How To Fix Your Crappy Seatbelt Retractors
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Old January 9th, 2009, 07:34 PM   72 links from elsewhere to this Post. Click to view. #1
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How To Fix Your Crappy Seatbelt Retractors


*EDIT* For those that have any doubt on the effect of quality, I can assure you there is none. I hit a patch of black ice on the highway, nosed it into a ditch, and it rolled. The seat belt held up just fine and saved my life. The reason is that you're not messing w/ the mechanism that holds the belt in place during sudden acceleration, you're just adding more tension to the spring.

***** Disclaimer *****
- Do NOT attempt this is you don’t have the balls to potentially ruin your seat belt retractors.
- I did this for myself. This may not be the “correct” way of fixing this but it worked for me.
- Ford loves these STUPID connectors. They are a pain in the ass and located all over this car.

*******************

I have my 2003 Mustang GT and like many others, my passenger side seatbelt didn’t retract. Someone would sit in it and it would just hang loosely. It didn’t instill much confidence in the seatbelt and its ability to protect the passenger in the event of a crash. So, I decided to tear it apart and figure out how to fix the problem. Here’s what I did to fix the problem. I apologize in advance for the crappy pictures. They were taken on my phone b/c my camera battery was COMPLETELY dead.

1) You need to remove the rear seat headrest. This is held in by three 5/16” bolts. Once those are removed, it just slides right out.

(Picture shows where the bolts are located. Currently, the seats are down and you’re looking into the trunk. This is the worst picture due to the lighting, sorry.)

2) Next, you need to remove the rear seat. To accomplish this, you first need to remove the bottom half of the seat. Located approximately 12” from each side is a clip that holds the bottom in place. Using a flat screwdriver, push the button on each side and it will release the bottom part of the seat. Pull up and out on the seat and it comes out. This is easiest if done while the seatbacks are up like normal.

(Picture shows the location of the driver’s side clip. Push the button where my finger is. There is one on each side.)

3) Pull the seat back down so you can see into the trunk. You’ll notice that there are 4 of Fords favorite connectors holding the trunk carpet in place. These need to be removed using pliers or whatever method you choose. I had a “fork” shaped tool and they would fit into the slot. Just get them out any way you can.

(This shows just 2 of the connectors on the passenger side of the back seat. As you can see, the seat backs are down.)

4) Now you need to remove the seat back. Located on the bottom corners of the seat are two 11/16” nuts. You need to remove the nuts from the stud to continue. Mine were on fairly tight so put some muscle behind it and they come free. If you use a socket, it will need to be deep well.

(This is a close up of the driver’s side of the rear seatback. Remove this nut and the other one just like it on the other side.)

5) There are two 10mm bolts that hold the top of the seatback to the rest of the car. They are located right above the pull straps that allow you to put the seatbacks down. For now, put the seats back up and remove these two bolts.

(One of the 10mm bolts. Notice the pull strap as a reference to help locate.)

6) The seat is now free to be removed. The bottom might appear to be attacked but it’s just stuck in place. Pull the top straight out and it should free up the bottom. CAREFULLY remove this without ruining your interior or exterior paint. It’s not really heavy but it’s an awkward shape.

7) Now the entire back seat is out and you need to remove the plastic panel that covers the seatbelt retractor. On the side that was adjacent to the seat, there are 3 of Fords favorite connectors. You have to pull the carpet back to see them. Remove these using whatever tool you have.

(These are the three connectors on the passenger side. I’m holding the carpet back to allow better visibility.)

8) Next, remove the two connectors that hold the weather stripping to the panel. I just used a flat screwdriver to carefully pry them out without harming the rubber. These are not the same as the other connectors and are much easier to remove.

(Here, one connector is removed and one is still in place.)

9) Now you will notice that the bottom panel is stuck under the upper panel (the panel around the small window). You will also need to remove the small panel but it’s easy. The first step is to remove the hanger near the ceiling. Pry the cover down and remove the hanger with a Phyllis screwdriver.

