Safety First: How to Choose the Best Seat Belt
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that almost 13,000 people are saved every year by seat belts. Also called safety belts, seat belts are designed to protect passengers in case of collisions or sudden stops. They also reduce the risk of death for front-seat passengers by almost 50 percent in vehicular accidents.
If your car's seat belts are already worn, you must replace them ASAP. Seat belts that won't buckle or retract properly will only cause more damage. Though replacing seat belts is easy, choosing the best isn't. If you want new seat belts, there are some important things to consider, so you won't regret your purchase and sacrifice your safety.
Proper seat belt fit
The best seat belt should fit you perfectly. According to the NHTSA, seat belts should fit across your shoulders and the middle of your chest. If you want to have a lap belt, it should go below your stomach and across your hips. For better and more adjustable seat belts, car dealers provide seat belt adjusters. If you're wondering, these guidelines also apply to children.
Seat Belts Buyer’s Guide
- The seat belt is one of the most important safety devices in a vehicle.
- Seat belts secure and protect the driver and their passengers from collision energy that may cause injury or even death.
- They are made up of four parts: the webbing, retractor, seat belt buckle, and seat belt tongue.
- They distribute force across a wider section of the body and prevent occupants from diving into the car doors, dashboard, and windshield.
- Seat belts are tested by vehicle manufacturers to meet the requirements of the NHTSA’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and Regulations.
- There are four types of automotive seat belts. These are lap belts, sash/shoulder belts, multi-point belts, and automatic seat belts.
- The cost of a replacement seat belt varies depending on your vehicle’s specific year, make, and model. OE replacement parts will generally cost you anywhere between $20 to $85.
- According to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA, wearing a seat belt saved the lives of almost 15,000 people involved in vehicular accidents in 2017. More than 2,500 additional lives would have been saved in the same year, had these people buckled up on the road.
What are seat belts?
The seat belt is one of the most important safety devices in a vehicle. Seat belts secure and protect the driver and their passengers from collision energy that may cause injury or even death. These vehicle restraints are installed on the driver, passenger, and back seats.
They are made up of four parts: the webbing, retractor, seat belt buckle, and seat belt tongue.
The webbing is the part of the system that is wrapped around the body of the driver or passenger. This polyester belt is designed to support more than 28kNw.
The retractor is the winding mechanism that allows the webbing to extend or pull back. Upon impact, this component locks the webbing in place, securing the occupant on the seat. Retractors come with a locking mechanism that stops the movement of the webbing when it is unspooled at a rate faster than normal and when the brakes are applied quickly.
Seat belt tongue
The seat belt tongue is a metal component that is connected to the webbing. This part inserted into the seat belt buckle to secure the system.
Seat belt buckle
The seat belt buckle is the mechanism that fastens and releases the seat belt tongue. It is designed in a way that makes it extremely easy for the user to secure the belt and for rescue workers to free occupants in case of a vehicle crash.
What are seat belts for?
Seat belts are a critical component of your car’s crash safety system. These vehicle restraints keep occupants propped in the correct position, minimizing the risk of injury or death upon impact. The system is designed to stretch and absorb impact energy.
They distribute force across a wider section of the body and prevent occupants from diving into the car doors, dashboard, and windshield. These also prevent the driver and passengers from being ejected from their seats upon deceleration.
The seat belt mechanism in your vehicle is designed to work with older teens and adults. However, the system can also be used to secure additional vehicle restraints such as car seats and boosters that are designed for infants and children.
When did seat belts become mandatory?
The first seat belt law known as the Motor Vehicle Safety Standard was a federal law that took effect in 1968. This required auto manufacturers to build seat belt mechanisms into their vehicles. New York was the first state to require its drivers to wear a seat belt. Throughout the next eleven years, 48 states followed suit. New Hampshire is the only state that does not have a seat belt law for drivers
How to use a seat belt properly
- Put your seat in an upright position.
- Keep as much distance as possible between your belly and the steering wheel, while making sure that you can reach the gas and brake pedals comfortably.
- Place the webbing away from your neck while keeping it on your shoulder. There should only be a minimal gap between your body and the seat belt.
- Secure the lap belt below your stomach and place the seat belt tongue inside the buckle.
- If the belt is too loose or too tight, you may use seat belt adjusters or extenders to get the proper fit.
How are seat belts tested?
Seat belts are tested by vehicle manufacturers to meet the requirements of the NHTSA’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and Regulations. Each model must undergo testing because vehicles have varying seat designs and seat belt anchor points.
The FMVSS 209 specifically outlines the requirements for testing seat belt assemblies for passenger cars, multi-purpose vehicles, buses, and trucks. A crash test is not always required for specific seat belt designs in the United States.
Types of seat belts
There are four types of automotive seat belts. These are lap belts, sash/shoulder belts, multi-point belts, and automatic seat belts.
As its name suggests, this type of seat belt features webbing that only goes over the waist horizontally.
