SafeGuard Child Seat Review
Photo Courtesy of Safeguard http://www.safeguardseat.com/
The SafeGuard Child Seat is forward facing carseat with an extended weight harness system. It has a number of innovative features that make it extremely safe and less prone to misuse than competitive models. It accommodates children from 22-65 pounds and up to 57 inches tall. It is recommended for kids 1 year and older. As this child restraint does not install rear-facing like a convertible model, it is best suited for older toddlers and bigger kids.
Features and Advantages
5-point Harness to 65 pounds
- Among the best features of the SafeGuard Seat is the 5-point harness that is rated to 65 pounds. Carseat advocates recognize the 5-point harness as the preferred type for safety, both for frontal and side impacts. While most kids above 40 pounds can use a booster, some may not be mature enough to remain seated properly in a lap and shoulder belt. Some parents may just prefer to keep their child in a 5-point harness beyond 40 pounds because it may offer somewhat more protection in side impacts and rollovers than a 3-point lap and shoulder belt, even compared to a booster that has side impact protection. The child outgrows this model when they are 65 pounds, when the tops of their ears are above the top of the headrest at the highest adjustment or when the tops of their shoulders are above the shoulder strap slots at the highest adjustment. The two-piece harness chest clip is also easy to use and helps position the harness straps correctly over the center of the shoulders. The buckle is great- there is no cumbersome "puzzle" like you find on some other models and each side gives a nice, positive click when it is engaged. So far, I have not had any issues with twisty straps.
Adjustable Harness Height
- There is no annoying rethreading of harness straps through slots on the SafeGuard Child Restraint. An easy, one-hand lever is included behind the top of the head rest. You just squeeze the adjuster and move it as high as needed. This not only adjusts the harness strap height, but also adjusts the head restraint height and crotch strap length, too- very nice! Unlike other extended weight harness models, the SafeGuard Child Seat has a generous 19" maximum shoulder strap height. This means that most kids will likely fit in the seat until they reach 65 pounds. My son is almost 8 years old and is near the 75th percentile for height and weight at around 60 pounds and 52" tall. He fits fine in the SafeGuard Seat with almost inch left to grow for the shoulder strap height.
Automatic Harness Adjuster
- Instead of the usual lever/button plus strap to tighten and loosen the harness, the SafeGuard Seat has an automatic tensioner for the harness system. An adjuster in front is squeezed to loosen the straps. It is squeezed again once the child is in place and the retractor automatically pulls the harness tight. You can adjust it further with a knob on either side of the base of the seat. It's a very elegant system and makes it easy to adjust correctly. Older kids can do it themselves, but younger kids may not be able to reach or squeeze the adjuster. The harness is correctly adjusted when it is relatively straight with no slack. Some advocates prefer to say that you shouldn't be able to "pinch" away any of the harness from the child or that you shouldn't be able to fit more than one finger easily between the child and the shoulder strap.
- The SafeGuard Seat includes a flexible strap on each side of the base to attach to the lower anchors found in newer vehicles. The "mini connector" attachments are among the nicer ones on the market, and much easier to attach and remove than some other basic hook types. Like the harness, the LATCH attachments also have their own retractors. This makes LATCH installation very easy. You simply push a button to release the strap and attach the connector to the appropriate anchor. Once both are attached, you put your weight into the child seat and the retractors automatically take up the slack, resulting in a quick installation. An acceptable installation is one where there is less than an inch of movement side-to-side or back-to-front when you grab the base of the seat near the LATCH attachments (or seatbelt). SafeGuard also allows the lower LATCH attachments to be used in center seating positions as long as they are designated to be a LATCH approved position by the vehicle manufacturer and the spacing between the lower anchors is 11-20 inches apart. SafeGuard recommends that you only use the LATCH system for children up to 48 pounds. After 48 pounds, the seatbelt should be used for installation. The LATCH attachments retract when not in use and the top tether has a storage anchor when it is not being used. While not required, the top tether is always recommended for safety.
Lap Belt Installation
- As with most extended weight harnessed seats, the SafeGuard Seat can be installed with some types of lap-only seatbelts as indicated in the manual. With its 65 pound harness limit, this is a good option for many kids above 40 pounds who need to be seated in a position that only has a lap belt. Keep in mind that some types of lap belt systems will not work with the SafeGuard Child Seat, as described in the manual. Again, a top-tether is always recommended.
Shoulder Belt Lockoff
- The SafeGuard Child Seat includes a metal lockoff on each side for use with lap/shoulder belt systems. These are very solid and cinch well, unlike some other types that break more easily and sometimes allow the belt to slip.
