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The seat belt won't release on my Lexus RX350. Can you help?

Christopher Elliott on

The seat belts on Richard Johnson's Lexus RX350 won't release. But his dealership can't help him. How do you fix this?

Q: I have a problem with my Lexus RX350 that I can't resolve with my local dealership. My problem is that the front seat belts, especially the driver side, do not release cleanly.

I have owned several dozen cars during my 60 years of driving, and driven hundreds of rental cars, and I have never before had this much problem getting out of a seat belt. The seat belt should release upon one push by the right hand. But most of the time my seat belt does not release with multiple pushes and nearly always requires using the left hand to effect release.

More than once, I was concerned that I would not be able to exit the vehicle. I reported this problem to my dealership last year. A representative told me that they could not duplicate the problem and so nothing could be done.

As the problem continued, I returned the car to the service department two months later. A service manager said that they spent several hours latching and unlatching the seat belt and did not see a problem.

The problem went away for a while but then reappeared a few months later. A technician reported that the seat belt operation was consistent with that of other, similar vehicles, so I am beginning to wonder if this issue is standard with Lexus.

This is not some random engine issue where the fix can't be known if the issue can't be seen. Obviously, this latch needs to be replaced. Moreover, this is a serious safety issue, and I now keep a box cutter in my car for fear that I will not be able to get out in an emergency.

This is not right. When I purchased my vehicle, I also purchased an extended warranty for several thousand dollars which has hardly been used. It seems to me that Lexus has made ample enough profit on my purchases to justify a remedy of this problem, regardless of whether a technician can duplicate it at the precise time I bring the car in for service. Can you help? -- Richard Johnson, New Smyrna Beach, Fla.


A: Lexus should have fixed or replaced your seat belt quickly. When you told them that you had to carry a box cutter, that was an enormous red flag. And that's particularly true for a manufacturer with such a sterling reputation for customer service. I'm just shaking my head.

It turns out some other Lexus models have had problems with a seat belt release, although I can't find any evidence that it's widespread on the Lexus RX350. Obviously, a seat belt that keeps you trapped in your vehicle is as dangerous as one that doesn't protect you from a collision. The ability to easily release your seat belt isn't an amenity -- it's a necessity.

I can understand why your dealership didn't want to replace your seat belts. Some auto dealerships have a policy that they have to replicate the problem before they can authorize a repair. That's fine. But a little common sense would have led to a quick resolution. Maybe you should have just shown them your box cutter. (Shown, not brandished.)

I love the way your case was resolved. You used the executive contacts for Lexus (Toyota) from my consumer advocacy website, Elliott.org.

Within a day, you received a call from Lexus corporate. You discussed the concern about your seat belt, and the company arranged for your Lexus dealer to evaluate the problem one more time. That resulted in full replacement of both of your front seat belts. You noted that the Lexus corporate representative closely monitored the entire process, all the way to a solution. I love it!

Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer for Elliott Advocacy. Email him at chris@elliott.org or get help with any consumer problem by contacting him at http://www.elliott.org/help

© 2021 Christopher Elliott.




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