I’m unsure exactly what is happening, but here we are. I’m telling you that we were wrong all this time: seatbelt pads are really very good. Let me explain myself.
I often daydream about a mad-science experiment for my hatch, like dropping in an LS engine or a supercharger, but because I daily the 318ti I hesitate to change its personality too much. I love the drive, even if it’s not a fast one. I stumbled on this forum thread and read about the work this driver put into fabricating individual throttle bodies for his 318is, which shares my same engine.
I found a video in which he discusses the project and the car in general. It’s worth a watch:
See anything weird? There are four seatbelt pads inside that coupe. The first time I saw this video I thought that’s four pads too many. A day or two later, I forgot all about the pads. Until I started noticing that every time I clicked in my car I felt the scratchiness of my seatbelts cutting into my skin. It was brief but noticeable. And it happened often enough that it was starting to bother me. That’s when I got the idea to maybe, just maybe, buy some pads and see for myself if these ugly add-ons might serve some purpose after all.
The pads in the video look like something from Amazon or eBay. They have BMW lettering but seem to lack BMW’s endorsement. There’s a disparity in the style of the lettering and the roundel. The font tries to look elegant but it just looks boring, and the red stitching is gaudy. I thought I would give the pads a real shot. With some searching, I found pads with the seal of approval: an official BMW part number.
These are made by a Deutsche company, Schroth Safety Profucts GmbH. The packaging was plain but to the point. It stated these were Top Quality Shoulder Pads. To finish it off, they came in official BMW Motorsport coloring. This was more like it.
After nearly two years of driving with the seatbelt pads, I happily recant everything I said about them in the past. I used to consider them part of an old-fashioned driving toolkit that was no longer needed and even a little embarrassing. But the seatbelt pads really are comfortable.
My seatbelts are old; their belt threads have hardened. Errant bits cling from the sharp edge and either tickle or scratch at my skin. Unless I’m wearing a jacket or bulky sweater, the sharp belt is bothersome.
During spirited driving, I may be head-checking or slightly readjusting in my seat and the belt digs in again. But with the seatbelt pad, all I feel is a mild tightening against the softer cloth and padding of the Schroth. You can slide the pad up or down to dial in the comfort. They’re even washable.
I’ll be the first to admit I paid too much for the pads, but I spend a lot of time in my car, and points of contact like the steering wheel, shift knob, seats and seatbelts can make or break driving comfort. I’ll never make fun of a sheepskin seat cover or beaded seat pad again. If you wear fingerless driving gloves or a silk scarf, then I’m rooting for you. There’s a reason these old-fashioned items persist in the images of driving enthusiasts. The reason is, they make the drive better.