Seat belt is stuck, won't retract, draw back

By YOUCANIC on Sep 10, 2019

Why won't my seat belt retract, go back?

If you drive a car, you may experience a seat belt that won't retract. A seat belt that won't go back, may stay all out or partially out.

While the problem is often caused by a twisted seat belt, in other cases the problem can be an indication of a more serious issue. 

In this article, we will cover common seat belt problems and solutions. 


Worn seat belt due to age

Remove the seat belt and replace the belt. You can mail your seat belt to a company that provides Seat Belt Replacement Service.

Defective seat belt retractor

Retractor will need to be replaced. It is a lot cheaper to simply replace the retractor than trying to repair it.

If you try to repair the retractor but the repair isn't done correctly, your seat belt may not protect you in the case of an accident. 

Previous accident

When the car is involved in an accident the pre-tensioner will blow and it locks the seat belt.

You can either replace the seat belt pre-tensioner or if you are looking for a cheaper alternative to fix this problem use a Seat Belt Pretension Rebuild Service that will fix your existing unit. 

Twisted seat bel

upper seat belt bracket

Check to 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 may have twisted behind the plastic panel/trim and you won't be able to see the belt until you remove the panel. This is the panel that covers the pillar between the front and rear door referred to as the B-pillar. b pillar door weather strip

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.remove b pillar trim panel to get to seat belt

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

Old seat beltseat belt

Due to the age of the car, the seat belt itself may get stiff due to dirt and grime. In turn, the belt is a lot harder to be retracted back by the retractor. To fix this problem you need to wash the seat belt. Yes, you can wash the seat belt but use common sense. 

  • Get a bucket of water and add dish soap. If you don't like this method you can use Tuff Stuff Foam Cleaner for Deep Cleaning which works great for this purpose. 
  • Pull the seatbelt all the way out. Secure it so it does roll back. Use a clip to stop the seat belt from rolling back.
  • Insert the seat belt in the bucket and let it sit in the solution for a couple of hours. 
  • Get the seat belt out of the bucket and use a brush to clean all the dirt off. 

Let the seat belt dry out. Don't allow the seat belt to retract until it is completely dry.


seat belt won't retract problem due to weak springOne of the most common causes of seat belt problems is that over time the seat belt retractor spring weakens.

Once the spring inside the retractor weakens the belt will won't go all the way back. To fix this problem you can remove the seat belt completely from the retractor and manually rotate the retractor 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. 

Damaged 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. 

Related Video

Watch the following video on how to remove, adjust and reinstall a seat belt that won't retract. 

Frequently Asked Questions

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 rectracor is a steel ball and a cup which together help lock up the belt during accident or sudden stop. If your belt is not coming out this part could be the problem.  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


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