MAD4WD 2" Corbeau Harness belts
By BillaVista


 

 

 

Safety.

We all talk about it. It's very often not very complicated...........and yet, if you're like me, we're not always the best at practicing it. I had been running my rock buggy "The Wolf" for far too long using just some discarded 3" wide old RJS racing lap belts. Now that I'm wheeling more and more with my son, I decided it was high time the Wolf got some REAL safety harnesses - not just for him to wear, but me too. It'd be no fun for him if daddy got hurt either.

Trouble is - very often these important upgrades are easily put-off. "As long as nothing goes wrong", the fools logic goes, "I don't REALLY need them". This is dangerous thinking. I KNEW I needed some proper protection for occupants of the Wolf, but I was still putting other mods and upgrades first.

Then I saw Larry (TJ Fan) from MAD4WD's post in the Pirate4x4.com Vendor Forum announcing awesome Pirate4x4 pricing on Corbeau's new 2" harness belts. These caught my eye right away for several reasons, each of which I'll explain a bit further later on: They were 2" wide, they were offered in a 3 point style, and most importantly to me, they used a regular automotive seatbelt style latch-and-buckle arrangement. I called Larry up to discuss them and placed my order.

Larry talked me through all of the options (and there are quite a few) from 3 point or 4 point, bolt-in or snap-in, single or double release etc. Then we got to BSing about 4x4s and such - I think we probably yakked for almost an hour, he was a great guy to talk with, knowledgeable about and passionately committed to the sport/hobby - in short - just the kind of place you should spend your hard-earned $$.

Here are the options available in these harnesses:

  1. Number of points: 3 or 4
  2. Mounting method: Bolt-in or Snap-in
  3. Tether strap style: Regular or double release(3 point only) or retractable
  4. Colours: Red, Blue, Black, or Yellow

In short - you can customize your order to get exactly what you want. All the harnesses are 2" wide nylon webbing and feature a push-button automotive style release buckle. Corbeau's blurb from their web page reads:

"Corbeau 2-inch Harness Belts provide drivers with the latest in technology, design and safety. With a wide variety of colors, options and accessories, you are sure to find a perfect match. Standard features include military grade nylon webbing with custom Corbeau Racing embroidery, pressure-reducing waist pads, and a push-button release system for easy disengagement."

This is a 4 point bolt-in in black. The 4 point are a good choice if you have seats with slots in the back to accommodate the shoulder straps. If you do not have such seats (like me) you may find that the individual shoulder belts of the 4 point style can tend to slip off the shoulders.
3 point snap-in with regularly tether in blue

3 point snap-in with double-release in red. This is the model I chose. Primarily, I chose the 3 point as my seats do not have harness cut-outs, and the 3 point style stay on the shoulders much better when this is the case.

The double-release feature, according to Corbeau's is designed so that, if you were to mount them into a car as shown in this pic below, (taken from the installation instructions) you could easily disconnect the tether strap and tilt the front seat back forwards - presumably gaining access to the back seat.

from corbeau's web site: "The double release option provides and extra release buckle behind the seat. This feature provides easy access to the rear seat by allowing you do disconnect the rear strap."

When I saw this feature, I thought it would be just the trick for use in a 4x4. I figured this would be a quick and easy method to disconnect the shoulder straps, so that you could wear just the lap belt in really easy terrain, or where a lot of hanging out of the cockpit was required for visibility, but then quickly and easily snap it back in when full security was required.

I still think this is probably true, but never got a chance to try it, as i found a more comfortable / convenient alternative - read on to see what.

3 Point retractable tether in yellow. Retractable would be pretty cool, I'm sure, but personally I felt not required. There are two other reasons i can think of against the retractable style in a 4x4. First, in an open buggy-type such as the Wolf, especially one that sees mud, I wouldn't want to get the retracting mechanism all full of mud and gunk. Second, when I drove a Jeep with factory OEM seatbelts that had retracting reels - I remember frequently cursing them as the would unpredictably lock and un-lock in rough, off-camber terrain.

That said - i have no experience with these Corbeau's versions, so they may well be fine choice. I stuck with good old manual style - just less to go wrong.

This is what the bolt-in terminations look like. Just as the name implies, to mount them you simply bolt the tab to a solid structural member. They are usually bolted through existing mounting holes or are bolted to tabs welded onto the cage. Grade 8 hardware is included. This style is probably easier to mount, as you could always substitute a longer bolt if required. However, one bolted in, they cannot be removed (for cleaning, use in another vehicle, security or whatever) without tools.

