Updated on May 28, 2022
Staying safe on the road is of paramount importance to drivers, their passengers, and other road users. In the safety-conscious world we now live in, it seems almost unimaginable that there was a time when cars did not have seatbelts fitted.
It is now a legal requirement for drivers and their passengers to wear a seatbelt when traveling in a moving vehicle. However, sometimes getting your seatbelt on is easier said than done.
A common issue with seatbelts is that the fabric belt can get stuck in the retractor mechanism, leaving the safety measure useless. If you want to know how to fix a seatbelt that is stuck, we have all the answers for you in this article.
You can fix a seatbelt that is stuck by cleaning the seatbelt, releasing and pulling the seatbelt if it’s stuck in auto lock mode, or opening up the seatbelt mechanism and inspecting the spool, loop, and seatbelt hardware for problems.
How Does A Seatbelt Work?
Seatbelts have been found to reduce the risk of death in an accident by 50%. With those statistics in mind, you can understand why it is so important a seatbelt is worn by everyone who gets into a car.
Before we can explain why your seatbelt keeps locking up, it is important to first understand exactly how a seatbelt works. Seatbelts are made of the following components:
- Retractor mechanism
- Locking mechanism
Seatbelts are more complex than they may look. The webbing is connected to a retractor mechanism, this allows the seatbelt to pull out and pull back away again.
Inside the retractor mechanism is a spring, this enables the spool at the end of the webbing to rotate. The spring does this by applying torque to the spool. It is down to this process that you are able to easily pull your seatbelt out and across your body to fasten it.
Inside the spool is also a locking mechanism, this stops it from rotating and the webbing stretching out. The locking mechanism is in place to help during an accident, when the vehicle decelerates quickly the spool gets locked to hold the seatbelt webbing in place.
In newer car models there is also a pre-tensioner as part of the locking system. The pre-tensioner works to tighten the seatbelt webbing, it removes any slack on the seatbelt to keep passengers firmly in their seat during an accident.
What Causes A Seatbelt To Lock Up?
As you can see, there is a lot going on with your car seatbelt! It is not just fastening a buckle, there are lots of moving parts working together to keep you as safe as possible.
However, with so many small parts, sometimes your seatbelt can lock up and it can be hard to work out why. There are a few reasons why a seatbelt can lock up, these include:
Built-up dirt on the webbing
You may struggle to stretch your seatbelt out if there is dirt or grime on the webbing. When dirt builds up on the seatbelt, it can not move in and out of the retractor as easily. If the grime is sticky and makes a coating over the webbing, the seatbelt could easily become trapped and locked up.
If the retractor is damaged, the seat belt webbing will not easily move in and out of the mechanism, If you feel like your seat belt is locked up and won’t move, you will need to fix the spool – more on this later.
When your seatbelt is stuck, this does not mean you need to rush to make an appointment with a mechanic, there are ways you can fix the problem yourself at home.
The seatbelts in your car are vital for your safety and if your seatbelt is locking up it may not perform correctly during an accident. Also, we all know how annoying it is trying to put a seat belt on that won’t release from the retractor!
How To Fix A Seatbelt That Is Stuck?
Fixing a stuck seatbelt can be done at home, you don’t need a professional. However, the ease of the repair process will vary depending on what is causing the seatbelt to lock up.
Below we share 3 methods you can use to try and fix a seatbelt that is stuck.
Method 1 – Clean the seatbelt
Built-up dirt and grime on the seatbelt can clog up inside the retractor and cause the belt to get stuck. Don’t panic, this problem can easily be solved with a bit of cleaning.
Step 1 –Fill a bucket with hot and soapy water.
Step 2 –Pull the seatbelt out as far as you can and put it into the bucket of water.
Step 3 –Once the seatbelt is out of the bucket, hold it in place by using clips or grips.
Step 4 –Keep the seatbelt submerged for around 10 minutes.
Step 5 –Use a thin tool to clean any dirt out of the seatbelt crevice. You should be careful when doing this as you don’t want to damage the mechanism that locks the buckle in place. You can wrap the removal tool in a thin wet rag to reduce the risk of damage.
Step 6 –Remove the seatbelt from the bucket and wipe it down with a clean rag.
Step 7 –To dry the seatbelt you can pull it out to full extension and hang it over the steering wheel (assuming it is the driver’s seatbelt you are cleaning).
Step 8 –Once the seatbelt is fully dry, you can then release it back into the retractor or pretensioner.
Step 9 –Now the seatbelt webbing and crevice are clean, the seatbelt should not lock up or get stuck anymore.
Step 10 –To prevent the seatbelt from getting stuck again, remember to regularly clean the webbing and crevice to stop dirt from building up and causing problems.
Method 2 – Pull the seatbelt
The second method is simple and should work to release a seatbelt that has got stuck.
