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Update on Britax Marathon, Boulevard & Advocate ClickTight Convertible Harness Attachment Issues

Britax ClickTight convertiblesBack in November, Consumer Reports published an article detailing safety concerns over the new Britax Boulevard ClickTight and Marathon ClickTight convertible seats. The Advocate ClickTight convertible model is also potentially affected.

We covered that story in depth here:

Consumer Reports on Potential Britax ClickTight Boulevard & Marathon Convertible Carseat Safety Issues

 

We want to emphasize that this only applies to the new “ClickTight” convertible models. All other Britax convertibles, such as the “G3″ or “G4″ models, are NOT affected. Frontier 90 ClickTight and Pinnacle 90 ClickTight Harness-2-Booster seats are also NOT affected. 

Today Consumer Reports shared an update on that issue:  http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2014/11/two-britax-car-seats-could-pose-safety-risk/index.htm?loginMethod=auto

3/31/15 update: Responding to a follow-up inquiry, Britax informed us that it they had shared test data and information with NHTSA and “confirmed the performance” of ClickTight seats. The company also shared that the problem we noted—that the restraint harness was not securely attached to the hooks on the lower harness anchors—was “an initial assembly issue” affecting all Marathon ClickTight, Boulevard ClickTight and Advocate ClickTight seats manufactured between August 15, 2014 and November 7, 2014.

Marathon CT DOM labelAction Required: Owners of all Britax ClickTight convertible carseats (Marathon CT, Boulevard CT & Advocate CT) manufactured between between August 15, 2014 and November 7, 2014 need to check their seats and make corrections, if necessary. The sticker label with the date of manufacture can be found by peeling back the cover on top of the CT compartment.

If the harness straps are properly secured to the anchors they should NOT be able to loosen or work themselves free all on their own. Please note that the straps come from the factory set in the smaller harness length setting for children under age 2. For kids over age 2 you must detach the hip straps from the anchors and re-attach them without looping them under the bar. Britax has instructions that clearly demonstrate the correct way to secure the hip straps onto the anchor in both the longer and shorter harness settings here: http://www.britaxusa.com/uploads/products/additional-resources/43.pdf

 

Britax CT Infographic - with DOM

 

FYI – owners of newer CT convertible models will notice that the metal anchors have been slightly bent in at the opening which makes it harder to get the straps on and off.

Britax CT hip anchor - bent

Please share this info with your friends and family so we get the word out to as many Britax CT convertible owners as possible. It only takes a minute to check the harness straps and fix them if they are loose or detached. In this case the only thing we need to keep children safe is information on what to look for and how to fix it!

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The Top 5 List of Shame.

Let’s face it, kids are honest. To a fault at times. We’ve all had the embarrassing moments  where we want to disappear.

One of Liam’s latest gems involves movies.  I rented Neighbors on the RedBox last week and Liam asked if he could watch it. I told him no, because it was a movie for adults. He asked why, and I said because it had stuff not appropriate for kids. He said, “Oh, like not pooping in toilets? That’s inappropriate and so is talking about poop”. I just ignored it while he cracked himself up. Fast forward to later that day, we were in Target and he points out some cardboard cut out with a Frozen movie character. The employee standing nearby goes, “Oh, are you a big Frozen fan?” Liam says, “Well, I like Toy Story better but my mom doesn’t like Frozen. She only likes adult movies where they poop everywhere.”

Cue awkward silence.

Starting preschool has opened a whole new world to the embarrassing moment files. And often, it doesn’t even involve your kid directly. I actually do a fairly decent job of embarrassing myself without the help of my spawn. So here we go, a top 5 list of embarrassing moments in preschool.

1) Forgetting all your kid’s basic info. I wrote down my birthday instead of Liam’s on his preschool paperwork. To be fair, we have the same date, but I put 1985 instead of 2010. So for awhile, they had a 28 (at the time) year old preschooler. At least by 28 you can wipe your own bottom, right? Then, to add insult to injury, I was asked when Declan’s birthday was and I was off by 3 days. Oops.

2) Forgetting your kid altogether. Do you know how many times I’ve run errands with just the baby while Liam was in school and when I turned around to back out the parking space, saw his empty car seat and had a brief moment of panic that I left him inside Target somewhere? More times than I’m going to admit on this public blog, that’s for sure.

3) The awkward drop off. You know, the kind where you are straggling in 15 minutes late. The baby is in pajamas, your jeans are from yesterday (and the day before? Shhhh!!!) and have dried yogurt on the leg, the other kid has a permanent scowl on his face because he couldn’t finish playing before it was time to leave, you say hi to people without actually looking them in the eye because you’re trying to stay awake. Yeah. Actually, we aren’t rude or homeless. Just perpetually late. There is no way we are going to make the 7:15am drop off for kindy next year.

