For safety’s sake, it’s im­por­tant to keep your seat belts in tip-top shape

Calgary Sun - Autonet - - YOUR CORNER WRENCH - BRIAn TURNER

When seat belts get sticky or con­stantly jam, they can be a real pain ev­ery time you get into your ride and buckle up. Some of the most com­mon causes of slow re­coil ac­tion and in­ter­mit­tent un­coil lock-ups are eas­ily ser­viced with­out spe­cial tools.

If one or more of your seat belts are suf­fer­ing from slow re­coil, take a mo­ment to feel the fab­ric weave of the belt. If it seems stiff and has lost its soft­ness and pli­a­bil­ity, you may not have to do any fur­ther di­ag­no­sis. Grime, oils, and gen­eral dirt from our col­lected cloth­ing, com­bined with the nasty en­vi­ron­ment of our mo­bile green­houses can take their toll.

The first — and pos­si­bly only — step to take is to wash the belt in a so­lu­tion of warm, soapy water (mild dish de­ter­gent is OK). With­out fid­dling with any in­te­rior trim, sim­ply pull the belt out as far as it will go and hold it from re­coil­ing with a plain clothes­pin snapped onto the belt at the shoul­der loop on the door’s rear pil­lar.

Then, set the bucket down on the floor, but move the seats as far as pos­si­ble out of the way. Stuff as much of the belt into the soapy water as you can, ag­i­tate it a few min­utes and let it soak for a half-hour or so.

When you look at the state of the water at the end of the soak, you may be dis­gusted with its filth. Give the belt a rinse in a clean bucket of water and thor­oughly towel dry it be­fore let­ting it re­coil back into its base. If your re­straint has re­turned to its nor­mal func­tion, con­grat­u­la­tions! You can re­peat the cy­cle for the up­per part of the belt that didn’t touch water the first round.

If your belt is still a lit­tle slow, you might have to con­sider the pos­si­bil­ity of dirt, dust, and what­not hav­ing ac­cu­mu­lated into the re­trac­tor it­self. This is where DIY hacks may have to end in favour of a more pro­fes­sional ap­proach; al­most all late­model ve­hi­cles use an ex­plo­sive det­o­na­tor to re­coil the front seat belts in the event of a col­li­sion.

If you’re not sure if your ride is so equipped, check first be­fore pok­ing and prod­ding around the seat belt bases. Some em­ploy th­ese de­vices in the re­coil spool, and some in the in­ner belt’s base. Shop tech­ni­cians will dis­con­nect the main bat­tery be­fore do­ing any work, thus re­mov­ing the risk of un­in­ten­tional ac­ti­va­tion.

If, dur­ing any clean­ing or in­spec­tion of your seat belts you find any fray­ing on the belt it­self, you will need to get it re­placed for safety’s sake. The forces that belts are sub­jected to in a col­li­sion are con­sid­er­able, and any weak­en­ing of the ma­te­rial due to fray­ing brings a real risk of fail­ure when you need them the most.

posT­mEdia filEs

Some of the most com­mon causes of slow seat belt re­coil ac­tion and in­ter­mit­tent un­coil lock-ups are eas­ily ser­viced with­out spe­cial tools.

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