The Rear-Facing Tether Is Back—Aussie Style
Clek recently introduced a “new” old safety concept: the Australian-style rear-facing tether. It’s been a few years since rear-facing tethering has been in vogue, but back then, it was the Swedish-style of tethering with which everyone was familiar—where, on only certain carseats, the top tether was anchored to the vehicle’s front seat track when rear-facing. Aussie-style RF tethering was available on Britax carseats because they had (still do!) a V-shaped dual tether that wrapped around the carseat and attached to the vehicle’s tether anchor. Aussie-style tethering is still popular in . . . Australia and Clek is bringing it back to North America to work in conjunction with anti-rebound bars (ARBs) to limit motion during a crash and manage energy.
What makes Aussie-style tethering Aussie-some (sorry, how could I *not* do that?) is that it keeps the carseat from rotating down toward the floor of the vehicle, similar in function to a load leg. In turn, the child stays more upright during a frontal crash, which is the most common type of crash, so that the carseat can absorb those crash forces, protecting the child’s head, neck, and spine.
The Q-Tether is available for $19.99 as an accessory for use with all unexpired Foonf and Fllo models. It limits the ability of the carseat to rotate down toward the floor of the vehicle in a frontal crash, performing similarly to a load leg or to using a Euro belt path which is found on more and more rear-facing only infant seats, including Clek’s Liing. When forward energy is limited, rebound energy, which is typically 1/3 the energy of the initial crash, is reduced as well. What does this mean for your child? The less bouncing around in a crash, the safer she’ll be.
There are 2 parts to the Q-Tether. The part that attaches to the tether anchor has a metal splitter plate on the other end—the splitter plate is typically what a harness attaches to on the back of a carseat. The other piece is a long strap with a loop on each end that wraps around the carseat, is threaded through the unused forward-facing lockoffs, and is attached to the splitter plate. Owners of Clek convertibles are used to “assembling” their carseats for installation (adding the ARB, putting adding the RF base onto the Foonf, putting the seat panel back on after RF installation), so the process of installing the Q-Tether will only add a few more minutes.
Tips to Make the Q-Tether Installation Process Go Smoothly:
- Install your Clek convertible rear-facing
- Open both forward-facing lockoffs first
- Tighten the harness. If the harness is loose, you may accidentally thread the Q-Tether strap underneath the harness on the back of the seat.
- Make sure the long strap is loosened all the way. If it isn’t fully slack, you may not be able to attach it to the splitter plate, depending on your vehicle’s head restraint design.
- Additional hands always help because you’re trying to wrap a long strap around a carseat and through 2 lockoffs. Attach the non-adjuster side to the splitter plate first, thread it through the lockoff, pull taut, then close the lockoff. That will hold the strap in place and you can then thread the strap through the next lockoff.
Getting Kids In and Out with the Q-Tether
Alright. It’s the big question and I’m saving it for last. You’re looking at this tether that completely goes around the carseat and thinking, “I have to thread my thrashing kid through this tether, then try to get the harness on him.” Probably similar to putting an outfit on your cat. This is why the Q-Tether is attached with loops on each end of the long strap: the adjuster goes on the door side so it gets loosened and tightened each time your child is placed in the seat.
In my Tesla Model X, I had typical tether issues with the Q-Tether sliding off the shoulder of my vehicle seat when I went to tighten the strap. You can mitigate this by pulling the strap in toward the inside of the car instead of pulling the strap towards yourself; if your child is older, they can pull the strap taut. In my Tesla Model 3, the tether anchor is on the parcel shelf so it’s like any other sedan, except that Tesla wants the splitter plate off to the outside of the head restraint on the outboard positions (check your vehicle owner’s manual if you have a non-movable head restraint). I had no issues with my 2011 Acura MDX.