4) Not knowing anyone’s name. It’s bad, really bad. Everyone is Susie’s mom or John’s dad. Even as the contact in your phone. Maybe it’s just me being terrible with names but I’m hoping I’m not the only one. Then, you pass the timeframe where it’s still appropriate to ask what their name is. When you’ve been to the park multiple times and chatted for awhile and know the names and ages of all each other’s kids..yeah, it’s too late. Your time has passed. You are going to still be friends with them 5 years later and there’s going to come a time where they will catch you trying to sneak a look at the pile of mail on their counter, desperately trying to see what their name is. Explain that one. That’s right, you can’t. So don’t let the time frame pass you!

5) The Michael Jackson. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say pretty much all kids have gone through this, but moms of boys will probably understand better. All the kids are standing together nicely doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and there’s yours absent mindedly grabbing his crotch like it’s covered in ants. I gave up worrying about it awhile ago but there is something fairly awkward about introducing yourself to another mom, “Hi! I’m Alicia. My son is Liam…he’s that one over there. Yes, the one in the dinosaur shirt scratching his behind while trying to lick his own nose.” Classic.

I guess all we can do is write it all down, then give it to them later in life. So they can say, “Thanks mom. Thanks for dragging your sleep deprived, sour yogurt wearing butt to school so you can talk to nameless people while I go against social decency. I’m a happy, functioning adult now that no longer grabs himself in public. I love you!”

Yes, I have the kid that won't even stop being wild for a 2 second photo.

Yes, I have the kid that won’t even stop being wild for a 2 second photo.

Phil&teds Alpha Infant Carseat Review: Kia Ora!

philandteds Alpha

Phil&teds Alpha Rear-Facing Only Infant Seat Review

Phil&teds, a fun company from New Zealand, enters the child restraint market with the Alpha rear-facing only infant seat as a complement to their stroller line. By bringing in the Alpha, they have a competitive rear-facing only carseat that has features parents want for ease-of-use and comfort for their child.

 

Weight and Height Limits:

  • Rear-facing 4-35 lbs. AND 32” AND child’s head is 1” below top of head rest

Alpha Overview:

  • Fantastically thick EPS foam lining the seat
  • Removable newborn liner with extra newborn supports
  • Preemie insert
  • 2 crotch strap/buckle positions (before 15 lbs./after 15 lbs.)
  • 2 recline angles on base: one for 4-20 lbs., one for 20-35 lbs.
  • Carrier can be installed Euro-style without base
  • Clip-on style lower LATCH connectors
  • Built-in lockoff
  • Currently available in only one fashion: black/charcoal with red newborn liner (its sister seat, the Mountain Buggy protect, is available in black/stone for another option)
  • FAA approved for use on aircraft
  • 6 yr lifespan before seat expires

Alpha without cover

Alpha Measurements

Harness slots: 6”, 7 ¾”, 9 ½”, 11 ¼”
External widest point: 16 ¾”
Width of base at belt path: 13 ½”
Width of base at widest point: 14 ¼”
Internal shell height: 20”
Crotch strap depth: 4”, 6”
Seat depth: 12”
Carrier weight: 8 lbs.

Borrowing LATCH Anchors

 

Can You Safely Use Those Center LATCH Anchors?

There are 3 top mistakes we child passenger safety technicians see when we work with parents who want to do latch_symbolwhat’s best and safe with their children’s carseats: a harness that’s too loose, an installation that’s too loose, and a chest clip that’s too low. Following closely in 4th place is using the lower LATCH connectors in the center seating position of the back seat where they can’t be used. Really, any of these mistakes can be put in any order—they’re almost interchangeable given how often we see them.

Hold up, now. You mean I can’t use LATCH in the center seating position?

All passenger vehicles manufactured after September 1, 2002, have lower LATCH anchors (there are exceptions, of course). There are some vehicles that do have a specific set of lower LATCH anchors designed for use in the center position of the back seat, but most vehicles do not. That’s surprising to a large number of parents who rightly feel that the center of the back seat is the safest spot. It’s furthest from side impacts and LATCH generally is the easier method to get a tighter installation. So why is it that lower anchors aren’t available to be used in the center position and why is it that some CPS techs recommend using lower anchors in the middle while some don’t?

The Basics

Lower LATCH anchors consist of 2 U-shaped metal bars welded to a sturdy bar. The anchors are spaced 280 mm apart, which to those of us not used to the metric system measures out to 11” center to center. The lower anchors are a system, designed to be used together because they are all welded together as one big piece. LATCH altogether is a system as well: Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren. The Tether referred to in the acronym is on a convertible or combination carseat and is generally used only for forward-facing carseats to hold the top of the carseat in place (some carseats can be tethered rear-facing—that’s a different topic). We never call lower LATCH straps “tethers” but sometimes you’ll see them referred to as “lower connector straps.”

