Graco AirBooster

murphydog77

Admin - CPST Instructor
Staff member
Vehicle belts are designed to fit an average 160 lbs. man, not your average 4-10 year old child. That's why we have booster seats. A booster seat raises the child up so that the lap portion of the lap/shoulder belt falls across the bony hips, not the soft, easily injured abdomen. High back boosters, like the <b>Graco AirBooster</b>, have headrests with shoulder belt guides to keep the shoulder belt off the child's neck. Booster seats should <i>always</i> be used with a lap/shoulder seat belt.

<b>Who should use this seat?</b>

Graco recommends this seat for children who are about 3-10 years old, weigh 30-100 lbs., and are between 38" and 57" tall. The back can be removed and used for children who are between about 4-10 years old and 40” and 57” tall.

My opinion? This seat is for big kids. I tried my 41 lbs., 43” 5 yr old in it and it was way too big for her. She couldn’t bend her knees at the edge of the seat. It fits my 62 lbs., 52” 7.5 yr old wonderfully.

Choosing which seat to use should be based on many factors, including the way the seat fits in your vehicle, how the child fits in the seat, and, in the case of a booster, the maturity of the child. Because boosters allow more freedom of movement, the child must have the maturity to sit correctly in the seat without wiggling out of the seat belt or slouching over. Only you can determine if your child is mature enough, but we generally see this maturity around age 4. Also, a child under 40 lbs. is best protected by a seat with a 5-point harness. If you believe your over-40 lb. child is not mature enough for a booster, please click the link for "Niche Seats" on http://www.CarSeatSite.com/recommended_car_seats.htm to see your options.

<b>Assembly</b>

The <b>AirBooster</b> requires assembly and comes in 4 pieces: headrest, backrest, base, and shoulder belt clip for when the seat is used without the backrest. I was dismayed that I had to put the headrest and the backrest together. It was simple enough, but it was also something I feel Graco should have done already for the consumer. Most boosters that come with removable backs require that the backs be attached, so I was prepared for that. I also took the time to put the shoulder belt clip on in case we ever use the booster without the backrest; I just tucked it under the base when I put it in my vehicle. It also ensures that I won’t lose it.

<b>Features</b>

Features include:
*EPS foam in headrest (EPS foam is the stuff bicycle helmets are made of)
*beefy headrest
*stowable deep cup holders on both sides of the base
*wide seat for larger children
*deep seat for long-legged children
*comfort foam under the knees for support

The instruction manual is one of the longest booster manuals I’ve read, and I’ve read a lot. Part of the reason it’s so long is that there are a lot of easy-to-read diagrams showing what to do and what not to do with the seat. I think that’s great for parents with low reading ability or English as a second language. The warning to replace the seat after any crash is found in the front with the other warnings and the cover care instructions are found in the back.

<b>Cover and padding</b>

There are four covers available for the <b>AirBooster</b>. The cover for the back and head is a comfortable microfiber with a leather-like material on the sides. The base fabric is a mesh that is cool and bouncy. There’s a comfort foam under the knees right where the seat curves down. That’s a nice touch. The cover is attached to the seat with elastic, which makes for easy removal for cleaning, and is machine washable. The mesh on the base is not removable for cleaning.

<b>Installation and use</b>

Boosters are very easy to use: just plop them on the seat and buckle the child into the vehicle belt. The <b>AirBooster</b> is no different; however there are some things to remember. When buckling a child into the <b>AirBooster</b>, the shoulder belt must be routed through the red open-loop design shoulder belt guide. This is easily done just by sliding the belt into the guide. The open-loop design means that the shoulder belt won't get caught on it if the child leans forward; in the <b>AirBooster</b>, the shoulder belt will remain snug on the child. The lap belt should fit under the arm rests, snugly over the child's thighs and hips; again the belt path is marked in red.

The back of the <b>AirBooster</b> should be adjusted so that the shoulder belt guides are slightly above the child's shoulders. To adjust the height of the back, simply squeeze the red handle on the top of the headrest and lift up. There are six height adjustments from which to choose. At the highest setting, the shoulder belt guide is 21". Only the Britax and Recaro boosters are taller at this point, but we’ve tried them and they won’t work for us for various reasons. Even though we have side curtain air bags, I do prefer my son to have the safety of a highback booster with EPS foam in the headrest. A major study showed that highback boosters are beneficial in side impacts over backless boosters: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2005-09/chop-htb090905.php .

<b>The not-so-good</b>

It rattles when my son isn’t riding in the seat. Since that’s going to be a lot of the time I’m driving, that may very well drive me crazy. Time will tell. The rattle appears to be coming from the cup holders. Another thing I’ve noticed about the seat that has me less than pleased is what it’s doing to my seat belt. The shoulder belt guide has a squared-off lip to keep the shoulder belt in place. The position of the guide in relation to the origin of the shoulder belt makes it so that the shoulder belt catches on this squared-off lip if my son yanks on the seat belt. I saw the beginnings of a run in the seat belt, so I warned my son to be very careful about how he pulls out the seat belt. We’ll see about that. Many boosters have this design on the guide, so it’s not unique.

<b>The final word</b>

So far, my son is really enjoying his new <b>AirBooster</b>. I like that he finally looks like he fits in a booster well without being crammed into it. Don't forget that booster use is very important until a child fits in the vehicle belt. Here's a wonderful 5-step test from SafetyBeltSafe USA, http://www.carseat.org, to determine if your child is large enough to fit a vehicle belt alone without a booster, usually around ages 9-10:

1. Can the child sit with his bum all the way back against the vehicle seat?
2. Do the child's knees bend easily at the edge of the vehicle seat?
3. Does the shoulder belt fit across the collarbone and not the child's neck?
4. Is the lap belt low over the child's hips?
5. Is the child able to stay like this for the entire trip?

If you answered "no" to any of the above questions, your child still needs a booster.


Epinions review at: http://www.epinions.com/content_380539276932
 

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Defrost

Moderator - CPSTI Emeritus
Great review; our experience with the Air Booster has been very similar. My nine-year-old son has been using the Graco Air Booster in backless mode for a few months now; before that he was riding in a backless Turbo Booster. Overall we have been pleased with it; he says it's more comfortable than the Turbo Booster thanks to the mesh seat and depth.

I have noted a problem, however. Several times, the belt has gotten caught below the belt path, as shown in this photo, viewed from the front of the booster:

IMG_1028.jpg


This is how it should look:

IMG_1029.jpg


This is not a major risk, but it does create more slack in the belt when I correct it. Meaning that if the seat belt gets caught and is buckled this way, it might feel snug but actually be 1-2 inches looser when the force of a crash makes it slip up to the belt path.

Just something to be aware of if you purchase this seat and your child is buckling himself, or being buckled by an older sibling.
 

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