Removing the Passenger Seat from a New Beetle

My trip to Comic-Con is complicated by the fact that I’m hauling a rather extensive booth display with me… in my 2003 New Beetle.

There is room in the vehicle for the display, but there would be a lot MORE room (for things like my luggage, and the books I need to sell at least 100 of in order to break even) if I could just get the passenger seat out.

I noodled around online, web-hounding as best I could, and found nothing. Then I called “Jimmy’s Love Bug,” where I bought the car, and their mechanic gave me pretty clear directions.

For the sake of bettering teh intarweebs, I shall post those directions here, further clarified by the fact that I have followed them.

1) TOOLS: You will need a socket wrench with an extension, a torx screwdriver, a small-blade pocketknife, a small pair of snips or scissors, a replacement wire-tie (for putting the seat back), a small hammer, and probably a third hand.

2) Begin by removing the rail covers on either side of the seat. Move the seat all the way forward and get in the back to do this. Take the knife and pop off the plugs that cover the torx screws. Unscrew them with the torx screwdriver. The rail covers will now slide off, but may need to be bent a bit (they’re plastic, it’s okay.)

3) Now it’s time to free the seat from the rails. Move the seat all the way back, and look under the front of the seat for the block of metal bolted to the upthrust tab from the body of the car. Unwind the nuts with the socket wrench, and then tap the bolt-heads with the hammer. The seat should now be free, constrained only by the wiring harness — don’t slide it all the way out yet, though… you’ll rip the wires.

4) Snip the wire-tie holding the cable in place. This will give you more room to work, and it has to come off regardless. Now you can remove the seat from the rails and tip it back to get under it. If you find that you don’t have enough slack to get under the seat from the front, fold the seat all the way forward, out of the rails, and use your third arm (or your friend) to hold it against the dash. Now pop the rear hatch and (I’m not kidding) get upside-down in the back seat, feet sticking out of your car, and get your head and hands under that seat where you can use them. Bring your pocketknife.

5) Unhook the three plugs. The front (towards the front of the car) yellow one is easy. The middle green one requires the pocketknife — you need to gently lift some tabs to get the plug free. The back yellow one has a hinged cover, and then at the top of the plug there’s a tab you can’t really see that you’ll need to pry back with your finger.

6) Unhook the white harness clip at the far back of the assembly. Check and make sure that the wires are all free of the seat. The seat can now be removed, provided you are strong enough to wrestle it out of the car. I suggest going through the door, rather than trying to lift it out through the rear hatch.

7) Tuck the cable and the plugs into the rail at the center of the car so you don’t crush them when you start piling stuff into your cargo-enabled Beetle.You may want to duct-tape the wire in place. Don’t worry — sticky stuff on the outside of the rails will not affect the seat at all.

8) NOTE: When you start the car, you’ll see that the yellow “airbag” light turns on. I think this means that the car has figured out there is a seat missing, and has disabled the airbags. WEAR YOUR SEATBELT. It’s more effective than the airbag anyway.

I’d write instructions about putting it all back together, but I haven’t had to do that yet, so it would be fiction. I do fiction, but in other places.

50 thoughts on “Removing the Passenger Seat from a New Beetle”

    1. About three times as long as it’ll take someone who has these directions. I spent a LOOONG time staring at things before I called Jimmy’s, and another frustrating 15 minutes working that wiring harness, gently identifying all the necessary tabs and bits.

      I figure the next time I do it I can have the seat out in 10 minutes. If you’re planning a solo trip in a beetle with cargo (and can come back for the seat!) this is a great trick. Hey, once I empty it into the Convention Center it’ll still seat three, and one of those seats will have lots of leg room.


      1. That’s why I have my Pontiac Vibe. Don’t even have to remove the seats, and you end up with a cargo compartment from the back liftgate to the passenger airbag.

          1. My first car was the original 1981 Ford Escort Wagon.

            At least this car I don’t have to yank the back seat out for the back of the back seat to drop flat.

          2. :nodnod: Trying to yank the back/middle seat out of an ’88 Voyager was lots of fun, too. No tools needed, just 4 arms and the strength of an underpowered Kryptonian.

            Made for a whole lotta room, though.

  1. Pictures!!! Better yet, a youtube video.

    I have a Jetta. I should check to see if those directions will work for me. I also need instructions to remove the back seat.

  2. Goodness, that’s a lot of complicated for a little car!

    Look forward to seeing you at Con again as always, Howard!

    1. It’s actually very simple, to hear Jimmy’s mechanic tell it.

      1) Get a torx screwdriver and remove the rail covers. You’ll have to pop the little covers off.

      2) Undo those two bolts underneath, and the seat slides out.

