We have reviewed many Britax seats over the years and honestly, they’ve never failed to knock our socks off. Britax has been on the front line of car seat technology for many years and they have devoted themselves to constantly making their new seats better and safer than the previous ones. The ClickTight system is the latest and greatest example of this and thousands of families use these seats every day.
In a lot of ways, this particular review will just be a bit of an update to the already very thorough review of the Britax Boulevard Clicktight, but for a few small differences.
First, and most obviously, it’s an Advocate ClickTight not a Boulevard CT, but the only significant difference between the two models is the external side-impact cushions on the Advocate. Now, that’s not to say they are not significant, as they provide an extra layer of energy-absorbtion and side-impact protection, it’s just to say that the interior of the seat is essentially identical to the Boulevard CT, so there’s not much to add there. Second, this particular version of the Advocate comes with an anti-rebound bar (ARB). You can also purchase a Boulevard ClickTight with ARB if you prefer the Boulevard model. If you already own an Advocate or Boulevard model with ClickTight, you can order the ARB separately for your seat.
What IS an Anti-Rebound Bar?
Some of you may be wondering what an anti-rebound bar is, so before we jump into the review, it’s worth reviewing the function of an ARB. The anti-rebound bar is a U shaped piece of metal that connects to the foot area of the car seat and rests against the vehicle seat back in rear-facing mode only. The anti-rebound bar prevents the seat from rebounding or bouncing back into the vehicle seat back during the final stages of a frontal crash. In Britax’s private crash tests, they found that their ARB reduces the rebound of their seats by 40% and provides improved stability for front, rear-end and side-impact crashes. It may seem like an unassuming car seat accessory, but this chunk of metal does more than meets the eye.
What Comes With the Advocate CT and What Comes Separately?
The Advocate with ARB comes out of the box with the anti-rebound bar, energy absorbing HUGS, the EZ-Buckle System, infant body cusion and strap covers.
ClickTight installation system- a built in lock off that installs the Advocate so easily you will think you’ve done something wrong, except it’s rock solidly installed and you have done everything right. It’s that amazing.
14-position headrest with no-rethread harness
2 crotch buckle positions with EZ-Buckle System, which keeps the crotch buckle out of the way during loading and unloading. Once you have this, you will wish every seat had it.
Steel reinforced frame
3 layers of side impact protection:
1. energy absorbing shell
2. Foam lined headrest
3. External side impact cushions
Impact-absorbing base – contains cells that are designed to compress down during a crash and reduce forward head excursion for the child.
Energy-absorbing Versa-Tether for forward facing
7 recline positions with easy to read angle indication bubble for rear facing angle. It has 2 zones- newborn and toddler to allow for more upright, but still safe, positioning for older rear facers. There’s no “too upright” when rear facing a toddler in this seat!
I just wrapped up my review of the brand new Evenflo Spectrum Booster, and I had mentioned that it was rollover tested. I recently had the privilege of being able to test out another new Evenflo seat,SafeMax 3-in-1 Combination Seat. This is a forward-facing only seat for kids 2+ that can also be used as a highback booster and eventually as a backless booster too. They call it a 3-in-1 product which can be a little misleading because many consumers think a 3-in-1 carseat always means Rear-Facing/Forward-Facing/Booster. However, in this case it means Forward-Facing/Highback Booster/Backless Booster. This is a Stage 3 carseat that is most appropriate for pre-school and school-aged children.
Evenflo SafeMax 3-in-1 Specs & Features:
5-point harness: Forward-facing only for kids 22-65 lbs., at least 2 years old, height 28- 50″ tall (shoulders must be at or below top harness slots).
Booster mode with vehicle lap/shoulder belt: 40-120 lbs., at least 4 years old, height 44 – 57″ (top of ears must be below the top of the head support).
4 harness height positions
2 crotch strap/buckle positions
Height-adjustable head support
Steel reinforced frame
Recline feature on base (reclined position required for kids under 40 lbs.)
Harness strap covers (required for kids under 40 lbs.)
Buckle Pockets keep harness out of the way while loading/unloading
Dual integrated cup holders
Basic, hook-style lower LATCH connectors (LATCH limit is 45 lbs.)
