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Safety Archive

Combi Recalls Coccoro, Zeus Turn, Zeus 360 Convertible Carseats

Combi has issued recalled on the Coccoro, Zeus Turn and Zeus 360 convertible carseats for failure to meet harness test requirements.

Affected models are:

Combi Coccoro
Model Number: 8220
Manufacture Dates: January 6, 2009-December 5, 2012

Combi Zeus Turn
Model Number: 8815
Manufacture Dates: July 15, 2007-March 25, 2009

Combi Zeus 360
Model Number 8836
Manufacture Dates: February 25, 2009-May 24, 2012

The model number and manufacture date can be found on the bottom of the carseat.

Coccoro DOM label  Zeus DOM label

When the harness webbing is tested independently of the carseat, it does not meet minimum breaking strength because of an embedded plastic button which keeps the buckle tongue from sliding down under the child’s bum. Newer models no longer have the embedded button.

According to Combi, the affected carseats are still safe to use until Combi can send replacement harnesses to registered owners because the carseats do pass motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS 213) as a whole, but according to NHTSA, “In the event of a crash, a child may not be remain adequately secured, increasing the risk of injury.” (sic)  What does CarseatBlog advise? FMVSS 213 requires a minimum strength of 11,000N (roughly 2,473 lbf) before the harness webbing breaks on a carseat. How much force does a 33 lbs. child apply in a 30 mph crash to the webbing (33 lbs. is the uppermost rear-facing weight limit of the Coccoro and both Zeus seats)?  An estimate often used by technicians is child weight (33) times speed (30)  = roughly 990 lbs, which is a far cry from 2,473 lbs force (11,000N). We prefer to do the basic math estimate for you and let you, as the parent, decide whether you want to follow Combi’s advice or NHTSA’s.

For more information on this recall, see Combi’s recall notice for more information and how to register your Combi seat if you haven’t yet.

All About Chest Clips: Function, Purpose & Proper Positioning

Chest clips are one of the least understood and most misused features on a carseat. I’m going to attempt to set the record straight on how they function, what purpose they serve and how they’re meant to be positioned.

 

Proper Positioning:

Chest clips should be positioned anywhere in the mid to upper chest area. Aim for armpit level which is where most carseat instruction manuals tell you to place the chest clip. The truth is that even if it’s a little lower than armpit level – it will still do its job as a pre-crash positioner of the harness straps, as long as the harness straps are snug and routed correctly over the child’s shoulders. A snug and properly routed harness is essential!

 Chest Clip - too low Chest Clip - just right

 

Comparison of Current Infant Seat Chest Clip Designs:

Top to Bottom: Evenflo, Graco, Chicco, Safety 1st, Cybex

Comparison of chest clip designs

 

Federal Safety Standards and Chest Clips:

Believe it or not, chest clips are not required on U.S. carseats by FMVSS 213. That’s because they’re really not necessary for crash protection as long as the harness is snug and positioned over the child’s shoulders. Regardless, chest clips are included on all current harnessed seats sold in this country so it’s a component we’ve come to expect. Just keep in mind that it’s possible for a new seat to debut next week or next year that doesn’t come with a chest clip. I actually owned, used and loved an infant seat that didn’t have a chest clip back in 2004.

SIV closeup

My Beloved
Fisher-Price Stay-In-View
Infant Carseat
Oct 2004

 

IIHS Check Fit Booster Ratings and the Britax Frontier 90

Considering buying a Britax Frontier 90 or Pinnacle 90 Harness-2-Booster seat?  Maybe you already bought one, based on our reviews or because they appeared on our recommended seats list?  Perhaps you have recently seen or heard that the IIHS did not give your carseat a “Best Best” or “Good Bet” rating and you are now wondering if it is safe to use?  Don’t Panic!  ”Check Fit” does NOT mean “Unsafe”!

So what does a “Check Fit” rating from the IIHS mean?  Quite simply, it means you have to check how well the booster fits your own child, in your own vehicle.  Install the booster in your vehicle, buckle and route the seat belt, all according to the instructions in the owner’s manual.  Ideally, the lap belt should be fairly flat on the upper thigh, not up on the tummy.  The shoulder belt should be centered on the shoulder; it should not be falling off the shoulder or rest on the child’s neck.  What if it doesn’t fit well?  Keep using it for now to keep your child safe and read on for some suggestions to improve the safety for your child!  For more on booster fit, please see CarseatBlog’s coverage of the 2013 IIHS Booster Ratings.

The first important thing to note is that the new 2013 IIHS Booster Ratings are not results of dynamic crash tests.  Second, they do not consider ease-of-use or additional safety features at all.  The evaluations are only measurements of seatbelt fit to an average 4 to 8 year-old child using these seats in booster mode in a few vehicle seating scenarios.  Finally, these ratings DO NOT apply at all if you are using these or any other combination booster seat in the 5-point harness mode.  In regard to harness use, CarseatBlog agrees with the American Academy of Pediatrics, “All children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their [5-point harness] Child Safety Seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle lap-and-shoulder seat belt fits properly, typically when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are between 8 and 12 years of age. There is a safety advantage for young children to remain in Child Safety Seats with a harness for as long as possible before transitioning to booster seats.”

