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Dangerous Seat Belt Extenders

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Why Seat Belt Extenders Should Not Be Used with Carseats and Boosters

seat belt extender in Tesla Model XHave you seen the recent story in the news about Ethan, the 6 year old who was severely and permanently injured in a crash? Because his seat belt buckle was flush with the vehicle seat, his father used a seat belt extender to make buckling his booster seat easier and it failed in the crash. What is a seat belt extender and why should it NEVER be used with kids in carseats?

Seat belt extenders are designed for ADULTS who are too large to fit into seat belts. This means that they have pulled the seat belt out all the way and it still doesn’t allow them to buckle it, not that it’s too difficult for them to buckle (my mom is obese and she struggles greatly to buckle the seat belt in my car, but that doesn’t mean it’s too short). There are different kinds of extenders: rigid, which have a metal stalk, and flexible, which have a webbing stalk, and they come in differing lengths. They also come in different colors and some are designed to be bolted at the seat belt anchor instead of buckled at the buckle.

If an adult needs an extender, they should choose the one that is the shortest that will accomplish the job of buckling the seat belt. Seat belt extenders change the geometry of the seat belt on the body. Ideally, the lap belt should lay low on the hips and the shoulder belt should cross the chest and touch the collar bone midway (use the vehicle’s shoulder belt height adjuster to change this, if there is one). Using an extender will cause the shoulder belt to shift off the collar bone because the buckle moves the latchplate and buckle over the body. No hardware should touch the body because it would cut into it in a crash; the seat belt will slice through the body until it reaches bone. In fact, the instructions will tell you exactly where the extender buckle will be placed in relation to the center of your body (your belly button).

What makes seat belt extenders dangerous? They are specific to the vehicle and seat belt into which they buckle and not every vehicle manufacturer makes them. NHTSA, the government agency which crash tests vehicles, hasn’t safety tested extenders. Just because a generic extender you bought off Amazon or some other website buckles into your car’s buckle doesn’t mean it will hold in a crash. And the extenders that bolt at the seat belt anchor? The instructions don’t even specify the amount of torque to be applied to the bolt!

Word of mouth makes seat belt extenders popular. I’m sure all vehicle groups discuss them at some point, but I’m most familiar with the Tesla forums since we’ve been early adopters of all 3 models—the Model S, the Model X, and the Model 3. Tesla parents are frustrated that their kids can’t easily buckle themselves into their boosters, or if there’s a 3-across situation, they can’t buckle themselves next to a sibling’s carseat because the buckle is flush with the vehicle seat.

Now would be a good time to talk quickly about crash forces. A simple way to figure out how much force you’ll put on a seat belt (or harness for a child) is to multiply your weight by the speed you’re going. So, if you’re going 30 mph, which is the standard crash test speed for a carseat, and you weigh 150 lbs., 30 x 150 = 4500 lbs. of force against the seat belt. Can you imagine having the hardware (latchplate and buckle of the extender) on your hip bone or belly in a crash? Only do it if you absolutely must, not for convenience; it’s better to be restrained for sure.

Why shouldn’t kids use a buckle extender when using a booster? For a variety of reasons.
  • Increasing the length of the seat belt increases head excursion and neck flexion. What does that mean in layman’s terms? A higher possibility of head and neck injury and a much greater risk of the child hitting the inside of the vehicle. Having a pre-tensioner to spool the extra webbing back during the crash cycle may help, but those are only just now coming out in back seats.
  • seat belt extender booster Tesla Model XThe extender may place the buckle right under the arm of the booster, which can then knock the latch release in a crash, leaving your child unbuckled.
  • It may place seat belt hardware over your child’s soft belly. The whole goal of a seat belt (and booster seat!) is to protect your child in a crash. Changing the geometry so that the buckle is near, or over your child’s abdomen, increases the injury potential.
  • It’s infuriating as a parent to know that someone is trying to make a buck off our children’s safety by selling a quick-fix solution targeted at unknowing caregivers.
What should you do instead of using a buckle extender?
  • Use a harnessed carseat as long as possible. It’s much easier to buckle a harness, which is up front and easily seen, than to struggle with a seat belt buckle that may be hidden.
  • Pull the booster forward on the vehicle seat slightly, buckle the child, then slide the booster and child back into position. Don’t forget to snug up the seat belt! This requires some strength, though.
  • If the buckle stalk is floppy, cut a short portion of a pool noodle and wrap it around the stalk.
  • Use a booster without arms, if you can. This isn’t always possible, unfortunately. Some vehicles have head restraints that jut forward and push the headwings of the booster forward. Most booster manufacturers won’t allow this. I’ve contacted our Maxi Cosi rep and she confirmed they don’t allow the RodiFix to be used with the Tesla Model X, which is unfortunate because it’s often mentioned as a solution for that vehicle. There’s too much of a gap for Maxi Cosi to feel comfortable that the RodiFix will perform well in a crash. You’ll want to check for that gap in other Tesla models since the vehicle seats are similar amongst the newer models.
  • Use a narrow booster or one that tapers toward the back. This means, of course, that your child needs to be narrow too and we know that kids come in all shapes and sizes, so that won’t always work.
  • Keep the booster buckled and have your child slide in and out of the seat belt. This takes a mature kid who won’t pull the length of the seat belt out and is fairly flexible. The trick is to put the shoulder belt behind the child’s back first, then slide down under the lap belt. Reverse the process to get into the booster.
  • In the future, look for vehicles that don’t have buckles that are flush with the vehicle seat. While this type of buckle actually improves belt fit and keeps the latchplate out of the belt path for carseat installation, if you’ve had a kid struggle to buckle a seat belt with one, you know the seconds tick by like hours until you get that tickle of anxiety in the pit of your stomach and grab the latchplate from them in a fit of “let me do it for you so we can get out of here!”

