Steering Clear of Toasted Skin Syndrome

Published by Nadeem Muaddi on April 8th, 2013

The Hog Ring - Auto Upholstery Community - Seat Heater Kit Burns

The Detroit News ran an interesting, yet strangely unseasonal, op-ed in this morning’s opinion section highlighting “Toasted Skin Syndrome” – which is the term that doctors use to describe the burns caused to vehicle-passengers’ skin after prolonged exposure to seat heaters.

Brian J. O’Connor, the author of the article, explains:

Toasted Skin Syndrome (which is an actual thing) results when the backs of your legs, thighs and buttocks become darkened and discolored after too much time snuggled into a heated seat. Yes, your heated leather seats literally could tan your hide.

Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Society of Automotive Engineers have unleashed teams of experts to get to the bottom of it all (so to speak) and forge safety standards. [more]

In 2011, we reported on the NHTSA’s concern over seat heaters in an article titled “Seat Heaters Pose Danger to Passengers“. At that time, an Oregon-based law firm was said to be representing 25 cases of seat-heater burns, with at least 150 other victims identified. Since then, seat heaters have become more affordable and readily available, resulting in an increased number of passengers experiencing “Toasted Skin Syndrome”.

While it’s not clear what safety standards (if any) have already been implemented to prevent passengers from burning themselves, trim shops that install aftermarket seat-heater kits may want to start carrying advanced models that are equipped with timers, manual setting options or lower temperatures.

Doing so is a win-win for shops and customers – as trimmers can charge a price premium for the better kits, while ensuring the safety of their patrons.

4 Responses

  1. that’s why we only use Check Seat Heaters- even on my cloth seats I do not have to worry about burning someone— We have tried the carbon fiber ones — and they get way too hot so we decided not to use them in any vehicle (even though they are cheaper – more as they say more affordable?)

  2. That’s an interesting alternative Sueann. Thanks for sharing.

    Photos of seat-heater related burns that I’ve seen look pretty gruesome. I wonder how passengers let it get to the point where it causes serious injury. One would think they would turn it off before then.

    But I suppose it’s better to be safe than sorry.

  3. tyson says:

    Wow. Nadeem, I have a feeling its kinda like the mcdonalds coffee burn incident.The coffee is hot?! What.Even the carbon fiber ones i use from Champion have a temp.sensor.

  4. I have probably replaced 10 in Cadillacs 00-03 were they have little burn holes inside out. The heaters just shorted them selves out. Now it seems gm is using the carbon elements.

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