If you’ve installed your carseat with the seat belt, you will have a couple of belts to keep your kid’s feet out of when you place them in the seat. If your child likes autonomy (and you have the time), they can climb in by themselves, of course. Our 3-yr old model had no problems climbing into the Foonf in the Acura MDX from the outside and it would have been even easier climbing in from the center seat (Q-Tether adjuster would have gone on the inside if that were his normal spot to climb in). It does take some maturity for that to happen, though. He tried to pull the Q-Tether strap tight, but wasn’t quite able to get the last bit of slack out, despite having a little bit of practice. If the Foonf were his daily ride, I’m sure he’d have no problems whatsoever.
You can’t argue with safety and the Q-Tether offers an extra measure of safety. It’s awesome that Clek is using simple tools to help parents who want to provide an extra bit of energy management should they be in a crash. And it’s great that Clek is providing this safety tool retroactively to owners who already own Clek seats so their kids can benefit from it too!
Awesome. How does this compare with the multi-directional tether that UppaBaby has planned for their Knox seat?
This is very similar to the tether on the Knox. Uppa has decided that their tether only needs to wrap around one side of the carseat.
I’m so glad you wrote a post about tethers today! They have been on my mind lately. Three questions:
1. What is the difference between Swedish and Aussie style tethering in terms of their effect on the car seat in a crash? Is one better at keeping children from getting injured?
2. We are looking to get a crossover, but there are very few options that have enough tethers for my liking. Is it okay to make a tether point using a top tether connector strap looped around something bolted to the frame in the back (if there is something)? Obviously if the seats can be removed, I wouldn’t want to do it where they attach to the car, but if they don’t, somewhere like a seat track, for example? I have two Diono Radian RXTs (post 2017 redesign) and a Britax Pavilion if it is a car seat specific answer.
3. Not tether-related. I was doing research on car seats, usage, and regulations for relatives in Europe and ran across the idea of “buckle crunch” a few times. The articles claimed that the buckle should not touch the seat at all because even if properly tightened, in a crash the force of the seat could cause the plastic of the buckle to explode or break. I haven’t been able to find any information on it on any of the American sites I know of. Is it a problem? On all of my seats, including the higher-sitting Britax the plastic of the buckle makes some kind of contact with the car seat (though doesn’t interfere with proper tightening).
Sorry for such lengthy questions! I appreciate being able to ask professionals questions to get a correct answer. I love your blog and am so grateful for the time and effort that goes into it! You are one of the best references for car seat information in my opinion!
Hi Nanika. Thanks for being one of our awesome readers! You’re why we continue to write our articles!
1. I think this article will answer most of your questions about tethering: https://carseatblog.com/12749/how-to-use-a-rear-facing-tether/. The goals of Swedish- and Aussie-style tethering are different in terms of energy management. Because of passenger side advanced airbags, we’ve really gotten away from using Swedish-style tethering because of the possibility of interfering with the wiring for them. Some Volvos actually have a dedicated tether anchor under the front passenger seat for tethering, but not everyone is willing to go buy a Volvo, lol.
2. Crash forces are so great that a tether connector strap would fail if you use it forward-facing. It’s only designed to be used rear-facing because those forces are 1/3 of frontal crash forces. I’m all for using a top tether in all FF installations, but it must only be to a factory-installed tether anchor (or other manufacturer-approved tether anchor).
3. I think buckle crunch is a “thing” in Europe for some reason. The plastic casing surrounding a buckle is for looks and general ease of handling. The metal inside of the plastic is what holds the webbing in a crash; I’ve installed carseats in vehicles where the plastic surrounding the buckle was missing. You don’t really want the red (sometimes black) release button to be up against the carseat or positioned so it can be depressed in a crash by the carseat. Maybe that’s what they’re so concerned about? IDK. It’s not really an issue.
Had you tried sweden-style RF tethering in Model 3?
I’ve read your article comparing australian vs swedish, but for seats without anti-rebound bar – Swedish style seems to make much more sense.
Hi Gleb. No, I haven’t tried Swedish-style RF tethering in the M3 because it’s fallen out of practice now. Because of the Easy Entry setting on the driver’s seat, the only place it could be tried is on the passenger side. I’m not sure there’s space under the railing—I haven’t looked yet.