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Replacing seat belts on old model, rarer car

I have a 2000 Suzuki Esteem GLX Wagon that my husband bought used. It didn’t pass inspection at first, due to a few things (cracked CV boot, and broken door lock), but my husband fixed them and it subsequently passed. Well, I was vacuuming it out yesterday eveining and I noticed that the passenger-side seatbelt has a tag at the base that says if the “REPLACE BELT” text is showing, that the seatbelt needs to be replaced. Of course, the text is showing. Interesting how that didn’t pop up on the inspection. Anyway, I checked the driver’s side belt, and the text is showing on that tag too. I don’t see similar tags on any of the rear seatbelts (3 point belts on the outboard seats and just a lap belt in the middle).

So, is it wise and even possible to replace seatbelts yourself? This model car is not very popular, so it is hard to find anywhere with much knowledge of it and also difficult to find replacement parts. Are after-market seatbelts safe? Should we go ahead and replace all the belts in the car or just the two up front? I am especially concerned with the lap belt in the back, as that is how we have our son’s carseat anchored in the car (no LATCH in this vehicle). I wish we could buy a newer model car, but that just isn’t a possibility right now.

I’m also wondering how the belts came to be stretched so that the “REPLACE BELT” is showing. We are only the 3rd owners of the car and the Carfax report doesn’t show any history of a crash (although I know that would have to be reported to show). It has me worried about the airbags too.

Usually replacing a seat-belt is pretty simple. Just a couple of bolts at the base and the top of the column.

As for inspection…It’s NOT part of a safety inspection in any state I lived in. All they check for is if you have them. No inspector EVER checked to see if they worked.

I’d have no worries about the belt in the back seat(s). The front seats likely were used much more. You should look for replacement belts on the internet since Suzuki is still making cars, just not selling them in the USA anymore.

I would think an aftermarket belt is fine, as long as it fits size wise and has compatible hardware. Changing them should be easy, but might involve a type of wrench you might not have in your toolbox. If so, a body shop can do it for you. The issue is really about finding a belt restraint system that fits in the car.

I hate to admit that I am totally unfamiliar with such a tag on seat belts. The “automatic” belts that were quickly phased out by all manufacturers were often replaced when the track failed and occasionally a retractor has failed in recent years. But what would be the problem that a tag would notify seat belt failure?

If they work, I would ignore it. As mentioned, safety inspectors don’t inspect seat belts, unless they are badly frayed, they will pass them. Like others I have never heard of such a light.

Ten or twelve years ago, I had to replace the driver’s side seat belt and harness in my 1978 Oldsmobile. I found a universal replacement at J.C. Whitney. The harness part of the original belt was frayed and the retractor no longer worked. The replacement didn’t have a retractor, but the belt could be adjusted. It wasn’t as convenient as the original equipment, but it worked.

“I have never heard of such a light.”

It’s not a light, it’s a fabric tag, and all seat belts have had them for quite a few years, although they are not normally visible.

“But what would be the problem that a tag would notify seat belt failure?”

When there is an extreme deceleration incident, to the point where the seat belts were stretched as a result of holding back a person during that extreme deceleration, these tags become visible.

How/why do they become visible? Because the belt has stretched, and that makes the tag visible–by design. Once a seatbelt has been stretched like that, it no longer retains its original strength.

My concerns for the OP are twofold.
Beyond simply replacing these weakened/stretched belts with aftermarket belts, she should also have her mechanic put the vehicle up on a lift, and inspect it for chassis damage from a collision. Severe deceleration may not indicate that the vehicle was in a crash, but it is certainly within the realm of possibilities.

And, she needs to have her mechanic remove the airbag covers on both the steering wheel and the right side of the dashboard, in order to see if the airbags are even present. I have heard on several occasions of unscrupulous folks who simply stuff the recess with newspaper after airbag deployment, remove the airbag malfunction light bulb, and then pass their damaged goods on to an unsuspecting buyer.

Yes, VDCdriver, you are 100% correct. I’m going to have a mechanic take a look at it, although I wonder why inspections don’t look for that sort of thing. It’s nonsensical.

I hope they don’t find anything amiss, as we really cannot afford a car payment right now.

Given the rare nature of your car, if it turns out you have to replace them you might have to go with something from a company like this:
http://www.seatbeltsplus.com/category/3-Point-Retractable-Seat-Belts.html

Note, I have NO experience with this company.

Have you contacted Suzuki parts houses? This one seems to list the parts you need:
http://suzukicarparts.com/parts/2000/SUZUKI/ESTEEM/?siteid=214820&vehicleid=1364554&section=ELECTRICAL&group=RESTRAINT%20SYSTEMS&subgroup=FRONT%20SEAT%20BELTS&component=Front%20belt%20assy

Here’s some interesting information. They only sell replacements off the shelf for Chevrolet, but the advice is still good. Read the repair link, too.

https://www.seatbeltplanet.com/know-before-you-buy/