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
Then I saw Larry
(TJ Fan) from MAD4WD's post in the
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:
- Number of points: 3 or 4
- Mounting method: Bolt-in
- Tether strap style: Regular
or double release(3 point only) or retractable
- Colours: Red, Blue, Black,
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
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 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
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:
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 ..............
||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
||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
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
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).
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)
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
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
||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"
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
||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,
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
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
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.
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
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.