(This is the hanger with the cover pried out of the way.)

10) Next remove the seatbelt hanger. Using a screwdriver, pry the cover off and save it for later. It’s just attached by some clips that will let go with some prying force. Holding the hanger in place is a torques bolt that needs to be removed. Since I just graduated college and don’t have a large selection of tools, I didn’t have the proper bit. Instead, I used a hex-wrench and it came out. This was also in pretty tight and some muscle broke it free.

(This is the seatbelt hanger with the cover removed. Note the big bolt holding it in place. I believe it’s a torques bit but I’m no mechanic.)

11) Now you’ll be able to remove the top panel. There are some of Fords favorite connectors holding it in place. You can pull and recover these later or try to remove them with the panel.

(Here is the back side of the top panel. Circled are the two connectors holding the panel in place.)

12) Now you’ll notice the last of Fords favorite connectors holding the bottom panel in place. It’s located just in front of the rear seatbelt. Remove this and you’ll be ready to take the panel off. The panel is also clipped and slid under the door sill. Find the most convenient way to free this. I just used some muscle and got it out. Now the seatbelt retractor is exposed and easily removed.

(This is the final connector holding the bottom panel in place.)

13) Now you’ll notice that you cannot pull the seatbelt out unless the retractor is completely vertical. This is a pain in the butt. You’ll also notice that on one side is a gear and some other plastic pieces. On the other side is the torsion spring that pulls the seatbelt back in.

(Here is the ratchet mechanism. You can figure out how it works but you don’t need to worry about it.)

14) Now, looking at the torsion spring cover (the black cover) you’ll notice that it says “DO NOT REMOVE.” This is because once it’s removed, it will unspring and potentially make your retractor worthless. Like I said in the disclaimer, if you don’t have the balls to possibly destroy your retractor, stop and put your car back together right now!!!
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Old January 9th, 2009, 07:34 PM   #2
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15) OK, since you’re still here I’m assuming you have some balls and want to continue. First you need to remove the small cover from the center. This exposes a white piece with a square indent in the center.

(Here is the torsion spring cover on the side of the retractor. I’m using a screwdriver to remove the small cover from the center.)

16) Next, you’ll need to remove the torsion spring case from the retractor. Using a flat screwdriver, wedge it under each of the three prongs and pry it up just enough to free that prong. There are a total of 3 that hold it in place. DO NOT COMPLETELY REMOVE THE TORSION SPRING CASE!!!!

(Here I am prying up one of the prongs. Be careful to avoid the case from coming off the retractor.)

17) Now the tricky part that I wish I knew about when I started. Insert a large flatblade screwdriver into the square that’s visible in the center of the torsion spring. Hold it in place and do NOT allow it to spin. Carefully slide your finger between the case and the retractor and hold the center part into the case. CAREFULLY lift the torsion spring case from the retractor and do not allow it to spin by holding it with your screwdriver and hand.

(This is the front of the torsion spring case. You insert a screwdriver into the square on this side.)

(This is the back side of the torsion spring case. Notice the piece in the center that attaches to the retractor. You want to keep this from spinning or pushing out.)

(This is the side of the seatbelt retractor. That center disk on the torsion spring case connects into the shaft and causes it to retract.)

18) Using your screwdriver and much care, rotate the center disk a few more turns. Rotate it the direction that it does not want to turn. You are tightening the spring and causing it to have more force to pull the seatbelt back in with.

19) Carefully place the torsion spring case back onto the retractor and don’t allow it to spin. This is a tricky process and took me a few tries at first. Once it’s down, use some pliers to push the 3 pins on the torsion spring case back into the retractor.

20) Reinstall the retractor and test it before installing everything. If it works, congratulations and put everything back together. If not, remove it and tighten the spring some more. The problem with these seatbelts isn’t really the torsion spring. It’s a crappy design with the geometry of retractor, hanger, and seat.

