Seatbelt Adjusters or Booster Seats? Which are safer?
We may not be as entertaining as TLC’s drama-filled show What Not To Wear is, but here at CarseatBlog.com we do our best to write product reviews that help you decide what to wear. We try out carseats, boosters, and other children’s safety products, share expert advice and gather information regarding price, comfort, installation, added safety features etc. However, this review will be different because you need to understand that no matter your price range, your child’s comfort level, your user abilities, or preferences, this is a review of a product that you should not ever use. I call this review, What Not To Wear.
6-½ year old Sam wearing the Seatbelt Adjuster sold by Amazon.
Serious injuries can occur as a result of using any product like this one!
Judging by the popularity of this unusual seatbelt adjuster, some may argue that this product is inexpensive and makes seatbelts more comfortable. But did Stacy London, host of TLC’s hit show, ever fish sweatpants out of the trash for someone who liked how cheap and comfortable they were? No! And those two excuses won’t sway us here either. We will address those two points but first, what even is this product?
Screenshot of the Amazon listing. A 4-pack of Hontech Seatbelt Adjusters costs $15.98 plus free shipping!
Similar seatbelt adjusters can be found all over the internet too:
What Is This Product?
As you can see in the picture above, the Seatbelt Adjuster is a piece of mesh-covered-foam folded into a triangular tube and features a single plastic snap. To use, you would feed the vehicle seatbelt latch plate through the tube and fasten the snap to separate the lap belt portion from the shoulder belt portion. According to the Amazon listing, “Adjuster fits [vehicle seatbelt] correctly across shoulder and lap, absorb[s] shocks, keeps[s] seatbelt away from child’s neck area.” And is, “Recommended for older children who have outgrown their booster seat.”
What Problem Does This Product Aim to Solve?
This product is being marketed to parents whose children are uncomfortable with the vehicle seatbelt. But an uncomfortable seatbelt is a sign that seatbelt doesn’t properly fit their child! Children who are slouching to get their knees to bend comfortably at the end of the vehicle seat have the lap belt high over their soft abdomens, and the shoulder belt cutting into their neck and face will not be safe in a collision or sudden stop and will certainly not be comfortable. No wonder parents are looking for a solution to their children’s seatbelt complaints! If only these children were still in a booster seat, then all their seatbelt discomforts would go away and they’d be riding safely! As discussed in earlier posts a child does not outgrow their booster seat until they can pass the 5-step test at which time no other product is necessary for the seat belt to fit properly and feel comfortable.
In case you aren’t sufficiently convinced that a booster seat will actually make your child’s ride more comfortable and much safer, even for your bigger kids, and you are still tempted to buy this product for your child, then allow me to get back to my original two points, price and comfort.
Price: Cheap, Low-cost, Economical, Bargain…
This product is not just inexpensive, it’s downright cheap! Do you know why a booster seat costs around $25 while you can purchase FOUR of these for only $16 dollars? I have four possible answers for you: materials, labeling, research, and customer service.
Carseats are made with a combination of new materials like steel, plastic, energy absorbing foam, flame retardant fabric, etc. The best I can tell, this product is made out of packing foam and fabric that may not even be fire resistant. I am left to guess on what materials are used because of the lack of labeling, which is the next possible reason for why it’s so cheap.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS 213) which outlines specific requirements for manufacturers of child restraints including proper labeling. Correct labeling is crucial to proper use of a product. Carseat manufacturers must pay strict attention to every last detail of the labeling such as font, size, wording, punctuation, language translation, etc. as they list important height and weight limitations, proper installation, warnings, manufacture date, and registration information.
Even as far back as the mid-1990s, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recognized the poor belt fit these products offer and asked NHTSA regulate them. Unfortunately, because the test dummies didn’t have abdominal sensors like they do today, NHTSA couldn’t measure for injuries or create criteria by which the adjusters could be measured. There was also concern that any required labeling on the products would be seen by parents that they are safe to be used instead of booster seats.
This seatbelt adjuster does not have a single piece of labeling which leads me to the next item it is lacking: customer service.
Because there is no label on this product with manufacturer or product information there is no way to ask any questions, voice concerns, know when it will expire, or even be notified of a product recall. If this manufacturer discovered a problem with their product, they would have no way to reach out to its customers. Good customer service is crucial in making sure a product offers its promised level of safety.
Research is how manufacturers learn how safety features perform in real life situations. A manufacturer gathers key information about its product from feedback from its customers and from its own testing. Considering that this product’s manufacturer, Hontech, did not comply with any other NHTSA requirements for carseats, it is not likely they executed the mandatory 30 mile-per-hour frontal crash test either.
