The 10 Best Heated Car Seat Cushions
A Brief History Of Car Seat Padding
But, as it turns out, the history of car seats is more interesting than you might expect.
The first cars were essentially mildly souped-up horseless carriages, and as a result, not much thought was put into the seats.
Car seat padding is one of those things that you don't notice until it's gone bad — or gone entirely. If you've ever taken a road trip in an old clunker with worn-out seats, you know what I mean (and I'm sure your chiropractor thanks you). But, as it turns out, the history of car seats is more interesting than you might expect.
The first cars were essentially mildly souped-up horseless carriages, and as a result, not much thought was put into the seats. Ford Model Ts used basically the same seats that carriages used, which is to say metal springs covered with leather and stuffed with horse hair. This couldn't have been comfortable (especially for the bald horses), but the Model T had bigger problems, like having to go up hills backwards to keep gasoline flowing to the engine.
Henry Ford eventually decided to do something about his seats, so he naturally settled on the one thing better than horse hair: rubberized horse hair. By coating the hair in rubber, it would be more durable and give the cushions a longer lifespan. Coconut hair was also used at this time, with its main advantages being price and availability.
In the 1930s, latex foam was invented and started to be used in car seats. The auto industry quickly switched over, and it became the dominant cushion substance for the next 20 years.
Once the 1950s rolled around, however, polyurethane foam took over. Early versions of this padding were made in sheets or slabs, which gave cushioning but not a lot of conformity. Eventually, however, the industry learned how to mold it to fit individual seats, increasing both its comfort and attractiveness.
The first heated seats, meanwhile, were available as an option on the 1966 Cadillac Fleetwood. It drew heat directly from the engine, and cost a cool $60, which is around $500 in today's money. The first standard heated car seat was on the 1972 Saab 99E, and it turned on once the interior temperature reached 58 degrees.
Benefits Of A Heated Car Seat
Having a heated car cushion may seem like a luxury, but there are some fundamentally sound health reasons why you should treat yourself. After all, the average American spends 17,600 minutes behind the wheel each year, so you might as well be comfortable while you're there.
The most obvious benefit comes on days when the mercury drops below freezing.
The most obvious benefit comes on days when the mercury drops below freezing. If you've ever sat down on an ice-cold car seat (or worse, found yourself stuck to one), then you know what a brutal wake-up call that can be. Having a nice, toasty seat waiting for you definitely takes some of the sting out of driving in the winter. Also, if your car's heater isn't terribly effective, having a heated seat is an absolute must.
Many people find that heated seats help with their health conditions as well. If you suffer from chronic back pain, for example, the warmth from the cushion can help reduce your discomfort and increase circulation to the affected area. Heat is especially good for muscle injuries, so if you're an athlete, having heated seats could boost your recovery time.
Cold can exacerbate the pain associated with certain conditions, like arthritis, so if you or one of your passengers is afflicted, they'll definitely be grateful for the respite. Also, many cushions come with features like a massage function, so you can knead away stress while you're stuck in traffic.
Now, I'm not promising that these seats will cure your road rage, but they'll definitely make you less likely to pull a muscle while you lay on the horn.
Tips For Staying Comfortable When Stuck In The Car
If you're going to be driving cross-country — or if your typical morning commute just feels like driving halfway around the world — then staying comfortable is extremely important. After all, if you're fidgeting and struggling to find an enjoyable position, you're likely not focused on the road ahead.
Many cushions provide lumbar support, as well, but if you need more, placing a pillow in the small of your back can help.
One of the first things you need to do is check your posture. I know, sitting up straight can be hard to do for hours at a time, but that's why you need to make it easier on yourself. Situate your mirrors so that you have to be sitting properly to see out of them, and re-position the steering wheel if necessary. Many cushions provide lumbar support, as well, but if you need more, placing a pillow in the small of your back can help.
You can also use traffic time to work on toning your body. You can do some simple stretches and exercises to keep your muscles limber and blood flowing, so that you don't get out of the car feeling cramped and exhausted. Things like pressing your hands into the roof of the car while squeezing your abs, doing neck rolls, and trying a few seated twists can help offset the physical toll that hours behind the wheel can take.
If all else fails, distracting yourself might be your best bet. Pop your favorite album in the CD player and sing along. Find a few podcasts that can expand your mind while also preventing you from extending your middle finger. You can even — purely as a last resort — try talking to any loved ones that happen to be in the car with you.
Ultimately, the more comfortable you are, the easier you'll find it is to pay attention to your driving. A heated seat cushion is a great start towards a more luxurious ride, but you may find you need to use other strategies to keep from losing your mind on your commute.