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How to fix a seatbelt that won’t retract?

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Seatbelts are lifesavers! They can turn out to be the most effective part of the car on a day when you least expect it. They sure do come with problems though. Having a problem with their seatbelt is what every car owner has faced or will face in the coming years. There is no getting out of it and it sure as hell sounds frustrating when your seatbelt does not retract or come out.

In most instances, it isn’t a serious problem but just a case of the seatbelt being twisted but there might surely be other serious problems underlying beneath this small symptom. Small symptoms are underlying causes of big diseases and you surely do not want to put your life on the line for something so small but so important like a seatbelt.

This article is going to discuss the causes of the problems you experience with your seatbelt. Why do these problems happen? I will also add some tips to handle the problems when you get into a fix with the seatbelts.

Some causes for problems with seatbelts and their solutions


  • If you have owned your car for quite some time, then the most likely thing to have happened to your seatbelt is that it has worn out. In this case, you will have no choice but to make a call to your car manufacturer or one which manufactures seatbelt. You cannot hack your way out of this one. You will surely need a replacement.
  • It is also possible that the retractor in your seatbelt has a problem. It is always suggested that you replace the retractor as soon as possible because a faulty one will not help to keep you safe in any way in case of an accident. In case the belt is locked inside the retractor, the webbing should be pulled out completely and the seatbelt should be tugged hard to undo it. In case it doesn’t work, the whole retractor needs to be pulled out of the vehicle with the help of a screwdriver. As we gradually spin the spool with the screwdriver the seatbelt will retract automatically. But no matter what, you should replace it as soon as possible as mentioned earlier or regret the decision later on if you continue to live!
  • In case of a previous accident, there will surely be a pre-tensioner that locks the belt out after it blows. This also needs to be replaced but if a rebuilder for the pre-tensioner can be found you can surely go for the cheaper option and have them rebuild the one you have and also keep your wallet satisfied.
  • Twisted seatbelts are the most common cause of problems in a seatbelt and they are the most frustrating ones. You can see what the problem is but sometimes you cannot fix it. A twisted seatbelt adds more resistance and makes it hard for it to retract. The problem gets bigger when the belt gets twisted behind the plastic panel which holds the seatbelt together. In this case, you will have to remove the panel and straighten it out and then fix the panel to its position again. This panel is called the B Pillar.
  • Dirty seatbelts are one more reason for them to not retract. Over the years, junk from our body gets accumulated on the seatbelt and no matter how gross it sounds, it is nothing but the truth. Now to clean your seatbelt, you would need to fill a bucket of water and then add some detergent to it and get a towel. Pull the seatbelt all out and attach a clip so that it does not get-go all the way back in. Now place the towel on the seat near the seatbelt and dip it inside the bucket. Leave it for a few hours and let it dry. You will see that the seatbelt was not the problem, you needed to be cleaner. Nah! Just kidding! You are clean, aren’t you?
  • It is a common problem for the spring in the seatbelt retractor to have loosened or weakened over time. Once the spring weakens there is no way for the seatbelt to go in all the way inside. Pull the belt outside completely and manually rotate the retractor to see if it tightens but this might not work for all the cars. It is surely worth a try for you if you cannot replace your seatbelts but normally there are people who can solve your problem.

Final thoughts

As mentioned in the article, seatbelts have saved countless lives over the years and will surely do so in the near future. The problems we have covered over the course of this article are either because of the seatbelt being old in which case you will have to replace them or because of the accumulation of dirt.

Keeping these factors aside, problems with retractors are also common so the best option would be to replace it as soon as possible. There are no second chances in life so if you are really looking into this article, I hope it helps but if there are no solutions to the problems you are facing with your seatbelt, go for professional help and do not keep it hanging.

It will be similar to keeping your life hanging. Carry a seatbelt cutter in your car always in case you are stuck and you need to get out to save your life or any other emergency that you have to attend to. Stay safe, fix your seatbelts soon!

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