Introduction: Fixing a Broken Seatbelt Latch

I drive a 1996 Ford F-250 with an extended cab. I got in it a couple days ago and the driver side seatbelt would not catch. Around here a ticket for driving without your belt on is a little north of a hundred dollars. Oh yeah, there is the whole thing about being ejected from the truck when it crashes. I needed to get it fixed.

Most Instructables are finished projects, but only list the steps of the last part. The first step that needs to be resolved is what is the problem and how to solve it. For this step I start brainstorming and gather all of my brilliant ideas together.

Step 1: Define Your Problem, Start Solving.

With this project, idea 1: see how much a replacement seatbelt would cost. So, I opened my laptop and went to a big autoparts site. A replacement belt—$80 plus shipping. Price check two was a more reasonable $50. I called my local autoparts store. They didn’t sell any seatbelts or parts.

More brainstorming. (Junkyards, which required long drive in truck without seatbelt.)

Next... I widened my search to solve my lack of working seatbelt problem. I looked at the truck and noticed that the seat had an extra seatbelt for a person in the middle of the seat. The latch was the same. I thought I’d switch them and put the broken one in the middle position.

Wow, I am so smart! I removed the box that rides behind my front seat. It contains my safety items for breakdowns or other such things. With everything exposed I could see all of the bolts. The seatbelts are held down with a torx bolt. My Ford it needs a size 50 torx bit. I went out to the barn and gathered my tools. I’m going not to list all of them. But I did take a quick pic when I gave up.

Step 2: More Brainstorming...

I couldn’t break the bolts loose. I’m not real strong right now, and the placement of the bolts didn’t add up to clear 90 degree angles, and there isn’t any way to extend the breaker bars with a cheater pipe. Maybe, I thought, an impact wrench.

I’m sure everyone has projects that just don’t quite work right. I’ve always believed that this mischief is caused by mechanical sprites. Back to the barn to get an air impact wrench. I fired up the compressor out in the barn. Hose was just short of the truck.

I grabbed the hose on my little senco compressor. The female snap connector of that hose was broke. (Sprites start picking up speed as things go downhill.) This hose was a special senco hose so I couldn’t put one of my spare ends on it.

I grabbed a coilly hose (You know, one of those cheap hoses that maintain a tight coil, but can be stretched if you don’t kink one of the coils.) from yet another air system. It leaked bad—ah, at one end. I sat and trimmed it to stop the leak. Then I found I needed to repeat repair for the other end. Back the truck with the air impact driver. It would not rachet at all.

Not to easily give up, I tried the cordless 18v impact driver. No go. Nothing went right. I sat and centered myself. The sprites were winning. I needed to come up with yet another path. I packed everything in the truck and returned to my recliner to open my laptop.

Step 3: Maybe, This Will Work.

Again, slightly different search words and I found a youtube video. Yes, I love the internet.

I gathered my tools and supplies. My plan, now outlined by the youtuber, was to take the seatbelt catch apart and insert double stick foam tape to push back on the button plate. His instructions were to take a flat screwdriver and pry the latch apart. At the end of his video, he says that you can snap the catch back together but you might need pliers to do this. I grabbed my screwdrivers, pliers, double stick foam tape and went out to the truck.

Step 4: Working on It.

After attempting poses of an advanced yogi master behind the steering wheel, I positioned myself on the passenger side.

The youtuber said, take flat screwdriver and pry the latch apart. Yes, I know I already covered that. The reality in the front seat is the latch is twisted in the least accessible position possible.

My hands aren’t that strong and really I needed about five more hands to hold and pry everything. With more random tools I finally got the latch contained. This is the part where I have to give warning: when prying and shoving flat screwdriver into tiny metal slot—do not point the tip toward yourself.

Step 5: Repair

Okay, it is possible to pry from front lip and pop the little devil apart. It is not unlike shucking an oyster.

Next, there is a black piece of metal. This is the part that is broke. I looked around in the part still attached to truck and a small metal tab fell out.

Great, I kinda rubbed spit on the spot I was sticking the foam tape. It seemed a lot less greasy and the tape stuck. I trimmed the three layers of foam.

Step 6: Slip, Pinch, Nudge, and Snap.

The metal button that you press to remove the belt needs to slip under lip of the latch cover. Everything gets carefully held and nudged in place while you flip this over and line it up with the part sticking out of the seat.

The front of the latch has a lip. Put the lip on the front of the other piece while lining up the back. Once you see the lip is still in it’s place, press the rear of the part to the attached seatbelt part and it will snap into place.

Step 7: Clicked

Yes, it works.

Is it safe? I didn’t change the part that snaps together so mechanically the latch is the same. If there comes a time that it doesn’t un-click and I really need to exit truck, I keep a knife in reach to cut seatbelt.

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