Title:
Moveable Armrest
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A moveable armrest is provided that pivots from a standard use position to a stowed position behind the backrest of a vehicle seat. The armrest pivots about a horizontal axis for movement from a horizontal position along the side of the seat to a vertical position along the side of the seat, and pivots about a vertical axis for movement from the vertical position adjacent to the inboard side of the seat to a vertical position behind the backrest of the seat. The moveable armrest includes a locking mechanism to prevent unintentional movement of the armrest.



Inventors:
Cooley, Gordon D. (Morristown, TN, US)
Schultz, James D. (Corinth, TX, US)
May, David E. (Sweetwater, TN, US)
Sharda, Anurag N. (Vancouver, WA, US)
Application Number:
11/551067
Publication Date:
04/24/2008
Filing Date:
10/19/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47C7/54
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ALEX, JAMES S
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DAWSEY CO., L.P.A. (P.O. BOX 785, COLUMBUS, OH, 43216, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A moveable armrest for a seat comprising: an armrest; a bracket assembly being attachable to a seat; a first shaft supported by the bracket assembly, extending between the armrest and the bracket, and defining a first axis about which the armrest can pivot; a second shaft supported by the bracket assembly and defining a second axis about which the armrest and the second shaft can pivot; and wherein rotation about the first axis and the second axis shifts the armrest between a use position generally adjacent a seat and a stowed position generally behind a seat.

2. The moveable armrest of claim 1 wherein rotation about the first axis pivots the armrest generally to an intermediate position along side a backrest of a seat, and rotation about the second axis pivots the armrest behind a backrest of a seat.

3. The moveable armrest of claim 2 wherein rotation about the first axis pivots the armrest generally vertical and rotation about the second axis pivots the armrest generally horizontal.

4. The moveable armrest of claim 2 further comprising a locking mechanism to selectively prevent rotation of the armrest about one or more of the first axis and the second axis.

5. The moveable armrest of claim 4 wherein the locking mechanism includes at least a first opening and a second opening associated with the use position and the stowed position, respectively, and being defined by the bracket assembly and a first tab being moveable with the first shaft between the first opening and the second opening and capable of being received in either of the first opening and the second opening to restrict movement of the armrest about the second axis.

6. The moveable armrest of claim 4 wherein the locking mechanism further includes a second tab and a slot adjacent the armrest being capable of inter-engagement to restrict movement of the armrest about the first axis.

7. The moveable armrest of claim 6 wherein the first tab is received in the second opening and the second tab is received in the slot when the armrest is in the stowed position.

8. An assembly for operably coupling an armrest to a seat comprising: a body; a first pin supported by the body for pivoting about a first axis; a second pin supported by the body transverse to the first pin for pivoting about a second axis; a first locking mechanism operably associated with the first pin to selectively restrict pivoting about the first axis; and a second locking mechanism operably associated with the second pin to selectively restrict pivoting about the second axis.

9. The assembly of claim 8 further comprising a supporting bracket assembly and wherein the first locking mechanism comprises a first opening and a second opening defined by the support bracket assembly, and a first tab extending from the body for selectively engaging the first and second openings to restrict pivoting about the first axis.

10. The assembly of claim 9 wherein the first tab may engage one of the first and second openings to limit pivoting about the first axis and disengage upon vertical movement from one of the first opening and the second opening to allow pivoting about the first axis.

11. The assembly of claim 10 wherein the second locking mechanism comprises a coupling for attaching the second pin to an armrest, the coupling defining a slot, and further comprising a second tab having a first portion operably coupled to the first pin and a second portion capable of engaging the slot.

12. The assembly of claim 11 wherein the second portion of the second tab may engage the slot to limit pivoting about the second axis and disengage the slot to permit pivoting about the second axis.

13. The assembly of claim 12 further comprising a spring biasing the second portion of the second tab out of engagement with the slot.

14. The assembly of claim 13 wherein the first portion of the second tab comprises a ring disposed around the first pin, and the second portion comprises an L-shaped portion capable of engaging the slot.

