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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Aluminum Racing Seat Materials

The materials used in the construction of the aluminum race seat have to serve multiple purposes. They have to be as light of weight as possible while being strong enough to survive high G-forces encountered in competition driving and the inevitable crashes that happen. The physics of crashing a race car tells us that a driver's weight can effectively double during impact and obviously, the race seat has to be strong enough to support the load. As racers, we certainly want to be safe, but we also look for every advantage to be found in order to remain competitive. Adding unnessary weight to any race car is a disadvantage, so the seat needs to be as light on the scale as possible, without sacrificing strength.

The majority of aluminum racing seats use .100" 5052 Grade Aluminum as the primary material. Obviously, this thickness of aluminum is a good combination of strength and weight. The aluminum gains even more rigidity when it is bent into the various sections which will ultimately form the seat. The fabricators will commonly use .125" aluminum when constructing the head and shoulder supports. A combination of both the .100" and the .125" can be used for additional thickness in other critical areas to increase the strength. Depending on the seat builder and the seat model, either an aluminum or rubber "U", will fit over any raw edges of aluminum. The aluminum "U" can provide some additional strength, while the rubber "U" will just provide protection against cuts in the seat pad or the actual user.  Once all the various pieces are cut and bent to fit the factory jig, a welder will use TIG to finish the final product. Proper TIG welding techniques will yield a result that resembles rows of quarters leaning on top of the next.

All aluminum race seats come with an upholstered cover or the option to purchase the cover separately. A DOT approved fabric or a Naugahyde type material are the 2 main seat cover options among the various manufacturers.  Usually, the only racers who will not use the cover are a handful of dirt oval competitors. Typically, the covers have built in foam attached to the seat bottom to add some comfort. The covers are attached to the seat with preinstalled snap rivets. The covers can be easily removed for cleaning or replacement. Standard aluminum race seats have covers of 1 or 2 pieces. Full containment race seats have covers of up to 8 pieces. Full containment race seats also have a higher impact foam attached to the headrests for increased protection. Most race seat manufacturers will provide the high impact foam on all padded sections upon customer request.

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