This product’s lack of research, customer service, labeling, and quality materials makes it actually a very expensive piece of foam.
These pictures from the Amazon listing make it look like this product will bring smiles, when really the only thing they’ll bring is the lap portion up way too high causing internal organ damage in a collision.
Comfort: Cozy, Enjoyable, Pleasant…
“Comfortable” was not actually a word any of my test subjects used when trying out the product, however, in the 126 comments on Amazon it was used quite a bit. I actually don’t think any of the commenters intended to use the product in order to adjust the lap portion, rather they were all looking to adjust the shoulder portion. Ironically, in order to pull the shoulder portion down, away from the face and neck, the seatbelt adjuster pulls the lap portion up over the soft, vulnerable organs of the abdomen. You can see in this photo which was posted by a customer how poorly the lap portion fits now with the seat adjuster.
The seatbelt adjuster does momentarily keep the shoulder belt from this boy’s face but may not permanently fix the problem. Also, now the lap belt portion is not low on his thighs, rather it’s up on his belly.
The Real Solution
The What Not to Wear Hosts get to throw out everything that doesn’t fit right and take them out shopping for a brand new wardrobe. I would love to take a page from their book and find an unsuspecting user of this product, throw it away, and give them a shopping spree for an effective, safe, tested and approved replacement: a booster seat!
This 8-year-old is safe and comfortable in his booster seat!
My grandson is 7 and 100 pounds he does not fit in the larger booster seats but too short for just a seatbelt! Any suggestions?
Hi Marcie and sorry for the delay,
Outside of expensive special needs restraints, the Ride Safer vest is one of very few options for kids up to 110 lbs.
I have a child who is still in a booster seat with back and automotive seat belt over top. She is able to get her arm under the seatbelt though which brings it off her shoulder and down around her waist. Suggestions?
Hi Kim. How old is she? This is a maturity issue and should be handled with discipline. If she’s small enough to go back into a harnessed carseat, that’s the best option. There are vest options, but you’ll need a prescription for them since you’re in Canada.
Hello I’m very petite (5 ft and I barely pass the 5 step test!) I drive a Honda Odyssey and STILL have problems with the shoulder strap hitting my neck- even using the van’s shoulder adjustor- I can see why this material triangle device is not safe… but would using one of the plastic clips be “safer” than it hitting your neck? I saw NTHSA said to contact your mfg dealer as I know you aren’t supposed to use anything that hasn’t been crash tested… but I’m not getting any informed answers. The only solution I can think of otherwise is using a mifold booster and I really don’t want to sit on one of those all the time…. PLEASE help a momma out!!
Hi Heather! I completely agree with everything in your article. However, we are having an issue when traveling. Every time we travel with a car seat, the airlines break it. We have a high back booster that can separate from the back, so we are trying to identify what type of clip we can use to only use the bottom portion for travel. Any suggestions?
Hi Amy. Every backless booster should come with a shoulder belt positioner now (except for Britax, lol. They’re stubborn and don’t include one.). They look like a strap with a red clip on the end and sometimes you have to thread it onto the seat yourself. You might not even need it depending on the vehicle you’re in; it’s there to keep the shoulder belt off the child’s neck. If you can’t find yours, call the carseat manufacturer and request another.
No offence but this style of product has been out for a few decades now. As long as you use it properly and aren’t putting it on a kid that is far to small to be in a normal seat (IE the kid from the amazon review who is way to small) It works fine. I used one of these from the age of 6 to about 10, including a rear end accident that totaled my fathers car, both me and my brother came out fine.
The biggest issue with them is they aren’t comfortable at all, at least I never found them to be. My brother didn’t seem to mind them.
Oh yes, these have been around for years. The reason you and your brother are fine from your rear end crash is because of physics. You moved toward the point of impact, which was backward into the vehicle seat cushion, so the seat belt couldn’t do any damage to your internal organs that way. If you had been in a head-on collision, chances are the outcome would have been different.
These fabric triangles work by pulling the lap belt up off the hip bones and onto the organs in the abdominal cavity. It doesn’t matter what size the child is who uses it, they aren’t safe and they shouldn’t be marketed as such. For a few dollars more, you can buy a booster that is safe and will keep the lap belt where it’s supposed to be and avoid the multi-$1000 trip to the ER after a crash.
Try out this product. It has been USA crash tested and certified. It’s not expensive but it’s not cheap either. I’m ordering one now for my 7 year old. For personal reasons I will not put my child in a backless booster seat. But she has outgrown her booster seat as far as height goes. And there is a grey area kids fall into wear a booster is too small but they are too small for just a seatbelt. This seems like the perfect solution to your review and parents struggles for the in-between.
Hi Malaya. I’m not comfortable with the ClypX product because I think ultimately the lap belt placement on the child is too variable. A vehicle seat is designed for an adult-sized body and until a child has that sized body, they will adjust theirs to fit it. That includes slouching down, pulling their legs up and under, laying to the side, etc. These positions all allow the lap belt to slide up onto the belly and off the hip bones. It’s one thing to take stock media photos showing perfect belt fit, but I think real life will show different results. I also think it dangerously puts children too low to take advantage of the vehicle’s side curtain airbags. If a child is still small enough to need a product such as this, their head will most likely still be in the range of hitting the door panel in a side impact. A child in a booster seat will be up higher to take better advantage of the curtain airbags.
Given the wide range of backless booster sizes and shapes, and weight ranges too, it’s unlikely there isn’t one to fit a child. If there are special circumstances, there are special products, including vests, that may be a better idea.
From NHTSA: “The shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest, and not cross the neck or face.” Adults should get seat belt adjusters if needed. It’s all in there.
You’re missing the point. The seat belt adjusters mentioned in the article pull the lap belt up over the soft internal organs, leading to severe injuries during a crash. Adults don’t get the same type of severe injuries from seat belts being over soft tissues that children do unless the seat belt is intentionally misplaced (I had to remind my own mother to pull her lap belt down off her *stomach* after she was loopy from an outpatient procedure a few weeks ago). Most modern vehicles have shoulder belt adjusters built in and it should be a feature people look for when shopping for a vehicle.
Hi! I’m an adult who is 5 ft tall. I’m looking for something to use for my husband’s truck and our Pioneer 500 (side by side ATV). Both belts are right under my chin and go back behind my ear. Yes, I’m that short. What would you suggest for an adult? Thanks!
My son will be 7 in 4 months. He is 49 inches tall and 82 pounds. He currently has Greco Affix but the armrests are becoming uncomfortable on his thick legs. What are the options for large children that don’t fit the recommended height requirements for seatbelts?
Hi Suzanne. I suggest checking out our newer article: https://carseatblog.com/50429/budgetbacklessboosters/. I tried out the boosters and listed those that I could fit in, so I’m sure your son will fit in them.
Would you recommend the ClypX?
Hi Tiffany. We would not recommend it mainly because we have not evaluated it. I looked at their website. In principle, it looks like it may be better than some other designs if your vehicle does not have adjustable shoulder belt height. Even so, I can see potential misuse that would cause poor fit of the lap belt that would not likely occur in a booster.
In any case, an actual belt-positioning booster is likely to be a safer choice. No aftermarket products of this type should ever be used in conjunction with a belt-positioning booster.
I realize this is an older post.. but I am hoping you may still check it.
I have a 9 year old who is very tall…. 55″ and growing like a weed… but only 60lbs.
I had her in a 5-pt for as long as I could.. but her legs are so long the seat bottom was hitting her well above mid-thigh.
I have been searching for a booster.. I have purchased (and returned) about a dozen. From top of the line, very expensive ones to economical ones.. and every single one is uncomfortable for her because of her very long legs.. the bottom of the seat hits her mid thigh, well above the knee, and raises her up so much that her feet are dangling, putting all the weight of her legs/feet/shoes on that point of the back of her thigh..
(when she sits on the seat of the car itself, she is able to scoot all the way back against the seat back and have her knee bend over the edge of the seat, allowing her feet to rest comfortably on the floor. The only reason she cannot sit with nothing added.. the shoulder strap position. Her upper body is still short enough that the strap hits high across the neck.
Hi Melanie, the shoulder belt touching the neck is not a safety issue on its own. The concern is that if this is uncomfortable, immature children would instinctively put the shoulder belt behind their arm or back. Short adults have this issue as well, but we assume they are mature enough to keep the belt on even if it is a little uncomfortable and are also reasonable enough to make responsible decisions for themselves. For kids, if you cannot find a comfortable booster, this would be the main hurdle if they otherwise pass the 5-step test: https://carseatblog.com/3966/the-5-step-test/
The Safety 1st Incognito would have been a prime candidate for you to try but they are nearly impossible to find now:-( I think the Graco RightGuide https://fave.co/3bMdFUd isn’t quite as deep in the thigh, but it is also pretty low profile and might be worth a try if you haven’t already. Mifold is another low profile booster that works best on older kids https://amzn.to/2LLKFRX . Obviously make sure you get a free returns policy!
My almost 9 year olds Head from the ears up is above the headrest in the 3rd row of our traverse when she’s sitting in a booster. We have an infant car seat in the second row so the other two kids got pushed to the back. She’s 52 inches and 65lbs. Can she stop using a booster now?
Hi Brooke, the best way to tell if a child can stop using a booster is to use the 5-step test: https://carseatblog.com/3966/the-5-step-test/
If your daughter passes the test, you can stop using a booster in that seating position. It’s possible she may still need a booster for a while in other seating positions, or in other vehicles until she passes the 5-step test in those seats as well. Also, if her ears are above the vehicle head rest while using a backless booster and if she doesn’t pass the 5-step test, she may need to move to a different vehicle seat with a taller head rest, use a high back booster or find a thinner backless booster that doesn’t raise her up as much (possibly something like a mifold).
The Graco RightGuide (https://fave.co/2YOUh6w) is also quite thin and may not boost her up past the headrest.
My 8 year old is currently in a Diono Radion Booster, my 3 year old is in a Diono 5 point carseat and we are adding an infant carseat. Our problem is that my 8 year old can no longer buckle herself in because although we can fit the three carseats across, there is no longer any way to fit your hand in to reach the buckle. I’m trying to find a safe solution, but have read buckle extenders are not safe. The high back booster is still the best option for her because it helps with her carsickness, which is also why I don’t want to move her to the third row in our Honda Odyssey. Plus, the middle seat is practically useless even for adults without a booster because the seat belt comes from the ceiling, making it cut across your neck on all but the tallest adult. We’ve tried rearranging the seats, but reaching the buckles is still next to impossible. My 8 year old is about 50″, so we still have a long way before we can give up a booster. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated
Hi Kara. Do you need a highback booster or would a backless suffice? A narrow backless would boost your 8 yr old and if she still needs the seat belt off her neck, the attached belt guide can help with that. Something like the inexpensive Harmony Youth Booster (https://fave.co/2TfEdIZ) or even the Graco RightGuide Trainer (https://fave.co/2YOUh6w) would help with access to the buckle. You can also take a small cut of pool noodle and put it around the buckle to help prop it up and make it easier for her to access.
If you need a highback booster, I’d suggest one without arms. These are narrower and more costly :(. The Peg Perego Flex 120 (https://amzn.to/2Vi5mrg) is the only one available right now (the Maxi Cosi RodiFix is being redesigned and is unavailable).
What to do about a girl that weighs 104 pounds and 4’3 She can’t fit in backless car seat because arms hurt sides and most have 100 pounds limit
Hi Valerie. There are only 2 options right now for kids who don’t fit in standard boosters anymore but still need positioning. The Graco RightGuide (https://fave.co/2yoG5CA) has a weight limit of 120 lbs. and the arms angle outward. The other is the Safety 1st Incognito and is billed as a “kid positioner.” The Incognito has been discontinued, so if you can find it new for $40 or less by Googling, that’s a great choice too. I’ve also seen that it’s being revamped, but I haven’t had a chance to ask our contact yet and that doesn’t help you right now anyway.
My daughter will be 5 and we currently have her in a 5 pt harness in both vehicles. She is 41lbs. We are trying to find a backless booster for my husband’s car. He has a mustang and the design of the seats are narrow (and kind of like a bucket seat) making her current car seat not fit well. What do you recommend?
Hi Jennifer. Evidently depending on the year of the Mustang, a Graco TurboBooster will work. Otherwise I’d look at the Harmony Youth Booster: https://fave.co/2TfEdIZ. It’s narrow and inexpensive.
I have a similar question. We have 3 kids also: a 6mo old in an infant seat, a 6 year old in a five point harness booster that will convert to a seatbelt positioning booster and an 8 year old. My 8 yr old has wide shoulders and does not fit in any of the highback boosters that will fit three across but in a backless booster the seat belt shoulder strap sits a couple inches infront of her shoulder because she’s so narrow (it’s a CR-V and apparently designed for adults in the back). Even for me in the front, I’m tall but have a short torso, the seatbelt always hits me in the neck even in it’s lowest position.
That is frustrating! Vehicle manufacturers continue to design back seats for adults when children are the majority of their passengers. You can use the shoulder belt positioner of your backless booster to help pull the shoulder belt back and onto her shoulder. Do you still have yours? What booster do you have?
Hi what is the safest solution if trying to fit 3 children in the backseat of a sedan and I need a carseat and infant carsear;therefore, a booster seat wont fit.
Hi Melissa. There are several options available. What carseats do you currently have? What vehicle will they be going into? What are the ages and weights of the children?