There are certainly alternatives to using a seat belt extender. It’s an easy out and usually easy tricks like that and carseats don’t mix. You don’t want your child injured and you certainly don’t want the hospital bill that comes with it!

Graco TrioGrow SnugLock LX Review

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2019-2020 Graco TrioGrow SnugLock LX Review

ThatcherGraco took one 4Ever All-in-One carseat, threw it in a container with a lock-off that spins 360°, shook everything up really well, and out popped a TrioGrow SnugLock. Well, not really, but that’s what a crazy carseat geek with a wild imagination comes up with! In all seriousness, Graco has a winning formula with the 4Ever platform: it’s easy to install, easy to use, and fits a wide variety of children. The TrioGrow SnugLock 3-in-1 is a different carseat, though, so as its name suggests, it only offers 3 modes of use: rear-facing, forward-facing, and highback booster. The version reviewed here is the TrioGrow SnugLock LX.

Weight and Height Limits:
  • Rear-facing: 5-40 lbs. AND child’s head is 1” below height adjustment handle
  • Forward-facing: 22-65 lbs., 49” or less
  • Highback booster: 40-100 lbs., 43-57”, at least 4 years old
TrioGrow SnugLock Overview:
  • 360° spinning SnugLock lockoff that acts as a tensioning device for both rear- and forward-facing installations
  • Adjustable base with 3 rear-facing recline positions, 3 forward-facing recline positions, 1 booster recline position
  • No re-thread harness with 10 position headrest
  • Easy-to-read ball level indicator
  • Energy-absorbing EPS foam
  • On-board harness storage for booster mode
  • Steel reinforced frame
  • Two cup holders
  • Machine-washable cover
  • 10 yr lifespan before seat expires
  • MSRP $179.99
LX Version Adds:
  • InRight™ (push-on) LATCH
  • Fuss Free harness pockets
  • Rapid Remove cover
  • MSRP $239.99

Thatcher Sonic Leland

TrioGrow Measurements:

Harness height: ~6 ¼” with infant insert*/8” without insert-17 ½ ”
Shoulder belt guide height: 18 ½ ”
External widest point: 19”
Shell height with headrest: 30”
Shoulder width: 14”
Crotch strap depth: inner slot: 2” with padding*, 3 ½” without padding; outer slot: 5 ½”
Seat depth: 12”
Seat weight: 18 lbs. with padding, 17.7 lbs. without padding

*Because of the shape of the infant insert, it was difficult to get an accurate measurement. I chose a spot in about the middle of the padded area from which to measure.

Don’t forget about our comparison database!

Installation:

The TrioGrow installs like a dream: super easy and doesn’t take up a whole lot of room in your back seat. However,

GIVEAWAY! Britax One4Life ClickTight All-in-One Carseat

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Britax’s new One4Life ClickTight All-in-One carseat  is now available and we have a full review here! We’ve also partnered with our generous friends at BritaxUSA to give away a new One4Life ClickTight carseat to one lucky winner (USA only, sorry)!