15. The assembly of claim 8 wherein the body comprises: a first generally cylindrical bore therethrough for supporting the first pin; and a second generally cylindrical bore therethrough extending generally transverse to the first generally cylindrical bore for supporting the second pin.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to a moveable armrest assembly for vehicle seats and the like and, more particularly, to an armrest assembly that is pivotable from a use position to a stowed position where the armrest is behind the backrest of the seat.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Moveable armrests have been used in many types of seating applications, including vehicle seating. Vehicle seats often include armrests that pivot from a generally horizontal use position to a generally vertical stowed position. The stowed position provides the occupant with additional space laterally for comfort and for movement between adjacent seats, rows of seats, and/or other compartments within the vehicle. In some vehicles, such as commercial vehicles, it also is desirable to take full advantage of the usable space inside the vehicle, including the distance between the driver seat and the passenger seat to provide the largest pass-through. In large, trucks, for example, maximizing the pass-through distance aids moving from the cab portion to the sleeper portion of the truck.

Armrest assemblies have been proposed that are capable of pivoting from a use position to a remote stowed position, such as, for example, those disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 3,550,958, U.S. Pat. No. 5,290,092, and U.S. Pat. No. 5,709,432. However, these prior designs have been overly complex and/or costly and, because they are generally mounted to the inboard side of the vehicle seat, do not minimize obstruction of the pass-through space between the driver seat and passenger seat. These prior designs also tend to be unappealing extensions of the seat and fail to provide an integrated appearance with the vehicle seat.

Thus, it is desirable to provide a moveable armrest assembly, having the functionality of a stationary armrest when in a use position, and which, when moved to a stowed position, is completely stowed behind the vehicle seat in order to maximize the pass-through width between the driver seat and the adjacent passenger seat. It also is desirable to provide such an armrest assembly in a manner requiring only minimum effort to move it from the use position to the stowed position. Additionally, it is desirable that such an armrest assembly include a locking mechanism to avoid unintended movement from the use position and the stowed position.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is an exploded view of a moveable armrest assembly embodying features of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the armrest assembly of FIG. 1 without an armrest;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the armrest assembly of FIG. 1 shown in a use position;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the armrest assembly of FIG. 1 shown in an intermediate position;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the armrest assembly of FIG. 1 shown in the intermediate position and raised to operate a locking mechanism;

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the armrest assembly of FIG. 1 shown in a stowed position;

FIG. 7 is another perspective view of the armrest assembly of FIG. 1 shown in a stowed position including a pair of covers;

FIG. 8 is another perspective view of the armrest assembly of FIG. 1 shown without the armrest and in the use position;

FIG. 9 is a another perspective view of the armrest assembly of FIG. 1 coupled to a seat frame;

FIG. 10 is a partially exploded perspective view of the armrest assembly of FIG. 1 including a pair of covers and a mounting assembly;

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of an armrest assembly embodying features of the present invention;

FIG. 12 is another perspective view of the armrest assembly of FIG. 11 shown without the armrest and in an intermediate position;

FIG. 13 is a perspective view of the bracket and housing components of the armrest assembly of FIG. 11; and

FIG. 14 is a perspective view of an armrest and a cover over a portion of the armrest assembly of FIG. 11.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

FIGS. 1-10 illustrate an armrest assembly 10 with an armrest 12 that moves from a “use” position, where the armrest extends generally horizontally along side of a seat for use by the occupant, to a “stowed” position, where the armrest is behind the seat to maximize pass-through room between adjacent seats. The armrest assembly 10 enables four simple movements, including about two pivot axes, to move the armrest 12 between the use position and the stowed position. For example, with respect to moving from the use position to the stowed position, the armrest 12 is (1) pivoted about a horizontal axis to an upright orientation, (2) raised vertically to operate the locking mechanism, (3) pivoted about a vertical axis to locate it behind the backrest of the seat, and then (4) lowered vertically to operate the locking mechanism. The locking mechanism restrains movement of the armrest 12 to prevent unintended movement of the assembly 10 when in the use and stowed positions.

With reference to FIGS. 1 and 2, the armrest 12 has a proximate end 14 pivotably coupled to a folding mechanism 16 of the armrest assembly 10 and a distal, free end 18. The armrest assembly 10 may be mounted on the inboard side of the driver and the passenger seats of the vehicle and operated to increase the usable space around the driver and/or passenger and to maximize the distance, or pass-through width, between the driver seat and the passenger seat.

