Whitney Russell
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What Does a Seatbelt’s Fabric Loop Do?

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Woman in floral top pulling seat belt out to buckle in car seat
Seat belt
Photo: cfarnsworth via Pixabay

Some vehicles have a fabric loop by the buckle of each passengers’ seatbelt, except the driver’s seatbelt. Discover what purpose automakers had for installing this loop on passenger seatbelts and why another safety feature, the seatbelt pretensioner, is more common to find on contemporary vehicles.

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The intended purpose of seatbelt fabric loops

It turns out that the fabric loops on passenger seatbelts have the official name “energy management loops.” Though not as prevalent of a feature on newer models, some older models have this loop near the seat buckle. According to Reader’s Digest contributor Chloë Nannestad, automakers intended this loop to rip in the event of a collision. This, in turn, triggers a bit more slack in the seatbelt, which was originally believed to keep passengers safer during an accident.

These fabric loops also served a secondary purpose. They kept the seatbelt’s buckle from hitting the side of the car when the car was moving, to minimize cabin noise and distractions for the driver, as Nannestad shares.

But why did automakers refrain from adding a fabric loop to driver’s seatbelts? It simply wasn’t necessary, as Infiniti Tracking’s automotive engineer and tech expert Grant Clelland shared with Nannestad. The driver’s seatbelt was the one seatbelt designed to be in use during every drive, unlike passengers’ seatbelts that might only be used occasionally.

Why pretensioners are more prevalent in newer vehicles than loops

Like with many auto safety features, seatbelt safety has advanced over the years. Automakers soon discovered that seatbelt slack wasn’t always a good thing. In some cases, it increased injury risk and severity, as Kurt Weiss, forensic engineer and collision deconstructionist with Automotive Safety Research, points out. So, nowadays, it’s more common to find seatbelt pretensioners in modern vehicles than seatbelt loops.

Find out how seatbelt pretensioners work. Then learn about the fascinating history of seatbelts when you read this article.