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How to - access the slide locking mechanism for the bench seat (2008 SE)



Lifetime VIP Member
North Devon
T5 SE 130
So in an earlier thread I needed to access the mechanism that locks the bench to the rails in my 2008 SE as the mechanism was't working properly. It was an awkward job but not beyond the capability of anyone with a basic tool kit. In case it is of interest to anyone, the steps I took along with some pictures to help. If anyone can confirm the applicability of this to later models then that may be useful.

I can see that the work would be much easier if you removed the bench from the Cali, or tipped it back, however it it perfectly doable without doing so as long as you can fit in the space where the drawer goes under the seat - and since I was on my own it was the only option I had :)

Firstly, make as much space as you can - I removed the rear stop to let me push the bench back further but that's not strictly necessary to do, as long as you can fully open the under-bench drawer. Open the drawer, then inside the drawer at the bottom there are only 2 small screws, front left and front right - circled red below - remove them and the drawer unit simply lifts off of the sliding rails. I put the screws back into the holes in the side rails in order not to lose them.


Then if you look in the cavity that you have opened up, you will see the area that you will be spending a lot of quality time in shortly.


The red screw is the screw that fixes the drawer to the sliding rail that I put back for safekeeping

The green bolts are what need to be removed to access the mechanism - all of them, they all look the same, the lot come out.

The orange bolt at the back holds on the seat belt inertia reel - this has to be removed by unbolting a single 17mm bolt in order to access one of the side panel bolts that you need to unscrew. This is easier done from the other side - remove the tool kit and you can physically access the bolt more easily even though you can't see it.
I unscrewed it and turned the reel round and bolted it temporarily on the reverse side of the bracket just to keep it out the way. Do NOT forget to put this back the right way if you do this...

-edit- if you have a 4mm Allen key and arms like a gorilla you may be able to undo this without removing the seat belt reel, however I didn't rate my chances of not rounding off the bolt head by not having it exactly straight so moving the seat belt reel was a no brainer for me.

Link to earlier thread:

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So to undo the bolts holding the side panel on, I never work out exactly what size bolts they were. I used a mixture of a 4mm hex bolt and a Torx T25 head and a small battery powered impact driver to provide the oomph. - neither were completely satisfactory and jammed up a couple of times on the bolt heads but they did manage to remove them all. Make sure you apply a lot of force inwards and hold the driver straight - you do not want to round off these bold heads.

All of the bolts are visible on that side panel, you need an extended bit to get the one that is behind the seat belt inertia reel that you have already got out of the way and two of the bolts are under the edge where the cushion goes - you have to raise the seat cushion up to access them.

There are two pairs of bolts in the slide rail - only two have to be removed as two only hold the slide rail to the side panel. The rear bolt of each pair need to come out - so counting from the front of the rail remove bolts 2 and 4 leaving the front-most and 3rd front the front in place - but no harm in removing all four.

Also note that two of the bolts are a different length to the rest. I believe that these two longer ones go in the bottom where you bolt through the slider and then the frame behind, but I can't be certain. oops

Once all of the bolts are removed then the panel just falls away towards you revealing the mechanism.

IMG_20200131_112406361 (2).jpg

Note that I am almost certain that the mechanism is duplicated on the other side but since my problem was with the lever which is one side only I have not explored it - however access appears to be looks identical but in reverse.

Interestingly the lever directly moves the mechanism on the lever side, but also rolls a long bar that runs across the top front edge of the seat and I would assume that this rotating bar moves the mechanism on the other side. You can feel the bar if you put your fingers under the lip of the seat above where the drawer closes - move the lever and you can feel it rotate.
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So how does it work.. This video shows the mechanism in action - there is a front and a back lock but they appear to be identical.

The first picture shows the mechanism in the locked state. The orange arrow points to the release lever which is currently not pulled. You can see the mechanism "relaxed" and the springs in red have pulled the triangle shaped cams round so that the feet under the floor rails are pulled upwards and clamp the bench into position.


When the release lever is pulled, the mechanism is moved in the direction of the red arrows, so the horizontal bars go left as the lever goes out and then the vertical bars get pushed down.

