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I have a 2003 Toyota Camry and in the last week the seat has locked all the way at the back. If I move the switch to move it to the front the seat will move about 1/4" and stop, and it will also move that far to the back. It doesn't make any noise when it stopped, it behaves just as if it had come to the end of the track. I have checked and there are no visible obstructions or damage. Based on the fact that it moves at least a little I believe I can rule out the motor and switch.

I did some research online and I only found two suggestions:

  • Hit the rails with a rubber mallet while moving the switch.
  • Take it to the dealer for a replacement seat assembly quoted (by the internet, not verified) at more than $1000.

Am I going to do more damage to the vehicle by hitting the rail with a rubber mallet? Is there any other option to try before taking it to the dealer?

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Unbolt the seat from the floor and tilt it back so you can see what moves and what doesn't –  mikes Dec 29 '12 at 19:25
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2 Answers

Sounds to me like you have something binding up or caught in the tracks. Not sure what their theory is with the rubber mallet. If it's to knock the brushes in the motor loose then it won't help because the motor is working. It could be to try and unbind but I doubt it. With that being said it really can't hurt to try the rubber mallet.

My next step would be to loosen the seat bolts and try moving the seat, this will take any tension of the seat rails if it's in a bind. It that doesn't work I would take the seat out and inspect the tracks to see if anything has fallen into them. I have found coins and pens in the tracks before causing this problem.

On another important note. If this is the passenger seat and you even loosen the seat bolts you may have to have the OCS (Occupant Classification System) recalibrated by someone with a scan tool. This system effectively weighs the person in the passenger seat to determine how or if to deploy the passenger side airbag. The systems that use strain gauges require recalibration even if the seat bolts are loosened. If you have a bladder style system you don't have too.

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Some of those seat mechanisms come with safety features like windows do, and when they encounter resistance they stop. Check your seat rails for loose change, or any other tough items (umbrellas, etc). Hitting with a mallet should not harms anything, as you are mostly love tapping. This is to hopefully loosen a stuck rail, or seized motor. Lastly, a mechanic can diagnose it for you and give you an estimate. If you choose to not pay for the rails assembly, ask him to move to where you like it.

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