RACQ Car Safety Fact Sheet
The primary role of the seat belt is to prevent vehicle occupants from contacting the interior surfaces of the vehicle or being ejected during a crash.
Airbags are not designed to replace seatbelts. Even where airbags are fitted, the seatbelt is the primary method of occupant restraint. Devices such as airbags are regarded as supplementary restraint systems. In fact, airbags rely on the seatbelt to hold the occupant in the correct position to maximize airbag effectiveness.
Seatbelt maintenance and checks
Seatbelts, like any other part of the car, require regular inspections to ensure they are safe and serviceable. This is simply a matter of visual inspection and a check of the belt's operation.
- Seatbelts should be kept clean, as dirt and grit will cause internal damage to the fibres that make up the webbing. Use only mild soap and lukewarm water to clean the webbing. Never use bleach or solvents.
- The webbing should not be frayed, damaged, or sun bleached.
- The webbing should be securely attached to its end fittings and the stitching should not be frayed or damaged.
- The belt should be flat throughout its entire length. Warping indicates that it is stretched (often a sign that it has been worn in a crash) and should be replaced immediately.
- The tongue and buckle assemblies should securely latch and eject freely when released.
- Plastic and metal components should have no signs of cracks, warps, deformation, or other damage.
- All anchorage points should be securely fastened and be free of corrosion and damage.
- For vehicles fitted with metal cable-type seat belt stalks, grip the buckle assembly, and twist it clockwise and then anti-clockwise. A "clicking" noise from inside the cable indicates a broken "memory wire" which, if left unattended, can cause the stalk to fail completely.
- The retracting mechanism should be tested by grasping the webbing and pulling it out suddenly. The belt should lock and then freely retract when released. When moved slowly the belt should pull out and retract fully without sticking or binding.
Should any danger signs be present, or there is any doubt about a belt’s safety there is no option but to replace the assembly. Your life and those of your passengers depend on it. If you are unsure of the condition of the belt consult your mechanic.
Approved non-genuine belts are available for many vehicles but you should never buy used belts from a wrecking yard, as their history is completely unknown.
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