What You Need to Know About Your Failing Seat Belt Assembly

To illustrate how important seat belts are, here’s a statistic: in 2016, seat belts saved about 14,668 lives in car crashes. That’s more than 40 lives a day. That’s why riding with a malfunctioning seat belt is pretty dangerous.

If you have a seat belt that isn’t working quite right, we recommend replacing it as soon as possible. Doing so will help you avoid the potentially fatal consequences of riding with a broken seat belt.

This article is the resource you need if you’re looking for more information on your failing seat belt assembly and how to address the issue.

The Most Common Points of Failure in a Seat Belt Assembly

Let’s cover the most common seat belt assembly components that fail:

1. Pretensioner

The pretensioner is a mechanism that’s responsible for removing the slack in the seat belt the instant the car begins to crash. Once the pretensioner is activated, it can’t be used again. So if your car has been in a crash recently, you should replace the pretensioner even if you decide not to repair other damage.

2. Webbing

The webbing, which is a formal term for the seat belt strap fabric, may get torn or frayed over time. It may not seem like a big deal, but it can contribute to seat belt failure in the event of a crash. If pulled hard enough, a torn or frayed webbing could rip in half and cause the passenger to lurch out of their seat.

3. Latch Plate or Buckle

Sometimes the latch plate fails to latch properly in the buckle. When this happens, the seat belt will become unlatched even when pulled gently.

4. Retractor

A seat belt retractor is responsible for locking the strap when it’s pulled hard enough. A broken retractor means the strap gets too much slack when pulled. This can cause the passenger to eject out of their seat in a serious car accident.

Checking Your Seat Belt Assembly

Belt tensioner

Not sure if your seat belt assembly is defective? Sometimes the defect doesn’t show itself until it’s too late. A broken seat belt that seems to be in good working order may fail to protect you in a car crash. So it’s a good idea to inspect your seat belt assembly just to make sure it’s still functioning properly. To do this:

  1. Check for frays or tears in the webbing
  2. Firmly tug the top part of the strap to see if the tension is still there
  3. Examine the buckle and latch plate for any damage or blockage (by small objects like pennies)
  4. Latch the seat belt into the buckle and then tug the strap to see if the latch plate comes out

What if Your Seat Belt Assembly is Broken?

Belt buckle

If you find that one of the seat belts in your car is broken, you have two options:

  1. Pinpoint which component is broken and then replace it with an aftermarket part
  2. Replace the entire seat belt assembly with an OEM seat belt assembly

If you ask us, the second option, which is replacing the entire seat belt assembly, is safer and easier. Taking a seat belt assembly apart and repairing it with an aftermarket part is time consuming and doesn’t guarantee safety. A refurbished seat belt assembly could still fail in a crash because:

  • The aftermarket part isn’t built with quality materials
  • The construction of the aftermarket part is shoddy
  • The seat belt assembly wasn’t put back together correctly

When it comes to a part that plays a monumental part in your safety, we always recommend the safer solution, which is replacing the entire assembly. Here’s a good set of instructions on replacing your Mopar seat belt assembly.