How does the IIHS know if a booster will fit your child and vehicle?  Good question!  They evaluate booster fit on a standard dummy, representative of a typical 6-year old child, measured in four scenarios that mimic real vehicle use.   What if your child is a different size than the dummy or you have a vehicle that varies significantly from any of their test scenarios?  That could mean the booster fits somewhat better or worse than the rating suggests, but overall the ratings should still provide meaningful comparisons.  CarseatBlog recommends that parents consult the IIHS Booster Ratings, as they are a great place to start and generally reflect a range of children and vehicles.  We do caution that their evaluations do not always apply directly to every possible combination of child and vehicle.  That means that a model that earned a “Best Bet” may not fit ideally with your child and vehicle.  Similarly, a model that earned a “Check Fit” rating may provide a good fit for your child, in your particular vehicle.

So, a lower rating does not necessarily mean your child is less safe, unless you check yourself and find the belt fit to be marginal or poor in booster mode, of course.  For example, I found the seatbelt fit of a Britax Frontier 90 (“Check Fit” rating) in booster mode to be very reasonable on my 8-year old child in a couple of popular vehicles, a Toyota Highlander and Prius.

 

As mentioned in the video, it is worthwhile to note that the Britax Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 have among the highest seated torso height limits for the 5-point harness system of any combination harness/booster carseat.  That means most kids can use the harness until they are 8 years old or possibly even older.  That is a very safe option if you did happen to find that the seatbelt did not fit your child well in booster mode, especially on younger or less mature children who may benefit most from the extra points of restraint in a 5-point harness system.

IIHS 2013 Booster Seat Ratings – Making Sense of the Best Bets, Check Fit & Not Recommended Ratings

lap and shoulder belt fitYou will see it all over the news today and tomorrow. It will be on national morning shows, local news broadcasts, in newspapers and online. There will be a lot of good information, but there will also be the usual misinformation. Is your child as safe as possible just because you bought a booster that has a 2013 IIHS ”Best Bet” rating? Should you panic if you have one that is rated “Check Fit”? Does that mean it’s dangerous or unsafe?

Here at CarseatBlog, our job is to help guide you through the wonderful but overwhelming world of child occupant protection. Here you’ll get info and straight answers from experts in the field who are also parents, just like you. We’ve been around this block a few times already so allow us to help you sort through the mountains of information.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside! Winter Coat Suggestions for Kids in Carseats

snowconePumpkin Spice lattes, falling leaves, Christmas decorations going up the day after Halloween…it can only mean one thing: It’s getting colder, and your kids are going to need winter clothes.

Michelin-man-style snowsuits might be fine for sledding, but in the car they can be dangerous. Too much bulk means that the harness won’t tighten properly against the child. In a crash, that extra bulk can compress, leaving a too-loose harness, and leaving the child inadequately protected.

So what can you do?

One option is to have your child take her coat off before she gets in the car. Then after she’s buckled, she can slip her arms into the backwards coat.

But what if your kids don’t want to take off their jackets? No problem–just look for something car-seat-friendly.

What constitutes a good coat for the car seat? Anything that doesn’t add extra bulk to the child will do. That might be a sweater, thin fleece, or a squishy down jacket.

To see if your child’s outerwear is ok for the car, put it on your child, put him in his seat, and tighten the harness. Then, WITHOUT LOOSENING THE HARNESS, unbuckle your child and take him out. Take off the jacket, then put him back in the seat and re-buckle. If there’s no extra slack (or just a teeny bit), the jacket is good! If there’s a significant amount of slack, consider another option.

 

Winter Coat Infographic

 

Those two jackets look pretty similar, but you can see how different they really are. In the first photo, my daughter is wearing a Snozu jacket. Without the jacket, the harness had no slack. (In fact, before I took the picture my daughter had been in the seat with no jacket. I didn’t need to loosen the harness at all to buckle her with the jacket on.) The second coat is another story. It’s your typical winter coat, and honestly, it didn’t seem that bulky to me…until I took it off and re-buckled. Wow! There was a lot of slack in that harness!

Here are some good jackets to try:

Last year I got my daughter a Snozu jacket from Costco, pictured above. (There are also some available from Amazon.) They squish down into almost nothing, so they’re perfect for the car. This year’s version has a thin layer of fleece inside, but still works well in the car.

People at car-seat.org also love the Patagonia Puffball.

Many have also said good things about the North Face Moondoggy.

LL Bean and The Gap both have PrimaLoft jackets that look very squishable.

This coat from Lands’ End also looks like it might work.

Besides working well in car seats, these options will also pack well in a backpack or diaper bag when you don’t need them. Safe AND convenient!

What great car seat coats have you found?