Mk1 MINI - The seat will not move to adjust the seat backrest recline but seat will still move for the easy rear passenger access (pushing down on the lever).
This may not work on every defective seat but it did on mine and several others and its free and only takes a moment.
a) tilt and slide the defective seat fully forward, as though you are getting into the back of the MINI.
b) get in to the rear seat, behind the defective seat
c) place your feet at the rear of the base of the seat, to keep in place in the fully forward position.
d) lift the seat reclining lever (the one next to the handbrake)
e) while holding the lever up pull the backrest fully back, to the totally reclined position.......this should reset the mechanism thus fixing the problem.
Thats it, you should find the backrest can now be moved and locked in position, like MINI intended.
Another Method (at your own risk!)
The stuck recline mechanism sometimes requires the brute force method mentioned below.
"The gentle technique above has worked for quite a few people whose seats were stuck in the middle or forward but not for some which were stuck reclined all the way back.
If you are brave and give it some grunt, lifting the lever up as far as it will go, which isn't much as its stuck, and shoving the seat back with your body weight, you will hear two 'clunging' sounds, the seat should then become free, slowly raise the seat while the lever is still up and lock it into the desired position. I assume the clunging sound is the hardcore version of the reset."
More methods from USA:
Sometimes the seat recline mechanism may be damaged beyond repair requiring a new seat frame or for a much cheaper fix use a secondhand replacement seat from somewhere like MINIsparesUK or MINI Matt:
Mk1 MINI - The seat folding forward but not sliding forward to let passengers into the back of the car.
This is often due to a detached or snapped bowden cable. You can normally just see the cable end attached to a small metal lever on the bottom of the backrest under the lower plastic shield/cover trim. It clips in place with a keyhole type slot but if the cable is broken BMW only sell the complete runner/subframe assy @ £150+
Depending where the break is you can use a cheap bike brake cable from somewhere like Halfords to fix it with a bit of ingenuity. So tilting the seat back forward as normal with the lever pulls the cable up and releases the runners as per the standard mechanism.
How To Fix Seat Tilt/Slide Mechanism:
"The part no for upper frame is M188.8.131.52.053 for our MINI 2002 model. It cost 148.65 +VAT with a discount = £178."
How to: take apart 1st gen front seats:
There was also a fairly detailed guide to stripping down a standard seat with lots of pics in Modern MINI magazine May 2008 (Issue 22, pages 36-40)I have posted some pdf files from 'Modern Mini' magazine in the Link below (you may need to register with MiniTorque.com to be able to read them):
First posted on The Mini Club of Ireland (miniclub.ie) with pictures:
"I bought some, second hand half, leather cooper seats to replace my worn out cloth front seats on my R50 Mini One. I couldn't find any posts on other mini forums on how to take the front seats apart so I will try to make a tutorial!"
Firstly you need to take the seats out of the car.
1: This will also involve disconnecting the seat belt pre-tensioner and seat airbags so make sure you turn the ignition off. (other guides also say to disconnect the battery and leave the car for 15 mins. I didn't do that and I didn't have any problems with my airbag warning light when I put the seats back in. You should probably disconnect the battery).
2: Look under the seat from the front, you will see a yellow (airbag) plug and a blue (seatbelt pre-tensioner) plug, unplug these by pressing the small tab in the middle of them and pull out.
3: Slide the seats back and using a T40 bit on your ratchet (for the 1st gen mini, not sure if this will be different for the 2nd gen), unscrew the front bolts. Once taken out, slide the seat forward and do the rear bolts.
You should now be able to lift out the seat.
Removing the runners:
First take off the seat belt pre-tensioner:
1: Start from the rear of the seat, seat belt side. You will need a t50 bit to remove it. Once removed, be careful not to let it swing around, you don't want to damage the electrical cable.
2: Take off the plastic side panels:
2a: Remove the plastic cover over the hight adjuster
2b: Remove the two t25(I think can't remember) screws. They are the holes on the top and bottom left of the picture. The handle should then just pull off.
2c: You will see 2 metal clips in the metal frame, one at the front of the plastic surround one in the middle. You might need to push the seat foam to see the middle one. I used a gentle persuader to punch them out (a hammer).
2d: Unclip the plastic plug at the rear of the cover. As I don't have one of those leaver tools I used some needle nosed pliers, making sure that each side of the plug had a leg of the pliers to make sure it support it properly.
2e: You will need to make sure the seat is in a more reclined position to be able to pull the leg out from under the seat hinge.
Note: There is a plastic clip on the hight adjustment side
You can see where it hooks over the frame here:
3: You should be able to take out the cable for the seatbelt pre-tensioner now.
4: You need to unhook this cable:
5: And pull out the plastic stop thing (yes that is a technical term, in my head at least)
6: In between the U shaped bracket the seatbelt was screwed two t40 screws, undo them on both the left and right hand side. Put the screws somewhere safe and in order (the ones with the rubber surround go at the very rear of the seat).
7: Remove the handle that lets the seat move backwards/forwards, it should pull out quite easily.
8: Now you can swing the runners around so you can get at the two front bolts and the runners should be free.
Take off the bottom seat cover and foam
This is pretty easy to see how to do, so I won't explain in full. Be warned that the rear of the cover is very difficult to get off as there are metal hooks to grab the plastic and the metal is quite sharp.
Plastic seat back
1: Prise the cap off the handle used to let rear passengers in the back and unscrew the T30 (iirc) screw.
2: Do the same with the seat back hight adjuster (there won't be a cap on that one).
3: The seat back is hinged from the bottom so pull from the top, it has two plastic hooks and 2 with the metal catches, like on the side pieces.
Removing the seat back cover and foam
1: Pull off the head rest completely
2: Now you need to take out the plastic guides for the head rest.
2a: I used the handle of my ratchet (yes I know tools abuse) by sliding it up the metal tube from inside the seat and hitting the end with my gentle persuader.
3: On the side where the airbag is, you will have a metal hook that you will need to unhook. (please note there is an idiot trap in the guise of a hook in the middle of the hook that hooks onto the hole in the middle of the fabric hook) OMG so many hooks! :S
Everything else should easily clip/pull off.
Separating the seat back frame from the bottom frame
Firstly a warning. There is a VERY powerful spring on one side of the seat frame. Make sure the seat is in a locked position, preferably with the seat back fully forward. As if you undo the bolts on that side, while the legs are free to move, you will likely hurt yourself or make one of the bolts fly and hit/break something.
1: Place a screwdriver in the hole in the middle of the leg, just in case the legs spring when you unscrew the bolts.
2: Unscrew the bolts (t50)
They will likely be very very tight!
Heypresto! Your seats are now in bits! Good luck putting them back together!
"Well, I hope that helps with anyone changing their seats and finding the second hand seats have some broken mechanisms like my ones were and replacing the frames with the ones from your old seats. Now I am going to cover my hands in plasters, from all the times I cut myself on these damn frames."
Front Seat Removal Guide DIY - R53: