Giving the paws pause
(Click to enlarge)
Pooch Protection
in my Nissan Leaf

February 2015

Mark D Larsen

The other day one of my EV mentors asked if, in addition to ‘Tisa’s safety seat, I had installed a rear seat cover for her in my Leaf. I confessed that I hadn’t yet taken that precaution.

When I first bought the seat, a cover didn’t seem necessary, because I always picked ‘Tisa up to strap her in it. However, a couple of months ago, I decided to teach her how to jump into the car, then onto the bench, and finally into her seat all by herself. She got the hang of it immediately, but the new trick meant that the rear seat could end up stained from dirty, wet paws. I therefore took an old sheet, cut some holes in it for the headrest posts and seatbelt buckles, and draped it over the seat to help protect it.

The EV expert’s query got me thinking that perhaps I really should invest in a better solution, because the old sheet only absorbs instead of repels moisture. I did a bit of web browsing and ultimately decided to order from Petsmart a Kurgo Bench Seat Cover, as well as a matching set of Kurgo Car Door Guards. They arrived in just a couple of days, and I installed them that evening. Below are photos and descriptions of the process.

NOTE: You can click on any of the following photos to enlarge them.

The old sheet that I had draped over the rear seat previously was better than nothing, I suppose, but not impermeable. And its appearance was frankly laughable.

Here is the new Kurgo cover fresh out of the box. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the material is very durable. It is made of tough canvas, with a rubberized backing that is completely waterproof. The quality of the product is much better than I anticipated, given its very reasonable price. It also boasts a couple of pockets for storing items, and openings with velcro closures that allow access to a car’s seatbelt buckles.

The door guards are of the same top quality. Along the bottom are mesh covered storage pockets; along the top are textured rubber strips for extra protection from sharp claws along the windowsill.

The seat cover is held securely in place in three ways. The first uses a long, adjustable strap that wraps around the back of the seat, as shown in the above photo. I snapped it together loosely, and later tightened it up snug after securing the other anchors.

The second attach point consists of a long bungee cord connected to the middle of the cover, just under the front lip, and the edges along the sides. You loop the cord underneath the seat’s two corners, and then snug it tight by pulling it through plastic releases like those found on backpacks and the waists of fleece jackets.

The third attach points are adjustable straps that loop behind the headrest posts, shown above. Because ‘Tisa will often jump from her seat onto the cargo shelf to look out the back window while we’re driving, I added some extra protection by draping a hand towel over the back of the seat, and tucked it under the cover and the headrests.

To help keep the towel from sliding around, I attached the bottom edge to the underside lip of the cargo shelf with some medium side paper clips, as show above. You can also see where ‘Tisa’s seat belt is hooked to one of the child seat anchor points in the cargo area.

The door guards can be adjusted for smaller doors, as I have done in the photo above, by folding the front edge backwards to two velcro strips underneath. The guards have four plastic inserts behind the top edge that you simply slide down between the window glass and the door. I was concerned that the guards might not stay in place when cranking the window up-and-down, and was glad to discover that they barely budge. Since ‘Tisa is always in her car seat, I only installed the guard for her side; a rear seat passenger on the other side need not bother with the other one.

I am happy with the result. Although the stiff fabric is not as comfortable to sit on as the Leaf’s upholstery, it both protects and looks better than the clownish sheet I had been using previously. There is only one missing feature that I think the manufacturer should consider for future versions. With the cover in place, the center seatbelt is inaccessible. That problem could be solved with a velcro seam from the one buckle flap up the back to the top. If the middle seatbelt is ever needed, you could open the seam, pull the belt out in front of the cover, and then close the seam again. Of course, muddy paws could stain a belt if left exposed, but at least you wouldn't have to completely remove the cover to accommodate three passengers.

Upsy-daisy! You can click this photo to play a short video of ‘Tisa getting into her seat by jumping into the Leaf and then over the seat cover. It’s a tail wagger for both her and her pet!

April 15, 2015

As noted above, the one disadvantage to this pooch protection is that it covers the middle seatbelt, rendering it inaccessible. Consequently, you would have to entirely remove the cover to safely accommodate two passengers with the dog seat, or three passengers without it, in the rear seat. After studying the cover’s design more closely, I decided to try and correct this drawback by taking it to an alteration shop. I asked the seamstress to unpick the one seam near overlapping seatbelt, and then sew a zipper between the two pieces, which connects at the top and zips down to the buckle flap on the bottom.

I am very pleased with the result. Unless you look closely, you would not even notice that the zippered seam is there. When and if that seatbelt is needed, I can now unzip the seam, extract the seatbelt in front of the cover, and then zip the seam shut again. Below are photos of the results. It’s a keeper!

NOTE: You can click on any of the following photos to enlarge them.

Seam zipped

Seam unzipped

Ready to buckle

Buckled up