This is my snap-in termination. Mounting is a little more challenging, as you either have to have a loop welded to your cage or frame (to replace the grade 8 eye-bolt supplied - shown in pic) and you have to be sure your welded-in loop is of a diameter such that the relatively small snap mechanism can fit around it and close properly, OR you have to suitably mount the supplied eye-bolts. This can be a bit of a challenge in a tube cage / chassis - but you'll see what I did below.

Bottom line - the bolt-in will be easier to mount, the snap-in provide greater flexibility.

Here is my installation and initial testing:

Unwrapping
  Here's what the UPS man delivered. Two 3-point harnesses direct from the great folks at MAD4WD. The box weighs 8.9 lbs and was with me 8 business days after I ordered.
 

Inside the shipping box were two more boxes. I began to really hope it wasn't a cruel joke along the lines of those little Russian dolls that fit one-inside another.......

 

..I would not be disappointed. I've said it before - I really appreciate good quality packaging. Maybe just because I've gotten stuff before all beat up and ruined before I've even opened it.

Anyway - I have honestly never before received anything as well packed as these. The harnesses were contained in an extremely heavy plastic bag, wrapped in bubble sheet, and then inside the box.

  The harness is all wrapped up with little coloured elastics. My first job was to lay them all out and take a million pictures for you good people!

This is the tether strap - the part of the "double release" system that connects the buckle at the top of the shoulder Y strap to the chasis.

It adjusts from approximately 23" to 38".

This is the frame/chasis/cage attachment end of the tether strap
  This is the latch on the tether strap that connects to the buckle at the nd of the shoulder strap Y. They snap together ..............
  ...............like this.
  The harness comes with 3 tiny little cotter pins. These can be used to insert through the tiny hole in the throat-lock of the snap-hook (visible in this pic) to prevent inadvertent release. I must admit, I didn't bother with them.
  These are the adjusting buckles on the shoulder straps. Everything on these harnesses is of the highest quality and workmanship. Al the buckles and snaps feel heavy and solid, the webbing is soft and supple to the touch, the stitching is excellent.
  The embroidery is gorgeous too.
 

The main buckle at the waist is one of my favourite features. It is a solid feeling automotive style snap and buckle combination, with a large red pushbutton. It is virtually identical to a high quality OEM seatbelt latching mechanism.

The thick, soft waist pads under the buckle are particularly nice.

Here's a close-up. Why am Iso excited about this? Well, after 12 years as a Military Aviator, I have spent half my life strapping in and out of the standard aviation / racing style harnesses - both the lever-latch type, and the rotary cam-lock type. Both get to be a real pain in the butt. And that can compromise safety - because if it's a pain in the butt - you're more likely to not bother. Also - those other types can be a real challenge to operate with cold hands - and that can be an issue for winter wheelers - or for anyone wheeling in Atlantic Canada just about anytime. The buckle is also easy to operate without full tactile mobility (injured hand) and / or with weight against the harness 9as in a rollover where you must release while hanging upside-down).
 Installation

Here are the installation instructions that accompany the harness. Note that the lap belts are supposed to be mounted at a 45* angle to the floor.

The shoulder harness tether anchor point is designed to be mounted some distance from the seat, as close to horizontal (from the top of the shoulders) as possible.

You are not supposed to take the shoulder harness tether through (or over) the back of the seat and straight back down. This is because, if that were done, in an impact, the resulting force from this geometry would be certain to break your collarbones. Many racing organizations state that harnesses are to be mounted level or up to a MAXIMUM of 4" below the shoulder. This is for the much shorter strap of the standard racing style harnesses.

These Corbeau 2" harnesses are a little bit different, and can catch you by surprise if you are not aware. Because they have been designed to retrofit into a huge number of different types of vehicles, many of which do not have roll-cages or "harness bars' close to the back of the seat, the tether belt is longer than you may expect. As mentioned above, it adjusts from about 23" to 38". This length allows it to be anchored to the C pillar in vehicles not necessarily designed for this type of harness - see installation instruction pictures to the left.

This means, if you have a purpose designed harness bar closer than about 23" to the back of the seat, you will either have to shorten the tether strap by having it cut and re-sewn, or you will have to mount the tether point for the tether strap somewhere else.

Having said all this, I know that a good number of rock crawlers have taken the tether strap over (or through) the back of the seat and straight down - reportedly with no ill-effects so far. This is probably due to the slow-speed nature of impacts and roll-overs in rock crawling. However, neither I, nor MAD4WD, nor Corbeau recommend this method, especially without knowing how you may use your vehicle.

   Personally, because of the layout of my rig, I chose to emulate this installation.

