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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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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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Same thing happened to my 2003 Camry LE. Driver seat locked up in furthest position back. After disassembly of cover for switches also removed entire switch assembly then went further to disassemble switch, found circuit board had shorted out nearest where it plugs in. Don't know if this part is sold separately yet and will begin the hunt tomorrow. After trying the motor unlock and it did not free up a friend discovered the burned circuit board. Hope this post helps since the mallet trick wasn't the seized motor after all.

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At the front of the seat there is a motor and shaft assembly that slides the seat forward and backwards. At the end of the shaft there are two plastic plugs that are screwed into the housing, which acts as a bushing and an adjuster. If one of these plugs falls out the tracks jams up and the seat will not move. Remove the four bolts that hold the seat in place and tilt it back, so you can inspect the mechanism. Check the right side if the plug has fallen out. It is a white plastic part with a screwdriver slot. Good luck.

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1996 Toyota Avalon... My wife moved the passenger seat forward and when she released the switch and it kept going and she let it go. I think it either burn the motor out or a kicked a breaker. After removing the four bolts on each side that hold the seat to the frame the seat moved back.I remover the plastic trim piece that had 2 tiny screws And exposed the motor that runs the seat forward and rearward. There are 2 -12 mm bolts that turn the shaft which move the seat forward and back. You can manually adjust the seat by turning either of those bolts...

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There are threaded shafts inside the seat rails. Mounted on the threaded shaft, there is a plastic gear inside of a gear housing, that can strip out. It's fairly difficult to find parts, the cheapest I have been able to find the replacement shaft is $169 for the set of two and it's fairly involved.

I had to remove the seat and disassemble most of the lower portion to get them out, however in the future I could just unbolt/ disconnect the seat and do the work with it in the vehicle, tilted backward, or laying the seat on the back seat a bit.

It would be possible to disassemble these gear assemblies on the shafts to find the stripped/ defective one, and re-install only the working shaft, though I would be hesitant to use the power seat very much, and only when I was out of the vehicle with no weight on the mechanism. there is also a safety issue and liability if you sold the car with missing seat parts.

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