On 16 December 2000, my ’95 YJ was rear-ended at about 45 mph. The impact knocked my Jeep forward about 30-40 feet and broke the back support on my factory driver seat, permanently reclining it about 4″ farther back than I normally set it. Rather than shell out $750 for just the back portion of a dealer replacement seat, I opted to get something better. Since my head cleared the top of the factory seat’s back and snapped my neck pretty hard in the accident, I also wanted something with a taller back and head rest.
The replacement seat needed to be water resistant, since my YJ goes topless six months out of the year, and it needed to be a reasonably close match to the spice (tan) color of my other seats and interior. Had this happened in the summer, I would have spent some time wandering around local salvage yards looking for suitable replacement seats from a sports car. Good seats can often be found that way, and generally for less than $50 per pair. However, since Nebraska was getting wind chills in the -30 F range at that time, I decided to spend as little time outdoors as possible, and instead ordered a new aftermarket seat. After asking around and looking through some ads, I chose a vinyl Bestop TrailMax Pro from 4 Wheel Drive Hardware for $230. Amazon sells them now, too, of course (currently called the “TrailMax II Pro”).
The 4WDH salesman I talked to (Jason) happened to run these seats in his CJ-6, and was able to give me plenty of details about them. They showed up at my doorstep just 1 week after placing the order, which was nice. The color doesn’t quite match the spice of my stock seats, but it does match my roll bar pad. The Bestop is probably 20-30% heavier than the factory seat, indicating a sturdier construction. It comes with several mounting holes in each corner so you can pick the set that best match your mounting brackets. My YJ required the outermost set of holes.
The differences between the factory and Bestop seats are more apparent after it’s mounted on the bracket. It doesn’t look much wider, but it did provide a tighter fit against the 8″ stereo portion of my 6.5″ Tuffy console. This makes it a little harder to scoot fore and aft.
The biggest difference is that the seat cushion sits higher than stock — lots higher. When mounted on the factory bracket, the front of the seat cushion sits 1.75″ farther forward than the factory seat and 1″ higher. The usable portion of the seat cushion is actually .5″ longer than the factory seat, but my butt is still 1.25″ closer to the steering wheel than before. What all this means is that when climbing into the Jeep, even with the seat pushed all the way back, my right leg rubs kind of tight between the seat and steering wheel (and I’m about average weight). Leg room in that YJ has always been marginal for my lanky 6’1″ frame, and although I’ve been moved forward with the new seat, I really haven’t lost any leg room because I also sit higher. The extra height is really obvious the first time you look into your mirrors, which are now pointed down at the ground. It’s now even harder to see stop lights when I’m first in line without crouching down close to the steering wheel. Driving around, it feels like I’ve gained an inch or so of lift.
Once you’re seated and all your mirrors are readjusted, the TrailMax Pro is much more appealing. It’s quite a bit more comfortable than the factory seat. The side bolsters on the back and seat cushion really hold you in place around corners, and will no doubt really shine on off-camber trails. The head rest can easily be adjusted even higher than I need it, which my neck will appreciate the next time I get rear-ended. It feels much more like a cockpit and less like a bench seat than before. My one complaint here is that the back is straighter than the stock seat. I wish it angled forward a bit near the top so as to provide more support for the upper back & head without having to lie back to an undriveable position.
My initial impression after one test drive is to give the Bestop TrailMax Pro one thumb up for comfort and one thumb down for compatible fit in a YJ. I’m sure I’ll keep the seat, but I definitely sense a custom seat bracket coming on before too long to move the whole seat down and back.
Further investigation revealed that the stock seat bracket actually has two sets of mounting holes for the sliders, with the second set located 1-1/8″ behind the default set. The first set uses locking screws that fit into thick, threaded pieces on the bracket. The second set are just holes with nothing to thread into, so you’ll need to get new mounting hardware to make use of them. I used 3/4″ long, 3/8″-24 (fine thread) bolts. The 3/8″ bolts require the hole in the slider to be reamed out just a bit, but the 9/16″ hex head fits snugly into the slider cavity and prevents the bolt from turning while you tighten the nut down. I used lock washers and fine-thread bolts to ensure that they wouldn’t come loose prematurely. The extra 1-1/8″ of leg room is much better than the original setup with this seat. It still sits up a little higher, so I can’t rest my elbow on my Tuffy console like I used to. This mod would also be useful for tall folks with the stock seat who need a little more leg room than is originally available.
Although they weren’t available at the time I got my seat, Bestop now (2019) makes their own seat slider adapters that are recommended for use when installing a Trailmax seat in a CJ7 or YJ Wrangler. They’re not cheap ($80-160 on Amazon), but they’re well-built and should save you from having to do any custom fabrication.
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