Author Archive

Harmony Big Boost Deluxe Booster with LATCH Review – the best big kid booster ever?

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

Harmony Big Boost - stockWhen it comes to backless boosters – there really isn’t much to rave about. Usually. A backless booster is simply a positioning device meant to boost older kids so that the adult seatbelt fits them properly. A backless booster is usually the last product that older kids will use before they can pass the 5-Step Test and transition to using just the adult seatbelt. Generally speaking, this doesn’t happen until about 10-12 years for most kids although there are always exceptions. The problem with a lot of backless boosters on the market right now is that they don’t actually fit many of the older, heavier kids who still need to use them. Many products claim weight limits of 100 lbs. or more but when you try to stick a kid who weighs 90+ lbs. in the seat, you quickly realize that those numbers don’t translate in the real world. Luckily, bigger kids are not a problem for the Harmony Big Boost Deluxe. It seems to be the ideal booster for kids who may have trouble fitting comfortably in other backless boosters but really still need some help to fit properly in the adult seatbelt . On the downside, it doesn’t seem to fit smaller kids as well and that’s a concern since the minimum weight limit for this product is 30 lbs.

Big Boost Deluxe Specs & Features:

  • Harmony Big Boost DeluxeWeight range: 30 – 110 lbs.
  • Height range: 34 – 57″
  • Age requirements: None (manual indicates that you should consult your state laws for guidance; we suggest this product for kids between 6-12 years old)
  • Child’s ears must be below top of vehicle seat headrest
  • Flexible hook-style lower LATCH attachments with center front adjust strap
  • Well-padded and comfortable
  • Smooth bottom won’t scratch or dent vehicle upholstery
  • Cup holder can be attached to either side
  • Cover is machine washable
  • Shoulder belt positioning strap (if needed) is attached at the bottom

Measurements:

  • Product weight: Less than 4 lbs. (according to my digital bathroom scale)
  • Inside width at hip area: 13″
  • Overall width at widest point: 17.5″
  • Seat depth: 13″ approximately (it’s difficult to measure on this seat)

Belt Fit:

The Big Boost did an excellent job positioning the seatbelt properly on my 11-year-old who is 105 lbs. and 55″ tall.  He raves about how comfortable this seat is and claims it’s the best booster he has ever used! In case you’re wondering why my 6th grader still uses a booster – it’s because the seatbelts in most of our vehicles don’t fit him right yet. He still needs a little boost to be comfortable (and safe!) in the adult seat belt. When he grows a few inches taller (which I’m sure will happen soon), he will pass the 5-Step Test in my van and hubby’s truck. But for now he actually prefers to use a booster. The problem we’ve had is that he doesn’t fit in most boosters on the market today – even the ones that are supposedly rated to 110 lbs. or more. However, as you can see, he fits in this seat and is very happy with it. I specifically asked if he’s bothered by the seat depth because it doesn’t extend all the way down this thighs but he says it’s not an issue. He’s been using this seat for the last 2 months, even on long road trips, and he’s totally comfortable

Harmony Big Boost Harmony Big Boost Harmony Big Boost

On the opposite end of the weight range, here is what belt fit looks like in the same vehicle with a 5-year-old who weighs 37 lbs. and is 43″ tall. The belt fit isn’t terrible but the lap belt placement is a little too low in my opinion (across the femur instead of making contact with the pelvic bones) and when she scooted all the way to one side, she had about 4″ of room between her body and the other side of the booster. My honest opinion is that this product would be best suited for kids who weigh at least 50 lbs.

Harmony Big Booster - smaller child Harmony Big Boost - swimming in this seat Harmony Big Boost - belt fit on smaller child

Traveling:

Traveling with Harmony Big BoostWhile no booster seat, including this one, can be used on an airplane because airplane seats only have lap belts (and you need a lap/shoulder seatbelt to use any booster), this product does make a great travel seat for older kids. We recently flew with the Harmony Big Boost Deluxe and it fit easily in the overhead bin. It also stored nicely under the seat on the flight home when the overhead bins were full. It’s super lightweight and the front adjuster strap that connects to the lower LATCH connectors made a handy loop for attaching the seat to our wheeled carry-on bag.  If traveling with a backless booster, we always recommend taking it with you as carry-on even though your child can’t sit in it during the flight. A backless booster is small enough to be a carry-on item and if you bring it with you on the plane, it’s nearly impossible for it to be lost or damaged in transit.

Bottom Line:

The Harmony Big Boost Deluxe in a welcome new product for bigger, older kids. It’s super comfortable and it does a great job positioning the seatbelt properly on bigger, older kids. While it isn’t the cheapest backless on the market (MSRP $24.99), it’s a great value for what you get – especially since it’s LATCHable. The only potential downsides are that it’s wide, may not be a great fit on smaller, lighter kids and currently it’s only available at Walmart.

If you’re searching for a comfortable, LATCHable, backless booster and your kid is on the heavier side of the weight range –  the Harmony Big Boost Deluxe definitely deserves your consideration. If you ask my kid, he’ll tell you to go for it because he claims it’s the most comfortable booster he has ever used. That’s an impressive endorsement coming from a kid who has used many different boosters in his short lifetime!

Carseat Recalls – the good, the bad and the ridiculous

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

Recall-stampYour carseat is recalled. Those words strike fear into the hearts and minds of safety-conscious parents everywhere. After all, no one wants to hear that there is a potential problem with their carseat – a product that they’ve entrusted to protect their child’s life under the worst possible circumstances. For child restraint manufacturers, recalls are more than just fixing compliance or safety issues – they tend to be costly and chock full of bad publicity. In short, recalls are bad for business. However, voluntary recalls are also a part of the business and almost every manufacturer has to face a recall issue sooner or later. It’s important to understand that not all recalls are for serious safety-related problems although some clearly are.