      3) Oh, yeah, you’ll have to unplug the wires under the seat. This’ll turn on the airbag light, but that’s okay.

      The devil, of course, is in the details.

  3. Pictures, per my cousin Zoyx’s command

    Okay, here are the pictures.

    The seat is out. The wiring is tucked inside the rail. The floor is filthy.

    Another shot of the floor of the car. See this green metal tab. It’s what the seat bolts to in order to keep it from sliding out of the rails.

    (It’s also going to punch a hole in any unfortunate cargo I drop on it.)

    Here’s the underside of the removed seat. The plugs and wiring harness are clearly visible — the front yellow one (#1), the green one in the middle (#2), the yellow one in the back (#3) and the point where the white harness clip attaches (#4).

    Here’s the block of metal and the weird-headed bolts that affix to the green tab in the 2nd picture.

    Now you know what you’re looking for. The rail covers are not pictured, because if you can’t figure that bit out on your own you should not even start this project.

    I would film the whole process, but there’s no room under there for me, the seat, my tools, and a camera.

    1. Re: Pictures, per my cousin Zoyx’s command

      Thanks! Now I will have extra space for when I go nymph hunting.

    2. Re: Pictures, per my cousin Zoyx’s command

      Might I offer a suggestion. If you or someone you know has the appropriate tools I would make a protector for that tab. Both to procect whater you load in that position and to keep the tab from being bent. If I were to do it I would take a chunk of 2×4, cut it to length so it fits snugly across the entire width of the area, and then use a skill saw to cut a groove that the tab will fit in.

      It’s cheap, pretty easy, protects the cargo, and prevents half an hour of wrestling with the seat if the tab were to get bent.

      1. Re: Pictures, per my cousin Zoyx’s command

        That tab is not going to bend unless you sock it with a 20lb sledghammer. It’s designed to keep the seat in place in a motor vehicle, and is very, VERY solid.

  4. Airbags!

    Anytime you touch anything to do with airbags:
    – Disconnect the battery.
    – Keep yourself grounded whenever touching the connectors. Static discharge is bad for your health!

    I would go as far as wearing a static strap connected to the cars ground.

    1. Re: Airbags!

      This was something I talked to Jimmy’s mechanic about in a bit more detail. He assured me that the bag was not going to deploy as a result of moving the seat. I’m not touching one of the bags, nor its deployment system. I’m removing a seat, and the car has a sensor to know whether the seat is in place or not.

      1. Re: Airbags!

        The concern is that if you build up a static charge and accidently touch the airbag connector while reconnecting the seat, it may deploy. Just keep away from the side with the bag when you plug that bastard in, I’d miss reading schlock if you got hurt.

        1. Re: Airbags!

          +4836482617462 bazzillion.

          For note: all airbag equipped cars use yellow to denote the harnesses for the airbags. It’s safe as long as the system is discharged. The maintenance manual for my PT cruiser states to disconnect the battery for two minutes to let the system discharge.

          My guess is that you have side impact bags. This is a module built into the seatback. That’s why the idiot light came on- the system can’t find that module…

  5. I’d add one more step: When wrestling the seat out of the car, make sure to not drag the rail across the inside of the door frame. It’ll gouge the paint.

    Lexus touch-up paint comes in a nifty little tube with an applicator like an oversized ballpoint pen…

  6. Back when I did SCA, in an old Nova (’72) and then Impala (’70), I frequently would remove the back seats. This would allow a nice passthrough from the trunk, which, in the Impala’s case, would allow me to store 12′ long boards and spears inside. Plus it looked really cool pulling these extremely long things out of a trunk where it looked like they didn’t fit.

    For the Impala, I ended perminantly removing the back seat and building a plywood platform over the seat mounting stuff on the floor and then carpeting it to match the floor. I still had the bench seat up front for three people (four if they were friendly).

    Really wish cars had been designed from the beginning for seat removal.

    1. My Neon has fold-down back seats too, to give you room for long objects. I fit a whole lawn mower in the tiny neon trunk that way.

      My aunt had a Pontiac minivan where the seats just popped out easily.

    2. Heh. That’s why I like my PT cruiser.

      Flip down the passenger seat, I can carry 10 foot segments of PVC pipe (it’ll flex- wood is limited to 8 foot segments)

      And if I pull both segments of the back seat, the thing turns into a micro-van capable of hauling quite a bit of stuff.

      One thing that I would go Squee over is if they offered a version of the PT with a rear window that lowered. This way I could put longer pieces of wood in there without having to chop them at the 8 foot mark. But then, I’d probably want a truck at that point, or an Astrovan or some such.

      1. It’s called a “Pontiac Vibe” or “Toyota Matrix”

        The front passenger seat folds down flat, and is covered with plastic on the back.