I simply placed the new anchors (eye bolts) for the lap belts in the same location my old mounting tabs for my old RJS lap belts were. This gave me the required 45* angle to the floor, but it did catch me out a bit. Because of the design of these harnesses, the distance between the lap belt anchor snap and the main buckle can only be made so short - not as short as my old belts would go, as it turns out. This means, that for me, at 5'10" and 185 lbs, I can only just get the lap belt tight enough. Ideally, I would have moved the anchor points for the lap belts back 6" from where they were for the old belts, giving me greater adjustment capacity.

This of course, may just be due to how short the old belts were, and certainly isn't a flaw in the product - but you should be aware of this when mounting your harness.

 

The supplied eye-bolts for the snap-in style are 7/16-20NF thread. This requires a 3/8" drilled hole to be tapped for threading them in. Initially, I drilled and tapped my tube chasis, and threaded them in. However, because the chasis tubing is not very thick, this did not leave very many threads engaged. Considering the critical nature of these attachment points, I wasn't thrilled with this.

There are many other options - weld tabs to chasis, then bolt eye-bolts to them (not much room in my installation for extra tabs - the seats only just fit in there). Use a longer eye-bolt and drill all the way through the tube, then use a nut on the back (don't like the idea of drilling 2 holes in the tube - remember every hole is a monstrous stress-riser.)

In the end, I decided to leave them threaded into the tube, then weld them in there too.

 

Of course, tapping a hole for the lap belt eye bolts so close to the edges of the body was a bit of a pain in the butt. I had to turn the tap with a small 1/4" wrench. This, of course, side-loads the tap and can easily lead to breaking off the tap in the hole - so use extreme caution if you must do this.
  Here's the location on the back of the cage where the anchor for the shoulder strap tether was located. This gave me a good length from the shoulder strap double-release buckle at the back of the seat, and also provided an almost horizontal plane - virtually identical to the pic in the instructions.
  Close-up of shoulder belt anchor, Again, threaded into tubing then welded in place.
 

The result is, the tether strap looks like this when installed. The zip-tie around the strap, near the forward end of the tether strap, just before the buckle, was intended to hold the tether in place (for easy re-attachment) when I disconnect the shoulder straps double-release buckle (shown at left in the pic)

As I mentioned earlier, this may well be unnecessary, as i never did find it necessary to disconnect the double-release buckle.

In fact - after my testing, I am very likely to alter my initial installation a bit - but more on that in a bit.

  Here's a shot from the front, showing the position of the shoulder belts, double-release buckle, and tether strap.
Here's how the lap belts snap into the anchors, before the seats are re-installed.
Seat installed, harness in place - drivers side
Passengers harness in place. I am thrilled with the look, feel, quality, fit and finish of these harnesses. Their design allows for a great deal of flexibility in mounting and use. Money damn well spent in my opinion.
Passengers harness, close up. There is plenty of adjustment for LARGE persons. I'd guess that if you're under about 6'6" and tree-fiddy, you should be fine.
Doesn't the whole rig just look WAAAAY better with those harnesses in place? It just screams -"I mean business"
Testing

The most important phase of testing - as always - how does the boy like it :-)

Keep in mind, these harnesses are neither designed nor marketed specifically as kids harnesses. But I figured, he sits comfortably in his regular booster seat in the car and mini-van with a regular adult OEM shoulder-harness seatbelt - so just maybe he would be fine in this harness too.

He's 3 years and 9 months old, 3'3", and 40 lbs. With the booster seat on the regular seat there was no problem getting the belts snugged up around him just fine.

He certainly seems happy too. Note small white Jeep clutched in left hand....fine taste that kid :-)

The only issue with him in the harness is because of his lack of height. You can clearly see where the belt rubs his neck just a little bit. Actually, because of my seats not having harness cut-outs, and therefore the shoulder belts going over the top of the seat, this even happens to me when seated. It would be much better if my seats headrests weren't moulded in, so I could pass the harness between top of seat back and bottom of headrest. As it is, I think I'm going to cut a slot in my seat back ....more on that later.
Here we both are, all safely strapped in for a days wheeling.

They are really soft and comfortable, and the feeling of security, especially for you folks who have been "making do" without a proper restraint, is superb.

Best of all....I can get really crazy in the Wolf now!

Mitch's face says it all - the lad's serious about his wheeling fun, and now, I can proudly claim I'm serious about our safety when we're wheeling.

And that makes his mum happy too......and that's good for everyone!

Here's the after pic....after a long day's wheeling, he's still happy and comfortable. That's all good!

