like the OEM harness. I left more slack then they did.
Ty-rap your harness as best as possible so it stays put. Avoid fastening to the OEM harness if possible.
Note in the picture above that the new harness is secured to the heat duct at its narrowest point and run up past the subwoofer.
The woofer enclosure was difficult to get back in due to the thickness of the conduit but it was the best routing I found. This did not interfere with the sub cover, however.


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181 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
DIY: Power Lumbar Support pg.3

Put the floor back in place, routing the wires through the hole in the flooring under the seat. Double check that you have enough harness length going to the seat. Terminate the ends under the dash with a ring terminal to the ground screw and crimp and/or solder on the add-a-circuit.

I put the Add-a-Circuit into fuse #14, the remote control mirror circuit.

This circuit is hot only with the key on, which I prefer for this mod. I put a 5amp fuse on the lumbar circuit. There is no reason this circuit should get overloaded. If you are adjusting your mirrors and your lumbar at the same time (requiring both hands, no less)then you have more deep-seeded issues than this mod could ever solve.

Once you have the flooring back in, Enjoy your nice leg room for a while then bolt the seat back in.

Plug in all the seat connections (OEM and your new harness)

Reconnect the Negative Battery Terminal

Turn the car on, test it out!

Replace all of the garnish panels, zip up the seat, snap together the seat cover (requires strong hands, if you think you've got it, try harder it should really SNAP together) and enjoy your comfortable seat!

Now, regarding the parts I used versus what is readily available: After buying all the parts, connectors, and all It probably cost a little over half as much as a commercially available retrofit like the Rostra system.
Their system is available through Summit Racing or cheaper directly but their site can be dificult to navigate. It does not list one specifically for an Element.
You will probably want part # 250-1453. This is considered a rear mount (between the springs and foam) The #250-1454 fits between the seat cover and foam. Summit sells both.

Note that the brown bag holds the pump, the bladder is the clear plastic part

The Rostra kit comes with nice instructions and a 3 year warranty. Something you don't get with Junk-Yard parts, but not as fun!

Much cheaper (easier?) alternative from Larry (spdrcr5) with similar results.

All Images hosted here (may be easier to print?)

That's it! Thanks!

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6,795 Posts
Nice Job. THis is one mod I may have to try.

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9,644 Posts
Great write-up. Very thorough and informative, nice job.

I never knew the bladders could be placed between the springs and the cushion. That is the reason I put it between the cushion and the seat material.


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3,543 Posts
Nice job Kirk. I'm so envious of both your nerve to take your E apart and the ability to put it back together better than it was.:)

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks guys! It was fun really, It took a while to figure out the right way to do it but it couldn't have turned out better. Now I just have to stop messing with it!

I was thinking, If someone came along and didn't have as much ambition to add all the power junk you could either do what Larry did or find a dense piece of foam and put it in where I put the air bladder. It's only like a 5miute job getting at the back of the seat. Like Larry said, I never knew you could put the baldder between the springs and foam until I disected the Mustang seat and was also reassured by the instructions for the Rostra unit. I just really dislike having pads and junk sitting on the seat, they always move around. Mostly I like the ability to adjust it, I can never sit still.

If it pops I'll let you know :grin:

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9,644 Posts
I really like your install just for the fact you have the motor and don't have the hand pump like I have. Come spring this is being added to my list of things to change in the Element. :)

Should probably take me longer to remove my existing lumbar pillow than to install this setup. lol

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