Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Seat Belts

We have a 2008 Lexus 350RX from Watertown (“The Wife’s Car”) and a 2007 Tibetan Mastiff puppy from the Himalayas of Bhutan (“Tashi”).

The other day, we left Tashi in the Lexus for about 45 minutes while we did a few errands at the bank.

When we came back, the seat belts had been sliced apart — Tashi had simply incised each one of them in half.

Our main question: how do we fix the damn seat belts?

The Lexus dealer says “$1500.00” Something about “we can’t repair or replace just the nylon webbing, it’s an integral unit with sensors connecting to the entire safety system.”

Isn’t there a better way? $1500 for four seat belts sounds excessive. I mean, we could install an aftermarket five-point NASCAR style harness for a lot less than that. My first car cost me 150 bucks.

Mike / 617-510-5963

You will need to buy the correct belts the car was designed for.And since you always get more than you asked for on Cartalk,rethink your decision to leave your pet unattended in your car for 45min.

You’re rolling around in a 2008 Lexus and careless enough to leave your dog in the car, then come here and complain about having to spend $1,500 for new seat belts? Give me a break!

To answer your question, the seat belts are one complete unit. Buy what the dealer is suggesting. Why would you even second-guess the proper repair of the most important piece of safety equipment on the car? Your best bet is to negotiate with the selling dealer on the repair price.

A long shot: Maybe your insurance will pay for the damage, less your deductible.

Otherwise, I completely agree with oldscholl and alex3324.

It seems awfully hot to leave your dog in the car. Did you leave the engine and AC running? Was there any water for it to drink? Dogs don’t sweat; they cool down by panting or drinking cool water. Would you sit in your car for 45 minutes on a hot day waiting fro your wife? I know I wouldn’t.

You might try a junk yard. They may have belts that will fit - if they are allowed to sell them.

Do you know how inhumane it is to leave your dog in the car in the summer?..and you did it for 45 minutes? Did you leave it running with the air conditioner on? I suppose it might be okay if you live in Alaska.

Anyway, the car is a new Lexus. Did you expect a luxury car to be cheap to maintain and repair? Fork over the $1,500 and next time leave the dog at home.

In addition to all of the valid comments that have already been posted, I will want to add a bit more information.

The safety belts in your car have pretensioners built into the inertia reels to which the belt are connected. The pretensioners rely on sensors to detect the very rapid deceleration that is characteristic of an impending crash. In this way, the pretensioners tighten the belts slightly in the milisecond prior to the crash, in order to minimize the injuries of the vehicle’s passengers.

Additionally, there are sensors that detect whether or not a seat belt has been connected to the buckle, and the seats themselves contain sensors to determine whether a seat is actually occupied. All of this information is fed to the computer that determines which air bags to deploy, and the force with which to deploy them.

All of the preceding information should help you to understand that the dealership is correct when they stated that it is not possible to replace just the nylon webbing. Yes, you could have a shop install an aftermarket setup, but that would not interface with the computer that controls airbag deployment, and the net result is that you and your passengers would be a lot less safe in the event of a crash.

I believe that you should bite the bullet, take out that credit card, and pay for the replacement of the correct parts that are needed, rather than trying to cheap out on safety. Consider the $1,500.00 as your penance for the sin of leaving your dog unattended in the car for 45 minutes.

Thanks to VDCDriver for a thoughtful reply regarding the way the sensor assemblies are integrated with the belts, and that one cannot replace just the webbing.

For “gimme break” whiner types: Geeze! People, please. We often get out of Cambridge and go to the woods in Concord, or camping in Maine, or cross country skiing, and we always try to bring the doggie. To do that we use the car, and we combine a few errands when possible. Obviously we wouldn’t leave her to bake in the sun: it was a cool day (65F), the car was in a shady garage, and she had her usual assortment of goodies — the bowl of water, the toys, a hunk of rawhide. And in general, when we need to run some errands with the car, and have a choice between leaving the dog alone at home, or bringing her with and combining it with, say, a bath at Laundromutt or a romp in a bigger dog park than the one we have walking distance from home, well, we’d rather have her join us. When we travel out of town, we find pet-friendly hotels whenever possible. The Lexus was a replacement for a previous dogmobile, an 18-year old Pathfinder that was rusting into the ground. (My husbandly, dog-oriented instinct was to get something more like an Element or something that could be hosed down inside and out). Anyway, Tashi usually likes napping, curled up in a seat. But the other day, she simply decided to slice the seatbelts. They looked like someone had cut them with a knife. All four of them. She’s never done anything dastardly before. And the seatbelts on the Lexus cost more than the trade-in for the Pathfinder.

Junk yard. (or for the environmentally conscious “automotive parts recycler”)

Just be sure that the tensioners have not fired on the seat belts that they give you. It might be tough to find a wrecked 2008 with an unfired driver seat belt tensioner, so you may have to buy that one new from the dealer.

You might be able to pull the webbing from a junkyard unit that has fired and put it in your unit, if the tensioner did not trash the webbing, but I would not try that unless I knew exactly what I was doing. Those tensioners can hurt you.

Disconnect the battery before removing the old ones, and handle them such that you don’t loose a finger or an eye if one of them fires. Come to think of it, you might want to pay an expert to replace them. Body shops know how to handle them.