Cars,  Auto Parts

Get Spring Back Into Your Seat Belt. Fix and Repair.

I have a truck where the driver's side seat belt doesn't retract effectively. This means I'm always manually adjusting it, so it can retract back to it's ready normal position. This is tiresome after a while and sometimes can cause problems with closing the door if I forget the place the seat belt back into its ready position. 

Why isn't your seat belt retracting like it normally does? Sometime the seat belt is older and needs a little maintenance to function like they did when you bought the car. Some seat belts need to be replaced, repaired, and other just need an adjustment to get it functioning well again.

For my truck the answer is to do a little maintenance to get it working like new again. Let talk about what problems there might be with your seat belt and what solutions you can take to resolve the issue.

Try a Quick Fix

When you are using your seat belt it can get stuck for several reasons. Sometimes a quick adjustment is needed to get it working properly again. 

  • First, you want to check visually to see if there are any broken parts that may be the reason why the seat belt is not retracting. If there are broken parts, make sure you replace them as soon as possible; your safety depends on a properly working seat belt.
  • Next, check to see if there are any folds, twists, or kinks in the seat belt. Try pull the seat belt all the way out and examine for any types of folding that may have occurred. Unfold and slowly let the belt retract so the folds can be pulled back mostly flat. Some twist can occur behind panels so checking behind them would be your next step if it still has issues.
  • Check for dirt, food particles, and anything sticky stuff on the belt. Clip the belt so it doesn't retract if needed. Spray the belt fibers with soapy water and wipe of anything on the belt. Let dry and see if it works better. 

Try a Fix that Takes Longer

I seat belt can save a life. It can be easy to take for granted and ignore little problems, but it is important to take note when things are not functioning well. A seat belt should be operating at full capacity each time you drive your car. 

Here are some things that might occur that may cause your seat belt to need to be fixed.

  • If you notice your seat belt is folded and it doesn't want to straighten, it may help to spray the folded areas with water to help get the fibers to relax. Then try to lay the belt flat to dry. If the folds are severe, spraying them with water and then placing the belt between two books or piece of wood my help weight down the folds enough to get them straight. 
  • Sometime a car part or other objects can block the seat belt from it's normal operation. Check to see if it is clear from obstructions while using it.
  • If your seat belt is older or very dirty, it may help to wash the belt. Take your seat beat a pull it all the way out and use a clip to prevent it from retracting. Soak the belt in soap and water using a bucket or container. You can then rinse the belt in another container of water if desired. Then dry off and leave the belt extended flat to dry out. When dry, allow it to retract again. It should retract more effectively.
  • If your seat belt seem fine but it isn't functioning well, it may be worth your while to open the panel or casing to see if there is anything preventing it from operating correctly. You may discover something has gotten stuck, twisted, or the reel may have gotten clogged somehow.

When to Replace your Seat Belt

It's important to know when it's best to replace the seat belt. Seat belts can last the life of your car, but at times you will need to replace it when it stops working or becomes unsafe

At times some car owner will have seat belts that stop operating correctly or problems that cause it to no longer be safe. Most seat belts can last as long as a car can operate, but car crashes, mechanical issues, cuts, and other damage will cause car owners to need a replacement. 

A frayed belt may not be a safe belt. If you notice nicks or fraying that have occurred on your seat belt, it's time to ask if it is still safe. A bit of fraying may occur for different reasons, but if it impacts the structural integrity of the belt, you will need to get it replaced.

If you have tried to fix a seat belt yourself to no avail, it's time to ask for some help or go to a mechanic. You can also try replacing the seat belt yourself.

Get Some Help

It may be as simple as asking your friend to help you so you can get another perspective. How many times have I been in a situation I was sure I was right, to find out I didn't see the problem clearly. When you ask a friend they may have another perspective and be able to quickly solve the problem.

Replace it Yourself

If you want to replace the seat belt, there's a good possibility you may be able to do it yourself. Some more sophisticated seat belts may require a dealership or mechanic to install it properly, but many can be done by most anyone with a little time and patience. 

To replace a seat belt consider the following instructions and use an owners manual for torque specifications.

  • Make sure you have some basic tools when replacing your seat belt. You'll likely need a pry tool (sometimes a screwdriver will work) to remove any covers or paneling. A torque wrench to remove and tighten bolts. A screwdriver to remove and tighten screws. 
  • First you should remove any covers that will give you access to bolts and screws.
  • Having a ratchet set might be helpful, but spaces between seat may be tight so check to see if it will fit.
  •  Disconnect any wiring connected to seat belt if applicable.
  • Find the bolts and have a container or zip lock bag to place the bolts and screws. Have a phone handy to take a pictures of each of the 2 or 3 points that hold the seat belt against the car frame if the bolts are different sizes.
  • Unbuckle the seat belt if it is retractable and remove the bolt that anchors it above the shoulder.
  • Remove the other bolts and keep everything organized.
  • Once you get a new seat belt make sure the bolt threads are not stripped and replace all the parts in the reverse order that you took them off. Again, check that you are applying the correct torque that needs to be applied for each bolt.  

It is best to get a seat belt that is specifically made for your car. A dealership service center, that services your car may be able to provide genuine parts for your car, although they may cost a lot. These parts are likely safest because they are specifically made for your car.  

If you are looking to replace it on your own try to find a seat belt that is specifically made for your car. I found these websites (SeatBeltsPlus), (Seatbeltplanet.com), and (Wescoperformancethat have generic seat belts and some that are car model specific.

Just remember to follow the owners manual for exact specifications to help you install it properly. You need it to work correctly during any accident, so don't skip any steps and be exact.  

Go to a Mechanic

Sometimes lap belts are fairly generic, but the three point over the shoulder seat belts will likely have a specif design made for your car brand. A mechanic from a dealership service center might be your best bet when trying to fix your seat belt.

This website (www.safetyrestore.com) says it can repair your locked and blown seat belts in 24 hours. This would be for cars that have pretensioners and force limiters as a part of the seat belt.  

Dealerships and seat belt repair shops will likely be able to replace the seat belt with genuine parts and have the specifications that allow them to install everything correctly or give you the specification to do it yourself. This ensures everything will be the safest possible install with the best suited seat belt for your car. 


Test your Seat Belt

If your not sure if your seat belt is working properly, you can do a test.

Try sitting down with the seat belt on and leaning forward quickly. The seat belt should stop and not allow for any forward movement. You can also try pulling across and down on the belt with your hand to check for stopping. The lap belt should do the same, unless it is an older style seat belt that fastens by pulling manually. 

Newer cars often have pretensioners. These work only when the car is in an accident and the sensor will tighten the seat belt before the main impact occurs, so occupants will be securely pulled back against the seat. This can prevent injury better. To test if the pretensioner works check out (this video).

Some newer cars also have force limiters that allow the force of the seat belt to be less during impact. It helps created less impact on chest area where the seat belt is lies across. 

See this video for more information on pretensioners and force limiters.

Conclusion

Your seat belt is vital to your safety, whether your a great driver or not. People get into accidents all the time and many are no fault of your own. Road conditions, drivers, and circumstances will determine your overall safety. Having a properly working seat belt will give you the protection you need to help prevent injury to you and other passengers. 

You can fix your seat belt in various ways or even replace it without too much hassle most of the time. Make sure your following guidelines for your car when servicing your seat belt and soon you'll have a properly operating seat belt that will protect you in the event of an accident.