The retractors for the front seat belt harnesses are dead. The belt get
stuck if pulled at maximum and it doesn't lock at a stress pull.
I digged ClassicIndustries, Summit Racing and Ecklers Camaro for new
replacment repro retractors or full harness system with no success. They
only provide default (not original copy) or earlyer Camaro models.
This year Camaro have the retractors mounted on top and cased in PET box
lining the same plastic as the rear sit sides armrest and overall
cockpit plastic linings.
If any of you know of new repro or good shape second hand original front
seat belt harness, please tell.
I'm currently in talk with SnakeOil for a restoration but that takes
times and I need some belt inbetween or the cop will bill me.
What is "stress pull"? The belts will only lock when the car
decelerates. Yanking on them won't lock them. I don't have a service
manual handy, but I imagine the way to test the belts is to get up to
speed and hit the brakes as hard as possible. The belts should lock
Yes, they sometimes jam at maximum pull. That seems to be normal with
the design. The answer is not to pull them all the way out. If they
are stuck, some yanking and jiggling will free them.
Ed Treijs a écrit :
Thank you Treijs for the trick. I did try to break hard and got no lock
on the belt but who know? It may work or it may not. Is there a test for
that system, beside heavy break (or a hitting a wall at full speed? ;o)
I found no usefull detail in the Chilton.
In november, the car has to pass a legal test. Since 1/1/2009 in France,
even ancestor/collector cars has to pass a test every five years. The
seatbelts are critical components that must pass the test. Or I'll have
a 3 week delay to repair and repass a test or the car will not be
allowed on roads.
The "yank" test is indeed viable. Inside the retractor is a set of pawls
that when when spun too fast extend, thereby locking the belt. Old street
racer trick was to pull the seat all the way back, yank the bet to lock it,
then hold it and pull the seat forward. If the locking pawls are stuck or
gummed up, try some WD40, then see if they'll lock. If not, replace them.
Really not worth trying to fix as they are a dime a dozen and your life is
more important than a some money. I put a 5 point harness in mine and said
the heck with it. Good luck!
My name is "Ed". :-)
You should get the 1979 Chevrolet Service Manual for your car. There
is also a Fisher Body Manual that covers body stuff on all GM makes;
it includes items such as seat belts and windshield wipers, beside the
obvious doors and windows.
Chiltons and Haynes are sometimes correct, and sometimes useful. And
sometimes they are wrong. Get the factory manual. It will help you and
any mechanic in France who must work on your car.
CB is wrong, the "yank" or "pull" test does not work. I just went and
tried it on my 1978 Firebird, and also looked in the factory manual. I
also owned a 1979 Firebird for 10 years, so I'm pretty familiar with
The seatbelts can lock in *both* directions, under different
To test their locking in an accident:
1) Put on seatbelt.
2) Start driving. You don't have to be going fast; 5 km/h is probably
enough, 20 km/h is plenty. (I tested the belts on my car by rolling a
metre or two in my driveway.)
3) Put your hand between your body and the shoulder belt and gently
push the belt away from you. It does not have to move, you just need
to apply pressure.
4) Step on the brakes. You don't have to screech to a halt, but be
5) WHILE ON THE BRAKES push hard against the belt: it should now be
locked and not extend.
6) The belt will unlock when you have stopped and released pressure.
The belt will actually lock and unlock many times in normal driving,
but you won't notice it! You MUST test for the belt locking while on
The seatbelt will lock in the other direction, where it will not
retract. Usually, this happens if you:
1) Extend the belt (as if putting it on).
2) Let it retract a little (as if it is now moving against your body).
3) Extend (pull out) the belt a short distance, a few centimetres.
4) Belt stays out and will not retract.
5) To retract belt, pull a few centimetres further, and belt will
retract as normal.
This "feature" is found on many North American cars because (some)
North Americans don't like the "pressure" of the seat belt on their
bodies. They pull the belts away from them a little to feel "free". I
hate this, and it makes the belts less effective in accidents, so I'm
always releasing this "comfort lock" to get the belt snug. But,
annoying as it is, it is *normal* operation.
I bet your belts are working properly, if you do the test right.
Perhaps, though, someone who does not understand how these belts work
has fiddled with them.
Ed Treijs a écrit :
You deserve a great thank you!
The belts are working, and where not hacked by some silly gremlin.
I have pulled the steel cover and inspected the inner of the retractor.