The folding mechanism 16 includes a support bracket 20 with a U-shaped center portion 22 defined by a first support tab 24 and a second support tab 26 and a bridge 28 interconnecting the tabs 24, 26. The tabs 24, 26 define a first and second aperture 30 and 32, respectively, for receiving a first pin 34. The first pin 34 extends between the tabs 24, 26 and through the apertures 30, 32, and is secured at each of the first and second apertures 30, 32 with a snap ring 36. The pin 34 is rotatable about a vertical axis 38 (FIG. 4), which extends longitudinally through the center of the first pin 34.

A second pin 40 is coupled to the first pin 34 and to the armrest 12. The second pin 40 defines a transverse bore 42 proximate to a first end 44 for receiving the first pin 34 therethrough and permitting the first pin 34 to freely rotate about the vertical axis 38. The first pin 34 also prevents the second pin 40 from rotating about a horizontal axis 46 (FIG. 4), extending longitudinally through the center of the second pin 40. The armrest 12 is pivotably coupled to the second pin 40 at a second end 48 so as to allow the armrest 12 to rotate about the horizontal axis 46 (FIG. 4).

With reference to FIGS. 1-4, the folding mechanism 16 also includes a locking mechanism to prevent unintended rotation about the vertical axis 38 and/or the horizontal axis 46. More specifically, the locking mechanism includes a cylindrically-shaped pawl 50 with a first end 52 and an opposite second end 54 that defines a first channel 56 extending longitudinally therethrough for receiving the first pin 34. The pawl 50 also defines a second channel 58 generally perpendicular to the first channel 56 for receiving the second pin 40. The second pin 40 also may be affixed at the second channel 58 and to the pawl 50 by roll pins 60 extending through small holes 62 defined by the pawl 50 and complementary small holes 64 defined by the second pin 40.

The pawl 50 includes a locking tab 66 that extends longitudinally from the second end 54 and may be seated in either of a first opening 68 or a second opening 70 defined by the first support tab 24. The openings 68, 70 preferably are spaced apart about 90°. When the locking tab 66 is seated in one of the openings 68, 70, the armrest 12 cannot rotate about the vertical axis 38. To make the armrest assembly universal so as to be capable of being used with both the driver seat and the passenger seat by turning it over, the pawl 50 may be turned around and be used to engage first and second openings 68, 70 defined by the second tab 26 of the support bracket 20.

There is sufficient clearance between the support tabs 24, 26 and the pawl 50 so that the armrest 12 can be raised generally upwards to disengage the locking tab 66 from the openings 68, 70. This unlocking permits rotation of the armrest 12 about the vertical axis 38. For example, when the armrest 12 is fully rotated back behind the backrest of the seat, the armrest 12 may be lowered so that the locking tab 66 engages the second opening 70 of the first tab 24.

The second opening 70 is preferably smaller in size than the first opening 68. The locking tab 66 preferably is shaped so that it decreases in cross-sectional size when proceeding away from the pawl 50. The first opening 68 is sized so that the locking tab 66 can be fully seated within the first opening 68. In contrast, the second opening 70 is smaller such that the locking tab 66 can only be partially seated in the second opening 70. As discussed in further detail below, partial seating of the locking tab 66 in the second opening 70 prevents rotation about both the vertical axis 38 and the horizontal axis 46.

With reference to FIGS. 1 and 2, the locking mechanism further includes a spring 72 and an interlocking tab 74 disposed at the first channel 56 and the first end 52 of the pawl 50. The interlocking tab 74 includes an L-shaped locking portion 76 and a ring portion 78. The spring 72 and ring portion 78 are generally concentric with the first channel 56 of the pawl 50. To operably mount the spring 72 and the interlocking tab 74, the first pin 34 extends through the spring 72 and the ring portion 78. One end of spring 72 sits on a support in the channel 56 of the pawl 50, while the other end engages and biases the ring portion 78 towards the second support tab 26. The spring 72 biases the locking mechanism toward a locked condition and prevents components from rattling against one another.

The pawl 50 includes two diametrically opposed side slots 80 extending into the first channel 56 and the second channel 58. The L-shaped locking portion 76 of the interlocking tab 74 includes a vertical leg 82 that extends through one of the slots 80 and a terminal, foot portion 84. A locking sleeve 86 is fixedly connected to the armrest 12 and is adapted to receive the second end 48 of the second pin 40. The locking sleeve 86 defines a longitudinally extending slot 88 that rotates with the armrest 12 about the horizontal axis 46 and can be aligned with the horizontal foot portion 84 of the L-shaped locking portion 76. When aligned and received in the slot 88, as discussed below, the foot portion 84 through the slot 88 prevents rotation of the armrest 12 about the horizontal axis 46.

