How-To: Lumbar Support Retrofit

1997ThunderbirdLXV6

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Those of us with base MN12 seats may find lower back support lacking. Retrofit is reasonably easy. But first, let's start with an overview:

From what I can tell, Ford employed three different types of power lumbar systems over the years.
  1. Air bladder with electric pump and mechanical release valve (inside switch)
    Examples: MN12, earlier Panthers
  2. Air bladder with electric pump and electric release valve
    Examples: later Panthers; late model Lincolns
  3. Mechanical support with electric motor
    Examples: 97/98 Mark VIII, some Town Cars, 95-02 Continental
Air bladders came supported by a canvas sheet attached on both sides (MN12) or supported by different plastic plates (earlier ones attached on both sides and later ones attached to the seat frame in the back). The easiest installation is the canvas style support, yet they are usually slightly torn. I got a reasonably good one from a 98 Crown Vic.

Pictured below on the left is our base seat back support (using springs). On the right is the canvas lumbar bladder (using hooks).

20240305_170906.jpg

I decided to combine both elements together, separated by a thin sheet of foam.

20240305_171214.jpg

Then I installed it using the springs. (Not pictured is foam added inside the seat frame behind the back support, to protect the installation from the somewhat sharp metal.)

20240305_172729.jpg

Now comes a bit of plumbing. I didn't pick up enough of the black tubing so I had to improvise with some clear tubing I had at home.

I selected the pump with electric release valve, so it's not a true factory MN12 retrofit. As I mentioned in the ...today thread, the release valve causes some odd speaker interference. I suppose it's harmless, but as always, proceed at your own risk.

20240305_234109.jpg

The pump fits neatly into the cavity below your knees. I assembled my own harness because the ones at the junkyard were all way too long. I had the idea to install the switch on the center console in place of the old ill-placed O/D switch (which is currently a non-functional button), but that would have required way more wiring work, and the look would not have had a factory vibe.

20240306_100154.jpg


The result is fantastic! Lower back support is far better. Judging from just a short 20-mile drive, I think I'll find myself playing with it because I like the feeling of continuous slight changes to my seating position.

This is fully deflated:

VideoCapture_20240306-132954.jpg

And this is fully inflated:

VideoCapture_20240306-132945.jpg
 
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I think most of us either aren't bothered by it or have it already, personally I really like this idea its just too involved for me considering I can't get another seat incase anything goes wrong.
 

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