Unplugged: Life without the Seat Belt Extender

Back in college, my roommate's mother had a mid-80s Toyota Cressida with all the bells & whistles you'd expect in a top-of-the-line pre-Lexus Toyota sedan. It had the potent Z-car power plant, as well as leather, air conditioning, cruise control, electric moonroof, etc. In fact, I distinctly remember hearing actual bells instead of a buzzing sound to indicate the door was open while the key was still in the ignition.
Subject to break from constant friction

Also among these modern amenities was an electric seatbelt retractor to ease ingress and egress from the lap of 80s luxury. I thought it was silly, but little did I know that one day the Germans would engineer a car with this silly feature and I would own it.

Well, decades later, it's still silly. A mechanically-operated arm that hands you the seat belt strikes me as a feature you would need if you were either too old or physically disabled in some way. It's one of those over-engineered features that I see, and immediately start to think that it's only a matter of time before it breaks.

Let me be the first to say that I was wrong on that last point. 22 years later, my seatbelt retractors still function perfectly. Nonetheless, I find them annoying to the point where I will generally hold down the red seat belt button to my right as I shut the door to prevent the retractor from extending.

Module under the backseat
This week, I went a step further. I actually unplugged the module for the electric extenders. You'll find it underneath the backseat on the passenger (right) side. It's a black box marked "Mercedes Benz 140 820 25 26" with two connectors, one for the left and one for the right. Since it's a tight fit in there, you'll want to unscrew the 2 phillips-head screws holding in the box (made in France, by the way), then unplug the 2 connectors going into it. I elected to re-install the box even though it's unplugged.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Now, there's no more retractor to think about. No more arm automatically extending when I've just left the car empty and idling. No more (or significantly less, at least) wear & tear on that plastic triangular end piece that does break over time. No more holding in the seat belt button as I crank the motor. No more over-automation to assault you the moment you sit down in your car.

If I change my mind though (which I won't), it's nice to know it's a simple plug-in.