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Lockoffs – What You Need to Know & Which Carseats Have Them

Graco Argos 80 Elite - installed with seatbelt using lockoff

CarseatBlog’s Carseat Lockoff Guide

As LATCH weight limits shrink due to new federal standards, more and more carseats require using the seatbelt once the child exceeds a certain weight. The problem with seatbelt installations is that most parents have no idea how to lock the seatbelts in their vehicle in order to properly install a carseat or infant seat base. Ask the average parent or caregiver what a switchable retractor is and you’ll probably get a very confused look in response. A what?? This is why every car seat in North America should come with a built-in lockoff! If you are installing with a seatbelt instead of lower LATCH anchors and your carseat has a lockoff device – use it and you will never have to worry about understanding pre-crash locking features on vehicle restraint systems.

Function of built-in lockoff device: A lockoff device can serve more than one function but its main purpose is to cinch or clamp the seatbelt in such a way that it cannot loosen and your tight carseat installation stays tight!  

Current list of carseats that feature lockoff(s)

Rear-Facing Infant Seats
Britax B-Safe (aka BOB B-Safe)
Britax B-Safe 35 & B-Safe 35 Elite
Britax Chaperone (discontinued)
Chicco KeyFit & KeyFit 30
Combi Shuttle
GB Asana 35 & Asana 35 AP
Graco SnugRide 35 Classic Connect
Graco SnugRide 35 LX Click Connect
Graco SnugRide 40 Click Connect
Ingenuity InTrust 35 Pro
Nuna Pipa
Orbit Baby G3 Infant
Peg-Perego Viaggio 4-35
Safety 1st onBoard 35 Air & onBoard 35 Air+
The First Years Contigo (discontinued)
UPPAbaby Mesa
Urbini Petal (and clones)
Convertible Seats
Britax  Advocate; Boulevard; Marathon; Pavilion; Roundabout (excluding "Classic" model)
Britax ClickTight convertibles (all models)
Chicco NextFit
Clek Foonf
Clek Fllo
Combi Coccoro
Graco Smart Seat
Orbit Baby Toddler
Recaro All convertible models (forward-facing lockoff only)
The First Years True Fit (discontinued)
Forward-Facing Combination Seats
Britax Frontier 90
Britax Pinnacle 90
Graco Nautilus Elite
Graco Argos 80 Elite
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Lockoffs on Infant Seat Bases

There are different types of lockoffs that require different routing so make sure you are following the directions that came with your carseat. Never assume anything. Below we discuss the two most common types of lockoff systems.

Locking Clips – No Longer Standard Issue

Locking ClipIt used to be that you could expect a metal locking clip to come with every carseat that didn’t have a built-in lockoff but those days are gone. Both Evenflo & Dorel have recently decided to exclude the locking clip on their carseats. Why? Because parents misuse them more often than they actually need to install their carseat using one. In other words, the locking clips were more often part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

I have to say that I agree with this assessment. In the field, I see more locking clip misuse than proper use. Most parents have no idea what that metal clip is for but if the carseat comes with it then it has to go somewhere, right? Wrong. Most of the time – a locking clip is not needed. More on that below.

Retail models of Evenflo convertible and combination carseats now come with a statement attached to the harness alerting consumers to the change and providing information on who to call if you really do need a locking clip. You can also buy a locking clip from a local baby store or even use one that you took off a different carseat. Locking clips are the ONLY component that you can swap from seat to seat, even across brands.

Evenflo infant seats and institutional models sold to CPS programs will continue to come with locking clips.

Locking Clip Notice - Evenflo

 

Dorel seats have also gone locking clip-less across all their brands (Cosco, Safety 1st, Eddie Bauer & Maxi-Cosi). Unlike Evenflo, who continues to provide locking clips with their infant seat models, none of the Dorel seats have locking clips included anymore. So if you’re purchasing any Dorel infant seat that doesn’t come with a lockoff and you’re planning to install the carseat with seatbelt – consider yourself warned. You may want to order a locking clip before you need to install the seat, just in case you wind up with a tilting issue. Read on for more info on that. Below is a page from a Dorel instruction manual.

Locking clip info - Dorel manual

 

Now, let’s review the reasons you would actually NEED to use a locking clip and some reasons why you might WANT to use one.

