If you are looking for more room in your VW Transporter then you have probably come to the conclusion that swivel seat conversions are the way to go. They are an easy fix that allows the seats in your van to turn and become additional seating. This is a great way to increase the liveable space in your ride.
The best swivel bases for VW T6 seats are Kiravans, Exploria, Just Kampers, RustyLee, and Sportscraft. Every one of these brands has been recommended multiple times by seasoned VW owners.
While deciding to do a swivel seat conversion is an easy choice, choosing the right swivel base for you is not such a simple task. There are plenty of variables to consider, and each different base is recommended for a different set of reasons. Read on to learn what you should consider and which base will work best for you.
VW T6 Swivel Base Costs
Before you can even get started installing anything you should be aware of the costs of doing a swivel base conversion for your VW T6. This will help you determine what you will be able to purchase and how many seats you can replace.
At the very least, you are looking at spending about £150 to do one seat, whether that is the driver’s seat or the passenger’s seat. Most single swivel bases cost this much, though some may be more or less.
If you need to convert a swivel base for a double passenger seat that can cost twice as much. Many van owners decide to switch out their double passenger seat for a single when making this conversion because of the cost and practicality.
The alternative to this is replacing the double passenger seat with a single passenger seat, but you will find that this costs no less than the swivel base. In fact, replacing the double passenger seat with a single seat can cost more depending on what year seat you are looking for and the availability of single seats available.
If your van requires a handbrake relocation kit (and the kit is not provided in the swivel base kit) you will be spending an extra £10-£20. Odds are your T6 will require relocating the handbrake, but most swivel base kits include the relocation.
At this point, the original handbrake cover will either need to be modified or discarded. If you care about the aesthetic appeal of your Transporter then you will probably want to purchase a new handbrake cover to use after your relocation. Combe Valley Campers offers this custom replacement, but it adds on another £60 to your costs.
The swivel base conversion is easy enough to do on your own, but if you want to pay a garage to do it you are going to be looking at labor costs around £175. Each garage is different, though, so that is something you need to call about. Your preferred mechanic may also prefer a specific brand of swivel base, or they might purchase it on their own.
Basic Components of Swivel Bases for VW T6 Seats
Every swivel base is constructed to serve the same main function, and they vary pretty little on that part. It is the aspects of this basic construction, like the height they add to your seat or the weight they add to your vehicle, that impacts your purchasing decision.
These are the main deciding factors to consider when deciding which swivel base to purchase for your Volkswagen T6.
Swivel base plates consist of three main parts:
- A plate that is fixed to the floor of the vehicle
- A plate that is fixed to the bottom of the seat
- A pull handle that unlocks the plates and allows the top one to swivel
They are constructed using a strong metal, usually steel, that will hold the seat securely in the case of an accident. If you get the chance to inspect a swivel base before purchasing it you should make sure that you are comfortable with how it fits the seat and how it executes a turn.
Ideally the seat should sit without wiggling while using the vehicle for its original function of driving. The base should lock into place without fail, and it should turn without friction.
One of the biggest issues with any swivel seat base is that it will add height to your seat. This can be a plus if you already find yourself wanting taller seats, but if you (or any other drivers of the van) are on the shorter side it would be in your best interest to seek out a shorter conversion kit.
Alternatively, you may purchase a lowered seat box to replace your standard seat box. These are manufactured to offset the additional height acquired when doing your swivel seat conversion. You will need to make sure that your swivel base is compatible with a lowered box; some explicitly state that they are not suitable together.
Ideally, you should keep any additional weight to your van on the lower end. There is plenty of debate about weight distribution in the vehicle and how it can affect stability while the vehicle is in motion, but that is not the only thing to keep in mind.
Anything you add or modifications you make puts more weight on the vehicle, thus putting more stress on its systems. Higher weight affects both motor function and suspension. This is not an issue if you work to keep additional weight low, but it is still something that should be considered when changing things up.