This type of seat belt goes diagonally over the body of the driver or passenger. They were typically used in combination with a separate lap belt system.
Three-point seat belts are Y-shaped belts that were introduced by Volvo in 1959 and were developed by Nils Bohlin. It combines a lap and shoulder belt into one system. Most modern vehicles feature this type of seat belt.
Four or Five-point seat belts are mostly used in car seats and racing vehicles.
Automatic seat belts
Automatic seat belts are a type of vehicle restraint that was manufactured in the 90s. The mechanism featured a cross-chest belt that was mounted on the A-pillar that moves across the door frame and towards the B-frame with the help of a motor. The occupant then locks the tongue and buckle in place to secure the belt. As this type of system was prone to breaking down, automatic seat belts were quickly discontinued and replaced by airbags.
How much are replacement seat belts?
The cost of a replacement seat belt varies depending on your vehicle’s specific year, make, and model. OE replacement parts will generally cost you anywhere between $20 to $85. Replacement seat belt assemblies are usually sold individually.
When should seat belts be replaced?
Here are some of the common signs of a bad or failing seat belt assembly.
A common sign of seat belt failure is when you have trouble engaging the tongue in the buckle. You may think that the system is secure, but a seat belt that is not properly attached can become unlatched, even in a minor accident.
The material of the seat belt is meant to withstand extreme force. If you notice any rips or damage on the webbing, it must be replaced immediately to prevent it from compromising your safety on the road.
Consult a trusted mechanic as soon as you discover that your seat belts aren’t locking automatically when tugged by force or if you notice any excess slack even after the belt has been unlatched.
Seat and mount damage
Physical damage on the seats or the pillars where the seat belts are mounted could diminish the effectivity of using a seat belt.
Are seat belts really safe and why is replacing them important?
According to the latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA, wearing a seat belt saved the lives of almost 15,000 people involved in vehicular accidents in 2017. More than 2,500 additional lives would have been saved in the same year, had these people buckled up on the road.
Airbags alone cannot protect you from deadly collision forces. They are designed to work with seat belts, not in place of them. In fact, deployed airbags can cause fatal injury if you aren’t buckled up properly. Using a seat belt properly, without putting the belt under your arms, reduces your risk of injury by at least 45%.
Like any component in your car, this safety device has a lot more going for it than just the actual belt. Some of the seat belt parts you need to keep an eye on include the retractor, the adjuster, the tongue and buckle combination, the anchoring points, and of course the elastic webbed belt itself. All these parts have to be in perfect working condition or else the whole system fails. Luckily, considering how much they matter, finding high-quality parts for your seat belt is easy, as many great companies produce some of the most reliable in the market.
To find the right OE replacement seat belts for your vehicle, you may use our website’s search feature. Simply plug in the correct year, make, and model to browse through our vast collection of compatible parts.
Seat Belt: Just the Facts
Isn't it amazing how a thin piece of fabric can end up being the difference between life and death? Wearing a seat belt prevents physical injury and thus increases your chances of survival in the event of a major accident on the road.
As part of your vehicle's safety system, a seat belt significantly reduces the risk of injury by restricting the passenger's movement in cases of collisions and accidents. To ensure reliability, a typical car seat belt is equipped with locking mechanisms or inertia reels that tighten the belt when pulled quickly. When the vehicle suddenly stops, the seat belt tightens and prevents the occupant from hitting the vehicle's dashboard and windshield.
So when you find that your vehicle's seat belt starts to show signs of deterioration, don't hesitate to get the belt replaced. Click over to our catalog and see the seat belt replacement units we have in store for you.
DIY: Replacing Worn Seat Belts
Seat belts are very important when it comes to car safety. If your car's seat belts are already worn, they have to be replaced immediately. This DIY guide will teach you how to replace your car's seat belts-from retractor to buckle- in your own garage.
Difficulty level: Easy
Tools You'll Need:
- New seat belts
Step 1: Find the bolts that secure your worn seat belt. These bolts are covered by a plastic top that you can pry with your hands or with a screwdriver. Depending on your car's model and make, the bolts may be at the floor, side panel, or side of the seat. Also, some seat belts are secured by one bolt, while others are secure by two or three bolts.
Step 2: Once you located the bolts, unbolt them with a wrench. If your car has a three-point seat belt, you have to unbolt the buckle, shoulder strap, and lap belt. If your car has a lap belt, then you have to unbolt the buckle and belt.
Step 3: Align the new retractor to the holes that you made when you unbolted the old retractor. Then, bolt it into place using your wrench. If you're attaching a three-point seat belt, connect the shoulder and lap belt before bolting them in place.
Step 4: Get the new buckle, and bolt it properly with your wrench. Once the buckle is in place, insert the seat belt's tongue into the buckle.
Step 5: To ensure that the seat belt is properly installed, pull the seat belt several times. If the belt stays locked, you installed the seat belt correctly. If it doesn't stay locked, make sure that all bolts are secured and tightened. Repeat all the steps to replace all your worn seat belts.