By on September 5, 2009

TTAC Commentator dastanley writes:

My 2006 Corolla CE is what it is – it gets me where I’m going with no muss, no fuss, no excitement, no drama, no fun. But hey, it runs.

Problem is, every time I do a road trip in the thing, my ass hurts. The driver’s cloth seat feels like wood. Should I go to Walmart and buy the aftermarket cushions, etc. or does anyone have a recommendation for good comfortable aftermarket replacement seats? Or get another car?

Sajeev replies:

I reviewed this vintage Corolla “S” and thought the seats were decent, especially the rear bench. But I didn’t make a road trip, and carmakers don’t make ’em like they used to: everyone pruned their way to lower costs with rubbish thrones. Lousy padding, less contouring, thinner coverings, lame lumbar support—it beats up a body on long trips.

But Toyota is good at badge engineering parts that consumers never see; I suspect the Corolla’s seat tracks are similar to other Toyotas, sans RWD Lexus products and trucks. The expensive Corollas are the best choice, if they are an improvement. But buy the back seat for a perfect match. But don’t expect a clean set of Corolla S seats for cheap from a recycler. My guess is $500 for all three.

And choosing seats from a non-Toyota are a bad idea without Internet research and/or test fitting. They’ll look terrible because they won’t match the rear bench. Not to mention cost, side airbag (if equipped) safety woes, and the possible fitment issues against interior panels.

Sadly, an aftermarket seat cover is a smarter idea. Some fitted covers claim to offer more padding, but they’ll be $100 or more.  Perhaps the wooden beads (that taxicab drivers use) are a good alternative. They are comfortable, even if they are ugly. But they are durable, cheap and even somewhat eco-friendly

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27 Comments on “Piston Slap: The Toyota Corolla CE is a Pain in the Ass...”

  • avatar

    Make sure that any solution doesn’t remove/interfere with the air bag (unless you never intend to sell/trade the car). There’s plenty of “personal injury lawyers” out there – you get it.

  • avatar

    My brother went through a period of back troubles when Carter was President. At the time, he bought a new Dodge Omni for about $5000 …. and a Scheel seat for about $500. When he traded the POS car, he reinstalled the original seat and in so doing probably cut the car’s residual value in half. He used the aftermarket seat in his next car also.

    Point being, comfort first, aesthetics second. Feels great before coordinates well.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    The seats are really expensive if they have air bags in them. I have known of cars being stolen simply to remove the air bagged seats.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Had a similar issue with a ’92 Honda Accord. The leading edge seat bolster cut the blood flow to my legs. Varying the cushion tilt helped a little, but after an hour my legs would go from numb to painful. I literally couldn’t walk when I reached my destination. Splain that to a gendarme eager to make an impaired driving arrest!

    Experimented with accessory wedge cushions until I found one that helped. Took the car to a trim shop that did work for taxi and limo companies. The upholsterer removed the seat cushion cover, re-contoured and supplemented the stock foam using the accessory cushion as a guide, and reinstalled the cover. I was on my way in an hour, $35 lighter, and the car still looked original. He told me to bring it back if a further adjustment was required, but there was no need. Happily drove the Accord for several more years.

  • avatar

    First thing I’d try are sheepskin seat covers. I’ve been using them on all my cars for years. They are warm in the winter and cool in the summer as they wick moisture away from your clothes and skin. They are also more comfortable than fabric or leather seats. If you spill coffee, pop them in the washing machine.

    If the covers alone don’t solve the problem, pick up an orthopedic back or seat pad and stick it between the seat and sheepskin cover. The quickest and least expensive recommendation. If not, get a set of Recarro race seats with five-point harnesses.


  • avatar

    Buy another car! Toyota’s SUCK! Buy something that can fit you big ass, like say a big American car!

  • avatar

    zztdm1-e :
    September 5th, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Buy another car! Toyota’s SUCK! Buy something that can fit you big ass, like say a big American car!

