Effective immediately all current models of Diono convertible seats (R100, R120, RadianRXT, Olympia, Pacifica & Rainier) and Diono boosters (Monterey, Cambria, & Solana) can now be used in Ford vehicles that have inflatable seatbelts! This allowance is retroactive to previous Diono and Sunshine Kids Radian and Monterey models.
Currently, inflatable seatbelts are an optional feature in the Ford Explorer, Edge, Flex, Fusion and F-150 as well as in Lincoln’s MKT, MKX and MKZ models. Read more about our experience with inflatable seatbelts in our Ford Explorer Review. This new allowance from Diono does NOT include the inflatable seatbelts found in some Mercedes-Benz vehicles.
Photo Credit: Diono
If you own a Ford or Lincoln vehicle with inflatable seatbelts, or if you are a CPS Technician working in a Ford/Lincoln vehicle that has this technology, please make sure you understand how to lock this particular type of seatbelt before attempting installation of ANY harnessed carseat.
The Ford inflatable seatbelt system uses 2 retractors which is very unusual. One retractor at the top of the shoulder belt, where you normally expect to find a retractor (pic right) and a second retractor (pic below) is near the floor at the end of the lap belt portion of the lap/shoulder belt. When installing ANY approved harnessed seat with these seatbelts you must switch the retractor on the lap belt portion of the seatbelt to locked (ALR) mode. The retractor at the top for the shoulder belt is not “switchable” – it is ELR only, meaning that section of the seatbelt will only lock during a crash or under emergency conditions. ELR retractors don’t do you any good when it comes to a harnessed carseat installation (boosters are a different story) so you MUST lock the lap belt portion of the seatbelt by “switching” the bottom retractor to locked mode. Switching a switchable retractor to locked mode is achieved by pulling the webbing of the seatbelt all the way to the end. When the webbing starts to retracts, you will hear a ratcheting sound and you will notice that the belt webbing goes in but won’t come out in this locked mode. Read the vehicle’s owners manual for clarification and more specific details.
If using an inflatable seatbelt to secure a child in a Diono Booster seat, you don’t have to worry about any of this. Just route the seatbelt properly and buckle.
Car Escape Tools: A Perfect Father’s Day Gift (That’s Really For You)
Ever get that special gift for your birthday or Mother’s Day? You know, the one that you knew really wasn’t for you? Maybe it was that chainsaw you always dreamed about? Or something useful, but perhaps not all that thrilling, like a homeowner’s tool kit? Maybe it was something like an iPad that you actually liked, but it was quickly claimed by that special someone who gave it to you? Of course, I personally have always given thoughtful gifts, but I always keep an eye out for the perfect gift. The one that will not only be appreciated, but also doesn’t seem like you actually had yourself or your kids in mind, even if you did!
We know that all of our savvy readers are concerned with auto safety. Being trapped in a vehicle can be very scary, even if it is not on fire or sinking in the water! If there isn’t a fire or water hazard, you may have time to dial 911, and then have some options to try different windows or a hatch for escape. But if there is a hazard, you might not have the time to do anything but unbuckle yourself and escape, and any precious seconds wasted are fewer seconds you have if you also need to unbuckle your children!
There are dozens of tools at Amazon and other stores to help you escape. Most are of a “Hammer” design, requiring a good swing or flick of the wrist to crack the glass. These may work well enough if you have the room, but getting a good swing if your car is filling with water may not be so easy. These types of crashes are not very common, but may claim the lives of hundreds of occupants a year. Plus, your husband doesn’t really want a bright yellow or pink plastic hammer! That’s a clear sign that you might not have had him in mind when buying the gift;-)
There’s an easy solution, a spring-loaded punch. Even one from a hardware store should do the job. But good quality ones can be somewhat expensive, while cheap ones can jam or break easily. Hardware store tools do make good gifts for Father’s Day, but why stop there when you can have something better shipped to your door? We’ve found the ultimate Father’s Day or birthday gift for Dad, something that will also give YOU peace of mind in case of a vehicle entrapment crash!
Enter the StatGear T3 Tactical Auto Rescue Tool. Even the name has Father’s Day written all over it. It’s the black steel equivalent of a Swiss Army knife for escaping an automobile. You get not only a covered, spring-loaded center punch for breaking glass easily, but you also get a hardened stainless steel hook blade for cutting seatbelts and harness straps, a serrated high carbon 440C stainless steel knife blade and an LED light with replaceable batteries. And best of all, you get something that LOOKS like a gift for Dad, even if you also had yourself and your kids in mind when you bought it!
It’s frequently on sale for under $35 at Amazon, which is about the same as a high quality hardware store spring-loaded center punch that doesn’t give you any extra features. It’s a great gift for any driver. Designed by a NYC Paramedic, it should be handy for first responders as well. This is definitely not a tool that should be easy for kids to reach, as with any sharp edged knife or tool. The closing mechanism on the knife is similar to some other knives and requires caution for adults as well.
Want to step it up a notch? Go for the StatGear Auto Survival Kit for $59.99. In stock, and free delivery by Father’s Day if you order soon! It includes the T3 Tactical Auto Rescue Tool. Plus, you get other auto emergency and first aid essentials, including a re-usable glow stick, nitrile gloves, gauze, an assortment of bandages, instant ice packs, alcohol prep pads, tape, antibiotic ointment, tweezers and emergency drinking water. It’s all packaged in a nice, padded black case with velcro to strap around a large sun visor or fits into a center console, door pocket or glove compartment.