        The back seats fold flat (two sections, not equal in width). When they fold, they drop the seat itself forward and down, so the back of the seats is even with the very back of the car. You now have a flat run from the back door to the back of the driver’s seat, and further on the passenger side.

        You also have tracks to insert tie-downs, so you can keep things from rolling back and forth, or shifting.

        You also have a separate hatch window that opens independently of the rear door.

        (It’s still limited to 8 feet _inside_, but I’ve put in 8 foot long 2×4’s (eight of them) and could still close the rear door. )

    3. I have a Dodge 3500 van now.

      Makes all those problems go away.

      That only leaves the problem of 15/gal and a 35 gallon tank to fill at $2.72/gal

  7. WEAR YOUR SEATBELT. It’s more effective than the airbag anyway.

    The original concept of the airbag was as a supplement to wearing a properly adjusted seat belt. (I personally think even there wouldn’t have been any need for even that if the world hadn’t gone over to these silly and annoying inertia-reel seatbelts that effectively can’t be tightened.) I don’t remember whether it was Congress or the NHTSA that then went off completely half-cocked and perverted the idea into something violent enough to supposedly save your life if you weren’t wearing your seatbelt, at the cost of making it potentially lethal to children and short adults. The “new, improved” lower-energy “smart” airbags are merely a return to approximately the original idea.

    That said, the side-impact airbag screens introduced by Volvo and BMW (among others) are a good idea. They give your head side-impact protection that a seat belt doesn’t.

    1. It’s also lethal to tall adults with really short legs. In a Honda Ugly.. er, Element, when I put my seat forward enough to be comfortable at the pedals, I had the center of the steering wheel about four inches from my chest.

      That’s called “Let’s crush your ribcage with the airbag”.

      Oh – to disable the airbag, you have to _first_ get a waiver from the NHTSA that says you have a good reason, then you have to fight the dealers to find someone willing to actually disable it. (I looked into it. I HATE the idea of airbags. At the point of needing maximum control of a vehicle (rebound effect), you’ve had your vision blocked, your hands blown off of the steering wheel, and you’ve probably had additional burn and impact injuries from the bag. (Yes, I _know_ what heavy accidents are like. Anything that heavy won’t be helped much, if at all, by an airbag. But light accidents, that could end up in rebounds, will set off the damned bags as well. )

      1. I HATE the idea of airbags. At the point of needing maximum control of a vehicle (rebound effect), you’ve had your vision blocked, your hands blown off of the steering wheel, and you’ve probably had additional burn and impact injuries from the bag.

        I hate them too, and for exactly the same reason. I’d far, far sooner be allowed to simply install a decent five-point harness in my car. But with our idiotic laws, doing so is not technically street legal; the law requires use of the manufacturer’s originally installed seat belt. (People have been ticketed under seat belt laws for installing and using a five-point harness instead.)

        1. That’s bloody stupid! What is it, race car drivers wear five point harnesses… and they’re doing what, 200+ MPH, and go rolling around on the track, slamming into things, and generally falling apart and they walk out of it mostly unscathed… law makers aparently don’t drive much.

          1. I think the reasoning is that most drivers are lazy and have to be forced to wear seatbelts anyway, and won’t use five-point harnesses because they’re “too hard”.

            Yeah, right. If I go out and spend $1500 extra to install five-point harnesses in all places in my car, I’m not going to use them because they’re “too hard”? I don’t THINK so.

            (Yet at the same time, the law requires me to put my children in child seats with five-point harnesses. How come they’re required to have one, for their protection, but I’m not allowed to…?)

        2. Actually, there _is_ something to that one. Improperly installed 5 port harnesses are worse than properly installed 3 point.

          Most, if not all, 5 point harness installs in a standard vehicle would be improper – that’s because you have to have the additional hardened mounting points for the vehicle.

          My guess is that you have to have a vehicle _designed_ for it. Therefore, if you buy a vehicle off of the lot, and then have a custom shop _redesign_ it, you could legally have it. This would involve you having to get a new title issued for the vehicle with all of the customizations taken into account, because you wouldn’t have a “1978 Dungheap”, you would have a “2007 Gneister”, built onto a “1978 Dungheap” frame. What you would _also_, have to do, however, is make sure that it’s fully up to 2007 emissions standards, and so forth.

        3. Can you use a 5 point harness AS WELL?

          I’ve wondered about that myself.

          And I hate airbags for the same reason, not to mention potential damage to wrists I need to earn a living with.

  8. This is why I love the Pontiac Vibe me and my mom inherited from my grandmother. It’s basically a compact car with a shrunken SUV body, with a lift gate, rear seat that folds flush, and a front seat that folds horizontal. Add the built-in 115-watt power inverter, and the fact that it’s GM’s fuel-mileage king, and it’s a great little ride.