In FIGS. 3-7, the operation of the armrest assembly 10 is illustrated. More specifically, when the armrest 12 is in the use position (FIG. 3), the locking tab 66 of the pawl 50 is fully seated in the first opening 68 of the first support tab 24, and the interlocking tab 74 is biased upwardly by the spring 72 so that the L-shaped locking portion 76 is spaced from the slot 88 of the locking sleeve 86. Accordingly, the armrest 12 can be pivoted about the horizontal axis 46 to an intermediate vertical position, as illustrated in FIG. 4. At this time, the armrest 12 is still locked against rotation about the vertical axis 38 by the locking tab 66 being seated in the opening 68.

Once the armrest 12 has been pivoted to the intermediate vertical position, it can be lifted upward, as illustrated in FIGS. 4 and 5, against the bias of the spring 72 until the first end 52 of the pawl 50 engages the underside of the second tab 26. In this position, the ring portion 78 of the interlocking tab 74 becomes nested in the first channel 56. Lifting the armrest 12 upward causes the locking tab 66 to disengage from the first opening 68 of the first support tab 24, while also causing the foot portion 84 of L-shaped locking portion 76 of the interlocking tab 74 to insert into the slot 88 in the locking sleeve 86. The disengagement of the locking tab 66 allows pivoting of the armrest 12 about the vertical axis 38, as illustrated in FIG. 6. The insertion of the foot portion 84 into the slot 88, however, prevents pivoting of the armrest 12 about the horizontal axis 46.

The armrest 12 then is pivoted about the vertical axis 38 until the entire armrest 12 is behind the backrest of the seat and out of the space between the driver seat and the passenger seat (see FIGS. 6 and 7). During this pivoting, the locking tab 66 rides on the surface of the first support tab 24 located between the openings 68, 70. When the locking tab 66 reaches the second opening 70 of the first support tab 24 (FIG. 6), it is received in the second opening 70. The locking tab 66 is only partially received in the second opening 70 because of its smaller size. Since the locking tab 66 is only partially seated in the second opening 70, the second pin 40 and the locking sleeve 86 remain in a partially raised position and the foot portion 84 of the L-shaped locking portion 76 of the interlocking tab 74 remains inserted in the slot 88 of the locking sleeve 86. This interaction prevents unintentional pivoting about the vertical axis 38 and the horizontal axis 46. More specifically, the locking tab 66 prevents pivoting about the vertical axis 38, and the interlocking tab 74 prevents pivoting about the horizontal axis 46. These steps are reversed to return the armrest 12 from the stowed position back to the use position.

As illustrated, only the second end 54 of the pawl 50 includes a locking tab 66 for insertion into the first and second openings 68, 70. As mentioned above, however, both of the first and second supporting tabs 24, 26 of the support bracket 20 may define first and second openings 68, 70 for receiving the locking tab 66. Providing openings 68, 70 at both of the supporting tabs 24, 26 of the support bracket 20 allows the support bracket to be used with either the driver seat or the passenger seat.

Covers may be used to protect and improve the appearance of the folding mechanism 16 or parts thereof. More specifically, as shown in FIG. 10, a first cover 90 formed of plastic or any other suitable material may be fitted over the folding mechanism 16 to protect the folding mechanism 16 against damage and interference and to provide an integrated appearance with the vehicle seat. Similarly, a second cover 92 may be applied over the pawl 50 to protect the pawl 50 and integrate the appearance of the pawl 50 with the cover 90 and the seat.

The armrest assembly 10 also may include an optional ratchet mechanism to allow the armrest 12 to be incrementally raised and lowered, that is, pivoted about the horizontal axis 48, between the use position and an intermediate position. The ratchet mechanism further prevents the armrest 12 from falling back to the use position from any one of the incremental intermediate positions.

As shown in FIGS. 2, 9 and 10, a coupling assembly 94 mounts the armrest assembly 10 to the seat frame 96. More specifically, the support bracket 20 includes a pair of mounting tabs 98, 100 that extend perpendicular to the support tabs 24, 26. The mounting tabs 98, 100 each define a pair of mounting apertures 102 to mount the armrest assembly 10 to the coupling assembly 94. The coupling assembly 94 includes a mounting bracket 104 attached to the seat frame 96 by a fastener system 106 having a clamping bracket 108, and a mounting bolt 110 with a sleeve 112, a washer 114, and a securing nut 116. The support bracket 20 mounts directly to the mounting bracket 104.

