Servicing Drivers Seat Belt Retractor

Old 01-26-23, 04:42 AM
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Servicing Drivers Seat Belt Retractor

2012 Ford Escape

The drivers seat belt does not retract. If I pull or guide the belt it does retract,
but it's sticky. A recommended "fix" is cleaning the belt. It didn't resolve the

I must remove the large trim panel covering the retractor. If I'm lucky, cleaning
and lubricating the retractor mechanism will restore normal function.

I have a collection of door and trim panel pry tools like these:

One of my least favorite auto repair jobs is prying off door and trim panels. I'm
always concerned that the panel will not survive the removal procedure.

Before I start this job, is there anything I should know about that retractor trim
panel? For example, are there fragile pins or connectors behind the panel that
might be damaged when I pry it loose?
Old 01-26-23, 03:26 PM
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Seat belt retractors very rarely need lubrication. It's more likely there is crap in it.
There should be a two-three wire plug on it.
You'd have to be careless to damage that plug when removing the housing.
Most panels use plastic clips or pins to hold them on.
More important then the tools is the knowledge of knowing where the clips are and the type.
Old 01-27-23, 03:26 AM
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Thanks PJmax.

A few months ago I replaced the liftgate latch assembly. I was not concerned
about prying off the liftgate door panel because it's made from thick and rugged
plastic. The retractor trim panel is thin and flexible. It will probably be ok when
I pry it off. I just don't like messing around with trim panels that could distort or
even crack.

Well, the job must be done. I would rather do the job myself because a local
mechanic would not pry off the panel with care and I will.
Old 01-28-23, 08:21 AM
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Pry it off. One thing about Ford and GM panels is they look flimsy and make awful loud noise when popping yet, somehow, you can pop them dozen times with no damage. Certainly, don't try to bend it excessively. And I am assuming, there will be a lower seat belt through bolt, that you will have to remove, before panel comes off. Truly, you should be able to pry most of it by hand. I cleaned retractor on my Silverado without removing panel, simply prying it off from the top and had enough access.
Old 01-28-23, 09:01 AM
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Two things

First there is really no service/maintenance for a seat belt retractor, they are in a clean area of the car so they don't usually get gunked up so it's probably just worn out. My advise, find a local auto recycler and go pull that part and have it ready. My local recycler shows (6) 2012 models so they are readily available and the part is only $10. That way you will have a working part on hand to replace!

Second, if gives you a chance to take the thing apart without damaging your car. What I do is pocket a few of the clips used to hold the panels, your more likely to break them than the panel and buying them at an auto parts store gets expensive!

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