    Of course, a lot of that comes from the fact that it was a joint project between Pontiac and Toyota: the Vibe is a Matrix with different body panels and taillights. There’s even Japanese writing all over the engine compartment.

    Interesting juxtaposition, the two vehicles I drive most often are the Vibe, and the Kenworth T-600 semi tractor I live in five days a week. I could almost park that car in the sleeper of the truck.

    1. A fold-flat passenger seat would be cool, but the seat still takes up a certain amount of volume in the car. Being able to remove it altogether is pretty nice.

      I won’t need to do it more than once a year (if that), but when I need to do it, it’s important to get those last two cubic feet.

      1. The ‘fold flat’ doesn’t just fold, it drops. The back of the back seat becomes flush with the back cargo compartment.

        That’s the car I had at Linucon. (I don’t remember if I took you to the airport or not)

        I can fit an absolutely astonishing quantity of crap in the car. The seat comes out with four bolts and unhook the wiring. (I have to unbolt the seat this weekend so I can put my new laptop stand into it)

  9. What size Torx driver? It comes in sizes from at least #5 (which is smaller than a #000 Phillips head) to #35 or so – the size of a child’s pinky.

    Above #10, they generally increment by 5’s (ie, #10, #15, #20, etc).

    Automotive use tends to be in the 20’s, the small sizes are used in computer applications for “security” – or to make sure the warranty centers are the only ones who can get into the case.

  10. I’m glad I don’t have to deal with this problem. I’ve got a ’94 Mazda pickup (basically a Ford Ranger with a Mazda emblem on the front) and it’s worked wonders for me. It was absolutely wonderful when I moved cross-country to come to BYU for school!

    Technically it seats four (including the driver), but I’ve got so much junk in the back of the cab, I can only honestly claim two, though…

  11. Is there a foam shop nearby – one that sells and fits foam – becuase you could get a block cut to go over the rear restraining thing and avoid any cargo / foot damage.

    1. Heck, just buy or find a block/sheet of Styrofoam, cut an appropriate slot with a knife, and drop it over the tab. Or even simpler, just put two squares of Styrofoam to the left and right of the tab and tape them together. All you need is to put a little support on either side to keep the tab from punching through the bottom of a box. Sufficiently thick Styrofoam would do, and there’s usually lots of it lying around.

  12. My recently departed ’93 Grand Am could carry me, an 18′ square Pavilion tent with poles, ropes, a chair, bedding, a cot, garb for two weeks of Pennsic, a forge, a grinder, a buffer, two toolboxes, drill, saws, axe, 50 swords, 8 fliptop boxes of merchandise, a cooler, enough plywood to make 24 feet of tabletop, a sword rack, three knife racks, a cloak rack and lighting.

    There was still enough room my 3 year old daughter wanted to come along riding on the console. I said no.

    296,000 miles, and I got paid $300 to acquire the car. I’ll never come out ahead like that again.

  13. And the next time you need to do this… Save the hassle – put a hitch on the car and buy/rent a little enclosed cargo trailer. Best part is, you can dump the trailer and run around town without it. Chain the trailer to a post, lock the door and the cargo is safely stored, then hitch up to go home.

    Been There, Done That – I had the right seat out of my car for a paper route, and unless you literally build a wall it’ll all try to land in your lap when you make hard right turns. I gave up and used my trailer on Sundays, dropped it at a central point, and transferred papers to the car 100 at a time.

    And a utility trailer is perfect for hauling all the messy stuff you do NOT want inside the car, like sacks of cement…

    Four different companies list off-the-shelf hitches for New Beetles in the $100 – $150 range. Some of them say “Except Turbo S” – which probably means the tailpipe is different and you need the kit modified or you get a “custom” hitch made for a few bucks more.

    Little cars can tow just fine, you just have to be realistic when judging how much weight you saddle them with.

  14. Thanks!!!


    Thanks for posting these directions. I have a ’98 New Beetle and found your blog as I was looking to replace both of my front seats. My little car (which I won from a radio station here in LA 9 years ago) has over 200k miles on it and other than the fronts seats (especially the driver’s seat) wearing it is in great shape.

    I wouldn’t have even known where to start, but I used your directions for both seats and then reversed them to install a pair of seats I bought through eBay ($150 for the pair). The entire thing took me (and a buddy who mostly stood around and watched) less than 45 minutes including a quick trip to the auto parts store to get a different size Torx bit.

    My car looks and feels much better now. Don’t listen to all those other guys tell you to get a new car. If you’re lucky your Beetle will last you many more trips to Comic-Con.

    Thanks again!


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