a little girl holding a backpack in a car seat

How can I get my seat belt to retract again?

How to Fix a Seat Belt Retractor

Has your seat belt ceased to return to its seat belt-land within the depths of your vehicle once you unclip it? Do you have to manually feed the belt back into the retractor, or just leave it lying out in a sloppy fashion?

It may seem that the issue must be with the seat belt retracting mechanism itself, but the actual culprit in 99 out of 100 cases is a bit closer to a home (and a bit more gross); a non-retracting seat belt is usually caused by the fats and oils from your neck and hands accumulating on the belt and making it too thick to be pulled back into its hidey-hole.

So what can you do about this? Our body is going to keep oozing fats and oils whether we like it or not. How can a seat belt retractor be fixed?

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a man putting a seat belt

Steps to Clean Your Seat Belt and Enable Retracting

To purify your seat belt and help it to retract again, you’ll need three basic things: a bucket, laundry detergent, and a towel. Then follow these steps:

  1. Fill the bucket with warm water.
  2. Mix laundry detergent into the water.
  3. Put the bucket on top of a towel on the floor of your car in front of the seat with the troublesome seat belt.
  4. Pull the seat belt out as far as possible. To prevent it returning back in at all, lock it in place with a wrench, vice grip, or similar method. To prevent the grip from damaging the belt, some paper may be placed between the grip and the belt.
  5. Put as much of the seat belt as possible into the detergent/water mix. Let all that seat belt sit and soak in the water for at least half an hour.
  6. Check the seat belt, squeeze out the water, and put it back in to soak again.
  7. After about an hour, remove the seat belt from the water, squeeze out the remaining moisture, and lay it on the towel to dry. If the top of part of the seat belt (that you couldn’t get into the water) needs to be cleaned as well, do that by hand.
  8. Once the seat belt is dry, remove the clip/vice grip. The seat belt should retract like new.

Though you may be skeptical at first, this process is often effective at solving the retracting seat belt problem. If it doesn’t, then there is likely something indeed wrong with the retracting mechanism. You can try to fix this yourself with a new part, or you can certainly take it into us at Hall Cars and our service department would be happy to help.

Thanks for reading, and happy retracting!

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