Disable an Automatic Seatbelt With Kung Fu





Introduction: Disable an Automatic Seatbelt With Kung Fu

About: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of www.zcorp.com, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output devices. His detailed drawings of traditional Pacific...

My 1996 Ford Escort has an automatic seatbelt. Here's how to disconnect it with Kung Fu.

After doing this the seatbelts still work fine in "manual mode", just like in regular cars designed by nature and God's true servants.

This seatbelt bad idea thing is a robot that slides back and forth in a track up and over the door. It's a big pain in the neck. Literally and figuratively. In a horror movie it would strangle someone. When I tie things to the roof with a rope, I have to untie it from the inside before getting out or the damn slider thing runs up against it and makes breaking sounds.

The one on my passenger side was already broken on my car. That one is fine for the passengers, but the mechanism makes clicking sounds so I went looking for the source.

Step 1: What If the Seatbelt Is Jammed?

So your old Ford Escort has a seatbelt track that's jammed in the wrong position?

Look to the right of the doorjamb. Pull off the little round cap. There's a hex socket there. Turn that with an allen wrench to manually reel the seatbelt slider to the correct position.

What if the garbage disposal unit that feeds your biogas digester is jammed?
There's a similar looking hex socket on the bottom of that. Turn it to unjam the unit.

The path to righteousness cannot be traveled in cars.
If you must get one it should be as small as possible. And don't get a new car.
That causes new production which cooks baby angels with napalm.
Your car should dine as low on the foodchain as possible.
Get a diesel to run on Waste veggie oil or biodiesel made from it, for example.
If you can't find one of those, get an old economy car in the meantime.

Step 2: Pry the Wall Skin Off

Grab the lip of the plastic wall skin by the doorjam and below the side window. Pull hard.
It will pry off and look like this. You don't have to completely remove it, just to get under it.

This is the jammed passenger side unit. The black thing is a DC brushmotor. Mine is hot because it's struggling to move. If you need a motor for something, this is a good place to get one.

Step 3: Pull the Plug

Look carefully at the plastic electrical connector.
The manufacturer's spec says it's "natural nylon color".
There's a little latch button on the side.
Push that and pull the plug out of the socket.
Tuck it out of the way where it won't short on anything.

After I did this the clicking stopped and the motor cooled off.

Step 4: Replace the Wall Skin

Push the wall skin back into place.
Make sure the little plastic rods and hooks go into the proper holes.
Bang on it along the edge til they all click into place.
You've just experienced one of the jobs in a car factory.

Step 5: Straighten the Weatherstripping

Pull the weatherstripping away from the edge of the doorjamb.
Re-insert it in the track in the side of the wall skin.

If you're car has a seatbelt alarm you might have to hunt that down and disconnect it also, but this car doesn't have one.

You're done!
Your kung fu has defeated the robot seatbelt!
You've modified the car and made it better than when it left the factory.
All with no tools or weapons but the mighty force of your skillful hands!

Spread the good news!



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    Thanks for the tip... works like a charm.

    Just thought it prudent to mention that you should do more after disconnecting the plug. That's still a live wire and could short a circuit that runs other electrics. Just heavily duct-taping it should be good.

     Arg! Yeah, I have thought about doing this in my '95 Escort!  When I use ratchet straps to tie my kayak to the roof, I have to follow a very specific process.   I was thinking of buying a different rack, but I can just do this. Maybe I can hook up a switch to connect/disconnent it...
    I love my Escort.

     Thanks Tim!

    Damn forgot a period at the end. What happened to your thumb?

    The automatic seatbelts were discontinued for a variety of reasons. Reliability is one reason. Another is that people have a habit of allowing the top to automatically close while they did not bother with the lower half. It made for some truly gruesome wrecks. People are notoriously "forgetful" when it comes to driving automobiles. I think they also don't have a good idea as to the forces that are encountered in a car wreck of even modest speeds. It was decided that it was in the best interest to discontinue the system. Part of it is safety, and part of it was marketing. People didn't like the automatic seat belt system.

    5 replies

    Uhh, I thought these (stupid, IMO) automatic seatbelts were replaced by a different passive restraint system that we now call "airbags".

    Airbags were designed to supplement seat belts, not replace them. Ideally airbags should inflate with less force, but people tended to believe that airbags were designed to replace seatbelts. So, engineers had to choose the more aggressive inflation rates to compensate for occupants not wearing their seatbelts (which wearing seatbelts are by far the greatest predictor of the probability of survival in a crash.) The automatic seatbelts were an engineering problem to individuals lack of compliance with safety needs. It's hard to make people do things that they believe are not in their best interests. Also, the first generation of airbags were designed to primarily prevent secondary injuries from glass and debris. Seat belts are one of the great public health achievements of the 20th century (that is 1900-1999.) Keep in mind that list includes antibiotics, vaccines and water sanitation. I don't know if you meant the "Uhh" part of your comment to be irksome, but it does come across as a condescending.


    Hi Calorie, the "uhhh" was just because I was unsure of the background behind it all. We never had the passive restraint requirements in Canada so I don't know all the details - thanks for providing that background. Sorry if I offended. I guess things I might normally say verbally don't necessarily come across that way in written form.

    No problem. It's hard to translate speech into writing. I'm going to guess that you are fairly young. Before automatic seatbelts they had this horrible buzzing noise that reminded you if you had not buckled up and the car was moving. The idea is that if the noise was truly irritating (and it was) you would put on your seatbelt. There were several responses to this warning. A lot of people had it disconnected. Some wore their seatbelts more often. The remnant of this technology is the little light and bell that blinks and chimes to let you know that you haven't belted up. In the US, many states now have primary seat belt laws. That is, you can be pulled over if you are not wearing a seatbelt. It use to be that you could only get a seat belt ticket if you were pulled over for something else and then the officer saw that you weren't wearing a belt.


    I'm not that young, but I say "uhhh" a lot (too much I am told). Canada has had seatbelt laws, since 1980 or so I believe. The driver would get the ticket if any underage passengers weren`t wearing the seatbelt, adult passengers would get their own tickets.


    Good job with the kung fu! One of the pluses of living in Canada was that we escaped this lunacy.


    This is what I tell everyone. Everything was assembled somehow, it can be easily disassembled too. Nice job. My 93 Tempo had these too. Wish I'd known then how to disable them.

    My Integra has this but I'm just gonna swap in manual belts from a Canadian market one.

    My dad used to have an Acura that had automatic seatbelts. It was a great car, but the belts would wack you in the head if you weren't paying attention. Shame he sold it.

    Grasshopper before you are allowed to leave, you must snatch the now obsolete seatbelt motors from the B pillars and create another useful Instructable using them!

    By the way, you had mercy, Tim. If I were you, I would dip the plug in epoxy for the sanity of future generations. Some sort of, errr, STERILIZATION!.. :-D

    what do you mean with automatic seatbelt?

    1 reply

    It is an American thing... We Europeans can't understand. I had the privilege (!) to drive a car with that thing on, good gracious, what a waste of engineering. Good job on sabotaging it, mate. K.