Car System

What Does It Mean If Your Seat Belt Won’t Pull Out?

Mike Cross
Updated Oct 18, 2020

Wearing a seat belt is non-negotiable. It has been proven beyond a doubt that wearing a seat belt can and will save your life in the event of an accident. In fact, there are even regulations as to what weight and height children need to be to be able to sit in certain seats.

All cars and trucks built today are equipped with seatbelts. There is a seat belt for every seat. From time to time you may notice that it can be a little bit tricky to get the seat belt to pull out. Why does this seem to happen and what can you do about it?

Generally speaking, there are 2 reasons why a seat belt will not pull out.

What Does It Mean If Your Seat Belt Won’t Pull Out?

Dirt and Grime

The first reason for a stuck seat belt can be dirt and grime. When you get a lot of dirt stuck on the belt, it can be harder to get it to retract and pull out. There is an easy fix for this problem.

If you can see dirt or suspect this may be the case, you can easily clean the webbing of the seat belt. Simply pull the seat belt all the way out and use a vise or clamp to hold it open. You can then use a rug or fabric cleaner to clean the webbing. You can also use detergent and hot water solution to clean it as well. Make sure you brush all the visible dirt first.

Maybe it’s just stuck

Sometimes a seat belt will not pull out because it is stuck. When this happens, it is easy to fix as well. Simply pull the seat belt out as far as it will go. Then give it another good, hard pull to release the stuck part. This should unlock the stuck belt, if it doesn't, then you will need to take it to an expert.

If you cannot get your seat belt unstuck after trying the above 2 methods, you may need to look a little deeper and possibly take your car to a mechanic to be checked. It is possible that the retractor assembly needs to be replaced.

How to Replace Your Seat Belt Retractor

Make sure you have a few items on hand before you begin the job. Be sure to check your car’s owner manual or check online first to make sure you purchase the correct parts.

You will need

  1. A new retractor
  2. A screwdriver
  3. Adjustable pliers

Once you have these items, you are ready to begin. Make sure you have your car parked where it is flat and easy for you to open the doors and work. You want to be sure that you have good lighting, too.

  1. Remove the cover of the retractor. You can find this directly below the shoulder mount of the seat belt. Use the screwdriver to loosen and remove the screws holding the cover on.
  2. Now take the pliers and place them on the retractor mounting bolt. Turn the pliers counterclockwise to loosen the bolt and pull it out. Pull the adjuster cover off. Then remove the adjuster bolt by turning in a clockwise direction. Pull the bolt out.
  3. Remove the lower lap belt mounting bolt. Use the pliers and turn in a clockwise direction.
  4. Grasp the retractor with one hand. Then pull it down and off the free end of the seat belt.
  5. Insert the seat belt into the new retractor. Slide it up towards the mounting point.
  6. Replace the bottom belt mounting bolt and tighten it with the pliers moving in a clockwise direction.
  7. Replace the retractor adjustment bolt.  Use the pliers to tighten it in a clockwise direction.
  8. Realign the retractor bolt hole on the mounting bracket. Insert the mounting bolt and use the pliers to tighten it. Replace the cover and insert the mounting screws. Use the screwdriver to tighten them.

Final Thoughts

Seatbelts are added to cars for one very important reason. Seat belts save lives. Everyone must wear a seatbelt and there are laws and regulations regarding child seats and height and weight requirements for sitting in the front seats vs sitting in the back.

If your car is in an accident, it is important that you have the seat belts checked. Just like airbags, seat belts that are in use during an accident may need repairing or replacing. This is a safety measure that should not be skimped on.

If you are just having a little bit of random trouble with your seat belt, you can check it out yourself.

If your seat belt doesn’t seem to pull out, the first thing you should do is check it for dirt or grime. This can cause the belt to not be able to retract or pull out all the away. Brush off any visible dirt. Then you can pull the belt all the way out and use a clamp on the end to hold it open.

You can use a simple spray on fabric or rug cleaner to clean the dirt of the webbing. You can also use hot water and detergent to clean it as well.

There may be a time when your seat belt retractor needs to be replaced. If it is worn out, it is possible that it no longer works properly. This is a safety concern. With a few tools and an afternoon, you can do the job yourself. Be sure to read your owner’s manual or look up online what the correct retractor is for your car’s make and model.

If you are not comfortable doing this by yourself, go see your local mechanic.  This is a job that they can do for you. If your car has been in an accident, then go see your dealer. They can inspect the car for your and make any replacements.

After all, seat belts do save lives. There is no shortcut when it comes to safety.

Mike Cross
Life is too short to drive with stock audio

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