Seat Belt Retractor Repair

The seat belt retractor in my ’73 Bavaria had become a problem. O.K. in summer, but the belt wouldn’t feed out in cold weather. Professional counsel seemed reluctant to try a fix, so I tried it, and was successful.First requirement was removal of plastic snap-cover, and then exposed bolt from frame. Then, carefully, the inside trim panel was removed from the door-post, starting from the bottom corners, and unsnapping the several plastic pins.

The retractor housing was then removed by removal of one bolt. Electrical wires came out by removing the plastic center cap, prying up the side toward the wires, removing the screw on the metal wire-cover, and then lifting out the wire sensors.

The retractor cylinder has two black plastic covers at its end. It seemed inadvisable to remove the one housing the strong steel spring which can be seen through the hole vacated by the electrical sensor. My problem was in the other end.

By prying off the plastic cap with a knife, I confirmed that a seasonal oil change could not have affected the action.

The most obvious action was normal. The slow-pull allowed belt to feed out, and fast-pull caused an eccentric to engage.

The culprit was a tiny hook formed of spring steel wire, the function of which is to hold the belt fast on about anything but straight-and-level. It reaches out and engages whenever its three-dimensional frame varies from any vertical, and in sudden acceleration or deceleration.

The fix is judgmental and experimental. Gently bend the hook inward so it is less able to engage the corresponding wire which revolves with the hub as the belt is pulled out.

After adjusting, the action can be tested before installing by holding the retractor while reeling out the belt, simulating various positions the car might assume.

Reinstallation was a simple reversal of removal. I was pleased that the trim panel on the door post shows no signs of the procedure. Belt action seems perfect in all respects.

Author: Carter Fratt


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