Installing Arm Rests

We wanted armrests on the front seats of our new Promaster. I have a glitchy back, and I really like being able to support my back a bit on the armrests when driving. The driver seat has a right-side armrest, but the left side “armrest” is built into the door and about a mile and a half away from my elbow. The passenger seat does not have any armrests at all.

I got a bit inspired by the way Shane added armrests in this post over at the ProMaster Forum so I found some armrests from eBay seller fcdx1600, who appears to be some kind of a reseller of Chinese auto parts. We ordered two pairs of armrests, and so it begins!

First off, there is an extended bracket armrest that may have simplified things, but it was not available, no worries order canceled, money refunded, etc. So I ordered two pairs of the non-extended bracket versions, which arrived in good time. Frustratingly the “PU (polyurethane) Leather” on the left arm rests does not match the PU Leather on the right armrests. Not worth sending back, so we forged on.

First off, I decided to look at how the factory armrest on the right side of the driver’s seat was attached. Here is an image of the factory armrest & bracket and the eBay armrest & bracket:

The OEM (“original equipment manufacturer” — basically short for “factory”) bracket bolts into two threaded holes in the right side of the driver’s seat frame. So I’m thinking that those threaded holes will be on all the seat frames, and this will be easy . . . no such luck.

I did get luckier in that the pivot on the OEM bracket was the same diameter and length as the eBay armrest pivot, so by tapping out a massively large roll-pin I was able to put the eBay armrest on to the OEM bracket:

One down:

Next, I measured the inside (left) passenger position and made up three brackets based on those measurements. Then I liberated the pivot from the standard eBay bracket:

Welded the pivot to the bracket, made a backing plate, drilled through the seat frame, and attached it with 1/4″ grade 8 bolts. Two down.

Then it started to get ugly. The flat outside brackets (driver’s left and passenger’s right) that I had made ran into the airbag housings. So I had to re-make those brackets with a jog in them. Here is a picture of those brackets and the corresponding backing plates:

I had used some 3/16″ x 3″ bar stock to make the brackets and bending the jog in that thick material took a lot of effort with the big hammer. Mounting was, of course, a complete bear. The upholstery was easy to remove, simply unzip. The seam at the bottom of the seat appears to be some kind of interlocking tracks, but I could not figure out how to disengage them, So I just crammed my hand in past the zipper. After drilling the two 1/4 inch holes through the seat frame, the bolts go through the new bracket and through the frame:

Then they continue through the backing plate, lock washers, and finally into grade 8 nuts:

Simple, right? Not really. Lessons learned:

  • It was difficult to get the holes through the upholstery in the correct place. Luckily the eBay armrests are kinda bulky there so the misguided cuts are hidden.
  • The bracket mounts flat to the seat frame, but the backing plate ends up at an angle. So the holes in all three pieces needed generous reaming with the drill bit to allow it to go together.
  • It is a hand cramping bit of contortion to hold the backing plate, lock washers, and nuts in place while starting the bolts. I did not enjoy, will not attempt again.
  • The angle of armrest can be changed by using the roller on the bottom of the armrest, just like the OEM armrest. However, the range that is available depends on the angle that the pivot is welded to the bracket. I got all three of these exactly wrong so I had to do some grinding to allow the armrest to go low enough for shorter riders.  
  • This was not a simple job — it required metal cutting, drilling, and a bit of welding.

Overall, we are happy with the way they turned out.

Armrests in action

Here is a picture of all four armrests in the down position. So much more comfortable!

To get in and out, or if you just do not want to use the armrests right now, they flip up just like the factory armrests:

Armrests in ‘up’ position

This image shows how nice it is to have an armrest in the correct position. That factory “armrest” on the door is way too far from the seat to be comfortable in normal use.

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