MDX LATCH assembly LATCH_sketch

First let’s discuss the concept of “borrowing.” Just as there are a variety of vehicles with back seats, so are there a variety of configurations for lower LATCH anchors. In all 4-door sedans, there will be 2 sets of lower anchors in the outboard (outside) positions, for a total of 4 lower anchors. You can safely install 2 carseats with those lower anchors. In sedans, trucks, and SUVs with big enough back seats, there will be a third set in the middle. Aha! That’s the key—space. Even though you may have 6 total lower LATCH anchors, you may not be able to install 3 carseats using those anchors. Think about it: the LATCH anchors are spaced 11” across and the narrowest carseats are 17” across. The math simply doesn’t add up. Again, in the widest back seats, you can do it, but you have to remember that LATCH was designed to be a convenience feature; it’s not going to work in all situations. In some vehicles, there may be 5 lower anchors: 2 on each outboard side with 1 randomly stuck somewhere in the middle. What engineer was smoking what when they came up with that design? Well, in this case, you can use lower anchors in the center by using the inside lower anchor from one outboard side with that randomly placed center anchor. The carseat will have an offset installation; that is, it won’t be perfectly in the center. Here’s an example:

2010 Honda CR-V has one dedicated center lower anchor

2010 Honda CR-V has one dedicated center lower anchor that is used with the inboard passenger side lower anchor

2014 Ford Focus has a set of lower anchors for each outboard position

2014 Ford Focus has a set of lower anchors to be used in each outboard position

2011 Acura MDX

2011 Acura MDX has 3 full sets of lower anchors

Can you use lower LATCH anchors to install your carseat in the center of the back seat if there aren’t any dedicated lower anchors in that position? Perhaps. This practice is known as LATCH anchor “borrowing” and you have to consult both your vehicle AND your carseat manual to see if they allow it. If one doesn’t, you can’t. It’s like asking mom if you can eat a piece of candy and she says no, so you ask dad. They both have to say yes. Why? Remember back to that lower anchor spacing of 11”. In a crash, forces are put on both the metal anchors (vehicle) and the plastic belt path (carseat). Because you are now using a spacing that is different than 11” (most likely more, and sometimes over 20”), the crash forces are coming at angles that either haven’t been tested for or have been tested but have failed.

Graco LATCH anchor wording

Graco LATCH anchor wording

Britax LATCH anchor wording

Britax LATCH anchor wording

Some manufacturers have tested for these contingencies and if you’re lucky enough to have a match, you can borrow those LATCH anchors.

2014 Ford Focus Borrowing

What’s a parent to do?

If you want to install your carseat in the center seating position with LATCH and your vehicle manual specifies that you have a set of dedicated lower anchors, go for it! It’ll likely be an easier installation for you. Don’t forget to check the label on the side of the carseat or the carseat manual for any LATCH weight limits, both rear- and forward-facing.

If you don’t have a set of dedicated lower anchors and want to borrow the inside anchors from the outboard positions, check both the vehicle AND carseat manuals to see if both allow it. The verbiage may be subtle (see the Graco manual excerpt), so if you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to call customer service.

If you don’t have specific lower LATCH anchors for the middle seating position, have no worries. A seat belt installation is perfectly acceptable since LATCH is a convenience feature. If, however, you find that you can’t get a tight installation using the seat belt and you can get a better installation with the lower anchors, it’s preferable to move the carseat to the outboard position and use LATCH. An installation where the carseat moves less than 1” trumps the center location of the back seat if you can’t get a tight install there.

Now that you know not to make the #4 mistake of borrowing lower LATCH anchors when you shouldn’t, it’s time to make sure that your child’s harness is snug enough, the chest clip is in the correct location, and the carseat is installed tightly enough. I’ve covered 2 of those mistakes in this article, so if you need a refresher on the others, take a glance at this blog: http://carseatblog.com/26763/carseatblog-quick-tip-proper-harness-tightness.

Graco Fined for Slow Buckle Recall

graco logoGraco will be paying $10 million in fines to the U.S. government as a result of failing to notify the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about its buckle safety issues last year; the buckle tongues were getting stuck in the buckles, causing release issues. We have blogs on the initial recall here, NHTSA’s reaction here, and the infant seat recall here for further reading. Graco has to pay $3 million outright to the government and spend an additional $7 mil on programs to improve child safety. Graco hasn’t yet outlined what those safety measures are.

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory/graco-fined-delayed-reporting-seat-buckle-complaints-29776037

Graco Recall Buckle Identification

 

Response from Graco:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has concluded its investigation of Graco’s reporting of consumer complaints about difficulty opening car seat buckles. While we evaluated the issue in a timely manner and were cooperative with NHTSA’s investigation, we regret that we fell short of NHTSA’s expectations for data evaluation and reporting procedures. We accept this civil penalty and the additional funding requested by NHTSA for a joint venture involving child passenger safety initiatives in the future. We are eager to work with NHTSA and pleased with their decision to focus this money on children’s safety.

As part of our continuous improvement process, we have already taken concrete steps to further update our compliance evaluation and reporting process. We will use the insights from this investigation to further this mission, and assure our consumers that we remain committed to the safety of our products.