This does not mean you need to skimp or scratch on your dreams, but pay attention to how much weight you are adding. Search up the payload for your specific model, and make sure that you stay below that weight when making modifications. You also need to leave room for transient weight like passengers, fuel, and temporary cargo.
It is important to choose a swivel seat base that meets or surpasses current safety measures. You already know that anything in your vehicle should be secured to reduce the change on it becoming a projectile. Anything you install in your vehicle that will be used during its normative function should meet these measures.
Most, if not all, of the major swivel seat bases have European TUV safety approval and have passed any crash test certification. You can always inquire with the manufacturer regarding any safety concerns or certifications, but in most cases they will always be proud to post these in product descriptions.
While it is not necessary for everything in your vehicle to be safety approved, these seats will be used while the vehicle is in motion. It is imperative that they will perform correctly in case an accident occurs for your wellbeing, your passengers’, and the wellbeing of any other people who may be involved in the accident.
5 Best Swivel Bases for VW T6 Seats
Now that you have an idea of what you should be looking for we can look at the best swivel bases for your T6 seats.
The seats listed below all meet the basic requirements of a good swivel base for your Volkswagen T6. They come highly recommended and display their safety approval on their product pages. At this point it mostly comes down to personal preference (especially regarding any height gains), what is available to you, and your budget.
Kiravans is one of the most popular brands, and for good reason. They list their company mission as being “to simplify, de-mystify and reduce the cost of building a campervan”. This is evident in their products. They offer a variety of swivel bases and accessories for your VW T6, including:
- Driver Seat Swivel
- Driver Seat Swivel (Offset)
- Passenger Seat Swivel
- Passenger Seat Swivel (Offset)
- Double Passenger Seat Swivel
- Passenger Seat Swivel with Safe
Kiravans prices their swivels competitively, and they have European TUV safety approval. They have high ratings and are recommended because they perform well. They outline what hardware is included with every purchase, and they recommend supplemental purchases you may need to make.
Driver swivels are a bit on the high side when compared to other swivel bases, so if you have shorter legs or are already close to your ceiling they might not be for you. Some reviews complain that the release levers interfere with the normal functions of the seats, and that the seats can be noisy during drives in which they are not occupied.
Just Kampers has been part of the Volkswagen community since 1989, and their products focus on Volkswagen vehicles. This allows them to offer a greater variety of products for your swivel seat conversion.
- Drivers Swivel Seat Base (With Handbrake Relocation)
- Passengers Swivel Seat Base
- Swivel Seat Base (With Seat Box and Safe)
The company itself has fantastic reviews on Trustpilot, and they have decades of Volkswagen-specific experience. Their website is easy to navigate, and they offer swivel base kits that include the handbrake relocation.
Their website does not clearly outline the height gain their swivel bases add, which can be a key factor when deciding what base to pick.
If you are looking for a company that prides itself on aesthetics and showmanship, Exploria is a great pick. They have been working for nearly two decades, growing from a small business to a full company with showrooms, workshops, and offices.
Their swivel bases are discussed in their seating section along with specialized seat covers and seating conversions.
Because Exploria deals with custom work it is a great idea to consider them if you already plan on having custom work done. They specifically designed their swivel bases to allow for cables, which is great if you have heated seats, seats with airbags, or any other special wiring related to your seats. They also have the slightest height gain.
The Exploria website is not so friendly if you want to simply buy the kit from them and do it yourself. While it serves as an online storefront there is not an option to simply purchase. The kits are also more expensive than others, which again pits against a “do-it-yourself” attitude.
This brand has a popular presence with vloggers (Combe Valley Campers has mentioned them more than once), and they do a fantastic job of convincing you their work is quality. Rusty Lee has built their presence on manufacturing “the highest quality handmade Rock and Roll Beds”.
