Fixing a Broken Seatbelt Latch

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About: Bees; Fishing; Woodworking; Electronics; Ham; Cooking; Garden; Fly-tying; Flyfishing; Home Repairs; Truck/Car Repairs; Home Brewing; Woodturning.

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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    12 Discussions

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    dchall8

    2 months ago

    Virtually nobody knows this but nylon seat belts go bad just sitting around. They go bad faster if they get any oil on them. Sources of oil might be suntan lotion, hand lotion, or the occasional drippy taco. If the seat belt looks dirty, it is very likely that the dirt is embedded in some oil. They go bad from wear and rubbing. If it is frayed it should be replaced. If the seat belt is stiff in places, replace it. If the seat belt has ever been stretched by an accident, it needs to be replaced. And in general the useful life of a pristine seat belt is only 10 years. If your car is 15 years old it needs new belts all around.

    Someone should write an Instructable about remaking seat belts. You can buy rolls of the belt webbing at a car upholstery shop.

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    AlistairW7

    2 months ago

    Surely the life of such an inventive person is not worth risking for a less than a $100 replacement part! full marks for ingenuity and perserverance

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    emrudeAlistairW7

    Reply 2 months ago

    I can see your point. As a full fledged shade tree mechanic the fix passes my safety test. After everything it took to get it to click, I would be very happy to drive by my mechanics and ask how much it would cost to replace the belt. Mark and Bob would be able to replace both ends better than I can. So, even paying the guys to replace it and the part itself would be a bargain in the safety department. Maybe in the near future...

    Thank you for pointing to this safety risk.

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    mitchxll

    2 months ago on Step 6

    Thanks; I tried to fix mine 2 years ago ! gave up ! Been using center passenger clicker.. I'll have another go at it.

    1 reply
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    emrudemitchxll

    Reply 2 months ago

    Wow, I'm really glad this helped you. I didn't think this was a mass market fix.

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    mitchxll

    Tip 2 months ago

    I get it ;The foamy tapey,thingy replaces, the black,broken springy thingy ,that fell out ..

    1 reply
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    emrudemitchxll

    Reply 2 months ago

    So, you get had to get all technical? Yes, that sums it up.

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    audreyobscura

    2 months ago

    You're a great DIY storyteller and writer! I enjoyed reading your tips on how you went about this fix - and CURSE THOSE SPRITES!

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    tomatoskins

    2 months ago

    Wonderful instructable! I love seeing your problem solving steps as well!

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    JohnW51

    2 months ago

    Good job! I'm not clear on what the double-sided tape was for. Was it to hold the latch release button in place? Automobiles and most electronic and mechanical devices have become so complex that the average person is hard pressed to repair them, but a seat belt latch is a relatively simple device, and yes, the internet is an amazing provider of SO many things. How did we ever live without it?

    I needed a brake job on my Chrysler Pacifica recently. A repair shop wanted over $400 for just the rear brakes (yikes)!. I've done a lot of brake jobs in my time (I'm 69 years old) and got to thinking, I have NEVER paid someone to do a brake job on any of my vehicles. Just to make it easier on myself (keep from making dumb mistakes) I checked and found a couple of videos on the internet. Did the job myself in about an hour and it only cost about $35 for the brake pads.

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    emrudeJohnW51

    Reply 2 months ago

    The double stick tape replaces a thin piece of spring metal that provides tension to the catch. It compresses and then pushes back into shape.

    I started helping my dad work on family cars when I was four. I try to buy trucks and cars that can still be worked on by an un-trained person. I also support mechanics that help people who like to save money and do heavy lifting when I can't handle a job.

    Thank you for your thoughts.