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  1. #1

    Older children, only lap belts, 5 pt still? Which car seat?

    I'm having a hard time figuring out our car seat situation. We have 6 kids, 2 still in carseats. We drive a Suburban; the back two benches have shoulder belts only on outside, lap belts only in middle of benches with no headrest.

    8 yr old: 54 lbs, 50" tall, Harmony Defender 5 point harness seat
    6 Yr old: 44 lbs, 45" tall, Harmony Defender 5 point harness seat

    Harmony Defenders were the only car seats that would fit three across when they were younger, but they have both outgrown them with the belt being too tight and unable to loosen anymore, especially this winter with thicker clothing. It's too snug around my 8 yr old's waist as well.

    They both can use a high back booster without harness, but if I move them to the edge with a shoulder belt, an older child gets the middle with lap belt and no headrest, which I don't want either.

    Latch isn't an option because the combined weight is 55, sometimes 65lbs of child + seat.

    Do any of you use high back boosters (no 5 point harness) with just a lap belt?

    I've seen the Britax Frontier listed as a higher weight 5 point, and good for taller kids, but upwards of 8 yrs old?? Seems pretty old and getting uncomfortable sitting in a car seat for a few more years.

    What would you all do in our situation?

    (We are getting a new used car soon because of a trip to AZ and ours doesn't have ac, but we have a limited budget, so nothing much besides a used suburban will work. Expedition EL has all shoulder belts, but are more expensive and far away to pick up. We don't want a 12 or 15 passenger van, those don't have any headrests and the wheel well doesn't work with my bad knee)

    Thanks for suggestions!

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  3. #2
    CPS Fanatic
    Join Date
    Dec 2012

    Re: Older children, only lap belts, 5 pt still? Which car seat?


    Your instincts are right. You need something restraining each kid at the hips, at the shoulders, and behind the head. You canít use a booster with a lap belt onlyóitís forbidden in the manual of every booster on the market, and itís not safe.

    Do you have tether anchors in those positions? Are your Defenders tethered?

    My 8 year old (who is significantly larger than yours) was in a Frontier harness until last summer. He hadnít quite outgrown it. You might want to look at the Britax Pioneer. It fits the same way, with a very tall harness, and only a 70 pound weight limit (vs. 90 in the Frontier). It has a nicer price tag, and installs differently. Iím not sure how well the ClickTight on the Frontier would work with a lap belt only.

    Another one you could look at is the Evenflo Sureride. Very nice price point, harness not quite as tall as the Britax, 65 pound limit.

    And finally, if you have a tether anchor, you could look at using a booster with the EZ-On 86-Y harness. (Or you could order the EZ-On tether anchor and have it installed if you donít.) This is the solution that will last longest.

  4. #3
    CPS Fanatic zeo2ski's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    upstate NY

    Re: Older children, only lap belts, 5 pt still? Which car seat?

    In my 1998 and 1996 suburbans the middle seat of the third row lap belt works with the Frontier click tight. I never tried it in the 2nd row center (because I don't have top tether there) but a rear facing Britax Boulevard Clicktight goes in easily there. If you have a newer model suburban 2000+ the seat belt geometry is different, and if I'm remembering correctly the 3rd row buckles are forward of the bight. The Clicktights do not allow lap belt only installations if the seat belt is forward of the bight. Also must use top tether after 65 lbs.

    Are the oldest children old enough to ride in the front seat?

    There are a few new kinds of 12-15 passenger vans now that do have head rests and lap/shoulder belts for all passengers. The Nissan NV, Ford Transit, and Dodge/Mercedes/Freightliner Sprinter, which has been around 15+ years so older ones are available but still hard to find and expensive to maintain (mercedes parts).

    There is also a way to add headrests to a regular ford/chevy passenger van yourself if you have someone who can weld. Not sure what you mean about the wheel well though, sounds like that's a deal breaker for you.

    If you do plan to stick with a suburban, I agree with Igenne about the 86Y harness. Long ago DH looked under our suburban and said the frame is positioned well to be able to nstall the EZ-on tether anchor, if you need that.
    B-- 6.5y harnessed cowmoo FR85;
    Sl--5y RF RXT;
    H-- 2.5 RF RNXT;M--7mos CCOA--1 mos KF30 and R 1.5 RXT

  5. #4
    CPS Fanatic
    Join Date
    Sep 2009

    Re: Older children, only lap belts, 5 pt still? Which car seat?

    More layers of clothing is fine in the winter but children should not wear puffy winter coats in the car. The puffy coat can compress in an accident adding slack to the harness and children can be ejected from their carseats. A good test is to buckle a child in with their coat on and tighten the harness. Then have them take the coat off, buckle them in again and see if the harness is still tight. If the harness is loose without the coat then that coat is not safe to wear in the car. If your kids have been wearing puffy coats in the car try taking them off and seeing if they fit any better in their seats. Where are your children's shoulders in relation to the harness slots in their current car seats?

  6. #5
    Senior Community Member Dillipop's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2005

    Re: Older children, only lap belts, 5 pt still? Which car seat?

    Is there a reason you need a suburban? There are many 8 seater minivans with lap shoulder belts and head rests in all positions that can be found for pretty reasonable prices on the used market. Toyota and Honda have had all that in their 8 seaters since at least 04 I think, possibly even earlier.

    CCO 4/15

  7. #6
    We need a suburban for a couple reasons:

    1) 5 of my kids are well on their way to being at least 6 ft tall, and knees are already pressing into benches/seats in front of them, so a minivan would have even less legroom.

    2) We live in the country so grocery shopping with the smaller cargo space would be difficult, and long trips for the 8 of us would be even harder.

    Also forgot needing AWD with winter/country roads, so suburban works there too,
    Last edited by Jeanum; 01-22-2018 at 01:05 PM. Reason: merged two posts in moderation queue

  8. #7

    Re: Older children, only lap belts, 5 pt still? Which car seat?

    We were able to purchase an 07 Expedition El, which has 6 shoulder belts in the back 2 benches, so we can move to car seats that work for both the boys still in them. More leg room too so everyone is happy! Thanks

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