Despite focusing on beds, they have ventured off to dabble in a few other Volkswagen modifications. Regarding Transporter swivel bases they have two options:
Rusty Lee swivel bases have bolt holes that are graded to allow for any inconsistencies in bolt placement. On top of meeting TUV standards they boast being M1 (crash) tested, and they claim frictionless movement.
The company seems to have more beds available than other accessories. If you need a handbrake adaptor (which you will for a driver’s conversion) they direct you to search on ebay. There is also no differentiation between passenger and driver seat bases.
Probably the most underrated brand, Sportscraft is easily overlooked for others that have more of a presence. Regardless, they do a decent job of providing swivels without amping up prices.
- Driver’s Side Turntable
- Passenger Side Turntable
- Driver Side Leisure Battery
- Passenger Side Leisure Battery
The Sportscraft swivel bases are the cheapest ones on this list, despite the fact that their driver swivel bases also include the handbrake conversion kit. They are TUV safety approved, and they have the most transparency regarding key elements like additional height and weight.
If you are the type of person who strives toward brand loyalty this is not the company for you. Sportscraft has just as many complaints as it does praise, so it can be hard to key in on their quality. They may not be a great choice if you do not like to gamble.
Special Consideration: Universal Swivel Base
Trust me when I tell you that you are better off purchasing a kit that is specific to your vehicle. Universal kits can be great things in the right environments, but when you are talking about a modification that is designed to make your life easier – this is not one.
Contrary to most cases, universal swivel bases appear to cost more than vehicle specific ones. They cause issues in two major areas.
First, a universal kit is unlikely to fit to the bolts that are already secured to your vehicle. This means you will need to modify the swivel base to accustom the bolts, spending time and effort taking measurements and drilling holes.
Second, odds are your seat will be ill-fitted to the swivel base. This means even more measurements and drilling, and probably more than a few foul words.
The more you cut into a piece of metal the less secure it becomes. If there is one place you want security, it is where you sit when your vehicle is in motion.
Pair this with the fact that you are actually more likely to pay extra for a universal kit, and it does not make sense at all.
Save yourself time, effort, and sanity – bypass the universal kit.
Marine Swivel Base
While we are here, it is worth pointing out that the significantly cheaper marine swivel bases are not a fantastic option either.
Marine swivel bases are not rated for securing passengers in a land vehicle, and they are usually significantly smaller than the swivel base that you would use for your Transporter seats.
Marine swivel bases are also typically made from aluminum, not steel. Aluminum is much more malleable, and the base is likely to break in the case of an accident. Even if you did not plan on riding passengers in that seat, it increases the likelihood that the seat is unsecured in an accident, and it could potentially become a projectile.
This is another item that seems like a good idea until the facts are brought to light.
How to Install a Swivel Base
As far as conversions go, installing a swivel base in your Volkswagen Transporter is a pretty easy one. Because each swivel base follows the same basic idea, they have a general set of rules that they follow, and most companies will include any instructions that are specific to their swivel bases.
Tools You Will Need
Before you even begin you should make sure you have the necessary tools for the whole process. Depending on the year of your vehicle and whether any modifications have been made prior to this adventure your hardware may not match the instructions you receive.
You do not need power tools to get this job done. You simply need to remove and install the seats, which deals mostly with nuts and bolts. You will likely need:
- An allen key (probably 5mm)
- A socket OR
- A spanner (or both, but probably 13mm for either tool)
- OPTIONAL – Trim removal tools
- OPTIONAL – Craft knife, or something sharp to cut trim
Removing the Old Seat
The first thing you will need to do is remove the old seat from the vehicle. This is done by removing all the nuts and bolts that secure it to your floorboard. It is not a bad idea to hold onto these, even if your swivel seat kit includes new nuts and bolts. There is always the great possibility of losing one of these essential pieces.
If you are converting the seat base as well you would remove the old one now and replace it. If not, removing the plastic trim on the rear of the seat base. Normally this pops off, but some models may have phillips head screws securing the trim.