** In the event that you accidentally release the spring and it un-spins, you’re not screwed over. This happened to me. After many trial and errors, I re-spun the spring a total of 12 turns and it worked well. It seems very tight but that’s what worked for me. **

Here's two videos of the retractor after it was fixed. The first video is of it working before everything is reinstalled. The second video is after everything is reinstalled and I'm sitting in the passenger seat. Sorry for the crappy videos but I think it gets the point across.
Video 1:


Video 2:
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Old January 9th, 2009, 08:17 PM   #3
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Not only do you have balls but you have BEACH BALLS! LOL!

Great Write Up! Wish the pics were better but the point is made.

John
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Old January 9th, 2009, 09:00 PM   #4
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+ Rep!!!!!!!
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Old January 9th, 2009, 09:32 PM   #5
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I like your cars interior. The black leather looks so nice and new...
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Old January 9th, 2009, 09:40 PM   #6
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Excellent write-up there, pardner


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Old January 10th, 2009, 02:39 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Novanutcase View Post
Not only do you have balls but you have BEACH BALLS! LOL!

Great Write Up! Wish the pics were better but the point is made.

John
I might retake some of the pictures if I get motivated. Some of them are ok while others are pretty crappy. If only my camera was charged.
Originally Posted by Jakashh View Post
I like your cars interior. The black leather looks so nice and new...
Thanks. I'm very picky about my interior and the back seat NEVER gets used for anything.

I thought there was more desire for this writeup. I guess not.
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Old January 10th, 2009, 02:48 PM   #8
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Nice Write Up Broham
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Old January 10th, 2009, 05:25 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by 03SonicBoom View Post
I thought there was more desire for this writeup. I guess not.
You did a good job and I'll be trying this for sure, thanks.
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Old January 10th, 2009, 06:22 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by hardhitter View Post
You did a good job and I'll be trying this for sure, thanks.


I'm gunna fix em' on my GT
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Old January 10th, 2009, 07:09 PM   #11
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Just make sure you try to keep the spring from unwinding. After I took the torsion spring case off the retractor and heard it unwind I uttered two words......Oh Shit!!!
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Old January 10th, 2009, 07:19 PM   #12
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Very nice write up! does this method apply to all the retractors in the car? If so Im gonna do all 4 of mine...even though like 03sonicboom, my back seats never get used. The only time I have ever used the back seat was when I went to the beach and I used the rear drivers side belt to hold in a cooler for a few days and now it doesnt retract properly and it looks like shit IMO
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Old January 11th, 2009, 11:43 PM   #13
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sweet, thanks for the write up...i might try this this weekend
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Old January 11th, 2009, 11:47 PM   #14
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haha i just love how many people this happens to, and ill be doing this tues night. Great right up thanks!
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Old January 11th, 2009, 11:57 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by kmelfi11 View Post
haha i just love how many people this happens to, and ill be doing this tues night. Great right up thanks!
dude is that your stang in your sig?? that thing looks sick! i love that hood
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Old January 12th, 2009, 12:03 AM   #16
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yeah it is thanks a lot, i love your hp numbers haha cant wait for mine to be that high!
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Old January 12th, 2009, 11:09 AM   #17
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Really great write-up bro! I will definitely be coming back to this in the springtime when it's a bit warmer cause I don't have a garage. BTW, how long did this project take you?

+reps
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Old January 16th, 2009, 02:18 AM   #18
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good write-up!
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Old January 16th, 2009, 02:33 AM   #19
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Kill!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old January 16th, 2009, 08:00 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by 99BlackBetty View Post
Really great write-up bro! I will definitely be coming back to this in the springtime when it's a bit warmer cause I don't have a garage. BTW, how long did this project take you?

+reps
It probably took me about 2.5 hours. But this included taking pictures and trying to find all those damn connectors. Also, I pulled the torsion spring case off and let all the tension out of the spring (shit!!). This resulted in me having to find out how many times to twist it (12x) and took abot 30-45 min.

You should be able to do it in 60-90 minutes.
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