There is indeed a mushroom shaped pendulum that lock extension of the
belt when leaned forward. This surely should work in the event of a
front crash, but it require significant G. Security matured much during
the last 30 years.
As for the belt getting stuck a bit too easily if pulled at maximum, my
guesses from the inspection are these:
- There is two gears, on at each side of the retractor cylinder. One
gear is used to release tension, the other for emergency locking.
When pulled at maximum and released too quickly, the belt tend to slip
over the tension release gear.
You where right when you told it is by design. As the overall belt and
retractors wears out, the problem may worsen somehow.
I wonder if I can build some belt track guides to prevent it from
slipping over the gears.
You deserve a great - Thank you! - Ed!
The belts retractors were not hacked by some silly gremlin.
I have pulled the steel cover and inspected the inner of the passenger
There is indeed a mushroom shaped pendulum, that triggers the extension
lock of the belt when leaned forward. This should work in the event of a
front crash, but it require significant g. Security matured much during
the last 30 years, I guess.
As for the belt retractors getting stuck a bit too easily if pulled at
maximum, my guesses from the inspection are these:
- There are two gears, on at each side of the retractor cylinder. One
gear is used as a tension release lock, the other as the emergency
extension lock. If pulled at maximum and released too quickly, the belt
tend to slip over the tension release lock gear, preventing the belt
ribbon to rewind.
You where right when you told it is by design. As the overall belt and
retractors wears out, the problem may worsens somehow.
I wonder, if I can build some belt ribbon track guides to prevent it
from slipping over the gears.
Hi Lea, you're welcome. I guess more Renault Daphines were sold in
Canada than Camaros in Europe. So it's impossible for you to get local
information. Fortunately these cars are still around in North America!
My opinion, don't work on the retractors because you may make things
worse. I don't know if you can find a European belt system that will
fit in your car. The big Torx (star) bolts that hold the retractor and
other two ends are also very critical parts of the system.
If there is something in a European junk yard (do you have access to
these places in France?) with the same mounting arrangements, use
that. Otherwise, I would keep what you have.
Are the belts in good condition? No dirt in the fabric? To be honest,
I still trust my belts on the highway. Well, my face will probably
still hit the metal "Formula" steering wheel that came on my car
Ed Treijs write :
Very few cars of that kind where imported in France, The few here gets
rebuild and kept in good shape.
By the way I solved the stuck retractor problem by parking the comfort
tension release spring. The system responsible for releasing/locking
tension on the belt during normal operation (AKA US comfort) is made of
a string spring encased at the right side of the retractor. The spring
end in an angle pin hook that engage a side track of the right gear,
through a vertical fence and stick in/out a gear dent to disable/enable
tension on the belt.
There are two ways of disabling this system if it bother (it bothered
me). Tis make the belt retractor to act more alike the ones in Europe
(permanent tension on the belt).
Either remove the spring and or the plastic frame box, (destructive
unless you keep the part safe for archival)
Park the spring end hook under the belt ribbon guide string. (Easy to
reverse and no risk of lost parts)
Here are closeup shots and a commented illustration of the customization:
I was thinking maybe a European car had similar mounting system. But
they would have to be very similar, or they may fail in an accident.
Here in Ontario, Camaros/Firebirds from the 1970s are now very, very
rare in the junkyard. But many were sold, and parts are still
available at car shows, like the Trans Am Nationals. But they are
Nevertheless, I am surprised every time I see a Camaro/Firebird on the
road as old as mine. But I do drive it regularly, it is my only car.
Hmm, now I want to try this. I like the belt to be tight at all times,
I have updated the illustrated diagram with corrections:
If you need some precisions, I will gladly help.
I did the modification on both front seats. At the passenger side, the
tension reliever spring is hidden by the retractor box. You will have to
guide your action by touching because you can't see it. I recommend
doing the driver side first so your fingers knows the process.
Please let know your experience about this customization if you do it.
Hehe, you will love that original drawing page 3 from:
Patent number: 4343445
Filing date: Oct 29, 1979
Issue date: Aug 10, 1982
Dual spool seat belt retractor with comfort feature
Klaus F. Ocker et al
-- Will not quote myself again --
Patent number: 4002311
Filing date: Jan 12, 1976
Issue date: Jan 11, 1977
From The Gods Themselves :o)
Inventors: Fisher; Robert C. (West Palm Beach, FL), Collins; Cecil A.