Intro: Inexpensive Seat Belt Repair Using a Seat Belt Extender
A couple of weeks ago my wife found that the seat belt buckle was not working properly on the front seat passenger side in her Chevrolet Blazer. The problem was that the tongue part of the seat belt would not insert into the buckle part no matter what she did. Furthermore, pressing down on the buckle release button seemed to make absolutely no difference.
The buckle portion is pretty much sealed closed with no screws or rivets, thus I could not get inside to repair it. I could only get the tongue into the buckle if I really worked at it with a tiny screwdriver, but that did not seem to be a practical solution to the problem. I compared this seat belt buckle to the others in the car and could tell that there was something different down in the narrow slot, but all attempts to repair it were futile. I also sprayed into the buckle slot some lubricant I had obtained from a locksmith when the lock on our safe was not turning easily. Likewise, this did not help the problem.
I went by the Chevy dealer and they said they were not allowed to repair seat belts and could only replace them. Since this job would involve removing the seat, they wanted $350 to replace just the buckle and its associated short strap- not the whole harness and retraction mechanism, mind you. I found I could buy the OEM buckle-strap assembly online for about $60 + S&H, but I would still have to remove the seat myself. This was something I was very much capable of doing. I just did not want to spend that much time and effort on something that I thought might be repaired in an easier fashion.
Naturally, I turned to the font of all knowledge- the Internet.
Step 1: I Found a Seat Belt Extender That I Thought Might Solve the Problem
Somehow in my internet search I stumbled onto seat belt extenders. These are used mostly by folks whose girth is either too large for the standard length seat belt OR for people like police officers who have difficulty with their gun belts catching on a regular seat belt and who have found that a seat belt extension helps circumvent that issue. Most extenders are anywhere from 3 to 9 inches long.
In looking at a seat belt extender, I realized that this device has a tongue on one end to lock into your existing buckle, in addition to having a buckle on the other end to accept the tongue of your seat belt. This was EXACTLY what I needed to solve the problem in my wife's car, although I did not need much of an extension. With a bit more searching I found some really short seat belt extensions called mini extenders, like the one in the photo. I bought one online.
Step 2: The Short Seat Belt Extender Essentially Replaced the Broken Seat Belt Buckle
I used my tiny screwdriver to get the tongue of this short extender locked into the existing buckle mechanism. It made the "new buckle" just over 2 inches longer. Although it was not one of my goals, this added length actually made it easier to buckle the seat belt, because once you were sitting in the seat, you often had to dig between your hip and the console for the old seat belt buckle. Whereas this new extension was more prominent. The original seat belt tongue now clicked easily into the extender buckle.The seat belt extender would be left permanently locked into the original seat belt buckle, as it had now effectively become the new buckle. Our seat belt problem had been solved.
A couple of caveats:
1. Although you can find cheaply made seat belt extenders on Ebay for as little as 2 or 3 dollars, I would strongly recommend that you get an extender with an E4 Certification (The European Safety Standard) for something as important as a seat belt. There are several companies that sell high quality seat belt extensions on the net and you should be able to purchase a suitable extender for 8 to 20 dollars.
2. Make certain that you buy the correct model/size seat belt extension for your particular car seat. There are often different size seat belt buckles in the same vehicle, and the right rear passenger belt may not be the same as the one for the middle seat.
I think this repair would be applicable to any vehicle with a similar problem. Seat belt extenders such as these are made to interface with original equipment seat belts for virtually any make and model car.