I’ve decided to document how various combination (harness/booster) seats fit my   4-year-old, 41 lb, 43″ tall son in booster mode.  He’s at the size where most parents would be switching from the 5-pt harness to  the vehicle’s lap/shoulder belt in booster mode if they had a combination seat with a 40 lb limit on the harness.  In each case I’ll use the same seating position in my van – driver’s side captain’s chair in a 2005 Ford Freestar.

The IIHS booster study compared the fit of various boosters using the 6-year-old Hybrid lll dummy who weighs 51.6 lbs (23.41 kg) and has a standing height of almost 45″.  I thought it would be even better to show belt fit on a child who was just over the 40 lb weight limit for the 5-pt harness.  I’ve decided to focus exclusively on combination seats because of their popularity with parents of children in the 2-5 age group.

This week we’ll be looking at the Alpha Omega Elite (aka Eddie Bauer Deluxe 3-in-1) as a booster.  This is the older and most popular model with the 40 lb limit for the harness.  There is a new version of this seat that goes to 50 lbs with the harness.  I have no idea if that model has been modified in any way that would improve belt fit in booster mode.

In these pictures, the base has been removed as per the instruction manual and the adjustable headrest is in the very top position.  Honestly, I’d say the fit in booster mode is horrid.   I know this isn’t a big shock to anyone who has been in the field for a while.   The shoulder belt fits fine but the lap belt is positioned directly over the soft abdomen and is no where near touching the tops of his thighs where it should be ideally.  This increases the possibility of internal injuries in a crash.

If this was a child at a check that I was participating in – he’d be going home in a different, better booster if I had anything to say about it.  Isn’t the whole point of a booster to position the adult seat belt on a child in the same way it was designed to restrain and protect an adult?

Now I’m going to show some typical misuse with this particular seat in booster mode.  The first problem is that the headrest is too low and it’s interfering with the shoulder belt.  Also, I’ve pictured the seat being used as a booster with the base still on.  This is a big no-no with the AOE/EB 3-in-1.  When used in booster mode you MUST remove the base.  What I really find interesting is that using this seat in booster mode with the base left on actually improves the fit of the lap belt on my DS.  With the base, lap belt fit still isn’t great but it looks a heck of a lot better than it did when the seat was used correctly without the base.  This is just an observation.  Obviously I’m not advocating that anyone go against manufacturer’s instructions and use the seat this way.  It’s just one of those things that makes me go hmmmm…..

Misuse - headrest too low