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Seat belt retractor lock is broken but part is discontinued

 
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Old 12-26-2015, 06:05 PM
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Seat belt retractor lock is broken but part is discontinued

I've got a 1990 Honda Prelude Si. The retractor for the front seat belts doesn't lock (if the car stops suddenly, the retractor is supposed to lock to keep you in place). I just got back from the Honda dealer. They say the can't fix it because the parts are no longer available. What should I do? Is it possible to find used or aftermarket seat belt retractors for this car?

And, short of a Honda Dealer (who is not willing to work with aftermarket parts), what kind of service center would be most qualified to do this work?

Also, the owner's manual on this car says the belts are supposed to be kept buckled continuously -- you're supposed to slide in and out under them. However, this is incredibly inconvenient -- it's much easier to enter the car, and buckle the belts. What's the reason for this? Is it to make the car more "idiot proof" (to ensure that people are always wearing their seat belts), or is there some functional reason that they want them to be kept always buckled? If you do it their way, it seems it's actually harder on the retractor spring for the belt, since it has to extend quite a ways every time the door is opened.
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Old 12-26-2015, 08:38 PM
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Re: Seat belt retractor lock is broken but part is discontinued

Yes, it was exactly an attempt to idiot-proof the car. Starting in 1988, U.S. regulations required all passenger cars have a passive restraint system, that operated without the driver having to do anything. Mouse belts -- marketed as a self-fastening seatbelt -- were an alternative to airbags for a few years. The shoulder harness was the only automatic part -- in any sort of a hard hit from the front, if the front seat occupants were too lazy to manually buckle the lower belt, they'd submarine under the shoulder belt. One of the world's sillier ideas in the name of safety, but the U.S. is exceptionally good at that. (The EU's catching up, though!)

Were I you, I'd ditch the system entirely. Mouse-belts were a U.S.-only (or maybe North American-market) phenomenon, so the pre-drilled and threaded hard points for a conventional three-point belt are under the trim. There's nothing special about installing seat belts -- grab a shop manual to figure out how the trim comes off, unbolt the old pieces, and bolt a new belt in place.
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Old 12-27-2015, 04:39 PM
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Re: Seat belt retractor lock is broken but part is discontinued

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Yes, it was exactly an attempt to idiot-proof the car. Starting in 1988, U.S. regulations required all passenger cars have a passive restraint system, that operated without the driver having to do anything. Mouse belts -- marketed as a self-fastening seatbelt -- were an alternative to airbags for a few years. The shoulder harness was the only automatic part -- in any sort of a hard hit from the front, if the front seat occupants were too lazy to manually buckle the lower belt, they'd submarine under the shoulder belt. One of the world's sillier ideas in the name of safety, but the U.S. is exceptionally good at that. (The EU's catching up, though!)

Were I you, I'd ditch the system entirely. Mouse-belts were a U.S.-only (or maybe North American-market) phenomenon, so the pre-drilled and threaded hard points for a conventional three-point belt are under the trim. There's nothing special about installing seat belts -- grab a shop manual to figure out how the trim comes off, unbolt the old pieces, and bolt a new belt in place.
Thanks Jamie. As you describe, mouse belts were those PITA systems with motorized shoulder harnesses. That's not what I have. My Prelude uses a completely non-motorized three-point system -- which feels and operates (if you latch and unlatch it, like I do) just like that in any modern car -- the only difference being that it's anchored to the bottom of the door rather than the frame, so that, if it were to be left permanently latched, it would qualify as an automatic passive restraint. I.e., based on what you said, it seems Honda did this to both satisfy the government's regulations (which they did by simply saying passengers were required to keep it latched), but at the same time provide drivers with something convenient (i.e., they knew that drivers would ignore the instructions they'd buried in the owner's manual, and would instead just use them normally).
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Old 12-27-2015, 04:50 PM
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Re: Seat belt retractor lock is broken but part is discontinued

I'm still betting there's a bolt hole in the frame where it would normally attach, and you could install a "normal" 3-point harness...IMO, worth, pulling some trim loose to verify.
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Old 12-27-2015, 04:59 PM
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Re: Seat belt retractor lock is broken but part is discontinued

Junkyard is another alternative.
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Old 12-27-2015, 07:26 PM
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Re: Seat belt retractor lock is broken but part is discontinued

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Junkyard is another alternative.
I'm not sure I'd trust junkyard belts -- it's amazing we all ride around with 20-year-old webbing holding us down to begin with, and those haven't been exposed to the elements.
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Old 12-27-2015, 07:48 PM
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Re: Seat belt retractor lock is broken but part is discontinued