More specifically, the mounting bracket 104 has an L-shaped configuration with a base plate 118 and a side plate 120. The base plate 118 is generally rectangular in shape and configured to engage the profile of the rear side of the seat frame 96. The base plate 118 defines four holes 122 generally at the corners to align with the four holes 102 of the support bracket 20. A fastener 124 extends through each pair of aligned holes 102, 122 to secure the support bracket 20 to the mounting bracket 104. The preferred fasteners 124 can be bolt/nut combinations, rivets or any other pin like fastener. The base plate 118 also includes inboard stop tabs 126 longitudinally spaced and extending perpendicular from the base plate 118. The stop tabs 126 engage the inboard side of the seat frame 96. The side plate 120 extends perpendicular to the base plate 118 on the outboard side of the seat frame 96. Accordingly, the seat frame 96 is sandwiched between the inboard stop tabs 126 and the outboard side plate 120 to prevent lateral movement of the armrest assembly 10.

The side plate 120 has a generally triangular shape and defines an aperture 128 at a distal apex 130 (FIG. 2). The aperture 128 cooperates with the fastener system 106. More specifically, the clamping bracket 108 has a C-shape formed by two side plates 132 that are interconnected by a bridge plate 134. The side plates 132 each include a terminal edge 136 that engages the front side of the seat frame 96 to capture the seat frame 96 between the mounting bracket 104 and the clamping bracket 108. Each side plate 132 of the clamping bracket 108 defines an aperture 138, and the apertures 138 are aligned to receive the mounting bolt 110. The sleeve 112 spans between the side plates 132. Accordingly, the mounting bolt 110 extends first through the aperture 128 of the side plate 120 of the mounting bracket 104 and then through the apertures 138 and the sleeve 112 between the side plates of clamping bracket 108. On the inboard side of the clamping bracket 108, the washer 114 and the securing nut 116 are turned on the threaded end of the mounting bolt 110 to secure the coupling assembly 94 to the seat frame 96.

FIGS. 11-14 illustrate an alternative armrest assembly 200 with an armrest 202 pivotably mounted to a folding mechanism 204, which is preferably mounted to the inboard side of a vehicle seat frame with a mounting bracket 206. The folding mechanism 204 allows the armrest 202 to be pivoted about a horizontal axis 208 and a vertical axis 210 between a use position and a stowed position behind the backrest of the seat. The armrest assembly 200 can be attached to the seat frame using the same coupling assembly 94 described above for armrest 10.

The folding mechanism 204 includes a support bracket 212 attached to the mounting bracket 206. The support bracket 212 includes a first support tab 214 and a second support tab 216 and an interconnecting bridge 218. The support tabs 214, 216 define a first aperture 220 and second aperture 222, respectively, for receiving and supporting a first pin 224. The first pin 224 extends between the first and second tabs 214, 216 and is rotatable about the vertical axis 218, which extends longitudinally through the first pin 224. As with armrest assembly 10, the first pin 224 is secured at each of the apertures 220, 222 with a snap ring 226. A mounting tab 228, 230 extends perpendicularly from the support tabs 214, 216, respectively, and each defines mounting apertures 232.

A housing 234 defining a first passage 236 and a second passage 238 oriented generally perpendicular to the first passage 236 is disposed between the first and second tabs 214, 216. The first pin 224 extends through the first passage 236 and is capable of rotating freely within the first passage 236 about the vertical axis 210. A second pin 240 extends through the second passage 238 and has a distal end 242 pivotably coupled to the armrest 202 using a pivot disk 244. The housing 234 includes a block portion 246 adjacent the second passage 238. The block portion 246 includes a first locking tab 248 at a first end 250 capable of engaging first and second notches or openings 252, 254 defined by the first locking tab 214 and an alignment tab 256 at a second end 258. The openings 252, 254 are spaced generally 90° apart from one another.