Adding the Swivel Seat Base
When everything is clear, align the holes of your seat base with the studs. At this point you need to make sure that the base is properly oriented, meaning that it will face forward, turn in the correct direction, and end up facing the interior of your van. It would be a shame to spend an hour of your time before realizing the seat is backwards.
Some manufacturers will indicate which corner matches which stud. Rusty Lee bases have a single hole that matches up with the front stud, and then the other three holes are elongated so they can be easily differentiated.
Using either the bolts you removed or the new bolts you received, secure the base to the van and move onto the next step.
Secure the Seat
Make sure the swivel is properly oriented (handle toward the dash), and secure the seat to the top plate using the necessary bolts, washers, and nylocks. At this point you can get by with finger tightening everything.
Once the seat is secure enough to move, test it out. Make sure everything is oriented correctly, and turn the seat to ensure it functions properly. If you have no complaints at this point, use your tools and tighten down the hardware to better secure the seat.
Common Problems with Swivel Base Conversions
While converting to swivel seats in your Transporter solves a world of issues, the process is not without its own problems. You can easily solve these by handing them off to a mechanic, but the most common issues are not hard to solve, and knowing what you might run into can prepare you for the worst.
Bolts Do Not Line Up
This can happen for a number of reasons. Maybe you are not the first owner of your VW T6, and the previous owner removed the seat (for whatever reason). Maybe the conversion kit you bought is actually off by a year, or maybe your year model had a slight variation in the alignment of its bolts.
Regardless, this issue is hardly a major one. Within the same model the bolts follow the same basic pattern, and any alignment issue can be solved by either shaving the existing holes (if the alignment is not so far off) or drilling new holes that line up with the original hole centers.
Even though these are minute changes you should note that they might negate any potential warranty you have. You should ensure that the changes do not position the seat in such a way that its movement is inhibited.
Handbrake in the Way
This problem is expected with Volkswagen Transporters so much that many companies will automatically sell you the handbrake relocation kit with your seat swivel kit.
When you add the swivel base plates to your vehicle the original location of the handbrake interferes with the rotation of the seat. A relocation kit allows you to move the handbrake more to the floor so your seat clears it.
The most difficult part of this is ensuring you tighten the slack in the handbrake cable that is created by lowering the mechanism. If you are not comfortable doing this on your own you can consult a mechanic.
Double Passenger Seats
These seats offer some decent benefits if you are a passenger, but they are definitely not necessary. In fact, double passenger seats can be difficult to find and secure swivel conversion for. Even if you manage to get one you will likely find that the operation of the seat is awkward and cumbersome.
If the double passenger seat is something you cannot decide to part with then your best bet is to learn to maneuver around the awkwardness. Some of that can be achieved by using specialized mats to clean up cab appearance, but most of it is done by sheer will.
The agreed upon solution for most of the vanlife community is to replace the double passenger seat with a single passenger seat. This can be a costly task (single seats are not always available, nor are they cheap), but the extra room just might be worth it.
You will be left with two bolt holes between the seats, but you can plug them or attempt to cover them. These seat base bolt covers are specifically designed to fill those holes when converting from a double to single passenger seat.
Three Swivel Seats
An alternative solution to the previous issues is to trade out the double passenger seat for two single seats, but this should only be done if you cannot afford to lose the seating.
Comparing Best Swivel Seat Bases
|Brand||Cost||TUV Safety Approved||Handbrake Relocation Kit||Additional Height||Weight|
|Just Kampers||£154||Yes||Yes||Not Specified||Not Specified|
|Rusty Lee||£144||Yes||Not Included||Not Specified||Not Specified|
The table above compares the top brands based on their driver swivel base.
Based on the table, Sportscraft is the overall pick for a number of reasons. They have the lowest price point, are TUV safety approved, include the necessary handbrake relocation kit, and list a modest weight for their product.