FAA approved for use in aircraft (with 5-pt harness)
Evidence-based justification for extended rear-facing
It’s all the rage among parents nowadays: extended rear-facing. If you’re turning your child to face forward before age 2, then you’re old-schooling it and increasing your child’s risk of injury in a crash. Many pediatricians still hold onto the now ancient recommendation of turning kids forward-facing at age 1 and 20 lbs., even though their own professional organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, hasn’t recommended that since before 2002. You were probably in grade school then.
Why is it so critical for kids to stay rear-facing?
When you use the carseat right, it protects them and you from potentially being forever changed if you get into a crash.
Simple Physics Lesson
A carseat will always move toward the point of impact (Newton’s 1st Law). In a frontal collision—statistically the most common type of severe/fatal crash—the entire back of a rear-facing carseat will protect the head, neck, and spine of a child as it rotates down toward the front of the vehicle. Even in a side impact, which is a more serious type of crash due to its proximity to passengers, there is usually an element of frontal movement, such as a vehicle moving forward through an intersection, as it’s hit from the side. So a rear-facing carseat will rotate down and forward, then toward the side where the impact occurs.
Click each graphic to see the motion:
Compare this to a forward-facing child in a harnessed carseat. In a frontal crash, the carseat still rotates down and forward toward the front of the vehicle, and the child will be flung forward into the harness and forward of the carseat shell. In a side impact, again the carseat rotates down and forward toward the front of the vehicle; the child comes forward into the harness and out of the carseat shell and there is rotation toward the vehicle door where the impact occurs. Because the harness is holding only the shoulders and hips, the head, arms, and legs are flung violently forward. If the harness is loose, which is one of the most common mistakes a caregiver makes, there’s a high likelihood of the child hitting the vehicle seat in front or the side pillar. According to this study, rear-facing children 12-23 months are 5.53 times safer in a side impact than forward-facing children and there’s no indication that safety magically disappears at 24 months.
The folklore is that a child’s neck muscles aren’t developed enough to keep a baby’s neck safe in a car crash, which is why they have to face the rear of the vehicle. I suppose that’s true in a way: it does take babies time to develop their musculature so they can hold their heads up to keep their airways open. But the muscles don’t protect the fragile spinal cord, which is the bundle of nerve fibers that forms the central nervous system and is connected to the brainstem. No amount of baby push-ups will strengthen your child’s muscles to the point of protecting his spinal cord.
The bones of the spinal column are what actually protect the spinal cord and in infants and young children; they aren’t completely fused together for years. One of the most important cervical bones, the Atlas (C1), is what attaches the head to the spinal column. Drawings show where it ossifies, or fuses, at varying times: the anterior arch fuses around age 7, while the posterior neural arches fuse around age 3. Before it fuses, the Atlas and Axis (C2), the 2nd vertebra that the Atlas nestles into, are made of bone and cartilage, which is very pliable. These two vertebrae are held in place by ligaments, which are very elastic (lax) to allow the child to grow.
Studies of infant cadavers have shown that vertebral columns can stretch up to 2” but that the spinal cord is damaged after only ¼”. Given that a baby’s head accounts for ¼ of its total body size versus 1/7 an adult’s size, plus the immaturity of its vertebrae and laxity of the ligaments holding those vertebrae together, rear-facing seems the obvious choice.
The child’s large head shifts the fulcrum of movement, where the head swings forward, higher, elongating the spinal column and potentially causing catastrophic damage to the spinal cord. Before age 8, this fulcrum is in the upper cervical spine, at C2-C3. After age 8, the fulcrum shifts down to C5-C6, where it stays into adulthood. When you hear the term “internal decapitation,” it encompasses this movement of the upper cervical spine since the head swinging forward must happen in order for the ligaments to stretch and pull the head from the Atlas.