You NEED to use a locking clip (or a carseat with a built-in lockoff device) if all 3 of these conditions exist in your vehicle:

  • Your vehicle was made before Model Year 1996 AND
  • You have a lap/shoulder belt that is one continuous piece of webbing AND
  • The lap/shoulder belt has a sliding latchplate and an ELR retractor (this means the seatbelt has no pre-crash locking features and the seatbelt will only lock in emergency situations like hard breaking or a crash)

If your vehicle was made AFTER 1996 then your seatbelts are required to have some way to lock to keep a carseat in place tightly during routine driving. If you are installing a carseat and you’re not going to use lower LATCH anchors in your vehicle, and your carseat or infant seat base doesn’t have a built-in lockoff device, it’s imperative that you understand how your seatbelt locks. Most vehicles have switchable retractors but some vehicles or specific seating positions have locking latchplates instead. It’s very important to know what your vehicle has and to understand how these features work before you install any carseat with a seatbelt. See your vehicle’s owners manual for specific information on how to install a carseat in your vehicle using the seatbelt. If you have questions, please visit our car-seat.org forum and we’ll be happy to help answer them.

You may WANT to use a locking clip if you are installing an infant seat base with seatbelt under these conditions:

  • You are installing with a lap/shoulder belt that is one continuous piece of webbing
  • Your infant seat base does not have a lockoff device for the seatbelt
  • Your vehicle has a switchable retractor
  • Your base starts to tip sideways over time due to the locked seatbelt exerting pressure on the side of the beltpath
Base tipping - locked retractor

Infant seat base tipping sideways

 

For more info on proper use of locking clips please visit Heather’s very helpful webpage:  http://www.carseatsite.com/lockingclips.htm

Evenflo Symphony DLX Elite All-in-One Carseat Review – A Concerto of Safety, Function & Style

Evenflo ProComfort Symphony - stockHere at CarseatBlog we’re very familiar with the Evenflo Symphony which first debuted back in 2008. We’ve reviewed every generation of this popular All-in-One carseat and I’m happy to report that the latest DLX/Elite version continues to impress!

First, let’s clarify that there are two different models of the Symphony that are currently available on store shelves. The Symphony DLX (aka Symphony Elite) is the premium model with SureLATCH connectors. The Symphony LX model has differently shaped headwings and standard push-on lower LATCH connectors instead of the patented, self-ratcheting “SureLATCH” connectors.

Both models are very nice but if you’re drawn to the less expensive LX model because you prefer the regular push-on LATCH connectors, or you’re just trying to stay within a more limited budget, the Symphony LX model still has a lot of great safety and convenience features to offer. Just make sure you’re looking at the newest LX model. The new LX models have the dual integrated cup holders – the older LX models do not and the older models also lack the deeper headwings for enhanced side-impact protection.

In this review we will focus on the premium DLX (aka Elite) Symphony model. There are different versions of the DLX model and some versions are exclusive to certain retailers like Target and Babies R Us. Here is a breakdown of the different DLX models, which stores carry them, and what’s special about that particular version:

ProComfort Symphony DLX – Target exclusive. Cover has Buckle Pockets and “Gel-Matrix Technology”  inside to reduce pressure points and improve comfort. ProComfort fashions include “Cambridge” (Black/Green) & “Alexandria (Black/Pink).

Evenflo Symphony - ProComfort Evenflo Symphony - ProComfort - pinkEvenflo ProComfort Gel Matrix Pressure Relief graphic

Platinum Symphony DLX – Babies R Us exclusive. Cover has Buckle Pockets and OUTLAST® Performance Fabrics which absorb hot and cold temperature, releasing as needed. Outlast® technology, originally developed for NASA, utilizes phase change materials that absorb, store and release heat for optimal thermal comfort.

This technology has the ability to:

  • Actively absorb and store excess heat, helping to reduce overheating
  • Allow the child to stay at a balanced temperature and prevent chilling during the cooler months; if the child’s skin temperature drops, the stored heat is released
  • Reduce perspiration so the child stays drier and more comfortable

The thermal image below shows the difference in body temperature after 30 minutes of sitting in the same style carseat – one with OUTLAST®  fabric and one with regular fabric. If you live in a warm climate or just have a kid who is a sweatbox – this technology will help keep your kiddo feeling comfortable all year round.

Evenflo Symphony Platinum - Martina Evenflo Symphony Platinum - Emerson Evenflo OUTLAST thermal-image

Symphony Elite – Available at Amazon. Modesto (Blue) and Paramount (Black) fashions are the newest Symphony Elite fashions available on Amazon.com. These new fashions include the buckle pockets feature. Ocala (Red) & Porter (Green) do NOT have the buckle pockets feature.

