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Re: seat belts lock up?

>On my '87 VW Quantum Syncro (Quattro in disguise), the right front seat 
>belt has been causing trouble lately.  The inertia reel will occasionally 
>lock up and refuse to release.  It may happen when the car hits a bump, 
>in which case it generally is uncomfortably tight for the wearer.  
>Sometimes it locks on braking and refuses to release.  The failure mode 
>that causes the most concern is when it will be found to be locked in the 
>retracted position.  The belt can therefore not be used.  I consider this 
>an unacceptable safety defect.
>There seems to be no pattern to what eventually causes it to release. 
>Anybody been there, done that?  How did you fix it?

Annoying, isn't it?  Both seat belts on my (late) VW Fox did that, and it seemed
that driving over rough pavement (or beating on the interior panel near the 
retractor) often caused it to release.

Currently, the driver's belt on my Syncro is doing the same thing, almost always
in the retracted position.  It's also very noisy when I pull it out.  It seems 
much worse when it's cold outside.  I was considering trying to lubricate the 
retractor.  Does anyone know if this is effective/safe/possible?  For safety's 
sake, should I just replace the retractor?

Meanwhile, I've started using a document binder clip (one of those black 
clamp-like things) to keep it from retracting when I take it off -- I just lay 
it in the floor beside the seat.  (Of course, I don't drive with it clamped; 
that would probably be unsafe.)  It's a little annoying, but it's better than 
going without the seatbelt.

PS:  The worst part is this:  When I bought the car in '88, several dealers told
me that there was nothing wrong with the retractor.  Of course, they also told 
me that the oil around the rear axle shaft was "normal seepage" and the A/C 
compressor was supposed to rumble like that.  For all practical purposes, this 
car had no warranty.

- Dave Dahl  (dad@roadnet.ups.com)