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Do-It-Yourself Projects
Seat Belt Replacement
By Mike Bumbeck/
Printable version
Degree of DifficultyModerate
Estimated Time240 minutes
240 minutes
Restore Your Older Car's Safety with New Seat Belts

Buckling up your seatbelt can save your life. Thankfully we have moved on beyond the point where this is a topic of public argument. The evolution of seatbelts as standard automobile equipment has without question made motoring a safer experience. Seatbelts were first installed in passenger vehicles in the Fifties as optional equipment. By the mid-Sixties lap belts were standard issue. The 3-point lap and shoulder belt became the standard issue moving into the Seventies, and is the seatbelt we know today. While the lap and shoulder harness seatbelt in a passenger vehicle should in theory last as long as the car itself, sometimes this is not the case.
Frayed Seat Belt
Take a Seat
A worn or malfunctioning seatbelt is dangerous for obvious reasons. The material or mechanisms that comprise the seatbelt can wear out or come apart just like every other wear item in an automobile. This is especially true in vehicles that have spent a lot of time in the hot baking sun, or are soldiering on long past their expiration date. If the webbing of a seatbelt, or the mechanisms that retract the belt are worn or malfunctioning, replacement may be a good idea. The safest bet when removing and replacing a worn seatbelt is to locate a factory replacement. If a direct replacement is not available then a universal replacement is another option. If the vehicle is old enough to not have had seatbelts as original equipment then a universal replacement may be the only option. Be sure to check the return policy on universal seatbelts before ordering, as one size often does not fit all.
Safety First and Last
The safety potential of seatbelts is not lost on racing drivers. Racers use five-and even six-point seatbelt systems similar to those used in child seats. Tech inspectors for race sanctioning bodies inspect these harnesses regularly. Belts are inspected and replaced according to the rules set by the sanctioning body. Regular inspection of seatbelts is a good idea even for the casual driver. If taking on replacing your seatbelts as a do-it yourself project, be sure to remember that improper seatbelt installation can literally be a matter of life and death. Seatbelts are not connected to the seat, but rather to anchor points on structural parts of the vehicle body. Never attempt to install seatbelts to the seat itself. Make certain that seatbelts are installed properly. Check the service manual before working on vehicles equipped with airbags. Leave the job to a professional if there is any doubt.
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