Seat belts save lives, but only when they work properly! Will your seat belt fail when you need it? Even with ordinary use, seat belts will eventually fail over time. It is important to regularly test your seat belts for damage or defects from regular wear and tear.
Seat Belt Safety Checklist
We have put together an 11 point checklist to see if you should replace your seat belts. You can print it & take it out to your vehicle for inspection. On this page we will tell you the signs it is time to change your seat belts and explain the common causes of seat belt failure. Using our easy checklist you can test your own seat belts at home.
View PDF Checklist
Signs You Should Replace Your Seat Belt
Any damage to seat belt webbing, mechanisms, and mounting hardware puts your health at risk. A cut in your seat belt webbing as small as 5mm can significantly reduce its performance in a crash. Your tongue and buckle assembly and retractor should also function correctly and be free from damage.
If your seat belt webbing is fraying, sagging or stretched, or has any sort of cut, we recommend replacing the entire assembly. Damage to the seat belt webbing may also be a signifier of damage to the retracting mechanism. If the webbing is noticeably faded or bleached, it may have reduced tensile strength. Over time, exposure to sunlight can considerably reduce the strength of your webbing and leave you at risk.
If your seat belt does not retract smoothly, it may not protect you properly in the event of a crash. Your seat belt’s tongue and buckle assembly should fit securely with no free play, and eject with a springing action. In addition, your seat belt’s mounting hardware or anchorage must not be corroded or deformed, and must be securely fastened to your vehicle.
Some seat belts will have a tag at the base that says REPLACE BELT or something similar when they have reached the end of their life, and some car models will flash the fasten seatbelt indicator if they sense damage to the seat belts. If your seat belts are telling you to replace them, you should listen.
Replace Seat Belts After a Crash
Seat belts, like car seats and air bags, are considered single-use safety items by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Seat belts are designed to work just once to protect a passenger in the event of a crash.
Seat belts are equipped with retractors to keep you secure and comfortable in everyday use. In the event of a crash, these retractors lock the seat belt in place with a mechanism called a pretensioner. The pretensioner uses an explosive charge to drive a piston when sensors detect abrupt deceleration. This piston rapidly spools the webbing of your seat belt, removing all slack instantly and keeping you secure in a crash.
This means that if your vehicle has been in an accident where a seat belt’s pretensioner was activated, you must replace that seat belt. Signs of pretensioner activation are obvious: the seat belt stalk cover will be deformed from the explosive force, the buckle will sag and sit low, and the retractor mechanism will be damaged or inoperable.
Your old seat belts are useless after a crash. They will not protect you, and the entire assembly must be replaced before you can safely drive or ride as a passenger.
Replace Seat Belts Worn by Regular Use
Even if your vehicle has never been involved in a crash, wear and tear over years of use might have made your seat belts not as effective as they should be. In addition to damage caused by normal wear and tear, there are several other factors that can increase the rate of deterioration to your seat belts:
- Exposure to fine dust and particles can deteriorate exposed seat belt mechanisms. If your vehicle is commonly in off-road environments, coastlines, and areas that experience sandstorms, you may be at higher risk of a malfunction.
- Excessive exposure to light can damage seat belt webbing and exposed plastic pieces. If you own an open-top vehicle or keep your vehicle parked outside, make sure your seat belt webbing is not becoming faded or bleached, and your plastic buckles and retractor casing are not becoming brittle from the sun’s damaging UV rays.
- Seat belts regularly used to hold a car seat can deteriorate at a quicker rate than normal. Abnormal tensioning of seat belts for long periods can damage retractors and stretch webbing.
- Frequent fastening and unfastening can wear the locking mechanism. If you use your vehicle for deliveries or constantly getting in and out of your seat for any other reason, these parts will wear out quicker.
- Tampering or damage to the mechanism or webbing by children or animals.