Evenflo Symphony Elite - Modesto Evenflo Symphony Elite - Paramount

Evenflo Symphony - Ocala Evenflo Symphony-DLX-Porter

Evenflo Symphony DLX/Elite Specs:

  • Rear-facing: 5-40 lbs, 19-37″ tall, top of the child’s head is at least 1″ below the top of the headrest in either of its two lowest positions
  • Forward-facing with 5-point harness:  22-65 lbs, at least 1 year old, height of 50″ tall or less (shoulders must be at or below top harness position and top of ears must be below the top of CR headrest)
  • Booster mode: 40-110 lbs, at least 4 years old, height 43.3 – 57″ (top of ears must be below the top of CR headrest)

Features:

  • Evenflo SureLATCH connectorAll-in-One (Rear-Facing/Forward-Facing/Booster)
  • Infinite Slide harness system easily adjusts to the perfect height for your child
  • 5-position adjustable headrest (bottom 2 positions for rear-facing)
  • 3 recline positions (1 position for RF, 2 for FF)
  • SureLATCH lower anchor connectors
  • “e3″ Side-Impact Protection – thick, energy-absorbing EPP foam lines the deep headwings
  • Buckle Pockets (on some models)
  • Dual integrated cup holders
  • FAA approved for use in aircraft (with harness)
  • LATCH attachments can still be used in booster mode
  • 8 year lifespan before expiration

Measurements:

  • Lowest harness height: 7.5″
  • Highest harness height: 17″
  • 1 crotch strap buckle position: 6.5″
  • Booster Mode: 19″ to shoulder belt guide in highest headrest position
  • Rear-facing internal height measurement (with headrest in 2nd position): 23″
  • Widest measurement point (at cup holders): 20″
  • Weight: 19.8 lbs. (according to my digital bathroom scale)

Installation Comments:

Will Skinny be back in 2015? A Plea to Manufacturers.

Britax-StarRiserComfySkinny is back in demand – that is, if you’re a carseat or booster. Unfortunately, skinny is also hard to come by these days and that’s a real problem. In a time when Americans are downsizing their vehicles in droves –  increased laws and awareness are keeping more and more kids in carseats and boosters longer. The combination of these two factors is creating a real space problem.

We need more seats that can fit in narrow seating positions and in those tricky 3-across situations. Manufacturers really need to work to address this issue because if I see one more parent without armrests on their Turbo booster because they’re trying to make it fit next to another carseat – I’m going to lose my mind!

Here are some suggestions for all CR manufacturers. Work on designing new, narrow seats, or even booster seats that are width-adjustable like some of the old Britax boosters and pay particular attention to how your various models fit/puzzle/mesh next to each other.  

For those parents and caregivers who can’t wait for future seats – the brand new Cosco Scenera NEXT is a neat little convertible that is going to work in a lot of tight situations. But it’s small and really meant for infants and toddlers. The Evenflo Tribute convertible can be a saving grace in many 3-across scenarios too but again, it’s not that big and many kids will outgrow it by height before hitting 40 lbs. The Radian models have built a reputation on being narrow and working well in a lot of 3-across scenarios but they have their quirks and incompatibility issues in some cases. I’ve seen the Harmony Defender forward-facing combination seat recommended for people looking for a slim seat but not everyone wants a carseat that has to be assembled like IKEA furniture. The Clek Foonf and Clek Fllo are narrow convertibles too but they’re pricey and out of reach for many families on a budget.

In the last decade the industry has been very focused on bigger and wider. No doubt this is due to the fact that American kids are getting bigger and wider, not to mention they’re staying in carseats and boosters for much longer than in the past. Plus, there has been a strong, steady demand for higher-weight carseats and boosters that can accommodate bigger/older children. This is all well and good – but you can’t focus exclusively on bigger and wider because if the bigger seats don’t fit in smaller vehicles – then what?

What do you think happens when a family of 5 trades in their Tahoe for an Accord? And what happens at a check event when a car pulls in with 3 kids in the back of an old Corolla and all 3 need to be in seats? My CPS program stocks Evenflo Tributes, institutional models of the Maestro and Harmony Youth Boosters but sometimes it’s not enough and parents are forced to make those “tough choices”.  Do you put a kid up front? Let the oldest ride without a booster in back even though he clearly still needs one? This is reality. This is what we have to deal with at check events just because we no longer have those really narrow affordable options like Cosco Tourivas and Graco Cargos and Evenflo RightFit backless boosters.

Manufacturers, you can help those of us in the trenches (and those who are personally in these predicaments) by meeting these challenges and making more 3-across-and-small-vehicle-friendly seats. We also desperately need more affordable options for our CPS programs that work in these tight situations and are made in USA so we can actually buy them with our grant funding! I know we can’t fix or solve every incompatibility that we encounter but this particular problem seems to have some possible solutions that are realistic and within reach. I hope you’ll agree.