Saving SeatbeltsHow to clean older lap restraints
For many collectible vehicles, the restoration aftermarket offers almost every imaginable soft part to make interiors look factory-new. Carpet kits, OE-fabric upholstery and various interior panels abound. But after a complete interior resto, one particular loose end can be a glaring eyesore: dirty seatbelts.
DIY Or Buy?
We investigated seatbelt restoration options after reupholstering a '66 Mustang to its original Parchment skin. Unfortunately, the once-beige seatbelts were largely black after 35 years of convertible living. Replacement belts are available from parts stores, but they're usually black and often lack the OE webbing pattern or buckle.
To remain original, we researched ways to freshen the factory belts. One option is to go to the junkyard and scour their offerings. Another alternative is a resto specialist such as Ssnake-Oyl, which can re-stitch, re-web, re-boot, re-hardware, and even re-label belts with the factory codes. This professional attention to detail, however, isn't cheap-so we decided to attempt an at-home seatbelt revival.
Soak & Rinse
First, unbolt the belts from the vehicle. Consider using a tap and die on the fastening system if the bolts show signs of rust and corrosion. Next, check the buckles to see if their cross-pins are easy to remove. If not, you'll have to maneuver the buckles up and down the belts during cleaning.
Once the belts are liberated, prepare a steaming bath of soapy water. We cranked up the water heater to its max temp, then filled a bucket with dishwashing detergent. Let the belts soak in this bath, being careful not to burn yourself in the process.
Slightly agitating the belts might turn the water dingy gray. If so, dump the dirty water and repeat the process with a clean bath. Next, remove the belts from the bucket and brush them with a firm-bristled brush, following the grain of the webbing. Once the belts are worked up to a good froth, rinse them with a stout stream of water. Re-brush and rinse exceptionally grimy areas as necessary; a household degreaser such as 409 or Simple Green can be sprayed on, then brushed.
Finally, hang the belts out to dry. Their vinyl boots and hard-plastic buckles can be cleaned with a spray-on degreaser. Discolored buckles can be revived by delicately misting color-matched aerosol paint meant for vinyl (with a flex additive) in their general direction.
When everything has thoroughly dried, reinstall the revived belts in the vehicle. Then look for the next flaw in your interior.
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