Any way to return a car that's making my mother's back hurt.
March 5, 2008 12:28 PM   Subscribe

My mother recently traded in a 2004 Subrau Outback and bought a 2007 model of the same car a few weeks ago. She loved the car when test driving and was very happy with it for the first few weeks. Now she is finding that it is aggravating her back problems and causing her extreme amounts of pain. She has tried adjusting the seat in all ways and even called her doctor (who wasn't much help, so she's going to try to talk to someone else)

She's only put a few hundred miles on it so far. Most searching I've done has shown that she really has no hope but to sell the car back and that maybe the dealer will be nice if she bought her old one back or bought a different vehicle.

Any ideas? Is there any hope?
posted by kfs27 to Shopping (12 answers total)
Do you know what is causing the back problem? Is it lack of lumbar support? Does the seatback cause her spine to align incorrectly? You could probably get a supportive seat cover/cushion or a combination of the two that are tailored exactly to her needs.

I'm not sure how this particular car would aggravate her back problems unless her back is so sensitive that the vibration and bumping through the suspension into her seat is causing the pain. Given that possibility, maybe she should be driving a luxury-type vehicle with a very very soft suspension.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 12:44 PM on March 5, 2008

Immediate selling seems a bit extreme. Can she not go to LocalBigAutoRetailer and investigate seat supports? There are practically entire other seats now you can layer on the driver's seat.

Loads of people have discomfort driving, and there really are a ton of products out there to increase seat comfort.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:45 PM on March 5, 2008

Not to mention there is an entire market for custom car seats.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 12:47 PM on March 5, 2008

Before you go gettin' all custom, why not see if an '04 driver's seat fits into the '07? I'd look into that first, since the '04 seat is a known quantity.
posted by cocoagirl at 1:23 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

It seems like she'd be unlikely to return the car since the dealer has no incentive to do so as the car will be worth less to them than they sold it for. But it's possible there exists a state/local law addressing a return period for cars.

If she cannot return the car and she's unwilling or unable to take the hit on selling the car and buying the old model she could follow the suggestions of lumbar supports and things like that, though a lot of money could be thrown away on unusable products.

What I would do, in her shoes, is look into the possibility of replacing the seat with one from the 2004 model since she knows that seat works for her. Automakers don't necessarily change things like seat mount bolt patterns with every model change so it may be a drop in replacement, though on a newer car there are possible electronic issues to worry about (most typically detecting a minimum weight in the passenger seat for the airbag to prevent infants and children from being injured by the airbag).

Of course that will require some work on her part in terms of researching the fit. But the job is usually relatively. Pick up a Haynes manual and make sure the seat bolts are torqued correctly to specification if you have a friend or relative do the job. Sources for a seat are going to be auto wrecking and salvage yards. You'll have better luck with the yellow pages and a phone call than you likely will trying to find seats online. Total cost shouldn't be more than a couple hundred and maybe a lot less.

The old seat should be retained for when re-selling the car, should she go with a swap.
posted by 6550 at 1:27 PM on March 5, 2008

I'm going to introduce the notion that the car and the seat might not be the cause of her back pain, but because she just got the new car, and she just got the new back pain, she thinks the car caused the pain. It's an unlikely possibility, but one I suggest she rules out before going to great lengths to fix what might not be the problem.

Two things to do: have her drive around someone else's car for a couple of days and see if it's not the car but any car that's causing the pain, and (obviously) have her go see the doctor.
posted by incessant at 1:51 PM on March 5, 2008

If it were me I would visit a chiropractor and/or massage therapist to get my posture looked at & isolate the muscles involved (a therapist who does sports massage or deep tissue work would be good). Especially since as you indicate, she already has back problems. A bit of stretching & muscle strengthening can do wonders for a chronically sore back. And knowing which muscles are being strained will help if she decides to buy bolsters or whatever.

But you know it could just as easily be the angle of the steering wheel or even the gas pedal that's caused a shift in the way she sits.
posted by headnsouth at 2:41 PM on March 5, 2008

Seconding whomever suggested putting an 04 seat in. Chances are very good that it'll bolt right in, since iirc the 04s have the weight sensors and side-curtain airbags that the 07s do. You can quite easily do the job yourself if you're handy with some tools and can read instructions, but if you're uncomfortable with that idea, any competent body shop can do it for you.

Another option is to get a different seat within the same year/body line. For example, the leather and cloth seats in the early Mercury Cougars are vastly different. The Suby might be similar in that regard (it's certainly the case with the WRX). I'd test drive some 07s with different appointments.

A third option is to invest in some foam backrests. They're very common and can be had in many auto accessory stores. They're also uniformly very cheaply made - if you find one that works, buy several and keep them sealed and in their original packaging.

A last, and most costly option is to get a custom seat. Recaro, for example, sells much more than racecar seats, and will gladly sell you something built to your specification.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 4:02 PM on March 5, 2008

You know, my back hurt almost constantly for a few weeks after I bought my car and started a new job at the same time.

What helped with the car:

-Pulling the seat farther forward than I thought it looked like it should be, so I wasn't leaning forward at all while driving.

-Making sure I was placing both feet in roughly the same forward position—so right foot on the pedal, and making sure the left foot was on that foot-rest thing whenever I was driving.

-Really inhabiting the car, not pulling back into a defensive sitting position with my left knee pulled back toward me—I was sitting defensively at first 'cause I was nervous about driving the new car.

-Tilting the steering wheel downward/forward and also steering with my hands on the lower to middle part of the steering wheel by default, only keeping them on the top part when it's needed for greater control in the course of driving.

-Not slouching, and not sitting up overly straight.

-Oh, and adjusting the angle of the seat so it supported me, but didn't push the head rest forward to the point of annoyance. Repetitive fidgeting because of something like that that you don't even notice can exacerbate back problems.

What helped at work:

-Adjusting the height of the desk chair so I could sit comfortably and naturally in front of the keyboard/desk.

-Buying new keyboards for work and at home with lighter laptop-style, non-broken keys.

-Replacing the default Apple one-button, wired mouse with a wireless, two-button plus scrollwheel Microsoft mouse.
posted by limeonaire at 4:59 PM on March 5, 2008

Response by poster: turns out it is a 2008 and it's her tailbone that is what is bothering her the most. any tailbone specific recommendations?
posted by kfs27 at 11:42 AM on March 6, 2008

Try googling "coccyx cushion". Proper lumbar support is going to help with tailbone issues as well. I have a lumbar cushion for long drives that helps prevent an old tailbone injury from getting painful.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:18 PM on March 6, 2008

I used to spend at least three hours a day in the car and it really messed up my back, hips and knees. I couldn't bend over to touch my toes and often needed help getting up. I started by going to my doctor and a chiropractor. My chiropractor recommended getting a seat cushion like this one. It's a wedge shape, so the back of it is a bit higher than the front. After three or so visits to the chiropractor and using the cushion while in the car, I was almost back to normal. After six to eight months, I was fine. I still use the cushion in the car - if I don't the problem starts to return.
posted by youngergirl44 at 8:19 PM on March 6, 2008

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