    Hey hey, no flaming. I’m 6’1″ at 200# so my ass isn’t THAT big.

  • avatar

    Thanks Sajeev for running my piston slap question. And thank you to (most of) the contributors about the heads up on the air bag issues.

    I’ll probably look into the wooden beads. I fly air ambulance and the sheep skin cover on the captain’s seat gets worn and dirty quickly with 4 different pilots flying 24/7 around the vast southwest. But I’ll admit, they are comfortable.

  • avatar

    Hey hey, no flaming. I’m 6′1″ at 200# so my ass isn’t THAT big.

    Quite the opposite by the sound of it! Yep definitely more padding for you! Nuthin’ worse than a boney arse on a hard chair!

  • avatar

    Toyota uses some really crummy foam in their seat cushions. Soft, squishy and comfortable for a scoot around town… but sags to the seat rails when you’re driving long distance.

    I don’t know if additional padding will be enough if the padding itself will sag. My suggestion is a nice set of Recaros with full function lumbar support and heating…

    Yeah… expensive as hell… but obviously, you’ll keep it when you sell the car and put it in your next one…

  • avatar

    i use a recaro sr3

    i don’t seem to have any comfort issues

    and who cares if it doesn’t match the rest of the car… are you a driver or do you wear the dress in the family?

  • avatar

    I have the same problem on my 2009 Camry. Never had it on the 1996 one, though. On long road trips, I’d have to sit on just one side of my butt, lifting the other one up so blood could get to it! Needless to say, I was all sore, especially my back. I can’t get the lumbar to fit right. I’m thought about getting those foam ones with the little space for your tailbone at Walmart or something but they’re 30 bucks+ for the crappiest ones.

  • avatar

    This was my solution: buy a $15 throw pillow, and sit on it. Worked for me! Dallas to Las Vegas and back in a 2000 Toyota MR2.

  • avatar

    I agree with romanjetfighter. I used to drive a 1993 camry and the seat padding seemed long enough to cradle my legs. On my 06 xB it feels nice since it wraps around my body, but the horrible padding can only last me a good 2 hours before my ass aches and i have to take a rest stop to rest my booty.

  • avatar

    Solution: buy a Volvo. Whatever Volvos may or may not be, they have the best seats in the biz, hands down. Unless, of course, you’re buying some roadgoing yacht like a Mercedes S-Class…

  • avatar

    Get a donut cushion at a medical supply store. I used one for years in a Saturn which had horrible seats.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    I got one of those beaded seat covers back when I first started driving, since the vinyl fake-bucket-style bench in the Citation was crap. I kept that seat cover through the next few cars, but it’s currently folded up on my porch because the seats in the smart are the best ones on the planet. I think the dense cell foam in them is the same stuff Koni makes bumpstops out of.

  • avatar

    I had the same problem with a rental Corolla I had a few months ago. Butt was sore after a 4 hour drive. I was really surprised because there have been three Toyota products in the family driveway over the years (’92 and ’97 Camrys, and ’00 Solara), all of which were/are comfortable.

    Looking at the Corolla seat and comparing it to the Solara’s, I decided the problem is the Corolla’s seat cushion is too short and as a result provides inadequate thigh support. I have the feeling ToMoCo shaved an inch or two off the seat in order to make the interior LOOK roomier. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

    The new Corolla has been blown up almost to the size of the 1992-96 Camry. I wonder if the Camry seats from that generation would bolt in. You would have to give up any seat airbags. Big deal. It’s not like in 1992 people were dying in Camrys left and right because there were no seat airbags.

  • avatar

    My Jetta came with Recaros and they’re the best seats I’ve ever had. Even the stock VW’s were good but these Recaros are just winners. Not racing seats but nicely bolstered and built very well.

  • avatar

    All Toyota seats aren’t great, even the ones used in the GS and LS. Volvo and Saab seats are very good (and safe). Audi seats used in the A6 and up are superb.

  • avatar
    johnny ro

    Airbags aside, two things.

