View Full Version : Help me understand "open loop" belt guides?

07-04-2003, 08:03 AM
I have been doing some research on car seats that are used as boosters and with a 5-pt harness. I am confused however on the issue of the "open loop" belt guides. I have read from the Fields and Consumer Reports that these are the safest options to keep the straps from getting too much slack. But I am confused about what they look like or how to recognize them. Anyone have any advice?

I am looking for a car seat for my MIL. My DD is 2 1/2 and on the small side (less than 30 lbs). I don't want my MIL to have to keep buying seats, so I would love to get her a combo that will let her change over to a booster when my DD finally hits 40 lbs (which will probably be when she is 8!).

I have read mixed reviews on the Cosco Summit and the Evenflo Triumph, but they both have these open loops. Are there any other seats that fall into this category that people recommend (open loop seats that can be used as booster or with harness)? Thanks!

07-04-2003, 01:29 PM
Open loop belt guides are open spaces that the belt threads through that allow the belt to slide freely, so that it can give slack when someone leans forward, and then reel in the slack when they lean back, just as they do when adults use them.

The other kind (closed loop? I'm not sure) are more like the belt clips you use with certain other seats, where there is a sort of flat "H-shaped" piece that the belt threads through. This prevents the belt from slackening and tightening freely. The hazard with these is that they need to be individually adjusted each time the child uses the belt (e.g. child wears a snowsuit one day, then only a jacket the next, or vice versa) and if the child pushes against the belt from the "inside", they can create some slack which the belt cannot reel back in automatically... so the child is not well restrained any more. And there are now some belt guides that are kind of in between the two.

I can't give you concrete recommendations on a seat (we're still in convertible-land) but I'd definitely avoid the Cosco Summit because its harness slots top out at a measly 15" high... which is the same as most convertibles... so you've gained nothing by moving out of a convertible into this seat! More specifically, this also means that the child is much more likely to get too tall for the harness before they exceed the harness's weight limits... which means that you are forced to "graduate" the child out of the harness and into the booster long before she is really ready for it. Harnesses keep kids positioned better, and spread the force of an impact better, so a rule of thumb is to keep them in the harness for as long as you can arrange to.

I hope that made sense - I have a cat walking to and fro between me and the monitor as I write this!



07-18-2003, 09:07 AM
Just to clarify a bit more-

Consumer Reports originally identified a problem where the guides in some boosters could catch slack in the shoulder belt. This would happen if the child leaned forward or pulled on the belt, and then it would not retract again. This could leave the child with much less protection.

The answer is usually closer supervision and discipline. In some cars, the shoulder belts lock if you pull them all the way out. That will also prevent the child from pulling the belt in the first place. Some kids are tall enough that the belts fit them properly even without the guides.

"Open Loop" guides are ones with very large openings that will not restrict the belt from retracting. Most booster-only models have this type, as do a couple combination models like the Summit and Grow With Me (discontinued).

Most combination models have narrow slots which tend to be the ones identified with the problem.

Some combination models (usually Century and Graco) go one step farther. These are the ones Kathy mentioned that look a little bit like an H-shaped plastic locking clip. These are designed to hold the shoulder belt tightly. Used according to the instructions, Consumer Reports did not find this type to be a problem. While they will prevent the shoulder belt from retracting, they also prevent inadvertent pulls and leans from pulling the shoulder belt through. Note that if the shoulder belt is routed improperly (though only one side of the H), then they will act much like the problem type that can catch the shoulder belt.

Keep in mind again that any type is safe if you can teach you child to stay seated properly and make sure they don't pull slack in the belt. All these models provide good crash protection when used properly.

I have a Summit also. It is a reasonable harnessed seat and a very nice booster. It fit my son to almost 40 pounds in the harness (he's about 75th percentile height and weight). Kids who are in higher percentiles for height than weight will probably outgrow the harness too soon, as Kathy said. Kids in higher percentiles for weight than height should be OK. I have a review here:


The Field's also gave the Summit a reasonable overall rating in their Booster guide, noting many of these same issues.