Seatbelts in its modern form have gone through a lot of initial development. Volvo was the first manufacturer to offer seatbelts as a part of standard equipment in all their cars in 1955 and were soon followed by other manufacturers globally. In India, a provision to fit seatbelts became compulsory in 1991 and factory fitted seatbelts for the front seats became compulsory in 1995. Today, seatbelts are a compulsory fitment for all front-facing seats in any car sold in India. A seatbelt’s maintenance though is something we take for granted, as they are not known to go wrong. Here are some tips that will help you keep your car’s seatbelts in top shape.
1. Cleaning seatbelts
If by chance you do spill something on your seatbelts and it leaves a stain, use mild soap and warm water when cleaning spills from the seatbelts. Do not use a strong detergent, bleach or dye, since these caustic fluids may weaken the belt’s material and affect the seatbelts basic integrity. A dirty seatbelt apart from being weaker due to gradual disintegration of the seatbelt material also looks dirty especially if the seatbelt is a shade of beige or brown.
2. Keep the buckle areas clear
Keep the buckle area clean and dry. Foreign particulates, dust and liquids can clog up the buckles and prevent them from doing their jobs properly. Also remember to squirt a dab of WD40 into your seatbelt buckles to keep them smooth and rust free. Older cars are prone to seatbelt holder failures due to fault springs inside the buckle assembly. If your car faces this issue, replace the buckles from an authorised service centre.
3. Replace your seatbelt if damaged or worn
Seatbelts are not something you would want to take a chance with. If you find the stitching on the seatbelt to be coming off or the seatbelt itself facing wear issues, it is best to replace them as soon as possible. By design, seatbelts cannot be repaired. If they are damaged, especially if bits that hold integral parts like the loops that hold the buckle (which also act as a force limiter) are showing signs of stretching, it is best to change them as soon as possible. Remember to get them replaced only by an authorized service centre as the bolt used to fasten a seatbelt assembly to the body of your car and the torque to be applied on that bolt are very specific and are best left to professionals.
Although it is advisable to use only company provided seatbelts, aftermarket race seatbelts and harnesses can also be used for specialty applications. For motorsport uses, a 4-point/5-point/7-point harness is usually compulsory. It is essential that the mounting points for these belts are on a separate bolt on the body structure or on a roll cage type structure. Remember to always use Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) approved seatbelts from manufacturers like Sparco, Recaro, Sabelt, Simpson, etc. for motor sport applications.