I recently purchased a 2004 Ford E-250 utility van. I was fortunate to find a van already stripped, insulated, and built out with a bed, shelving, wood floors, and a kitchen area. It’s a pretty good setup for stealth camping and as a climber van. There were some improvements that I wanted to make, though, including installing a swivel seat base for the passenger seat.
I’m no mechanic. After searching fruitlessly for “how to install a swivel seat in a Ford E-250”, I called a garage and inquired about having it done. They quoted me $300 for the seat base and $50 for installation. I figured if installation was only $50, then it was probably something I could do myself.
I found a seat base that seemed like it would work, based on the few forum posts I found. Shop4Seats.com lists a bunch of various bases, so I purchased a single 96 – 06 Ford Swivel Base OEM Seat for the passenger side. Total cost with shipping was $252 and delivery took about a week.
I was concerned about disconnecting the wire protruding from the seat base. To be perfectly honest, I don’t really know what it’s for but I think that it is an airbag sensor. I needed a T-55 Torx socket to remove the OEM seat base, and asked the guy at the auto parts store about that wire. He assured me that it was difficult to accidentally discharge the airbag, and said that if I disconnected the negative terminal on the battery just to be safe than I could certainly unplug the wire without fear.
I assembled my tools: a socket set, T-55 bit, new swivel seat base, a utility knife and some foam padding. First, I disconnected the battery, then took a deep breath and unplugged the wire and….nothing happened. Perfect.
Second step, I unbolted the OEM base from the floor and removed the seat. Once I had the seat out and on the ground, I tested the fit of the new swivel base. It didn’t seem to line up properly, until my friend Joel pointed out that I had it upside down. Problem solved, the new swivel seat base fit perfectly. The OEM seat base sits on four posts, whereas the new swivel base has a flat sheet metal bottom. I had to cut out the rubberized flooring below the old base to fit the new base, and laid some thin foam rubber underneath the new base to reduce any possible vibration and insulate the metal base somewhat from the frame.
With the passenger seat removed, it was easy to remove the OEM seat base from the seat. I bolted the new swivel seat base tightly onto the passenger seat and set the seat with swivel base onto the bolts. I tightened them down and reattached the wire and reattached the battery. I didn’t have any issues with the airbag warning light, which turned off normally after the van started.
The whole installation process took about twenty minutes. The new base works perfectly. The passenger seat itself has rails for sliding front and back, and the swivel seat base allows the seat to rotate around in a full circle. The center console interferes slightly with rotation, so I have to first return the seat back to its fully upright position, slide the seat forward, swivel it partway, then slide it back to complete the rotation. When swiveled to face the living area of the van, the armrest on the seat is a tight fit against the passenger door. It fits better if the seat is slid back completely, towards the front of the car.
Overall I am really pleased with the swivel install. It was easy to install, even for someone like myself with little experience working on vehicles, and greatly improved the livability of the van. I return the seat into forward-facing locked position whenever I have a passenger in the van, and I have the OEM seat base stored in my garage should I ever need to reinstall it. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment!