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.
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!
Comparison of Current Infant Seat Chest Clip Designs:
Top to Bottom: Evenflo, Graco, Chicco, Safety 1st, Cybex
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.
As an update, after I asked Britax the question I just posted, they responded with:
“…The chest clip opening will not move the position of the harness. The harness will tighten down on the child just like the seat belt will tighten on you.”
So if I understand correctly, everyone is saying that the chest clip needs to be in the right spot (armpit height) so that the harness will be in the right spot before the crash. Then during the crash it doesn’t matter what happens to the chest clip because the harness is already in the right spot, and will not move out of position, even if the chest clip opens. Does that seem right?
It just seems strange to me, I would have thought that with everything going on in a crash, that the chest clip would need to stay clipped to keep the harness in the proper position.
My almost 4 year old has recently been pushing his chest out to pop open his chest slip on his Britax Boulevard 70-G3 and when I called Britax they also told me it was designed to open in a crash. Not sure why they would want it to, but after going around and around, they just kept repeating it was not unsafe. It makes me very uncomfortable and they are sending a new one as they say he should not be able to easily push it open with his chest. Hoping this new one does not!
I have the same issue with a boulevard 70-g3. Were you able to get a new chest clip?
I’m still a little confused. I understand that the chest clip has to go at armpit height, and that its purpose is to act as a pre-crash positioner, ie, to put the harness in the correct place on the child before a crash. Here is my confusion. I recently called Britax because the chest clip on my Chaperone (which I know they aren’t making anymore, and to be fair, it started happening pretty close to the expiration date) was popping open randomly during car trips. The first rep told me this:
“… Just so you are aware the chest clip is made to pop open, it is a pre crash device. The purpose of the chest clip is to position the harness in the right place but it does nothing to keep your child in the seat. The nylon harness actually keeps your child in the seat. ”
(They also told me I can just request a replacement chest clip, which is what I would do if I were going to continue using the seat, but I’m about to replace it with a convertible anyway)
But if the chest clip pops open either before or during a crash, wouldn’t the harness no longer be in the proper position to restrain the child? I’ve heard over and over again about keeping it at armpit height, all that stuff about the kid flying out of the top of the seat if the chest clip is in the wrong spot…but why all the hype about where the chest clip goes if it doesn’t do anything to keep the harness in the right spot during the actual crash?
Any clarification would be greatly appreciated. 🙂
The risk of ejection is most likely with a combination of misuse, such as a very loose harness AND a chest clip that is too low. Ideally, if the harness is adjusted correctly to start, the chest clip is not going to make a lot of difference if it is there, not there or breaks in the process. The harness will have restrained the child and prevented forward motion and ejection. If the harness is somewhat loose to start, the idea is that a correctly placed chest clip will keep the harness over the shoulders, so even if the harness isn’t providing ideal protection, it will still prevent ejection. I would think that if the chest clip breaks, that at least indicates that the harness has engaged to restrain the child and kept them from being thrown from the harness entirely. In any case, that is why the chest clip isn’t required by federal standard and generally isn’t even present on carseats outside of the USA and Canada.
Thank you, Kecia, for rational, factual information. 🙂 I mentioned likewise on a page a couple days ago and liked to have gotten my head cut off, lol.
I have a Diono Radian and the clip broke on it. When I called for a replacement, I was told that it was both safe and legal to continue using the seat without the clip until the new one arrived. Just sharing that bit of personal experience.
I have an Orbit toddle seat and one of the chest clip trigger things broke off so there is now just one holding the latch closed. I’m trying to order a new set but they are back ordered. Do you know if chest clips are interchangeable? Can I just but a different kind and use them until Orbit has them back in stock?
I am American, and i the country I am living in, it is very hard to find car seats with chest clips…that said, the vast majority of kids here are NOT in ANY child restraint at all. And many riding in the chest-clip free seats, never have their shoulders i anyway (as per my personal sightings at my son’s preschool each morning). I mentioned to a few parents about putting the straps on properly (i did it in a nice way!) and every single one said their child got out of the straps themselves! I asked where the chest clip was the first few times i noticed this problem, and the seats didnt have them. I showed them my seat from the US WITH a chest clip, and my 3 year, 7month old has NEVER gotten out of his straps. I guess i am not sold on the no-clip kind, because I see so so many kids able to get their arms out…to which point they are them only slightly better off than sitting on the seat with a lap belt. And as a side note, in the country I am living in, car accidents are the number one cause of death of children.
Pixels, I actually *clicked* on that link several times and *read* the article and the study abstract several times, which led to my questions which weren’t answered in either. I’m dubious anymore of any so-called research the CPS Board reports on, especially from a country like Japan, which, as I said before, doesn’t have the distinction of having the highest safety record for children in vehicles. If the Board would like to provide the study in full for techs to read, that’d be great. But I’m not going to swing my opinions back and forth like a pendulum every time they report something–I’ll take it and file it away to see the big picture, as any good tech should. I stand by my comments above.
@Pixels- Studies are great. We all appreciate references and data in regard to some of these issues we all wonder about. As far as what to instruct parents, we can’t always preach what studies say. Sometimes, one study conflicts another. Sometimes they aren’t widely accepted or validated. Some studies are done by very well respected groups of traffic safety professionals, some by relative unknowns. Some studies have a ton of significant data, others have very limited data or manipulated it in one way or another. For example, the authors of Freakonomics have published studies, with seemingly valid data from the NHTSA FARS database, yet we don’t advocate putting 2-year olds directly in a seatbelt without a child restraint of any kind. Eventually, if a study is compelling enough, the results will make their way into best practice as published by the AAP, NHTSA, Safe Kids USA and perhaps most importantly for technicians giving advice to parents, the standardized curriculum. Hopefully, we will see more research on this. It would be interesting to know if there is a rash of real-world head injuries from side impacts in European countries where chest clips are not used.
@Heather, you obviously did not look at the link.
@Katie – define “easily manipulated and unclipped”? Chest clips are not meant to be escapism prevention accessories for children who are determined to get out of their harness. Many children find various ways to open or manipulate chest clips even when they are “working and secure”. It’s pretty common. Ultimately it’s up to the parents to find ways to discourage that behavior. If the child has special behavioral needs then that’s a different story. If you want more info or other opinions on the subject please feel free to post your questions on our forum: http://www.car-seat.org/forumdisplay.php?f=19
If a chest clip is optional, and a parent chooses to purchase a car seat with a chest clip, isn’t it only fair to have a working and secure chest clip that can not be easily manipulated and unclipped?
Who knew a little plastic piece (or 2) could cause such an uproar, lol. The point Kecia makes repeatedly, that is seeming to get lost, is that the chest clip must be properly placed across the chest at armpit level. All current US infant seats mandate their use, so it’s imperative that we get parents using them correctly. The Japanese study is interesting, but leaves me with more questions than answers. Did the chest clips break or move down? What speeds were the tests conducted at? What carseats were used? Japan is not the bastion for child passenger safety that the US, Canada, or Europe are, so I’m left wondering about the study. It does make sense, though, that any resistance on the harness would stop the dummy’s head from moving forward out of the seat, even if it’s just that hundreth of a second’s worth of plastic breaking.
If they are not required, then why do car seat companies have to recall their car seats when the clip has in lipped without pressing the button?
Hi Destiny, good question. A safety recall can pertain to any risk to a child from a product, even an issue with an optional feature not required by a federal standard. Chest clips do provide an important function. They serve primarily as pre-crash positioners to help make sure the harness straps remain over the shoulders. In the USA, they have become almost an expected feature, even though not required by federal standards. That’s not a bad thing! Similarly, manufacturers can use a 3-point harness in a rear-facing seat, but 5-point harnesses have become so common that the 3-point models have all but disappeared from the market. Again, not a bad thing! @Pixels, thanks for the link! It will be interesting to see more research on this in the USA. -Darren
@Jeany – deep breath, deep breath! I appreciate your passion for chest clips and for your child’s safety but your information just isn’t accurate. I can debate all of the points you made if you’re open to receiving info that may be contrary to what you currently think you know on the subject. I’ve been actively involved in this field for almost 15 years and I’m always happy to engage in an open conversation and share my knowledge. However, if your mind is already made up and you honestly believe that the information I presented is “MOOT and clearly done by someone with an agenda” then I’m going to go back to watching the Giants game. My only agenda in this case is to educate on the function, purpose and proper positioning of chest clips.
Car seats in EUROPE are designed much differently than car seats in the US! The straps are positioned closer together and the bottom buckle strap is longer, positioning the buckle higher up on the child, therefore eliminating the need for a chest clip! Here in the US, the chest clip is required BY LAW to be used if it is present. If you get pulled over and a faulty clip has easily come undone, you CAN GET A TICKET!
In the case of a child determined to slip their arms under the belt and get out of the car seat, the chest clip DOES serve a purpose of making that next to impossible for the child! Even WITH properly tightened chest straps, parents have reported their children were able to get out of the straps when a certain faulty clip we all know, came undone.
This video and information is MOOT and clearly done by someone with an agenda. ALL of your “information” aside? I think I’ll stick with a car seat that has a properly working chest clip, because my child is THAT important to me. I’m not willing to take even the tiniest risk, no matter how much convincing you do.
http://www.cpsboard.org/pdf/techreport/TechUpdate_Winter2011-12.pdf page 2
LOVE the chest clip picture! I don’t think I have ever seen that done. 🙂
Thanks for the great video.
@JJordan – yup, that’s DS2. He was 3.5 months in that picture and outgrew the SIV a few weeks later. I was very, very, very sad that he outgrew that seat so quickly. But it was only rated to 20 lbs and 26″ and DS2 was a Bubba Baby.
Regarding the chest clip comparison – TBH, I didn’t think too much about them either until I removed them from the seats and lined them up like that. It was interesting for me too!
The baby in the picture of the FP infant seat (I’m assuming he’s yours?) is SO CUTE!! Also I like the photo of the chest clips. I never really thought about how different they are from brand to brand… I guess I don’t think about chest clips much!
@Pixels – I agree with the distinction in the language. I will edit the text to clarify. Thanks.
As for your other points, I was very clear in the video that I am not advocating that anyone remove the chest clip. Plus, why would you? I know there are some children with special health care needs that could benefit from a harness without a chest clip but parents aren’t usually keen on removing it for no apparent reason. Also, feel free to post any links that you have on the subject. I stand by my comments that the chest clip is designed solely as a pre-crash positioner. Children in parts of the world where chest clips aren’t used are no less safe than their American counterparts who ride in seats with chest clips.
Thank you for doing this video, Kecia!
@Jools – Lol. I’m pretty sure you weren’t the only parent who did that with the 1-piece chest clips! At least that design slid up and down the harness fairly easily.
“Believe it or not, chest clips are not required on U.S. carseats as per FMVSS 213.” I think you meant to say that chest clips are not required by FMVSS 213. Saying that they are not required per FMVSS means that FMVSS says manufacturers cannot require them.
“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.” This rather implies that it’s no big deal to remove the chest clip if you just don’t like it, as long as the harness is snug and over the shoulders. I strongly disagree. For one, the vast majority of states require proper use, and the manufacturers require their use, so therefore it is illegal to not use a chest clip.
Further, we have evidence that the chest clip does provide crash protection in certain types of crash. The chest clip is not simply a pre-crash positioner. It also can function during the crash, protecting the child from head injury.
Very nice, Kecia! Thank you! That last one you showed was the first one I ever encountered. I didn’t know one side would slide off the harness, and so I shoved my newborn’s head up under it! Poor little guy. I think I figured it out by his second car ride, at least 🙂