Seatbelt that won't retract

To fix a seat belt that no longer retracts, you have to bring it back to its original slippery state.

Think how many times the belt has lain across your sweaty chest as you careen down the road through an atmosphere of oily exhaust fumes and particulates. After a few years of this the belt feels more like a stiff gooey leather strap. There’s no way it’s going to make it through that retaining loop on the pillar without a good deal of help.

About five or ten years ago I had a stubborn seat belt, so I gave it a good scrubbing with detergent - a little added ammonia would have done an even better job. I also cleaned the plastic loop it slides through. It wasn’t a perfect solution to the problem because I didn’t do a very thorough job of cleaning it - I honestly didn’t think it was going to work. Well, it did work, although it sometimes took a little nudge now and then to get it started.

This year it’s starting to get slammed in the door again, so I’ll give it another scrubbing - with ammonia this time.

This is a good idea. I have this same seat belt problem on my Corolla, and I’ll give the cleaning method a try. I was thinking it was the retractor spring that had become less springy over years of use, but come to think of it, the grime on the seat belt may be the more important contributor. Thanks for posting @evsisson.

The OP’s suggestion is a good one, but it is not the only cause of seatbelts not retracting.
I am reminded of several cars that were owned by a former boss of mine.

For reasons that I could never quite figure out, both of the front seat shoulder harnesses on his cars resembled a rope within a few months of his purchase of these cars. All I can deduce is that neither he nor his wife took much care when putting the seatbelts on, and after awhile, they just became a twisted mess.

Because they would not retract, the belts also had a tendency to wind up in the door jamb or falling to the ground when the door was closed, so you can just imagine the grimy mess on those belts. This is just one of the problems that people encounter when they are not careful about how they do certain things.

This is the same boss who would only buy…let’s say…$5 worth of gas at a time, and as a result, he had to go to the gas station several times each week in order to keep his Buick from running out of gas during his local drives. When I pointed out to him that he was wasting an incredible amount of time each week with those multiple gas station visits, as well as using extra gas, his reponse was, “This way they can’t cheat me”.

For some reason, he believed that if he told a gas attendant to fill the tank, the attendant could somehow cheat him, but that if he asked for a specific dollar amount of gas, they couldn’t cheat him. Imagine having to take orders from somebody with such a bizarre way of thinking…

VDC, based on what you say, I’m glad to hear this is a “former boss” for you.

Weird boss stories. I guess we all have 'em. I had a boss one time who’d disagree w/every single thing I said, whether he thought I was actually right or wrong. Some kind of power trip I guess. After a few months of this nonsense, I learned I could get him to do whatever I wanted by saying I wanted the opposite. If I wanted the project schedule delayed, I would say I wanted the schedule quickened. If I wanted it quickened, I recommend it be delayed. I must say once I figured this out, it worked like a charm. The world was my oyster there for a while. Until the boss got fired for doing the same thing to a co-worker. The co-worker didn’t realize how the opposite thing could be parlayed to advantage, so he gathered up the documentation to prove it, and took it to the personnel dept., who promptly fired the boss. Well, it was good while it lasted! lol

VDCdriver, funniest boss story of the week. Thanks!

Your neurotic ex boss was probably abusing the knowledge that
gas stations are tested periodically by the State on specific amounts, 5 G is probably one of them. The gas station could rig the pump for other amounts.

But, neurotic.

A friend of my wife had a Mercury in the 70s with the same problem. The dealer wanted to sell her a whole new seat belt assembly. She took it to her own mechaniunce who discovered a PEANUT lodged in the retractor. He did not charge her but cautioned her not to eat loose, crubly food in the car.

Agree that seatbelts have to be kept clean.

I’m not sure that would be such a great idea on modern cars that have retractors designed to LOCK UP whenever the air bags pop. They contain an explosive charge that pops along with the airbags. It’s hard to tell what might happen to that explosive charge if it got wet.