Uncomfortable Headrests Leave Driver in Awkward Position

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 08, 2016

Dear Car Talk:

My 2015 Subaru Legacy is great, except for the headrests. They tilt forward so far that you have to drive bending forward, not sitting up straight. My husband just rented a 2016 Legacy, and they have changed the headrests. I would like to know how to get the headrests changed out. Can you help? -- Ann

Does he still have the rental car? If so, try swapping the headrests and see if the newer ones fit in your car. If they do, swap 'em out and return the rental. (Unless you have a black interior and the rental car has a white one.) Maybe the rental company won't notice.

We've had a number of complaints from people about headrests that push their heads too far forward. The problem is that for accident whiplash protection, you want the headrest to be touching your head when you sit comfortably -- or certainly no more than 2 inches away from the back of your head.

But not everybody has the same anatomy, so some people feel that the headrests force them to drive while staring at their laps. That's not good for accident avoidance, either.

One thing you can try is reclining the seat back some more. That'll move the headrest backward, and if the seatback angle isn't uncomfortable for you, that might work.

Some people have reported to us that they've turned the headrests around, facing backward. Again, that works only if your head stays within a couple of inches of the headrest.

And then there's the option you're asking about: seeing if another headrest fits in your car. They're not all interchangeable. But it's possible that Subaru altered the shape of the 2016 headrests due to complaints from their customers. And if so, they may have left the holes for the headrest posts untouched. In that case, you can order a set of 2016 replacement headrests and use those instead.

But when you find out what the new ones cost, you may reconsider our rental-car plan. I should mention that I just test-drove the 2017 Audi A4. And I want to commended Audi for including an adjustment that moves the headrest forward and backward -- closer to and farther away from the back of your head. It's the first one of those we've seen, and it makes a lot of sense. We hope to see more of them.


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