Why Your Seat Belt Retracts So Slowly And How To Fix It

Seatbelt Not Retracting-Possible Causes and Solution

Seat belts are one of the most vital safety features in a vehicle and sometimes you may experience the seatbelt not retracting. They are designed to quickly lock in place in the event of a crash. But they also should quickly release when required.

If your seat belt webbing doesn’t retract as quickly as it should, then it may be time to either clean the different components of the seat belt system or repairing your seatbelt with Safety Restore.

Why Your Seat Belt Retracts So Slowly And How To Fix It

We take a look at the different causes of slow retracting seat belt webbing, and how to fix it.

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Common Causes Of A Seatbelt Not Retracting or Slow Retracting Seat Belt

There are a range of different reasons why your seat belt is much slower to retract than it used to be.

Dirty And Rigid Seat Belt Fabric

The polyester fabric of your seat belt, also called webbing, gets a lot of use. Grease and dirt gets stuck to it over time, making the fabric to go stiff and rigid.

This means that the retractor mechanism struggles to pull in the toughened seat belt.

Plastic Loop Jams

Another common cause for a slow retracting seat belt is the jamming of the plastic loop. This loop sits on the top of the seat or next to the door.

It holds the seat belt webbing over a person’s shoulder to provide a good and safe fit.

With dirt and filth accumulating, the loop can start to jam, and this causes the seat belt to slow down while retracting.

Dirt Inside The Belt Retractor

The retractor is the component of the seat belt system which is responsible for pulling the webbing in and out when needed. It is usually located either under a trim panel or into the seat itself.

Dirty seat belt webbing will deposit any grime or grease inside the belt retractor. As the seat belt retractor can be difficult to reach, it is tricky to clean.

This means that it’s hard to reach thus making it less accessible for cleaning, making it a good collector for filth.

Broken Seat Belt Retractor

While most of the time a seat belt is slowed down by dirt and filth, it’s also possible that the seat belt retractor is broken.

Retractors are made to last but occasionally the spring inside the retractor may fail due to fatigue or the mechanism simply stops working.

Although this issue can be fixed, it is much easier to simply replace the entire seat belt retractor.

How To Fix A Slow Retracting Seat Belt

When you notice that the seat belt in your car starts to retract very slowly, you can do a number of different things to fix this.

Most of the time, seat belts retract lazily because the webbing and the seat belt loop are dirty. You can clean both of them to ensure there is no dirt or grease that may slow the retraction mechanism down.

If the issue persists, then you will need to take a close look at your seat belt retractor. It may be either dirty or broken.

If the retractor is just dirty, then you will need to dismantle the trim panels and give it a thorough clean.

Alternatively, if you find the seat belt retractor is broken, then it’s best to replace it or reach out to Safety Restore for expert advice and seat belt repairs.

Clean Seat Belt Webbing

Your best chances of fixing an issue with a slow retracting seat belt is to clean the webbing first. At the same time, you can also lubricate the plastic loop to ensure the webbing runs smoothly.

There are typically a few different ways on how to clean your seat belt webbing. We recommend washing it with warm, soapy water.

If you notice a strong odor coming from the seat belt webbing, then you can also add a dash of vinegar to the water.

Why Your Seat Belt Retracts So Slowly And How To Fix It

For the entire cleaning process you will need a bucket with the water, an old towel or cloth to protect the seat, a laundry pinch for holding webbing in place and a hairdryer.

You can easily clean the webbing inside the passenger cabin, depending on where the seat belt is slow. 

To start with, place the old cloth or towel over the car seat. It has to be big enough to cover the front of the car seat to ensure that there is no damage to the seat itself.

Next, retract the seat belt webbing as far as possible. Now put our laundry pinch in front of the plastic loop at the top of the seat, so it holds the webbing in place.

You may have to adjust the clothespin after a while, depending on how the cleaning is going.

Now just take the whole seat belt fabric and put into the bucket. Leave it for at least 30 minutes to soak.

Then, remove the fabric from the bucket making sure that there are no water splashes. Use the hairdryer to dry it as much as possible.

You will find in summer, the webbing will dry much quicker and you may not need the hair dryer.

However, in rainy or cold weather you will need to dry the webbing with the hair dryer to get it completely dry.

Once the seat belt is fully dry, you can then remove the laundry pinch and test whether this has resolved the problem.

Replace The Seat Belt Webbing Or Retractor Spring

If you find that cleaning the seat belt webbing has not resolved the issue, then there are only a couple of options left.

You may want to replace the seat belt webbing to rule out an issue with the seat belt itself.

Alternatively, the other reason why the seat belt is retracting slowly could be due to the retractor spring being worn out.

Then, you can simply remove the seat belt assembly and ship it to Safety Restore for a complete restoration. Here is a video with more information.


If you notice that your seat belt isn’t retracting as fast as it should, then you need to fix this issue as soon as possible.

It is essential that the seat belts of a car is always in excellent condition to ensure that it works as it should in case of an accident.

Edward Cole
Edward Cole

Hi, my name is Edward Cole and I have been in the car customization industry for a decade now. I also specialize in repairs, so I have plenty of experience with looking after my vehicle and showing it off.

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One thing that I have found to be incredibly popular in the car customizing industry - by both owner and admirer - is color seatbelt customization. Having anything other than the plain black seat belts like every other car will get you being the talk of the town in no time.

I have created my website in the hopes of inspiring some of you to customize your own vehicle and improve your self esteem. Taking care of your car is an extension of taking care of yourself. So, take a look around and see if you find anything you fancy - you could be steps away from a fresh new look.

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