And it works, too! Smashes tempered auto glass more easily than a hammer style escape tool and cuts through harness material like butter. I tested it out and took a look at the Survival Kit in this video:
Now maybe some would prefer that pink one for themselves or for their teen driver? No worries, StatGear has you covered as well. The SuperVisor XT is a compact model that attaches easily to any sun visor. It’s not a spring-loaded design like the T3, but it does include a seatbelt/harness cutting tool. And if pink isn’t your thing, it comes in black, green and orange, too.
Hopefully, you won’t need any tool to break a window if your car goes into the water. Wikihow has some additional tips for escaping from a sinking car. For those cases where you do need a tool because of water pressure, door damage or other factors, do keep in mind that hammer and center punch tools won’t always shatter the whole window enough for you fit. They should be able to break it enough to where you can use some other object like the knife blade of the T3 tool, a wrapped fist or a kick with your shoes to clear the rest of the window if necessary.
Thank you to StatGear Tools for providing the kit used in this review. No other compensation was provided. All opinions are my own.
The Pacifica isn’t an update of the existing Town & Country, and it’s not a revamp of the crossover Pacifica SUV/Wagon that was discontinued more than 10 years ago—it’s a completely new vehicle with a brand new look. If you read about our little mishap, you might have the wrong impression that we were not excited by this new minivan. To be fair, we saw a prototype at a media event and we are actually very encouraged that this should be a big improvement in terms of safety and carseat installation.
The Pacifica will be available in 7- and 8-passenger models. In both models, there are full sets of LATCH in both second-row captains chairs, and also two full sets of LATCH in the third row (more on that in a minute). In the 8-passenger model (below, left), the center seat in the second row also has a top tether anchor. The 7-passenger model can be configured with an aisle in the center of the 2nd row (below, right). Sliding doors with wide openings are a given.
Now, let’s talk about those two sets of LATCH in the third row. That sounds great, but it comes with a couple caveats. One set of LATCH is on the passenger outboard side, and appears to be pretty standard. That’s a nice improvement, too, over the Town & Country.
The other set of LATCH is offset between the center and driver’s outboard sides, meaning that if you installed a seat with LATCH there, you’d be using up two seating positions. (This is similar to the existing Town & Country setup.) On the plus side, that gives you plenty of room to put two seats back there. On the downside, you can only put two seats back there if you use that offset LATCH position. (You could use all three seatbelt positions, though, or install with LATCH on the passenger side and use the two seatbelts in the center and on the other side.)
The two tether anchors in the third row are designed for use with the seating positions that also have lower anchors, so there’s one for the outboard passenger side, and one that’s centered to align with that offset position. This means that particular tether anchor doesn’t align with the center or driver’s outboard seats when using a seatbelt. We don’t know whether Chrysler will allow the anchor to be used for those positions.
There’s one other potential downside to that offset LATCH position. Because it overlaps two regular seats, there’s a seatbelt buckle (for the driver’s side passenger) and a mini-connector (for the center seatbelt position) sitting smack-dab in the middle of the LATCH anchors. That means that a car seat would have to sit on top of the buckles. I thought for sure there would be a way to tuck them out of the way, but there wasn’t. I could kind of shove them in, but that actually created a bigger lump closer to the seat bight (photo right, tan). Chrylser has since informed us that the display Pacifica was an older prototype third row seat configuration. We have a photo of what will apparently be the improved final design for the third row belt layout with the buckles tucked away for LATCH installation of a carseat (below, light grey):
Photo courtesy of Chrysler
One major complaint about the Town & Country is that the third row seatbelts often don’t fit well on kids in booster seats and kids big enough to be out of boosters. The belt might not make contact with their shoulders or torsos, which is a problem. We wanted to see if the Pacifica addressed that issue.
I have somewhat different criteria for my teen drivers. For example, while I also exclude the smallest sub-compact and “micro” vehicles, I have no issue with my teen driving a compact sedan if it is above 2,750 lbs., as long is it has great crash test results. While compact cars do give up a little in terms of weight in a frontal crash, they are generally more maneuverable and easier to handle and park. That’s a big deal for new drivers. And of course, compact cars are less expensive to buy and maintain. I am also more concerned about having top results in all the actual crash tests, including the new IIHS small overlap test, and less concerned about certain other results.
Unfortunately, the IIHS excludes compact sedans from their list, even top performing models with many safety features and decent all-around crash test scores, including their own small overlap test. In fact, some models they recommend do very poorly in this newer crash test. Also, many of their recommendations are well over $10,000.
4-star or better NHTSA overall rating
No “2-star” or “1-star” ratings in any individual NHTSA crash test or rollover rating.
No “Marginal” or “Poor” IIHS crash test results in ANY test, including the newer small overlap test
Around $10,000 or less to buy.
Good visibility and handling.
Stability control and side-curtain airbags.
No minicars, sub-compacts or any model below 2,750lbs. Weight is a bad thing on roads, I know. More mass means more kinetic energy and more wasted fuel. But when the other guy is driving a 5,000 lb. truck, the smallest cars become splatter.