A carseat could be recalled for having a small hole in the shell (for attaching the cup holder) if enough kids get a finger stuck in that hole. A seat could also be recalled for having an incorrect phone number for NHTSA listed on the label. Or for having a mix-up with the English/Spanish sticker labels. Labeling errors are actually pretty common but rarely are they a safety concern.

Most consumers have no idea how many nit-picky little criteria are in FMVSS 213 that must be complied with. One perfect example, if the carseat is one that is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft then the label is required to state that. But it’s also required to state that in red lettering. If someone, somewhere, screws up and that wording winds up printed on the label in black or gray, or any color other than red, then… you guessed it – the seat will be recalled for failing to comply with federal standards.

Britax Frontier 80 FAA Certification Label

Meanwhile, every store around the country that carried that particular carseat will probably have that “WANTED – DEAD OR ALIVE” recall notice poster with a picture of the culprit hanging in the aisle or posted on a bulletin board – alerting consumers to the failure of that product to comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. I bet the money spent on that recall campaign could buy a whole lot of red ink. And probably a few years worth of gas and groceries too.

It’s ridiculous that all recalls get lumped together and there is no differentiating between a misdemeanor and a felony. How many parents get totally freaked out because of some minor issue that has nothing to do with the safety of their child restraint? On the flip side, there are plenty of legitimately scary recalls that can affect the product’s ability to protect children in crashes. Almost every manufacturer has to deal with something that falls into this category sooner or later. No product or production process, no matter how good, is guaranteed to be flawless 100% of the time.

What REALLY matters in these situations is how the manufacturer responds once it becomes apparent that there is a problem (or at least the potential for a problem). Do they quickly identify a solution and issue a voluntary recall right away – before any children are seriously injured? Or do they drag their feet, arguing back and forth with NHTSA for years until they are forced to issue a recall?

I have to say that there have been a lot of properly handled recalls recently that reaffirm my faith in some carseat manufacturers. Timely and appropriate responses combined with good customer service really go a long way to calm fears. Obviously, the more severe the problem or defect, the more it will take to regain the trust of consumers but good customer service is always the best place to start whenever there’s a problem. Well, that and an acceptable solution to whatever the problem is. I’ve seen some really lame “solutions” to recall issues over the years but that’s a topic for a whole different blog.

So, what can consumers do to protect their children from faulty products? Spending a lot of money on a CR doesn’t make it less likely to be recalled. Really, your best protection is to be an educated consumer. Whenever possible, buy products from manufacturers who have a good reputation for recalling seats quickly when problems arise and for handling problems with excellent customer service. It is also critical that you register your child restraint with the manufacturer so that you will be notified in the case of a recall.  If you move – don’t forget to call them and update your contact info!

If you’d like to check your carseat or booster for recalls – there are several resources available. Keep in mind that recalls may occur years after the product has been purchased. Here are links to the 2 most popular recall lists:

NHTSA Recall List:  http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/recalls/childseat.cfm

University of North Carolina HSRC Recall List: http://www.buckleupnc.org/car-seat-recall-list/

You can also sign up for email alerts whenever a new recall is announced:  http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/subscriptions/index.cfm

Beware of Illegal Chinese “Car Seats” for Sale Online

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

Sale of Illegal “Portable Car Seats” are a Growing Cause for Concern

Illegal Chinese Car Seat - death by bunniesIf you see something for sale online that claims to be a “child safety seat” or “booster” or “car seat” but it comes from a manufacturer that you have never heard of and it doesn’t say that it meets federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) please be suspicious and do some research. It may be a legitimate product but it may also be an illegal death trap.

Amazon is FLOODED with products from China claiming to be car seats that are being sold by 3rd party sellers. Please don’t be mislead into thinking these are a safe alternative to a car seat or booster seat that meets FMVSS 213 standards. As much as the seller wants you to believe that this product is “Compact and reasonable design make it enjoy the safety of traditional child seat”, it is neither safe nor reasonable.

A few examples of the type of products available through 3rd party sellers on Amazon:

Seat Cover Car Portable Child Safety Seat Baby Car Seat to Baby Seat 1-6 Years Old

illegal 4 - seat cover car portable

CdyBox Portable Car Safety Seat Cover Travel Vest Harness Cushion for Baby Kids Infant Children (Blue)

illegal - cdybox illegal - cdybox

Adjustable Portable Babies Child Infant Car seat safety Belt Harness Blue

Illegal Chinese Car Seat - docooler

Will Skinny be back in 2016? A Plea for more narrow carseats & boosters.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusmail
Discontinued width-adjustable Britax StarRiser/Comfy

Discontinued width-adjustable Britax StarRiser/Comfy

Skinny is in high demand – that is, if you’re a carseat or booster. Unfortunately, skinny is also very hard to come by these days and that’s a real problem. In a time when Americans parents are downsizing their vehicles in droves –  increased laws and awareness are keeping 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 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 Safety 1st Guide 65 convertible is narrow and will last longer before being outgrown but many parents wind up dismayed at the head slump issues when their child falls asleep – an issue caused by the tilted headrest. The Diono 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. Last but not least, the Clek Foonf and Clek Fllo are narrow convertibles 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 a Prius? 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’re dealing with at events all across the nation because of space issues.

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.