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I'm not sure I'd trust junkyard belts -- it's amazing we all ride around with 20-year-old webbing holding us down to begin with, and those haven't been exposed to the elements.
I wouldn't trust junkyard belts that have been exposed to the elements either. But the stock in my local junkyards is rotated often enough that I find intact cars quite often. It shouldn't be difficult to find a set that haven't been exposed to the elements. A guy could also keep an eye out for part-outs and on ebay for replacements.
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Old 12-27-2015, 10:00 PM
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Re: Seat belt retractor lock is broken but part is discontinued

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Old 12-28-2015, 05:03 PM
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Re: Seat belt retractor lock is broken but part is discontinued

Thanks everyone. Given that Honda has a lifetime warranty on these (for safety reasons), I decided I wasn't willing to rely on my dealer telling me the parts are discontinued so there's nothing Honda can do. I therefore contacted Honda USA -- I've gone to them once before on an issue where the dealer said there was nothing that could be done, and they took care of it. The phone staffer there said they're essentially closed, but escalated this to emergency status (because it's a safety issue) and said a case manager would be calling me about this when they return to work a week from now. She said there's a possibility they could research this and determine that an alternative in-stock part from a different model might work. I'll keep you posted!

I'm not going to mess with this myself -- if Honda can't fix it, I'll just bring it to my mechanic and ask him to substitute an aftermarket belt -- but a friend of mine who knows cars said it's possible the mechanism just got gunked up, and suggested I pull the belt out all the way and spray WD-40 into the mechanism (the reason for pulling the belt out all the way is so that the WD-40 doesn't get onto a part of the belt I would touch).
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Old 12-28-2015, 05:14 PM
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Re: Seat belt retractor lock is broken but part is discontinued

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Originally Posted by luzer View Post
I wouldn't trust junkyard belts that have been exposed to the elements either. But the stock in my local junkyards is rotated often enough that I find intact cars quite often. It shouldn't be difficult to find a set that haven't been exposed to the elements.
They set 'em for 30 days where I live. Sun fade (or not) says a lot.
Now we look at inspection stickers for an idea how long they just sat around as well.

But it sounz like op has this one under control.
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Only seen the first one, 15 years ago in theaters. Plan on keeping it that way. Get off my lawn.
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Originally Posted by Lindso View Post
I remember my first thread, asking what a noise was when I got going 110mph.
Pretty much got flamed for driving like a jackass and was told to slow down. And I'll be damned, slowing down fixed it.

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Old 12-30-2015, 09:49 PM
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Re: Seat belt retractor lock is broken but part is discontinued

Update: Had my mechanic look at it. He said it would be very tricky to replace this with an aftermarket belt, because that would require putting an anchor bolt (he's referring to the one that would go behind the shoulder) in the upper part of the frame behind the door, and the metal there isn't thick enough to give a good anchor.

OTOH, while my mechanic, like the Honda dealer, wasn't able to get the belt to lock when he did his own function test (pulling it out rapidly), when I took the car out and slammed on the brakes, each time (I tried this five times), the belt did lock. So that provides at least some reassurance.

In the meantime, I'll wait for what Honda USA has to say next week.
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Old 01-10-2016, 12:54 AM
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Re: Seat belt retractor lock is broken but part is discontinued

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Originally Posted by theorist View Post
Update: Had my mechanic look at it. He said it would be very tricky to replace this with an aftermarket belt, because that would require putting an anchor bolt (he's referring to the one that would go behind the shoulder) in the upper part of the frame behind the door, and the metal there isn't thick enough to give a good anchor.

OTOH, while my mechanic, like the Honda dealer, wasn't able to get the belt to lock when he did his own function test (pulling it out rapidly), when I took the car out and slammed on the brakes, each time (I tried this five times), the belt did lock. So that provides at least some reassurance.

In the meantime, I'll wait for what Honda USA has to say next week.
Our seat belts don't use a centrifugal lock mechanism (locking on fast unspool), they use a yaw detection style lock. Basically it is a small metal weight that resembles a sinker used for fishing. This weight sits in a funnel like seat that keeps the weight upright under the normal force of gravity. When the car is under a heavy deceleration or acceleration in any direction this weight tips over locking the seat belt retractor. This weight operates like those inflatable punching bags you had as a kid that always up-righted them selves. When it is up right, no lock, when it is tipped over, lock. This style of lock was used because it is not only more perceptive to a collision, but the USDM seat belts were designed to remaine buckled and allow the passengers to enter and exit the vehicle. If it used a centrifugal lock, you would never be able to open the door without unbuckling the seat belt.

P.S.
And I question the intelligence of your mechanic.

Last edited by luda8890; 01-10-2016 at 12:57 AM.
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