One4Life ClickTight Specs & Features:
  • Rear-facing: 5-50 lbs. AND child’s head is 1” below top edge of headrest
  • Forward-facing: 22-65 lbs., 49” or less
  • Highback booster: 40-120 lbs., 44-63”, at least 4 years old
  • Improved ClickTight installation with color-coded belt guides
  • Adjustable 9-position base
  • No re-thread harness with 15 position headrest
  • Energy-absorbing, rip-stitch V-shaped tether
  • SafeCell technology
  • High strength steel reinforced frame
  • Energy-absorbing EPP foam
  • Deluxe push-on LATCH connectors
  • Flip-forward buckle pad
  • Built-in cooling channels with ventilated mesh for improved air flow
  • On-board harness storage for booster mode
  • Two dishwasher-safe cup holders
  • Easily removable machine-washable cover
  • 10 yr lifespan before seat expires
How to Enter Britax One4Life ClickTight Giveaway:

SORRY, contest is now OVER!

  • Leave us a comment below (required to be eligible to win), then click on Rafflecopter to qualify yourself.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now for the fine print – winner must have a USA shipping address to claim the prize. Only one prize will be awarded. Only one entry per household/family, please. If you leave more than one comment, only the first one will count. We reserve the right to deem any entry as ineligible for any reason, though this would normally only be done in the case of a violation of the spirit of the rules above. We also reserve the right to edit/update the rules for any reason. The contest will close on October 20, 2019, and one random winner will be chosen shortly thereafter. If a winner is deemed ineligible based on shipping restrictions or other issues or does not respond to accept the prize within 7 days, a new winner will be selected.

Please note: If this is your first comment at CarseatBlog, or if you are using a different computer/device or a new email address, your comment may not appear immediately. Your comment is not lost; it just goes into a moderated queue where it has to be manually approved by one of us. This may take a few hours depending on our availability. If you are outside of the US or Canada, your comment may be blocked by our system. Thank you for understanding, as this is the only way we have to manage spam comments.

Good luck!

Britax One4Life ClickTight All-in-One Carseat Review

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2019-2020 Britax One4Life ClickTight All-in-One Carseat Review

Britax has finally hit the scene with a brand-new all-in-one carseat: the One4Life ClickTight. We’ve been waiting for a long time for them to jump on the bandwagon since it seems everyone has an all-in-one these days (I mean, if *everyone* is doing it, you must follow suit, right?). That must explain the name, too? 😉 Well, Britax doesn’t disappoint with this feature-rich carseat that improves upon the already easy-to-use ClickTight installation system to give us a 50-pound rear-facing weight limit and tallest all-in-one booster.

One4Life Weight and Height Limits:
  • Rear-facing: 5-50 lbs. AND child’s head is 1” below top edge of headrest
  • Forward-facing: 22-65 lbs., 49” or less
  • Highback booster: 40-120 lbs., 44-63”, at least 4 years old
One4Life Overview:
  • Improved ClickTight installation with color-coded belt guides
  • Adjustable 9-position base
  • No re-thread harness with 15 position headrest
  • Energy-absorbing, rip-stitch V-shaped tether
  • Available anti-rebound bar
  • SafeCell technology
  • High strength steel reinforced frame
  • Energy-absorbing EPP foam
  • Deluxe push-on LATCH connectors
  • Flip-forward buckle pad
  • Built-in cooling channels with ventilated mesh for improved air flow
  • On-board harness storage for booster mode
  • Two dishwasher-safe cup holders
  • Easily removable machine-washable cover
  • 10 yr lifespan before seat expires
  • MSRP $364.99-$399.99

Cadet Drift Eclipse Black Plum Black Diamond Clean Comfort

The One4Life with Anti-Rebound bar is now available at select local Brixy baby stores near you. The anti-rebound bar will be available as an accessory very soon and will retail for $54.99.

One4Life Measurements:
  • Harness height: 7 ½ ”-19”
  • Shoulder belt guide height: 21 ½ ”
  • External widest point: 19 ½ ”
  • Base width: 14 3/4″
  • Shell height with headrest: 30 ½ ”
  • Shoulder width: 14”
  • Crotch strap depth: inner slot: 1 ½ ” without infant insert (headrest in lowest position); second slot: 1 ½ “ with infant insert, 5 3/4 ” without insert; outer slot: 7 ½” without insert
  • Seat depth: 13”
  • Seat weight: 29.5 lbs. with padding, 28.9 lbs. without padding

Don’t forget about our comparison database!

One4Life ClickTight Installation: