Diagnosing and Repairing Your Imperial's Power Seats

 


Imperial Home Page -> Repair -> Electrical System -> Power Seats


Tip from Paul (1964 -1966):

How the 1964-66 Imperials bench seats works:

A four-way power seat has two motors. One motor controls the fore-aft motion of the seat, the other motor controls the up-down motion of the seat. Note that the entire seat (front and back) goes up-down together.   A six-way power seat has one motor, a transmission, and three clutches. One clutch controls the fore-aft motion of the seat, one clutch controls the up-down motion of the front of the seat, and the last clutch controls the up-down motion of the back of the seat. From this unit (motor, transmission, and clutches), there are sets of cables that engage mechanisms at the appropriate ends of the seat. Now for how that relates to the six-ways of the seat. For any motion, the motor and one or more of the clutches gets engaged. For the fore-aft motion, only the fore-aft clutch is engaged. For up-down motion, both the seat front and seat back clutches are engaged. For tilt (or rotate), there is some combo motion, with the seat front going up and the seat back going down (or something close to this).   

I can't remember what models, if any, had bucket seats standard, but for 1965 the Crown four door hardtop was the only bench seat model with four-way power seats. The other models with bench seats had six-way power seats. There are a few other details where the Crown four door hardtop is less equipped than the other models, like the wood trim on the doors. It's kind of strange, but the Crown four door hardtop was the "entry-level" model for the 1965 Imperial. On probably most other makes, a two door is the "entry-level" model.


Tip from Chris (1967-1968):

It is normal on 67-68's for the power seats to operate regardless of the key being in the car. Ditto the power antenna, the power windows and all lights except the turn signals. (The front cornering lights will illuminate if you put the turn signal switch in either "on" positions as long as the parking or headlamps are on, though the turn signals themselves will not light.) Of course the power door locks work without the key on. And the trunk release is not electrical, so it works any time.


Tip from Dave:

The old electric motors had a habit of gumming up (the old grease dries out and sets up like concrete).  You need to remove the motors and clean them.  Once you have the motor out, you can carefully disassemble the housing, and use a good commercial solvent to remove the old grease from the shaft ends and bushing cups. Then use the new grease (which is available from your friendly Chrysler dealer) to lube up the bushings and re- assemble the motor and put the whole works back together. If there is a discharge when you work the switch, the power seat should work just fine.


Tip from Richard:

Power seats are wired straight, with no fuses! Sometimes a bad switch will cause constant power draw by one of the six motors. Drains a good battery in about 1/2 day.  Disconnect the motor under carpet just below  drivers control and repair the motor.

Question from Charles:

Can you retrofit a front power seat into a car that did not have it?  How much trouble could you expect? And how reliable have the motors been over the years? I am specifically speaking about a 1963.

Reply from Kenyon:

In my experience, the flex-drive shafts that actuate the gears from the motor to the seat tend to be the things to watch out for and to check on if you get a power rig from a donor or junk-man. When they fail, the seat no longer moves in that axis (there are three: F-B / U-D / tilt)

I would service anything that I was to put into a car and expect long term operation out of.


Tip from Tom:

I had the heater and defroster motors on my 56 refurbished at a local shop that repairs electric tools. I supplied the wire because it was the braided variety and he didn't have any. It cost me $35 per motor to have them repaired.  The braided wire can be purchased from Rhode Island Wiring Harnesses, but you will have to purchase a whole spool... They advertise in Hemmings...This is their ad:

"Chrysler, Dodge, DeSoto, Plymouth, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Pontiac, Olds. Highest quality, Exact reproductions, Correct color code & gauge, Fire resistant braided or plastic wire (depending on originality) each wire identified, soldered connectors, 3 different catalogs representing a total of 1, 300 models are available. Specify, American cars through 1939, American cars 1940 through 1959, or foreign cars. Send $2. per catalog, refundable on 1st order to: 

Rhode Island Wiring Service

Box 3737H

Peace Dale, RI

02883

401-789-1955


Question from Brad:

I have a power seat pulled from a '58 LeBaron parts car that operates but I can hear the mechanisms bind when moving front to back (and vise versa).  My guess is the sliding tracks are filled with dirt/grime, etc., from over the years.  I sprayed lubricant wherever I thought sensible and they loosened up a bit.  However, they still labor to much.  I would be grateful to receive any recommendations for cleaning out the Tracks and any other ideas that may make these work better.  One idea I considered was spraying brake cleaner in the tracks and blowing out the debris with pressured air.  My only concern is that there maybe plastic parts in the mechanisms that are susceptible to brake cleaner.  Does anyone know for certain?

