This technical page includes tips for fitting rear seat belts
I’ve given recently about fitting rear seatbelts, given how easy they are to retrofit; it’s a good idea if you carry passengers in the back.
First job, go to the scrappy and get the rear belts from a MK2 Fiesta. They were a legal requirement from E reg. onwards so they aren’t too scarce (they are also perfect for the Escort). Get the centre lap belt as well, once you’ve fitted seatbelts they become subject to the relevant laws, they are MOT testable and there has to be one for every passenger! Once you’ve got the belts and cleaned them up (soapy water only, no bleach or detergent) you can start on the car.
Remove the rear seat lower by removing the retaining screw and lift the seat out of the car. Bend back the 2 securing clamps for the seat back that are now exposed.
Now, if you are lucky enough to have a German built car then the mountings will be there already, as they are on later British built cars. You will see a row of plastic plugs protecting the threaded holes in the floor, remove these and check the threads.
If they aren’t there you will need to make some mounting plates up before you proceed (10 in all). Take some steel plate, 3mm minimum, and cut 10 disks at least 60mm diameter (a 65mm hole saw will do the job). Drill their centres out to 12 mm. Now secure a nut on one side of the hole to accommodate the seatbelt bolts, weld all around the nut. On the other side of the plate grind or file a radius of about 5mm on the edge of the plate, it must not have a sharp edge as this will cut through the floor pan like a knife.
Position the holes as follows; the outer 2 are against the wheelarch and 30mm below the welded seam in the floor pan. The second pair are 250mm from the wheelarch and 60mm below the welded seam (these are for the lap belt). The final pair are on the ‘dart’ where the transmission tunnel runs out into the floor (the sides of the tunnel if you like) and are 150mm from the floor seam. Drill 15mm holes at these positions to clear the bolts.
At each end of the parcel shelf you will see two rectangular holes, the seatbelt passes through here and is secured to the front of the boot hinge bracket, just below the shelf. The Fiesta belts were also secured below the parcel shelf so they are the right length for the job; a belt that reaches the floor on the ‘donor car’ is too long for this job.
The final pair of holes go in the ‘C’ pillar but you need to make up 2 brackets from 2mm plate. They are 60mm square with one tag 20mm long, the opposite tag is 10mm long and the other 2 taper from 10 to 20 mm. Bend back the tags to 45 degrees; the shorter tags go to the top. Now, look on the back of the ‘C’ pillar moulding and you should see a circular feature, this is a trimming guide for fitting the seatbelt, cut just to the inside of it to make a hole, you can now use this to get the upper mounting in the right place. It should be 175mm above and 175mm behind the front lip of the parcel shelf. Weld one of your mounting plates inside each bracket by spot welding through the bracket itself DO NOT weld around the edge of the mounting plate. You can now weld the bracket to the ‘C’ pillar, it must be seam welded, and when finished the bolt hole should appear behind the hole in the trim.
Reaching through the boot place your mounting plates on the back of the holes in the boot hinge bracket, spot welding trough the bracket as before. The Fiesta seatbelt has an aluminium spacer with a metal locating prong, mark and drill a hole to accept this directly above the mounting hole.
Finally secure the remaining 6 mounting plates from underneath the car, again do not weld them around their edge. The 2 outer plates will need to be cut down to fit between the chassis rail and the wheelarch flange, this cut does not need to have a 5mm radius but should not be sharp.
Slide the parcel shelf back into place and draw around the hole for the seatbelt on the underside of the trim, remove the trim and cut back carefully to this line. Cut from the top (finished) side using a sharp knife.
Now you can fit the seatbelts. You should have ALL the fittings from the Fiesta including the aluminium spacer for the belt reel and the spacing collars for the top mounting, these allow the top mounting to swivel freely against the ‘C’ pillar.
Now fit the seatbelt lower anchorage to the outer mounting holes, alongside the wheelarches. The anchorage should bend upwards and there should be no twist in the belt. Fit the belt buckles to the mountings on the tunnel, again the anchorages bend upwards and the clips should face forwards, these are not handed but are different from the buckle for the lap belt. Fit the lap belt to the remaining 2 mountings, it can go either way but usually the buckle is on the left of the car, the anchorages need to bend inwards at about 45 degrees.
Now fasten all the belts up and check their operation, that they reel in and out but lock when you tug them sharply. Check they are not twisted and that the anchorages are straight when the belts are in use. When you are happy fit the bottom of the seat (leave the belts fastened, it helps) and try the belts again. You should notice that the lap belt crosses the other belts as it comes through the seat.
Remember in an accident a rear seat passenger can be thrown forwards with the weight of an elephant, crushing anybody in the seat ahead of him or her against their own seatbelt. When securing the seatbelts just look at them and think “would this carry and elephant?” In development the seatbelt mountings are tested to destruction, the floor of the car is ripped out and the ‘B’ and ‘C’ pillars are buckled but the mounting is never torn out. If you’ve made a decent job yours should be as good.
Torque settings; all mountings 25-30 lb/ft
The preceding was written with reference to the MK2 Escort. The procedure should be similar for a MK1 but check that the holes through the parcel shelf are present or can be made without weakening the structure. It is also very important that your car be free from significant corrosion within 8 inches of any seat belt anchorage. The author accepts no responsibility for any claim arising in connection with this article.