I have seen a lot of seat belt problems over the last 25 years. In this article we will discuss some of the most common and what to look for. I truly believe that car manufacturers try to keep seat belt problems to a minimum for obvious reasons. Despite their efforts you can still have problems.
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In my opinion one of the most troublesome parts of the restraint system would be the seat-belt retractor. The system was designed so that when the seat belt was unbuckled it would stow away automatically to allow the passengers to easily exit the vehicle. These retractors may also work as a pretensioner to take up the slack in the belt during an accident while at the same time maintaining comfort for the driver.
When you add in the fact that these mechanisms have an inertia lock that holds the belt firm during an accident the retractor itself can be complicated with many internal parts. Over the years I have found one of the leading complaints from drivers is that the spring that pulls in the slack or stows the extra seat belt stops doing so.
Sometimes problems with the seat belt can be as simple as the belt was twisted as it was fed back into the retractor. In this case the belt can usually be pulled all the way out untangled and then fed back into the retractor. When in doubt see your mechanic immediately.
When it comes to floor mounted assemblies I have seen a few additional problems. Sometimes change like pennies and dimes can fall into the retractor and jam the ratcheting mechanism. I have also found small toys and debris that has worked its way down to the floor mounted assembly to also cause this kind of jamming problem.
Some models inherently have seat belt retractor problems
. A few models have been recalled for these issues. One of the biggest ones from my memory would be there early to mid-80’s F body General Motors cars like the Camaro and Firebird. On these models the retractor spring was held on by a plastic cup that was glued to the metal retractor.
These cups were known to come loose and the spring would jump out. The fix was the dealership technicians installed a retaining clip that snapped over the plastic cap to make sure this spring stayed in place.
If you have any seat-belt problem it is a good idea to call your local dealership and have them run your vehicle identification number to see if any seat belt recalls apply to your specific vehicle. Vehicle manufacturers usually jump on any common seat belt problems quickly because of the safety concerns involved.
About seat belts
Safety is usually one of the foremost considerations of automobile Manufacturers. According to a survey that I read that was supplied by the Insurance Institute for Highway safety,
occupant protection is a leading factor in determining which car people will actually buy. You can be sure when sales are on the line that car-makers will take notice.
I’m sure that you have noticed many safety features are now available as standard equipment that was only available as options a few years ago. Some of these include side impact airbags, built-in crumple zones in the body design, new technology added to seat-belts and automatic retractors, in addition to things like anti-lock brakes, traction control, and stability control.
It seems like modern automobiles have airbags mounted all over the interior of the vehicle. When it comes to airbags about a decade ago you would only find one mounted in the steering wheel. My 2009 Cadillac SRX has seven airbags and some German cars have as many as 10 or 12.
As long as drivers consider passenger safety as an important factor to be considered when it comes to car buying we will most likely see additional safety features rolled out each and every year. A car-maker that comes up with new technology that saves lives has a large advantage in the marketplace.
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