Why A Seat Belt Won’t Release or Retract

It is not uncommon for a seat belt to not release. Let’s look at how you can release a stuck seat belt and common problems with getting your seat belt stuck. While a twisted seat belt often causes the problem, in other cases, the problem can be an indication of a more serious issue.


How to get a seat belt unstuck

seat belt stuck

If your seat belt is stuck, try the following. Only try these steps while the vehicle is stopped.

  1. Unbuckle the seat belt. Allow the seat belt to roll back in a few inches.
  2. Slowly pull the seat belt out so the auto-lock feature doesn’t engage. Make sure not to pull the seat belt too quickly or hard.
  3. As you pull the seat belt, make sure it is not tangled. If it is, untangle the seat belt as you pull it out completely.

These instructions will reset a stuck seat belt. If these instructions don’t work, you may have one of the following problems.

Possible Problems

Here is a list of common problems preventing your seat belt from retracting.

The defective seat belt retractor

seat belt retractor removed

The seat belt retractor may be broken and needs to be replaced. The seat belt retractor is the part where the seat belt rolls in. This is what pulls the seat belt back. The proper way to fix a broken seat belt retractor is to replace the retractor and belt with a new set.

Twisted seat bel

remove b pillar trim panel to get to seat belt

You may have to remove the plastic trim to check and make sure that the seat belt is not twisted. When this happens, it adds resistance and makes it hard for the retractor to pull the seat belt all the way back.

The seat belt often twists behind the plastic panel/trim, and you won’t be able to see the belt until you remove the plastic trim. This trim covers the pillar between the front and rear door, referred to as the B-pillar.

To remove the panel, you first need to pull out the weatherstrip. Next, pull out the B-pillar panel. The panel is often held in place with clips and no screws, and it is pushed in. Check your car as some Honda / Toyota models may have screws that keep the panel in place.

If you notice the belt is twisted, you should twist it to its normal position. Reinstall the trim and check if the seat belt problem is fixed.

Previous accident

seat belt won't retract after an accident

When the car is involved in an accident, the pre-tensioner will blow, locking the seat belt. You can either replace the seat belt pre-tensioners or if you are looking for a cheaper alternative to fix this problem, use a Seat Belt Repair Service on eBay, which you can purchase on eBay.

Seat belt ageseat belt

Due to the car’s age, the seat belt itself may get stiff due to dirt and grime. In turn, the belt is much harder to retract back by the retractor.

Bad Retractor Spring

seat belt won't retract problem due to weak spring

One of the most common causes of seat belt problems is that the seat belt retractor spring weakens over time. Once the spring inside the retractor weakens, the belt will go back.

To fix this problem, you can remove the seat belt completely from the retractor and manually rotate it to tighten the spring. Next, reinstall the seat belt back on the retractor. This method may be too much work for most car owners and may not always work. It is worth trying if you can’t find a replacement seat belt.

The seat belt won’t pull out. 

  • This can be due to a damaged seat belt mechanism. As you can see from the picture, inside the retractor is a steel ball and a cup that together helps lock up the belt during an accident or sudden stop. This part could be the problem if your belt is not coming out.  When the ball rolls out of the center, it latches the mechanism via the lever attached to it. This mechanism can get damaged or stuck. In some cases, this system can stop working due to dirt collected over the years.
insde a car seat belt

We hope you find the Why A Seat Belt Won’t Release or Retract guide helpful. Check these troubleshooting and repair guides for more help on your vehicle.


  • Rushit Hila • ASE Certified

    Rushit Hila, an ASE-certified engineer (G1 Automotive Maintenance and Repair), brings over two decades of hands-on experience in the automotive world to his writing. With a strong educational background, including a Master of Science in Engineering and a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, he has honed his skills and expertise through years of practical work. As a respected authority in the field, Mr. Hila is dedicated to offering insightful and valuable content that resonates with both vehicle owners and mechanics.

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