Safety restraints - no zip
April 19, 2008 4:44 PM   Subscribe

Sluggish seatbelt retracting thingers: How to fix them?

It's annoying, and too many older cars suffer from this for somebody to not know how to fix it.

The seatbelt doesn't go back into the mysterious seatbelt-dispensing portion of the car like it used to. And then you slam the buckle in the door, and look like a dweeb while you jiggle it up and down to try and feed it back in there.

I removed the mechanism, jiggled it around, poked at the pokable parts, and came to the conclusion that in this particular car [an 88 K-car], the issue is not friction/lubrication in the unit itself, but a spring weakened by age and overuse. Everything zips/spins/clicks like it should when it's just the belt and the retractor, but when it gets re-mounted and encased in plastic panelling, there's no poop/zip/vim.

I can't get at the spring so far as I can see; the retractor doesn't appear to be serviceable. But maybe it is and I just don't get it. Anybody have any clues?
Is this one of those times when I should just go to a junkyard and tug on all of the seatbelts I find?

[you know. like all those other times where that's the answer]
posted by Acari to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Tinkering with the internals will always leave you with the nagging doubt as to whether you screwed up the ratchet system inside. This is the bit, let's not forget, that saves your life.

I'd go to a scrap yard and pick the newest, snappiest one I could find (after checking it's entire length for fraying). It's just safer than trying to rebuild something that isn't supposed to be a service item.
posted by Brockles at 6:11 PM on April 19, 2008

Seconding scrapyard units. Buy the whole unit, should be cheap from a scrapyard.

Even if you order a new set, they're not that expensive. It's definitely not a part I'd try to cheap out on.
posted by krisak at 7:07 PM on April 19, 2008

Response by poster: I've serviced units that are contained on the *side* of a captain's chair before, and those ones were super easy, which led me to believe that there was some obvious step I was missing in these wall-mounted ones.
When it stops snowing, I'll see what I can see re: scrapyards.
posted by Acari at 7:29 PM on April 19, 2008

Best answer: This happened to my car and I checked out the scrapyards as well. Luckily for me, the owner's wife told me that the dealerships will replace the seatbelt for free since wearing and having a good seatbelt is the law.

I took my rustbucket of a Honda to the dealership and they replaced in about 10 minutes. I didn't have to pay a single penny.

Go to a dealership.
posted by idiotfactory at 7:59 PM on April 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding taking it to a dealership. I had a problem with the seatbelt on my Acura, and I found out that seatbelts are covered under unlimited warrantee.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:44 PM on April 19, 2008

Response by poster: Well.
Surprise and excitement!
I hope this free and exciting plan works!

[will update thread when I get a chance to cajole the car owner into trying this out]
posted by Acari at 6:56 PM on April 20, 2008

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