Car Power Seat Problems

Repairing car power seat problems can sometimes be as simple as removing a penny from the seat track. Or they can be as complicated as having to test switches, relays and motors. Most power seats are not protected by a fuse but instead use a circuit breaker.

Picture of power seat switch

power seat switch


Before we get into what to look for when your power seat is not working let’s talk about why this issue is more common.

Vehicles that are equipped with a power seat option are becoming much more common than they were just a few years ago. Where as they use to be exclusively deployed on luxury cars you can now find this popular option on even the most basic models.


Types of power seats

The power seat option generally comes in two different configurations. The most popular is the four way power seat. But many models still use a six way adjustable power seat. In the simpler four way system the seat bottom moves up or down and backwards and forwards.

In a six way power adjustable seat they include those movements but with the addition of having the ability to control the seat back that in many cases this includes a lumbar support function as well as being able to tip the seat bottom by adjusting the front higher or lower separate from the back adjustment.

Diagnosing power seat problems

Picture of circuit breaker

circuit breaker image

Often when I find power seat problems where it is not working in any direction at all, I find in many cases that the power harness or wiring has become disconnected.

Although this wiring is tucked away sometimes passengers or children can accidentally dislodge it and inadvertently disconnect the connector. If this is not the case the next thing to check is the circuit breaker. This is usually located in the main fuse panel.

Circuit breakers are easy to test with an inexpensive automotive meter. The circuit breaker when removed should be in the closed position and you can do a simple continuity test to confirm that it flows current. If the circuit breaker is open then it will have to be replaced and the system further tested.

If the circuit breaker continues to overheat and open the circuit your attention should be turned to inspecting the seat tracks for debris or binding. Even if a soda is spilled in the vehicle it is possible for the track to become sticky enough to overheat the power seat motor.


Picture of power seat motor

power seat motor

If the power seat was fine in some directions and will not move in other directions from a particular control that switch should be removed and tested. You may need a wiring diagram to find out which terminals on the switch are connected to operate specific functions. It may be worth the time to get this wiring diagram and properly test the switch instead of just replacing it because they can be expensive on some models.

On older vehicles in some cases corrosion can build up on power seat switch contacts. On some models these switches can be disassembled and the contacts cleaned with either electrical cleaner or even a small piece of sandpaper.

You may not be able to solve all of your vehicle’s problems in your driveway. But many problems such as a penny causing power seat problems can be solved by most motorists. It is at least worth taking the first few steps of diagnosis to see if the problem is easily solved. Visit this next link for more of the latest posts to this blog about auto repair.


21 comments

  1. I have a 2001 Linc Town Car Cartier. The seat won’t go forward or backwards bu all other adjustments work. What is the problem? Ford dealer tells me it is a burned out motor and it will cost $1100 to repair. Help!

  2. I have a 2002 Oldsmobile Intrigue GX. Driver’s power seat rocks back and forth unless all the way lowered or raised. How can I fix this?

    1. Jeff: I would have to do a visual inspection to be sure but usually the rocking is caused by excessive play in the seat tracks. I have been there with this problem myself. Not much you can do except replace the seat tracks or find the perfect spot for the seat and then lock it down. You can drill a hole through the 2 halfs of the seat track and run a large sheet metal screw through it. This will have to be done on both sides to get the best results. Note that sometimes junkyard seat tracks are just as worn out.

  3. I have a 1997 MB S320. The driver seat raises up and down but will not stay in a raised position. As soon as I sit in the seat it collapse to the lowest level position.
    If I raise ir with manual assistance and get it to its highest level it will stay in place as long as I sit in the seat gingerly. If I don’t use care the seat falls back to the lowest position

    1. Krissi: Sometimes you can get away with installing slightly larger retaining screws if the original ones are stripped out. You can also stop by an auto upholstery shop, they can usually come up with a quick fix on the cheap.

  4. I have a 2006 grand carvan. Dtiver seat goes back but when trying to go forward only goes a little then stops. Also when going back it feels like seat is going a little side ways.

    1. Hi Linda: It will need some diagnosis. However, the most common problem would be a binding seat track. Things can get down in there, like debris or coins and cause this issue. Also power seat motor and seat transmission issues can cause the same complaints.

  5. I have a 01 Seville SLS and the driver seat is in the forward position all the way and won’t move back. The other functions of the seat work, the switch works, nothing is in the tracks all wires are connected, the passenger seat is fully functional. I check the fuses to the seat they are ok as well, I don’t know what it is, can you help?

    1. First I would test for power and a good ground coming in and then going out of the switch when activated to run the seat back. Next I would check for the same at the power seat motor. Jamming of the track is the most common issue, but it is also possible to have a failed motor.

  6. I have a 2003 oldsmobile alero and the seat will only move in the forward position it will not go back or up or down although it seems like it tries it just dont! any suggestions?

    1. Exact same problem with my ’03 Alero. I first disconnected the positive cable from the car battery, then with the help of a buddy took out the driver’s seat (we had to buy a T50 torx ratchet bit to take out the 2 bolts at the rear of the seat assembly). Attached to the underside of the seat are 3 motors which control back and forward motion, up and down seat movement, and lumbar support. We were unable to determine why these motors were no longer working properly. My only concern was to get the seat to move BACK instead of forward. We identified the motor which controlled that motion and noted there were two wires – green and tan – running to it. We spliced into those wires and switched them: the green wire now ran into the connector thru the tan side, and vice versa. This switch caused the seat to move backward when the power button was pushed to the forward position. However, we found that if the seat were back too far, we were unable to re-bolt the seat to the floor. So we added extra wire and male/female connectors to extend the green and tan wires to the front of the seat. Now I can move the seat back or forward by reaching down to those extended wires and switching them as needed.

  7. I have an 05 Dodge caravan. Everything is working on the power seat except forward and backward. Has worked fine the last 4 or 5 years but I slid it up this morning so my gf could drive it and now it’s stuck all the way forward. Pretty sure there’s nothing in the track. When You try the switch for that motion you can see, feel, and hear the seat trying to move. I’m pretty sure I just put it too far forward and something locked. How can I fix this?

    1. Matt it’s hard to say without being there, but this is a common problem on Dodge vehicles. The 2 most common issues when this happens is a seat track problem or a seat transmission issue. The power seat transmission conects the motor to the track. Here is a link to a youtube video for a quick fix. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_B4m5x_b28

  8. I have a 2010 Ford Escape.
    I moved my seat back and heard a click, now the seat won’t move forward at all. The seat is electric. It moves up and down just find. It even tilts the actual seat part. I am 4’8 and can’t drive with the seat stuck all the way back.

    1. Dina: Seat track issues or debris in the track are the most common issues that relate to your complaint of the seat not moving forward. You can go on youtube and watch a video of how to fix it or move it up manually.

  9. Hi, I’m Nicole. I have a 1999 bravada Oldsmobile and neither one of my front seats will move when you push the button. The lumbar bottom works on both, but I cannot scoot the seat up to reach the pedals. Any tips are appreciated.

  10. I have a 2013 camaro and the driver seat for stock in the reclined position it will move back and forward up and down but won’t get out of the recline position any idea of what could be the problem.

  11. I have an 04 Sebring convertible. The power seat intermittently stops working. Sometimes the forward/back button won’t work, but the same button will raise and lower the seat. Sometimes both functions work. And sometimes both functions don’t work.

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