Other Safety Features
The SafeGuard Seat is one of the few child restraints with an aluminum frame for added strength compared to typical plastic child restraint shells. The adjustable head restraint has wings that offer improved side impact protection. These wings and the rest of the seat are lined with "Smartcore" foam, similar to the material used to absorb energy in bicycle helmets. SafeGuard claims this seat is the most thoroughly tested model on the market today, including side and rear impact tests that are not required in the USA. SafeGuard also states that this model both meets and exceeds all federal safety standards.
Padding and Comfort
- The SafeGuard seat is well padded. There is about three-quarters of an inch of "memory" comfort foam on the base, with thinner comfort foam around the hips, back and head. As mentioned, the Smartcore foam also lines basically the entire seat under the comfort padding. It seems very comfortable and my daughter has had no complaints as she often does in her Fisher Price Futura. The fabric is very soft on the sides with a microsuede type of material. The fabric down the center isn’t as soft, but appears to be more breathable and durable. Harness strap comfort pads are also included. They have a non-slip backing on one side that helps keep them in position on clothing. This can rub bare skin, but it's easy to turn them over and have the suede fabric on the other side contact the skin instead, in case the child is wearing summer clothing. Unfortunately, the covers do not appear to be easily removed. The crotch strap and buckle also have a nice "belly" pad to keep hot buckle parts off the child. The SafeGuard Seat lacks a recline adjustment, but the normal seating angle seems to be a nice compromise for comfort and safety. On the plus side, my 6-year old daughter loves it compared to her previous seats because it sits so high and gives her a better view of outside and of her rear-facing baby brother in front of her. I will mention that the seat is not particularly deep and there may not be a lot of thigh support for kids near the maximum height/weight.
- The owner’s manual is well written with clear line diagrams and explanations. In addition, an instructional DVD is also included. A VHS version is free to owners upon request. The features on the seat are also color coded. In conjunction with the manual and DVD, this makes it easy to learn how to install and use the seat properly each time. A handy slot at the top of the seat is used to store the manual.
Side Airbag Placement
- Many child restraint manufacturers still prohibit the use of some or all of their models next to any type of active airbag. This may be a problem in many newer vehicles with side airbags in the rear seat. Since side curtain airbags have proven to be very effective at reducing injuries, it is nice that SafeGuard permits it to be used in vehicles with side air bags. Parents must still check the vehicle owner’s manual to make sure that it doesn’t state otherwise. This seat is not to be used in the front seat with an active passenger frontal airbag unless the vehicle owner's manual indicates that this is allowed. Kids 13 and under should always be in the back seat.
- Unlike the current trend for seats to be made in China with one year warranties, the SafeGuard Seat is made in the USA and has a limited 7-year warranty, covering the entire recommended life span of the restraint. Kudos to SafeGuard! The seat appears to be very well manufactured and the cover and materials appear to be durable and of high quality. SafeGuard also has a crashed seat exchange program that may allow qualified seats involved in certain types of crashes to be replaced, even if your insurance company doesn't cover this. My experience with SafeGuard customer service has been exceptional.
The SafeGuard Child Restraint is designed to minimize the most common types of misuse. It succeeds very well in this regard. It can be installed with LATCH, a lap belt or a lap/shoulder belt. Keep in mind that some seatbelt systems may be incompatible with the SafeGuard Seat, and these are discussed in the manual. In addition, like any child restraint, it may simply not fit well in certain vehicles. LATCH installation in our 2006 Odyssey was extremely easy; I had it installed correctly in about a minute. It also installed well with the seatbelts in both our Odyssey and a 2000 Subaru Outback wagon, though it took more effort and closer to 15 minutes to get it right. While it isn't particularly narrow, it does barely fit in the smaller section of our third row seat in the Odyssey, allowing the other section to fold when needed. One thing to note: make sure to route the lap/shoulder belt OUTSIDE of the harness straps in back of the seat. I initially routed the belts against the shell, under the straps. Unlike some other models, doing it that way seems to restrict the harness straps from moving as easily. The diagrams in the manual show it correctly, though it isn't emphasized in the instructions. Also, depending on your vehicle seat, you may need to remove the vehicle's head restraint for a correct installation since the SafeGuard Seat is so tall.
Size, Weight and Portability
- The SafeGuard Child Seat is relatively large, bulky and heavy compared to most models with a 40 pound harness system, but not much different than other models with 65 pound harness systems. Even so, it may not be ideal for frequent travel. Though it is certified for aircraft use and meets FAA standards, the size and weight may make it cumbersome to carry-on an airplane. In part due to the weight, SafeGuard does recommend that the seat be carried by the tether strap after it has been attached to its storage anchor, rather than be carried by the harness or LATCH straps. Because it is so tall, it can also obstruct your rear view more than shorter child restraints. Though the seating depth is not all that large, the base of the seat is long and may overhang short vehicle seats. Also in part due to the large size, installations may take additional time and effort in some vehicles when using the seatbelts.
