Upgrade Your Back Seat Belts to Shoulder Belts

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Installing Shoulder Belts in the Back Seat

back seat classic
Keep your rear seat passengers safe with a seat belt upgrade. Getty

Older cars can be tons of fun. There’s nothing like blasting through some twisty roads in a vintage Porsche or cruising he beach in a Fox body Mustang. The combination of pure fun and nostalgia for these older models can be irresistible. They aren’t old enough yet to be considered classic cars by most people, but are usually relegated to second-car status. This is further reinforced when you start a family and have kids. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your fresh ride in the company of your kids, or can you? Bummer! Your 70s or 80s-era car isn’t equipped with shoulder belts in the rear (they didn’t appear in most cars until the late 1980s). This means you are either left trying to strap a car seat into the back without enough attachment points or making the very poor decision to stick kids in the back seat using only a lap belt. Yes, I know. We all rode in the back of the family car with no safety belts at all, and we somehow survived. Survival is not ever proof of a good idea. Only the ability to beat the odds. 

The good news is many cars can be easily retrofitted with shoulder belts. In fact, lots of models already had the mounting brackets and bosses in place years before they actually began equipping the cars with shoulder belts. Crazy, right? In the example here, we took a 1987 Porsche 911 Carrera and mounted factory shoulder belts in the factory mounting location. Everything was more or less ready to go, all we had to do was order genuine factory parts — in this case used seat belt assemblies found on eBay. Installation was straightforward and super easy. 

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Accessing the Rear Shoulder Belt Mounts

rear interior panel removal
Removing the rear interior panel and parcel shelf on this Porsche 911 was easy. Matt Wright, 2015

 The first thing you need to do is gain access to the mounting points you'll be using for your rear seat belts. Like I discussed earlier, some cars have the mounting locations installed and prepared at the factory even though they didn't install rear shoulder belts in your car. If you're lucky enough to have factory mounts, as our Porsche 911 Carrera did, it's time to celebrate. If not, your kit will suggest or include the proper safety washers and mounting bolts for a firm install. Remove the rear parcel shelf that is hiding the mounting points for your rear belts. 

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Accessing the Seat Belt Mounts

soundproofing removal
The rear soundproofing will pop right out at the perforations. Matt Wright, 2015

With the rear upholstery out of the way, you can access your mounting points. On a car that has factory mounts at the ready, you'll see a section in the cover that is perforated and ready to be popped out. This actually hides the factory mounting holes on a Porsche 911, so go ahead and remove them and the insulation below. Clean it off and you'll see your rear seat belt mounts. 

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Bolting in the New Seat Belts

shoulder belt installation
Using factory grade bolts, install the new seat belts and tighten. Matt Wright, 2015

 The final step is to install the shoulder belt retractors and belts. They are held in place by one or two very strong bolts. Be sure you don't skimp on the hardware, safety first! It can be challenging to get them in but patience is key. You don't want to risk cross threading them.  Tighten them dearly and you're ready to reinstall your trim and rear seats. Now you can easily have safe rides with rear seat passengers and you'll be able to properly install car seats for your kids. Not a bad afternoon spent!