2010 Headrest Issue Solved?! | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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2010 Headrest Issue Solved?!


Active Member
December 25, 2015
Reaction score
City, State
Rutland, MA
Year, Model & Trim Level
2010 Explorer
As anyone with a 2010 Explorer can attest, the front headrests are just terrible. I went from a 2006 to a 2010 and simply could not believe the ’10 design pushing my head forward so much. And it certainly got a lot of attention to the point that with the change in design for 2011, USA Today published an article about it.


So seems like these 2011 adjustable tilt type rests – if they fit – would be a good solution. Lots of scouring the web and did not find a definitive answer about fitment. Emailed some folks selling “Fits 2011” for rod spacing and diameter and got varying answers on the spacing. The diameter for both the 2010 and 2011 is ½ inch but when it came to having someone measure the spacing on a removed headrest, I guess the rods have some flex, thus got different answers.

So I did a risk buy for a 2011 set and they fit! Ok how about the rest of the story? Are they more comfortable? Here is what I found out:

The ratcheting tilt mechanism at its ‘least tilted position’ seems to be about the same as the 2010. Maybe a little less ‘forward push’, is hard to tell. And if you tilt them forward they are worse than the 2010! So it seems Ford pulled a fast one: marketing folks able to say “we heard you, now you have an adjustable tilt headrest” but the lawyers kept the minimum tilt in accordance with the safety lab that came up with the 2010 version in the first place. Figures….

So came up with a way to measure the ‘forward push’. Attached a level to a stick and with the seatback in the same position each time (by using the memory / preset function), measured the distance between the vertical stick and headrest.

Pic 1 Stick Dwg.jpg

Pic 2 Measurement.jpg

Pic 3 Measurement.jpg

The measurements came out as follows
2010 Original 4 ½ Inches
2011 Tilting Style 4 ¾ inches

No wonder it did not seem to be a significant difference. So while I have reclined my normal seat position slightly, the back of my head always seems to be touching the (2011) headrest. Not uncomfortable like the 2010s but annoying. And if I recline the seat more to get a little space back there, it is too reclined for my liking.

Other thoughts:
The sheer size of the 2010 rests make them unattractive in my opinion. I do prefer the 2011s for their smaller size. And as you can see in the pics the 11’s are a slightly different color (2010 is “Camel” and the 2011s are “Stone”). Even my wife did not notice the difference for the last few weeks they have been installed until I pointed it out the other day.

Pic 4 Size and Color.jpg

Pic 5 Tube.jpg

Pic 6 Distance Between.jpg

Pic 7 Notches.jpg

Conclusion: I’ll be sticking with the 2011s and even though not as much as a difference as I hoped for, I prefer the smaller size. And I am glad I did this to find out; otherwise I would always be wishing I did…

And while I did consider trying to readjust the 2010s by ‘bending’ them as some have suggested, I was concerned about making them unusable (it’s a tube, not a rod). Perhaps I will take them apart now I have the 11s installed and see if there is a better approach. If I do, I’ll post it.

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manual tube bender?

That is my fear: too much manual!
I think its a little thick to do any forming (more pipe then tube) and if I got enough pressure on it I fear it would kink.

I am hoping they come apart easily and then will look how the rods are attached and look to impart the bend at the attachment point or at least as high up on the rod as possible. That way if it goes a little banana on me it will be up inside and still fit in.

Quick update:
1) I measured the distance described above with the 2011 Tilting Rests fully tilted forward and its a neck snapping 2 1/2 inches. Totally uncomfortable and useless. So I am back to my thinking we were being hoodwinked by Ford.

2) I got the bottom of the cover unsnapped on the 2010 original in hopes of seeing if I can impart a bend at the mounting point of the rod. Nope. See pic.
HR Rod Exposed.jpg

So my thinking now is that if I put a close fitting pipe over the rod and slide it down as far as possible, I may be able to bend it to a more reasonable angle without putting any curves in the tube that has to remain straight.

Here is what it looks like with the 2011 rests installed:
HR Pair.jpg

Good info! When I went from my 2008 to my 2010 I said the same thing, it was killing my neck. But I just put the headrest in a vise and bent it until it was comfortable, lol

Perhaps I am overthinking this and should try the vise...
The robustness of the 'rod' (almost like pipe really) makes me concerned I'll put a bow (or kink) in the rod and will thus look odd or not go up and down smoothly.
Did u use a pipe over the rod? Did u get any bowing?

Well, I would not worry about kinking anything, if you try it you'll see what I mean, lol. I did not use a pipe, I just put the headrest down as far as I could against the top of the vise. This way, you won't be bending the main part of the rod, the part that goes up and down. It will remain perfectly straight. You'll only be bending the rod at the part where it goes into the headrest, so nothing to worry about. I did one rod at a time. Trust me, there is NO WAY you will damage it. It took all of my weight (190lbs) to bend it a little at a time, very strong.

Thanks for the info, I'll give it a shot