Seat Belt That Won’t Pull Out Or Retract? Here’s The Fix

How do you fix a seat belt that won't retract? Here's a super simple guide so you can get your car's seatbelt working again.

Getting into your car and finding the seat belt won’t pull out or retract would be very frustrating.

In most cases, you’ll have noticed this symptom developing over the previous weeks and months.

You shouldn’t drive your car if you can’t pull your seat belt out or it won’t retract. If the seat belt doesn’t work, you are at severe risk if you end up in a road traffic collision.

Instead, the best option is usually calling a mobile mechanic. Explain the problem so they can send a professional with relevant qualifications and experience.

In this guide, you’ll find advice on fixing this issue and two of the most likely causes.

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How To Fix A Seat Belt That Won’t Retract Or Pull Out

Seat belt on black car seat

These guides don’t usually start with the ‘how to fix’ section – but this one’s an exception. In short? Get a professional mechanic to do this one for you!

Refrain from attempting to work on your seatbelt yourself (beyond looking for twists). 

Plenty of internet pages might offer advice on hacks and tricks to repair your seat belt. Do not listen to them.

Yes, some might work, but if you compromise the seat belt’s ability to hold you, you could be severely harmed in accidents. This includes injuries you might sustain from the airbags going off.

Look for a callout mechanic if you can’t get the seat belt loose with gentle manipulation. Mention the problem before someone is dispatched so someone with the relevant training turns up.

Expect that they may remove some inside panels to allow access to the retractor and the rest of the belt. Once the repair has finished, ensure the retractor and lock work before driving your car.

What Causes A Seat Belt That Won’t Pull Out Or Retract?

There are only really two likely root causes of this issue:

  • A twist or kink in the seat belt
  • A broken retractor

Twisted Seat Belt

Driver fastening his seat belt in car

The seat belt is fixed at the side of your seat, goes across your lap to the buckle, and heads back up to the pillar loop. From here, it carries on down the side of your car (usually behind the interior panels) to the retractor.

The belt itself is known as the webbing. Over time, this can twist and form kinks (like a hosepipe).

When you attempt to pull these knotted areas through tight spaces (like the pillar loop or behind the panels), they get stuck. Thus, your seat belt won’t pull out any further.

Gentle manipulation can work these kinks free. If you’re even slightly unsure of the problem, wait for a professional’s help.

They might use a flathead screwdriver or a similar tool to pry the knots out. If you attempt this yourself, ensure you don’t fray the webbing or otherwise compromise the seat belt.

Breaking Retractor

passenger fasten seat belt in car

The retractor pulls your seat belt back to its resting position when you unclip it at the buckle. It’s also responsible for locking the webbing under a heavy impact.

If the retractor breaks, the seat belt won’t, well, retract. It also might stick while pulling out or only retract slowly.

The last thing you want in an accident is a malfunctioning seat belt! You’ll need a mechanic to replace the retractor with a new one. Ensure you get this work done by a professional.

Can You Drive Without A Seat Belt?

Driving Car

Come on, friend. You can’t drive without a seat belt. It’s illegal, illogical, and senseless. Plus, you’ll get a fine.

Why would anybody even consider it?

Instead, you’ll either need a breakdown company to take the car to a nearby shop or a mobile mechanic.

Here are some statistics to chew over.

90% of Americans wear a seat belt (which is still an alarmingly low number). Of the 37,133 killed in car accidents in 2017, 47% weren’t wearing one.

Combined, these two statistics show that you’re far more likely to sustain a fatal injury if you don’t wear a seat belt.

If your seat belt doesn’t work, it’ll have the same effect – that is, none.

Conclusion: Seat Belt Won’t Pull Out Or Retract

This guide should have clarified that seat belts shouldn’t be fiddled with. You must know precisely what you’re doing if you’re going to try to repair one.

Even qualified mechanics might only use a seat belt-trained individual, and they’ll never touch them in services or tune-ups without consent. It’s that important.

If your seat belt doesn’t pull out or retract, don’t worry! It shouldn’t take too long to repair. A retractor could cost up to $200, including fitting.

In the meantime, don’t drive your car, and wait for assistance from a professional!

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Benjamin Kitchen

Ben is an automotive author from England. With experience in a fast-fit garage, he's an IMI-qualified light vehicle technician. He aims to help drivers worldwide with common automotive problems. You’ll often find him working with his 1.2 Vauxhall Corsa – it may have a tiny engine, but in eight years it's never once let him down!