replacing the webbing in the driver's side seat belt for our 1993 Middle East model 80 (1 Viewer)

John Young

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The driver's side seat belt has really bothered me for some time now. It locks up all the time and the old webbing is pretty worn. Not frayed, but plainly past its prime. A fellow Mud member was kind enough to sell me a spare driver's side retractor in good shape so I thought this would be a good opportunity to try to see if I could replace the webbing myself.

Before you mention it, I know there are lots of services out there that will replace the webbing for a fee of 70 or 80 bucks. It kind of annoys me to pay that much for a few dollars of material and some what appears to be modest labor, and having done some leather work now I have some confidence in my ability to sew, so I'm going to try it myself. We will see together whether that was a good idea or a bad idea...

First thing is to get the metal and plastic parts off the old belt. Here's what the donor looks like now:
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I cut the end of the replacement webbing (from Amazon for about 12 bucks), and then sealed it with a torch lighter.
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John Young

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Labeling the old belt was a good idea. The first time I inserted it into the metal clip I had it backwards. This is correct now.
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Then some flexible PVA glue to hold things together for a bit.
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And a few binder clips to hold it for a bit
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I will let it dry for a few minutes. This is the same glue I use for camel leather on some other projects I've posted about here. It's pretty strong, and it cleans up with water until it dries completely.

There's quite a bit to sewing load-bearing straps. There was loads of information on the Sailrite website. I was going to use my regular leather thread, but after reading more about it I went with this:
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The thread comes in a couple of days. I should have thought about this earlier...
 
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John Young

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As luck would have it, I was putting the project away for the night and there on the table was a little strain relief clip that I had not noticed:
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I had to take it apart again to put the clip in:
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I'm also making the glued/sewing area about 3 times larger than the original, just to give me more room to sew.
 

John Young

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Good luck. I sent my 80 seatbelts out to Safety Source. They did a great job. Remember these are safety devices........not camel leather belts.
Yeah... I know. But after reading the information on the Sailrite website I got some more confidence, and the webbing I used was specifically for this application. I also spent some time looking for the right UV stabilized thread. I've always wanted to understand seat belts better. A childhood friend's father died in a beetle because he was wearing no seatbelt at all. And I remember my dad having seatbelts installed in an old car that had none to begin with. Seat belts are the most important safety device in a vehicle.
 
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Yeah... I know. But after reading the information on the Sailrite website I got some more confidence, and the webbing I used was specifically for this application. I also spent some time looking at the thread.

You're a braver man than me. Good luck. For me it's less about the webbing and all about the mechanism. I prefer to leave that to the experts.

Edit: Mine came back smooth as silk.
 

John Young

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You're a braver man than me. Good luck. For me it's less about the webbing and all about the mechanism. I prefer to leave that to the experts.

Edit: Mine came back smooth as silk.
I agree with you. I'm not touching the mechanism of the donor at all. Just changing the webbing. Easy as pie to get it out--once you know how to do it.

1. Pull the belt all the way out:
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Use something flat to push the end of the belt through the center bobbin:
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Took a while to find this out.

The existing belt tensioner on our model 80 is erratic in that you really have to work at it to get the belt to pull out to put it on. Very annoying. I looked at the mechanism and thought the problem must be related to this little ball:
1604986745315.png

I thought about disassembling and trying to fix it, but for the same reasons you mention, I decided to give that a miss and use a known good doner. I wouldn't be replacing the webbing on the donor but for the fact that the webbing on it is frayed.
 
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I agree with you. I'm not touching the mechanism of the donor at all. Just changing the webbing. Easy as pie to get it out--once you know how to do it.

1. Pull the belt all the way out:
View attachment 2491271
View attachment 2491274
Use something flat to push the end of the belt through the center bobbin:
View attachment 2491278
View attachment 2491279
Took a while to find this out.

The existing belt tensioner on our model 80 is erratic in that you really have to work at it to get the belt to pull out to put it on. Very annoying. I looked at the mechanism and thought the problem must be related to this little ball:
View attachment 2491282
I thought about disassembling and trying to fix it, but for the same reasons you mention, I decided to give that a miss and use a known good doner. I wouldn't be replacing the webbing on the donor but for the fact that the webbing on it is frayed.
It's because gravity makes it actuate. You must hold it in the exact same orientation it sits in the truck for it to move freely. Any change in angle or jarring effect, causes it to lock.

I pulled a passenger front belt and installed it in my DS retractor. The belt is now longer and works well.

I hope you counted the number of turns on the retractor or at least didn't let it go. I actually tightened my spring on the DS retractor by one turn to get it to retract a little stronger. I should have gone two turns, but I also have a belt that it 11" longer than the original on that side.
 

John Young

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I hope you counted the number of turns on the retractor or at least didn't let it go. I actually tightened my spring on the DS retractor by one turn to get it to retract a little stronger. I should have gone two turns, but I also have a belt that it 11" longer than the original on that side.
I'm doing this step by step to make sure I keep the orientation of the various parts correct, so the old webbing is still on the reel. That's about to change.
 

John Young

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Today I sewed the webbing on with different thread than I originally bought. The first thread I used was too fine. I decided to go with a 1mm polyester thread instead and it took a couple of days to get here. This is what I'm actually using:
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I also decided to sew twice the surface area as the factory belt just for good measure:
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There is a little plastic button in the factor belt that stops the metal lap-belt clip from sliding all the way down to the floor. There seemed to be no way to get it off and reuse it so I cut a grommet in half and sewed each half on to either side of the new webbing in the correct location:
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That's the end result with a coating of PVA glue on it that dries clear.
 

John Young

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As for the other end, I unreeled it and poked the it through the bobbin with a plastic body & trim tool and left it in there to hold the mechanism from unwinding. But to Bilt4me's point above I did wind the bobbin one turn tighter to help the belt retract more firmly. Then I laid the old belt and on my dining table and the new belt next to it and pulled the upper mount bracket and the belt buckle insert off of the old belt and being careful to maintain the orientation with respect to the far end of the belt with the door pillar threaded bolt in it, I put the upper mount bracket and belt buckle insert on the new belt. Then it was time to sew the small loop around the plastic dowel that locks into the bobbin.

I used more of the PVA glue and some binder clips to hold it:
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And then started sewing:
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It is worth mentioning that I am using a saddle stitch which is much stronger than machine stitching.
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I did three rows of stitching.
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And tied off and glued the end of the thread before removing the plastic dowel.

To get the end of the belt through the bobbin initially was a little tough--it just barely fits. But then I tied a loop of thread through the loop of the webbing and used the thread to -pull- the web through the bobbin, again using the plastic body panel tool to help it along.

And it is done!
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My son (who is actually the recipient and end-state owner of this truck) asked me why I just didn't get a good, clean used belt and mechanism. Firstly, I kind of wanted to understand these things a bit better. But more importantly, any model 80 used belt would have 25 year old webbing on it. I wanted fresh, new webbing, and to see how hard it was to do this. After doing it, it was not too hard and given the use of the right materials I do not feel that safety was compromised in any way. If anything I'm pretty sure my stitching is stronger than the factory version, given the heavier thread and glue and interlocking saddle stitching.
 

John Young

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Inevitably, I somehow got the orientation wrong on the belt clip that bolts to the upper part of the B pillar. I ended up having to use a belt sander to cut the side off the clip so I could get the new belt out without cutting the end off.
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Fortunately, the clips that were on the car were of a different style that had a large enough opening that I could get the belt through. The new belt with the replacement tensioner is now in and it works very well, I'm pleased to say.
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