The second pin 240 defines a central longitudinal throughbore 260. A spring clip 262 is inserted into one end of the longitudinal throughbore 260 to fixedly secure the second pin 240 within the second passage 238 and to the block portion 246. More specifically, the spring clip 262 has an U-shape with one of the tail ends having a pin extending outward. The pin extends through a hole defined by the sidewall of the second pin 240 and through a hole defined by the block portion 246 of the housing 234 and aligned with the hole of second pin 240. The spring clip 262 is squeezed and inserted into the throughbore 260 until the pin snaps into the aligned holes.

The folding mechanism 204 includes a locking plate 264 disposed between the housing 234 and the second support tab 216. The locking plate 264 defines a hole 266 through which the first pin 224 extends. A spring 268 around the first pin 224 is disposed between the housing 234 and the locking plate 264 to bias the locking plate against the second support tab 216 and prevent rattling of the components.

The locking plate 264 includes a second locking tab 270 extending laterally towards the armrest 202, and configured to be selectively received in a notch 272 defined by the pivot disc 244. When the second locking tab 270 is received in the notch 272, the armrest 202 is prevented from pivoting about the horizontal axis 234. The locking plate 264 further includes a first finger 274 and a second finger 276, which together define a slot 278 therebetween. The alignment tab 256 of the block portion 246 resides in the slot 278 to maintain the relative positions of the block portion 246 and the locking plate 264, particularly when the armrest 202 is pivoted about the vertical axis 210.

The steps of operating the armrest assembly 200 are similar to the steps described above for the armrest assembly 10. When the armrest 202 is in the use position, the first locking tab 248 of the block portion 246 is seated in the first opening 252 of the first tab 214, and the second locking tab 270 of the locking plate 264 is out of engagement with the notch 272 of the pivot disc 244. Thus, the armrest 202 is free to pivot about the horizontal axis 208 but prevented from pivoting about the vertical axis 210.

The armrest 202 is pivoted about the horizontal axis 208 to an intermediate vertical position. Once in the intermediate vertical position, the second locking tab 270 is aligned with the notch 272 in the pivot disc 244. The armrest 202 is then raised to insert the second locking tab 270 into the notch 272 and disengage the first locking tab 248 from the first opening 252 of the first tab 214. Thus, the armrest 202 is prevented from pivoting about the horizontal axis 208 but can be pivoted about the vertical axis 210 to the stowed position behind the backrest of the seat. Once fully pivoted to the stowed position, the housing 234 and the armrest 202 are lowered to seat the first locking tab 248 in the second opening 254 of the first tab 214 to secure the armrest 202 and prevent unintentional pivoting back about the vertical axis 210. The first locking tab 248 may ride on the surface of the first tab between the first opening 252 and the second opening 254.

As described above with respect to the armrest assembly 10, the second opening 254 is smaller than the first opening 252. Accordingly, the first locking tab 248 can only be partially seated in the second opening 254. The armrest 202, therefore, remains in a partially raised position, and consequently, the second locking tab 266 remains engaged with the notch 272 of the pivot disc 244. Thus, the armrest 202 is prevented from pivoting about both the horizontal axis 208 and the vertical axis 210 when in the stowed position. The above-described steps may be reversed to return the armrest 202 from the stowed position back to the use position.

As with the armrest assembly 10, the armrest assembly 200 is preferably universal and may be mounted to either the driver seat or the passenger seat. As shown in FIGS. 11-13, both of the first and second supporting tabs 214, 216 of the support bracket 212 preferably include first and second notches or openings 252, 254 for receiving the locking tab 248 and the alignment tab 256 of the block portion 246. As illustrated, the alignment tab 256 and the locking tab 248 of the block portion 246 are preferably interchangeable such that both the housing 234 and the support bracket 212 may be used with either the driver seat or the passenger seat.

The armrest assembly 200 may optionally include a cover 280, such as an accordion-like cover, and which may be fabricated from plastic or any other suitable material that may be fitted over the folding mechanism 204 to protect the armrest assembly 200 and provide an integrated appearance for the armrest assembly 200 with the vehicle seat. The armrest assembly 200 may additionally include a ratchet mechanism 282 to allow the armrest 202 to be pivoted about the horizontal axis 208 from the use position to the intermediate position in predetermined increments and, further, to prevent the armrest 202 from unintentionally pivoting back to the horizontal use position from any one of the predetermined incremental positions.

While the invention has been described with respect to specific examples including presently preferred modes of carrying out the invention, those skilled in the art will appreciate that there are numerous variations and permutations of the above described devices and methods that fall within the spirit and scope of the invention as set forth in the appended claims.