It's time for a new seatbelt mechanism, Eva.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 01, 1993

Dear Tom and Ray:

We own a 1987 Subaru GL hatchback. It has been very reliable, but has an annoying and dangerous idiosyncrasy. Since the car was about a year old, the seatbelt has "stuck" about three times a year. When I take it off and allow it to retract, it will stop half way, and won't go further in or out. The seatbelt remains unusuable for about a month or longer, then suddenly starts working again. The seatbelt mechanism is built into the wall of the car, and I can't get to it. A mechanic recommended driving backwards and slamming on the brakes to release the mechanism. I actually tried it, but no luck. I need to drive my car, but I'm pregnant and hate to drive without a seatbelt. What can I do?

TOM: You can go out tomorrow, Eva, and have your mechanic put in a new seatbelt mechanism.

RAY: Your seatbelt mechanism is occasionally binding up, Eva. And the reason the mechanic suggested driving backwards and braking is because the mechanism works on a pendulum. When you suddenly brake hard (or crash into a tree) the pendulum swings forward and instantly locks the belt. At all other times, that allows you to move the belt freely.

TOM: He thought that by trying to force the pendulum backwards, you might unstick the mechanism. But something's probably jammed inside a pistachio nut shell or a broken piece of a Slim Whitman cassette box.

RAY: So I wouldn't play around with it. Given your current condition, you really should have it replaced...right away.

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