Another devastating injury that doesn’t show up on x-ray is called Spinal Cord Injury without Radiographic Abnormality (SCIWORA). This is when the spinal cord stretches because of the elasticity of the ligaments and cartilage in the spinal column. An x-ray will show normal bone alignment and no fractures, but the spinal cord may be irreversibly damaged. Remember that this bundle of fibers can only stretch up to ¼” before having catastrophic damage.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended since 2002 that after age 1 and 20 lbs., children should ride in a rear-facing convertible seat until reaching the weight limit of that carseat. They amended that policy in March 2011 to recommend rear-facing to age 2 or until they reach the “highest weight or height allowed” by that convertible carseat.
Note how the legs fly away from the back of the vehicle seat during the rear-facing test on the left. In the forward-facing seat, the properly secured dummy bends nearly in half during the crash test. Photo courtesy Kathy Weber, ret., UMTRI, and SafetyBeltSafe USA.
A tightly installed rear-facing carseat allows the vehicle and carseat to absorb crash forces and increases “ride down,” the amount of time it takes a body to come to a stop in a crash. The longer the ride down time, the less chance of injury. (http://www.car-safety.org/rearface.html)
Rear-facing carseats provide excellent protection in side impacts as well. Because there’s usually a vehicle moving forward, as through an intersection, that element of forward motion can easily throw a child’s head clear of the carseat if he’s forward-facing. If rear-facing, his head will stay protected inside the carseat. (http://www.carseatsite.com/rf.htm)
Infants and young toddlers have spines made of soft bone and cartilage that doesn’t begin to harden until around age 3. As a result, the spinal column can stretch up to 2 inches; however, the spinal cord will rupture after being stretched after only ¼ inch. This damage cannot be repaired. (http://www.carseat.org/Technical/tech_update.htm#rearfacFF)
Evenflo is now requiring that children be age 2 before forward-facing in their convertible and combination carseats.
Approximately 75% of kids in Sweden rear-face until at least age 4. From 1999-2006, only 4 rear-facing children under age 4 were killed in crashes and their deaths were due to circumstances unrelated to the direction the carseat was facing (fire, drowning, excessive intrusion). During that same timeframe, 6 kids under age 4 facing forward in booster seats were killed; 3 of these crashes were potentially survivable crashes had the children been in rear-facing carseats. (http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/338/jun11_2/b1994)
Anecdotal evidence suggests that infants around ages 10 mos.-18 mos. enter a fussy stage that makes it difficult to put them into any carseat, rear- or forward-facing. Many parents prematurely switch the rear-facing carseat forward-facing thinking that the child is objecting to riding rear-facing, when the child is objecting to being restrained at all. Visit the Car Seat Safety forums at www.car-seat.org and you’ll hear from other experienced parents regarding this phase.
The above video shows how the dummy stays contained in the seat during a rear-facing crash test. The tape on the dummy’s head is for measurement and doesn’t affect its head during the test.
This video is the companion video to the one above and shows a side view of the crash test. Note how little the head moves.
The above video shows a properly installed forward-facing seat. Note the seat belt stretch and how far forward the dummy bends.
The above video from Norway shows the differences between rear- and forward-facing carseats in an animated crash.
The above video from the Buckle Up Brutus at Ohio State University demonstrates the difference between rear-facing and forward-facing in crash tests.
If you need more convincing, take it from Dr. Marilyn Bull, a noted pediatrician from one of the country’s best pediatric hospitals, Riley Children’s Hospital in Indiana. This video was produced for, and used in, the current Child Passenger Safety Technician course.
Vehicle crashes are the number 1 killer of children. Protect your children to the best of your ability. Follow best practice.
Britax, in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Health Canada, and Profeco (Mexico), is conducting a voluntary recall of all Britax B-Agile and BOB Motion stroller models listed below.
When used as a travel system with the Click & Go receivers to attach the carseat to the stroller frame, the receiver mount may be damaged and cause the carseat to disengage unexpectedly and fall. If the carseat falls to the ground, the child may be injured.
Model numbers for single strollers are located on the inside of the stroller frame near the right rear wheel. For double strollers, it’s located on the front middle underside of the frame. Models affected:
What should you do:
Stop using the carseat on the stroller as a travel system IMMEDIATELY. It is completely SAFE to continue using your stroller in the recline mode for infants though.
Go to www.us.britax.com/recall or call 1-844-227-0300 to request a free repair kit that contains a new set of Click & Go receivers and instructions.