Today: New Prius Headrest is a Pain in the Neck

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 24, 2015

Dear Car Talk:

I love my new Prius C, but the headrest pushes my head and shoulders forward. It's really bad, and my posture really gets messed up, as the new headrests are somehow tilted forward and can't be straightened. Is there a solution to fix that?

-- Jeannette

Have you considered a hacksaw?

It's annoying, isn't it? You can't drive very well if your head is being pushed down and forward, and all you can see are the floor mats.

Here's the problem, Jeannette. The closer the headrest is to your head (preferably touching it), the more effective it is at preventing a serious neck injury if you're rear-ended. That's why automakers err on the side of angling them too far forward rather than too far back.

I've seen some people with this complaint remove the headrest and simply turn it around and reinsert it so that it's protruding backward instead of forward. But there are two potential problems with that: First, because you've turned the notches in the posts around, you can no longer adjust the headrest for height. And, more importantly, the headrest can be too far back. If it ends up more than 2 inches from the back of your head, it won't prevent neck injuries. So that's the crucial measurement.

Here are several other things you can try: First, try adjusting the seatback to recline a little bit more. By moving it back, you'll also move the headrest back. If you find that that puts the headrest in the correct position but now the seatback doesn't provide enough support (since it's also crucial for protecting your back and neck in a rear-end collision), you can try putting a firm cushion on the seatback. Look for one that's the length of the seatback, so it provides support from bottom to top.

And again, remember, you want the headrest to be no more than 2 inches from the back of your head -- preferably closer, or touching.

Another thing you can try is visiting your dealer. Ask if there are other Toyota headrests that fit your car. It's possible that a headrest from another Toyota is slightly smaller or thinner, or sits at a slightly different angle. Again, the key is to find one that allows you to comfortably rest your head against it, or very close to it.

We know people who were unhappy with the headrests on their Prius C's, and swapped them for headrests from the regular Prius. But be warned: Those little things are a lot more expensive than you'd ever imagine.

So see if your dealer will be nice enough to let you remove the headrests from some other cars on the lot and try them in your car. If you find one that you can live with, you can ask the parts department what it charges for one. And when you revive yourself, you can try searching on eBay for a used one.

Or wait for the Toyota's Washington's Birthday Sale, and try to grab a good five-year lease deal on a new headrest. Good luck, Jeannette.


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