Step 1 –If your car seatbelts have an auto-lock, you will need to pull the seatbelt to release it and disengage the auto-lock. If you are not sure if your car uses seatbelt auto-lock, refer to your owner’s manual or contact the dealership for advice.
Step 2 –If your seatbelt is plugged in, release the buckle from the locking cartridge before attempting to unlock the stuck seat belt.
Step 3 –If you can, carefully pull on the seatbelt to gain as much slack on the webbing as possible.
Step 4 – You should now be able to slowly guide and release the seatbelt back into the retractor mechanism. Make sure the belt is not twisted or tangled as this can cause it to jam in the retractor and get stuck again the next time you try to pull it out.
Method 3 – Open up the seatbelt mechanism
Sometimes you won’t be able to release a stuck seatbelt by pulling on it or cleaning the webbing and crevice. To release a stuck seatbelt you may need to open up the plastic seatbelt mechanism, to access the small parts inside.
Step 1 –Using a flat-head screwdriver, open up the plastic cover that surrounds the seatbelt mechanism. You can also do this using a needle-nose screwdriver. The seatbelt mechanism in the rear seats will likely be located in the trunk. You may need to put the backseats down in order to reach the mechanism.
Step 2 –Once you have successfully prised open the plastic cover, you will be able to access the spool, loop, and other seatbelt hardware.
Step 3 –Once the plastic covers have been removed, tug on the seatbelt and pull it out as far as it will go. If the seatbelt is twisted, tangled, or jammed somewhere, you should be able to see it now.
Step 4 –Untangle the seatbelt and smooth it down. If you have found the seatbelt is dirty or there is grime built up in the mechanism, clean it away using hot soapy water and a clean cloth.
Step 5 –If there are any small objects inside the mechanism, try removing them with needle-nose pliers. You want the mechanism and the seatbelt webbing to be as clean as possible in order to prevent the seatbelt from getting stuck again.
Step 6 –Once the seatbelt and mechanism are all clean and untangled, you will now be able to release the seatbelt back into the mechanism and reattach the plastic covers.
Step 7 –Test the seatbelt a few times to check it is working correctly. Pull it out slowly and allow it to retract back into the mechanism. Make sure it is not locking up again when you try and stretch it across your body.
One of these three methods should be all it takes to unstuck a locked seatbelt. If your seatbelt is still getting stuck and you don’t know why it may be time to seek help from professionals.
Why is my seatbelt locked?
Seatbelts are designed to lock at certain times to keep passengers and the driver safe during an accident. However, sometimes the seatbelt may get locked in the retractor, this may cause it to lock up and you won’t be able to pull it forward or back.
Also, if the seatbelt is dirty and grime has built upon the webbing, it may not move as smoothly through the retractor and get stuck.
How to unlock a seatbelt after an accident?
After a car accident, your seatbelt may lock. Seatbelts are designed to lock up to keep people safe and in place during a collision or serious car accident.
However, after an accident, when it is time to get out of the car you may not be able to release your seatbelt as it may have stretched out, frayed, or become damaged during the crash. In a serious accident, the emergency services will be able to release you from the seatbelt.
There are other methods you can use to try and unlock the seatbelt yourself, we have shared these in detail in this article. If your seatbelt is damaged beyond repair following an accident, you will need to get it replaced to ensure your future safety on the road.
How much does it cost to fix a seatbelt?
The cost to repair a seatbelt will vary depending on the extent of the damage. If the pre-tensioner is broken, this will cost around $200 plus labor fees. When the whole seatbelt needs to be replaced, this can cost up to $250. However, for an accurate quote, you will need to contact your local workshop.
How long does it take to replace the seatbelt?
Replacing a seatbelt as a whole is a much quicker process than trying to just replace certain parts, like the retractor or the spool. Replacing a whole seatbelt should only take around 30 minutes to an hour.
Professionals will be able to get the job done more quickly than if you attempted to replace the seatbelt yourself at home.
Can you replace a seat belt buckle?
You can replace a seat belt buckle if the one in your car is damaged. You will need to purchase a replacement buckle from the dealership or manufacturer. You will need to be sure the new buckle is correctly fitted and works correctly before using that seatbelt again.
Can you repair a frayed seatbelt?
It will be difficult to repair a frayed seatbelt. In fact, if there are any rips or fraying on a seatbelt, it may not perform correctly in a crash and you could put yourself at risk. You will need to replace a frayed seatbelt as over time the fraying can get worse and weaken the seatbelt.
Seatbelts are lifesavers. Putting on your seatbelt can reduce your risk of death by up to 50% if you have an accident out on the road. With that statistic in mind, you don’t want to drive anywhere without buckling up first.
However, sometimes seatbelts can get stuck and you may not know how to solve this problem. In this article, we have shared three simple methods you can use to try and fix a seatbelt that is stuck.
For more related tips from us, check out these other posts:
Why Is Driving So Hard – 10 Ways To Make It Easier
How Do I Find Out What Options My Car Was Ordered With?