One thing I did notice that you should be aware of. If you leave the belts loose-ish, they tend to loosen off further by themselves. This is not an issue really for adults or older kids who can understand both when and how to "tighten down" the belts. If you are wearing the harness slightly loose for comfort, and it backs off, you just tighten it when you need. However, with Mitch, it meant either having to have him snugged down right tight the whole time, or if I left it looser, when the going got rougher, I would have to stop, unbuckle myself, lean over, and make sure he was snugged down.

Again - not really a problem with the product - just my application of it. Something to be aware of. I have absolutely no concerns over wheeling with Mitch in his Corbeau harness, and I have no intention of buying a kid-specific seat or harness - we're both very happy as is.

Remember how I mentioned a couple of times, how I had planned to use the dual-release feature to allow greater mobility when required for visibility or for really easy sections?

It turned out to be not necessary, as this picture shows my preferred technique that I found easy and comfortable. When needing to lean out of the rig to spot obstacles, as shown, I simply slipped my left shoulder out of its strap. The 3 point Y style kept it right there, easy for me slip back into. It was really quick, easy, and very comfortable.

Comfortable, flexible, good-looking, ....no, not me...the harnesses! These harnesses are easily amongst the best things I ever added to my rig. The safety and accompanying peace of mind rock! The fact that they are 2" wide makes them far more comfortable than other stiff 3" wide belts. The auto-style buckles are simple and convenient, and the quality is superb. The only thing I think I'll change, is either cutting a slot in my seat back for the tether strap, or.....if I'm really lucky, one day maybe I'll call up Larry at MAD4WD and order me some gucci new corbeau seats to go with my new harnesses! :-)

Topping off the deal is ordering them from a top-notch vendor like Larry at MAD4WD. He's knowledgeable, dedicated, supports the Pirate4x4.com forums with tech advice and tons of free giveaways.............Highly recommended, not just for these harnesses, but for all your 4x4 needs.

UPDATE 1:

I am still a little puzzled as to why Corbeau, in their installation instructions, show installations where the shoulder belt anchor is above the shoulders. Upon reflection, it seems that this may be a concern in a rollover, as it seems it would allow one's body to slip in the harness. I shall call Corbeau and see what they say about this, then report the results here. As it is, I intend to re-do my mounting (including cutting a hole through my seat) such that the rear anchor for the shoulder-strap tether is somewhere between 0-4" below my shoulders

UPDATE 2:

I must admit, I've been a bit lax in my research, as I have yet to talk to Corbeau. However, I think it's probably something like this:

1) If you mount the rear strap slightly above the shoulders, as shown in one of the supplied diagrams and how i initially did, this configuration is still likely to afford at least as much rollover protection as a stock OEM 3-point seat belt - and probably dramatically more, due to the lap belt arrangement.

2) The lap- belt, if properly tightened, should keep you pretty well in your seat, even upside-down.

3) As I mentioned previously, these harnesses are not specifically and only for the hardcore rock-crawling crowd. As such, most multi-market manufacturer's like Corbeau are not yet turning out products specifically designed to account for the fact that we may happily and almost intentionally spend half our day rolling onto the roof!

With all that said - any harness system is going to be much better with a seat manufactured for that type of harness, specifically with the slots in the back of the seat for the shoulder straps. Since new seats are not in the cards for me right now - I opted to cut a slot in my current seats, so the shoulder belts would feed through just above my shoulders. I then moved the rear mounting point down, so that it would be just below the level of my shoulders.

I was a little "enthusiastic" with the cutting of the slot.....apparently a sawzall is not the the best tool for a neat and careful job :-)
This is how the shoulder belts sit now
This should keep one planted in the seat a bit better, should I turn turtle.
And the rear mounting points are moved down considerably.

Final Update - after a season's use:

Now that they are "broken in" (read - kinda grubby) they no longer slacken off...seems they were just really "slippery" when brand new. Dirt cures all :-)

Also - I LOVE the big plastic, push button latches - especially for operation with cold, wet hands and for constantly strapping in and out an active 4 year old with a 1 litre bottle of Coke and a tiny bladder :-0

I find the 2" belts also far more comfortable / accommodating than the 3" harness I wear in the helo all day.

That said - the double release / long tether strap design is driving me nuts. I wouldn't get that again - next time I would only get the single-release style. Only prob with that is - because it seems to me they were designed more for cars without dedicated "behind the seat back belt harness bars" the tether straps are too long, which is a bit of a pita. I think I'm going to have mine cut and re-sewn at a local sail-makers, and just attach it to the bar 0-4" below the shoulder level, behind the seat back.

If Corbeau are listening - please make us a "short tether strap" version.

Contact Info:

Mad4WD

(330) 757-3334 / (330) 770-9970

http://www.mad4wd.com

Mad4wd@zoominternet.net

 


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