- At over $400 suggested retail price, it is one of the most expensive seats on the market and over $100 more than some competitive models. Even so, with motor vehicle crashes being the #1 killer of children 1-14 years old, SafeGuard has a point that the costs of the most advanced child restraints and safety features like side curtain airbags and stability control are worth every penny. One of the closest competitors lacks the high maximum harness strap height, the automatic harness and LATCH retractors and, after a recent recall, does not allow use of a top tether beyond 50 pounds. In these regards, the SafeGuard Seat may still be a good value for many parents.
- The cover can be removed with average difficulty and it can be done while installed in a vehicle. It is machine washed in a cold, delicate cycle. It must be line dried. This is not uncommon among child restraints, but definitely not easy care.
The SafeGuard Child Restraint is a great choice for parents who want the utmost in safety and prefer to keep their kids in a 5-point harness beyond 40 pounds. In addition to being one of the safest and most advanced forward facing child seats, it may also be the best at reducing misuse. This is especially good for parents who want their kids to be safe but know they just won't be able to restrain their kids properly in other seats that are more difficult to install or use. Considering that almost 90% of child seats that are inspected by a child passenger safety technician have some type of misuse, the ease-of-use is a great selling point if it fits your budget. It is also a good choice for many vehicles and seating positions that only have a lap belt, since boosters are not safe unless they have both lap AND shoulder belt. I rate it 5-stars overall for older, front-facing kids when used with the LATCH system. In fact, it is the easiest front-facing seat I have installed aside from a discontinued model that had the rare, rigid LATCH system. I also rate it 5-stars with a seatbelt installation, though this could vary from vehicle to vehicle. It's a good idea to try any child restraint before you buy it or at least make sure there is a return policy if it doesn't fit. This is especially the case if you don't have the LATCH system in your car, since it is possible for any child restraint to be incompatible with some vehicles. For parents who are diligent and skilled at installing and using child seats correctly each time, there are alternatives that are less expensive and similar in safety- especially for younger toddlers who are safer when rear-facing.
SafeGuard is relatively new to making child restraints for consumers, but they are not new to the business. SafeGuard’s parent company, IMMI, has been a major manufacturer of child restraint components like harnesses, buckles and LATCH system attachments for decades. They are a supplier to many of the largest child restraint manufacturers in the world and also have manufactured specialty bus restraints and other transportation safety products for many years. SafeGuard also operates their own advanced crash testing facility. SafeGuard’s official webpage for the Go can be found at http://www.safeguardseat.com/child/index.htm
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I just want to add that I LOVE my SafeGuard! We have one in my mom's car and one in my DH's car. With LATCH, it is the easiest install EVER. Easier than a Marathon, and I thought nothing would ever be invented that was easier than a Marathon. You click it in, and push down on it, and it tightens itself. So cool. This is the perfect seat for my parents, because they really can't screw it up. And it's super comfy; my daughter falls asleep in it frequently. She NEVER sleeps in her Regent.
First, I want to thank the OP for such a thorough review--it was one of the main reasons we decided to buy this seat a couple months ago.
It's really hard to find anything negative to write about this seat (other than the price!), but there are a couple things that I've found slightly annoying.
First, the automatic-retracting LATCH connectors are awesome--unless you have a car where the LATCH anchors are hidden deep within the seat bight. Then it can be a little tricky, because you have to keep one hand on the connector to keep it from retracting while using the other hand to locate the anchor, and then you have to use the first hand to get the thing attached without letting too much slack out, or else you have to start all over again.
The other minor complaint is that when doing a shoulder-belt install, sometimes the belt gets caught up in the lock-off before you're ready, but that's a minor inconvenience.
Overall, the benefits of this seat far outweigh the minor inconveniences, and, even, the high price tag. I especially love the harness-adjuster knob. It is SO easy to use compared to the constant tugging of the Wizard we had for three years.
I had read somewhere that the straps twist easily, but I haven't found that to be an issue at all.
I have easily and securely installed the seat in a 2004 Honda Pilot with a lap-shoulder belt in all three second-row positions. I have also installed it in both outboard positions with LATCH. I have also installed it outboard with LATCH in a 2002 Civic (this is the one with the anchors buried DEEP in the seat), and if I install it there again, I'll use the seat belt. I also installed it with LATCH in a Jeep Liberty. Because the LATCH anchors stick out of the seat, I was able to install it in literally less than 15 seconds.
This seat is pricey, but if you can afford it, it's well worth it!