 Reply from Philippe:

The best thing you can do is to remove the seat!  Only 4 bolts and then you have access to the mechanism. On my 57, the tracks were very dirty and the old grease had become hard. I've completely disassembled the tracks.  It isn't very difficult (there are some drawings on the 57 shop manual). I remember that the three "racks" on each unit were very dirty. Caution, if you remove the rack covers, note position of each rack for installation. Same on each track! If not, the tracks will bent…

Follow-up from John:

Make sure and do not use brake cleaner as a degreaser.   If this runs down on the plastic liners under the tracks, it will ruin them. I would guess that an object is stuck in one of the tracks…perhaps something such as a coin.  Blowing them out would be safer or try with a narrow putty knife under the hidden areas to see if anything dislodges. I would disconnect the battery first to be on the safe side.


Question from Mike:  

Ahh, the joys of a "classic"....while fixing the power window motor, the adjusting cable for the heat/AC came off the peg and one of the double loops that holds it on straightened out....So, as I attempted to get some working space to see under the dash, I rolled the power bench seat all the way back, or at least as far back as it went before stopping.  And not moving at all in any direction now.  Any idea what the problem is?   The seat moved smoothly all the way back.  When it stopped I noticed a clicking sound from the firewall area...there is a connector with six terminal screws on it and that is where I believe the sound is coming from.  I unplugged the power to the seat motor (at the motor itself) and the clicking stopped.  When I plugged it back in the clicking began again  before I even tried the switch.  I tried the switch without success...then I disconnected the power again and will begin my search for answers.

Replies:

From Tony:

I'm sure you already figured this out, but the clicking was because the circuit-breaker was overloading and repeatedly re-setting itself.  Sounds like you have a short-circuit, so start looking for some kind of unusual metal-to-metal contact that wasn't happening before.  Look for bad insulation on wires, a penny that is jammed up against the wiring, stuff like that.

From Tony:

I asked my friend Charles, and he believes that the necessary relays and some of the solid speedometer-style drive cables and such are the same as GM - Cadillac, Buick, Oldsmobile, etc.  The two-way seat mechanisms and such are different from the six-way, of course. - The motors are Imperial.

Follow-up from Mike:

I figured out my problem.  The motor's fine, the relays just swollen...the solenoid, solid...the switch on the seat...that's the culprit.  Apparently when the seat moved, the wires leading to the back of the switch grounded against the seat frame and thus everything was dead.


Question from Bob:

I need the motor for adjusting the front seat…any ideas?

Reply from Joe:

Consider removing the power seat motor and getting a local electric motor repair shop to repair the unit. Also many of these are still good. Be sure that the DC power feed to the motor is still good, there is an in-line circuit breaker that could be bad and there is another one in the ground side of the motor inside the case. Either one could be bad. A repair service which could do the work is Hydro-E-Lectric which advertises in Hemmings. When removing the motor, get yourself a service manual and observe all the precautions regarding the servo cables attached to the motor when disassembling. Good Luck! I repaired my own by replacing the internal circuit breaker.


Question from Charles (1963):

Can you retrofit a front power seat into a car that did not have it? How much trouble could you expect? And how reliable have the motors been over the years? I am speaking about a 1963.

Replies:

From Kenyon:

In my experience, the flex-drive shafts that actuate the gears from the motor to the seat tend to be the things to watch out for and to check on if you get a power rig from a donor or junk-man. When they fail, the seat no longer moves in that axis (there are three: F-B / U-D / tilt)

I would service anything that I was to put into a car and expect long term operation out of.

From Kerry:

I think it will be a bolt in. the power lead may or may not be under the carpet. If not, you may have to run a wire. Everything else is in the seat. Just 4 bolts and 16 people to pick the seat up.... :) It really is heavy. It was all my son and I could do to get the fronts out and back in.


Question from Philippe (1968):

I have an electrical problem: no turn signals, no wipers, no power windows, no lights.  But the power seats, horn, tail lights, courtesy light are still working.  The fuses are OK, the battery wiring is new. The dashboard has been removed and controlled.  Does anybody know why?

Reply from Roger:

I had a similar problem and it was the ignition switch.


Question from Tim (1971):

I have a 1971 imperial with 50/50 bench seat, 6 way electric on both , only the forward and backward works on both seats, does anyone know the most likely problem?

Reply from Elijah:

Most likely, the seats are just "stuck." I've encountered this problem on a couple of different '71 Imperials over the years. Another less-likely option would be an electrical problem with either the switches or the motors.

One simple question will point to the problem -- do you hear a "click" or any other noise when you move the toggle switches? If no, the problem is electrical. If yes, the seats are indeed stuck.

If the seats are stuck, a few well-placed hammer blows will most likely loosen them. If you look under the seats, you can clearly see all the tracks that the seats move on. Take a big, heavy hammer and give a good "whack" or two to the heavy metal potions of the mechanisms that you can see at the extreme front and rear of the seats. Be sure that you're aiming at the parts that are obviously made of a heavy gauge metal. Hit them pretty hard a couple of times, and then try the switch again.

I've used this method successfully several times.


This page last updated March 6, 2004.  Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club