They in turn pivot the triangular shaped cams and push the feet under the rails down unlocking the mechanism. The whole bench is then free to move on the wheels.

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Is the white cloud is the video your breath? Bravo for taking one for the team! Even when I go to my sister's yoga class, we don't breathe so slowly...
Is the white cloud is the video your breath? Bravo for taking one for the team! Even when I go to my sister's yoga class, we don't breathe so slowly...
Lol, didn't think about it at the time but looks like I was holding my breath.

I have the team to thank for giving me enough information to attempt the work in the first place, so least I could do is give something back.
Final report - new spring obtained from a local mechanic - we had to fettle one a bit to suit, but the mechanism is now as good as new.

Re-installation is the reverse of taking apart , just make sure that the side panel is squarely mounted, put in all screws loosely and then tighten. Don't forget to put the seatbelt reel back. I recon I could do it start to finish in an hour next time :)
Thank you for all this detailed information.

Since last summer we have had the bench seat pushed back as far as it would go to maximise space inside the van. When I first decided to try this, I was prepared for having to remove the stops, only to find that there weren't any (second hand van). I thought it was nice to have more living space, but OH prefers more luggage space, so we've been trying to bring it forward again, but it's been jammed. The bench has been stuck in the pushed-back position.

We tried all the options suggested in various threads on the forum (thank you everyone): pulling up the lever as far as it'll go and then some; poking a wire coathanger along the tracks; jumping up and down on the seat; pushing it one side or the other from the front and from the back. No luck.

So, more definitive action needed! With the help of Steve_b's photos, video and description, we took the toolbox off the back of the seat; took out the drawer and undid the bolts holding the nearside side panel (rounding off a couple of bolt heads in the process). We also took off the nearside support for the rear rack (which unscrews inside the wardrobe) and disconnected the loop of tape that ties the seat down (not the one you pull to convert it into a bed), which is fixed with a single cross-headed (Philips) grub screw. This then enabled the bench seat to be tipped up (it's hinged at the front), making it possible to get in behind and so a bit easier to get at the side panel under the seat. However, once that was removed, the mechanism was visible and seemed to be working ok.

But, having dismantled everything, somehow we were then able to get the seat sliding again by pulling the lever up to the extent that the whole front of the seat unit lifted up a bit. This was with the seat back inclined slightly. I don't know whether this re-seated it on the rails or what, but it's working again.

So another 'fix' option for a non-sliding bench seat might be to tip the back down a bit and see if that makes it possible to yank the whole thing up with the lever. Previously we couldn't get the front of the seat to lift up at all - maybe it was slightly misaligned in the rails. I just went out and had another go, and it's still working ok, thankfully.

Thanks steve_b and everyone for your helpful advice, as always.
Following on from my post above, the sliding bench was ok for a while but then got stuck again. This week we were taking the van into our local VW garage for something else, so got the helpful guy to have a look at it (having already taken the side panels off to display the mechanism). He poked about and looked along the rails with a very powerful light, and eventually found that there was a stop still in one of the rails, but rolling about loose, behind the back of the seat mechanism. This had caught under the mechanism and was stopping it moving. There was no stop in the other rail. So, pushed the stop right to the back and tightened it up. Hopefully that's the end of the problem...

Anyway, the seat is now back in its regular position, so that we can load up the boot with awning etc ready for a few weeks in the Lakes and Wales. But it does make the inside of the van seem a lot smaller, so next job is working out how to construct a half-depth rear shelf to make the pushed-back arrangement work better for storage. I'm sure there are some ideas on here somewhere.
I have a design for a half depth rear shelf, I just need someone to make it :) My design would in theory allow the 5th seat to be in place and the bed to fold down - yet to be tested in practice

I hate removing the 5th seat, which is so necessary for my day to day use of ferrying kids about, and then camping with only 3 of us
I'm adding to this thread from my additional experience. My seat failed to function (2006 California) when the seat was well forward and could not therefore open the drawer to remove.

The answer after much fiddling was from access behind the tool tray. Remove the seatbelt reel and as many retaining screws as possible. I was then able to spring open the inner plate by about 2 inches - just enough to move the cam and depress the mechanism.

Obviously this is only of use if a rear slider is locked.