    1- wooden roller seat covers. I found them at a barn sale in back woods Maine, new old stock from probably 1970s. Blast from the past. They feel great. They do rise you up a bit. Also you lose some bolster if you have any. They look silly stupid. They feel really good. I swear I can feel air moving on my hot back at all times in Miata.
    But I took them out, need the extra room there.

    2- Dont be timid, the seats suck already, go ahead and mod them. Remove, pull cover, cut and add foam. Replace. Good foam is found in gym mat at Walmart. Golds gym mat. Its 1/2 inch thick high density stuff. Before cutting foam decide what is actuially wrong with cushion so you can cut and replace to best effect. You will be surprised how easy it is and can do it a second time to fine tune. If the seat is too small this might not be useful.

  • avatar

    All of the males on my fathers side of the family suffer from back problems. The low tech budget
    I learned from my father solution is to roll up a hand towel and to place it about 8″-12″ up on my back.

  • avatar

    i use a recaro sr3

    i don’t seem to have any comfort issues

    and who cares if it doesn’t match the rest of the car…

    I agree. But there may be issues putting a Recaro in a Corolla. A family member looked into a Recaro for an Altima – and a couple mechanics didn’t want the job.

  • avatar

    Seats are one of those things you’d think they’d do right. OK, fitting a big male and tiny woman is not easy, but can be done.

    I can’t buy a lot of cars because I have long legs. Many car makers ‘short seat’ the platform you sit on to make the car look bigger. The short seat then makes the weight of the legs hang and the force goes to the lower back.

    Euro cars have long seats, even vw and other cheap cars. Japanese cars have short seats, unless you get a sport package, at which point the seat bottom gets three or four inches longer. I think the “design human” is bigger for euro cars than home market japanese.

    My wife and I were practically crying after three days with a rental LeBaron a few years back. She too has long legs.

    I’m fortunate in that I don’t normally have back problems.

    My last car, a Mystique, had a seat that was OK till it wore out. I tried for Recaros, but there were seat belt issues which could not be overcome at any reasonable price as the belts were integral.

    I try the seats first, then I consider the rest of the car. The sport seats in my BMW have paid for themselves many times over in pain not suffered.

    Usually the base seat is barely adequate. The upgrade sport seats are usually a bit better…but you have to upgrade. In some cases, the sport seats are just a “tape and strip job” with big bolsters.

    If you have ever bought ski boots, the test is to take a book to the ski store, and wear the boots for an hour before buying. Likewise, in any car, you’ll be stuck in that seat for hours….

    I buy the car around the seat. If I can’t get perfect in the seat due to cheap construction, design for a smaller person, or overall poor ergonomics, no sale.

  • avatar

    This may or may not be a solution, but a company called Skwoosh ( makes a series of seat pads for a variety of applications (I’ve got one for kayaking), including long travel induced numb butt. They use some sort of proprietary gel pads and sell for about $30 and up.

  • avatar

    I once had a ’95 Corolla DX, It was a nice car but I could only do three hours at a time till my legs starting hurting me. I ended up finding a small pillow to put under my legs. The best cars I’ve ever done long trips in were the two Oldsmobiles I owned, my ’87 Cutlass and my ’04 Alero. Both of those cars had the six-way power seats, and I found that by raising up the front half of the seat my legs wouldn’t hurt me. A funny story…The seats in the Alero always felt as if they had too much lumbar built into them. A year and a half ago I broke my leg and had to use a cane for six months. Getting in and out of the car was a bit of a challenge. One day when I was getting in I had to brace myself with my hand by pressing on the seat back. Well, something in the seat broke! I thought “oh great, I broke the seat” But, as it turned out, the seat ended up feeling better than ever! I really miss that car…

    Moral of my story, either use a pillow, or find out if the power seat track and motor from a Camry could be installed.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    OhMyGoat +1

    Looked at the skwoosh site.

    They have some interesting stuff, and it’s reasonably priced.

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