G-Force Racing Gear now makes...
G-Force Racing Gear now makes a seven-point polyester harness in its ProSeries. The polyester material is less susceptible to damage from theelements. This new design combines the five-point and six-point designs.G-Force says this design gives the driver a more cradled feeling,especially in layback seat designs. image by G-Force
Safety harnesses for racers have come a long way. Back in the '60s, Irecall seeing a driver tied in with a big rope. I never knew what kindof knot was used, but I'll bet it was not a quick release. Anotherancient device was the Sam Brown belt. It consisted of a belt wornhigher than usual, with a strap running from one side in the front overthe opposite shoulder. Rollbars (not 'cages) were often about as high asthe driver's neck. The Sam Brown belt was supposed to allow him to duckin a rollover. He would usually stay in the car (i.e., if his legsdidn't break too badly).
In today's racing world, most of us pay more attention to our personalsafety than ever before. The five-point harness has become the standardtoday. A six-point harness is an improvement. If you are building a newrace car, you should consider using the six-point harness. A sternumbelt is not a bad idea, either. This attaches the shoulder belts acrossthe chest and keeps them from spreading during an impact. If theshoulder belts spread on impact, the sternum (which holds your ribstogether) is unsupported and may become fractured as a result.
One other thing to consider is the mounting hardware itself. Theconventional lever latch has been around for many years, and it workswell. The other is the snap-in, turn-to-release type. This is aconvenient system that does not lend itself to accidental unlatching.I've used both, but I don't really have a preference. Use what iscomfortable for you.
The Crow five-point harness...
The Crow five-point harness is a standard type for stock car beltsystems. There is a Velcro cover to keep the latch handle from beingaccidentally released. The belt tabs are stacked on the left and thenlatched to the right. image by Crow Enterprizes
Once the restraint system has been selected, the thought process shouldturn to installation. It is easy to install a restraint system the wrongway. There are simple rules to follow for doing it right.
Selecting the type of restraint that suits you takes a little thought.To begin, consider the type of attachment you need to attach to thechassis. If your car is not protected from harsh weather, the belts willbe exposed to these conditions and will begin to deteriorate. The beltsmay look OK, but they may have lost much of their strength. A race carkept in a shop is not subjected to this problem.
If your race car is subjected to the elements for much of its life, thenconsider clip-in belts. These belts have a double hook that can bereleased, allowing the belts to be removed and stored inside.
Bolt-in belts stay with the car. You won't forget to take them with you.They are also more difficult to change. Many sanctioning organizationsrequire belts to be replaced at certain ages. Sometimes belt attachmentsare located in a position difficult to reach once the car is complete.In this case, replacement with newer, stronger belts can easily beoverlooked. If the belts are bolted in, the car should be garaged orotherwise kept out of the weather, avoiding continuous sunlight.
During a presentation at the...
During a presentation at the South County Career Center in Ruskin,Florida, I used two students to demonstrate proper shoulder beltmountings. Here, Jeff Pate holds the belts lower. When the belts wereattached, Jeancarlo Rodriguez (seated) could lean forward with the beltsslipping over his shoulders. With the belts mounted like this, a drivercan contact the steering wheel with unpleasant results during a frontalimpact. image by Sleepy Gomez
Belt attachments should always be fitted with Grade-8 hardware. Thereare six marks on the head of a Grade-8 bolt. Grade bolts will have twofewer marks on the head than the grade number.
Where possible, belt attachments should be bolted in double shear. Anexample of double shear would liken the seatbelt tab to the meat in asandwich, where the two slices of bread would be steel tabs. A&AManufacturing makes these double-shear tabs, which are an easy one-pieceweld. You will be safe using the hardware that comes from themanufacturer of your belts.
Where the belts are attached is as important as the hardware used toattach them. Any bolt used to secure a belt tab should be bracketed sothat it is 90 degrees to the direction of pull. The belt tab shouldnever pull where it would stretch the bolt in length or put a bendingload on the tab.
Belt attachments should never be directly fastened to floor sheetmetal.Of course, the seat mounting should be a part of the rollcage so thatyou move with the 'cage in the event of a crash. If some of the beltattachments are mounted to the 'cage while others are attached to thecar body, you could get squeezed when one moves and one doesn't.
If there is no convenient...
If there is no convenient place to mount the shoulder belts rearward,install a bar behind the seat and attach it to the cage (demonstrated byJeff Pate's arm) so that the belts go back over and then down. This barlets the belts pull from a straight-back position. The shoulder beltsshould be from straight back to no more than 10 degrees down from theshoulders. image by Sleepy Gomez
Mount the lap belts so that they are positioned across the lap, holdingthe pelvis. They should be at a 45-degree angle to the welded-onmounting tabs. Pay attention to where the belts cross through the seat.There should be an opening for the belts, and the belt should not rubagainst a rough edge when you are seated.
I do not consider a seat to be safe when the belts lap over the top ofthe seat side. In an impact, the seat sides can cave in and effectivelyloosen the lap belt. If you are very slender, the belt might not eventighten against you. I have modified this type of seat with openings inthe sides and positioned the belt mounts accordingly. I was notaltogether satisfied with the result. Get a good seat!
The anti-submarine belt should not be tight against the driver. The realpurpose of this belt is to keep the lap belt in place so that you don'tslide through. Mount it slightly behind the chest line.
So what is a potato doing...
So what is a potato doing in a stock car magazine? If your lap belt andanti-submarine belts are not properly installed, your fate could be thesame as many potatoes--mashed! The potato is leaning back at 20 degrees,like most drivers' seats. The lap belt is across the pelvic area at a45-degree angle. The anti-submarine belt follows the chest line down.Then, it is mounted slightly to the rear of this line. The function ofthe anti-submarine belt is to keep the lap belt in place during animpact. image by Sleepy Gomez
The shoulder belts are often improperly mounted. Yes, they always goover the shoulder, but the way they are mounted might determine if theystay there. With separate, parallel shoulder belts, the mounting couldbe too wide. In the violence of a crash, one could slip off the shoulderwith dire results. These belts should be mounted so they fall about thewidth of the neck as they cross the shoulder.
The shoulder belts should extend rearward off the shoulders, and belevel to a solid mount or at least a 'cage bar. They can also be at aslightly downward angle.
Shoulder belts should not be used to hold the driver down in theseat--this is the job of the lap belt. The shoulder belt keeps thedriver's torso from moving forward. If the belts are mounted to pulldown on the driver's shoulders, they can also allow him to pivotforward. Pulling down on the shoulders during a crash could lead tocompression injuries.
Lastly, think about the use of separate, parallel shoulder belts and theY belt. The Y belt was in vogue some years ago. Remember, with thisthere is only one belt to secure your torso in a crash, and belts dostretch.
Step 1 :Insert the strap through...
Step 1:Insert the strap through the tightening buckle. Step 2:Pull the strap 8 to 10 inches beyond the buckle, fold the edges, andinsert it in mounting bracket. Step 3:Fold the strap back and reinsert it through the buckle as shown. Step 4:Fold the strap back again and insert it through the bottom portion ofthe buckle. Locking the three-bar slide adjuster (buckle) shown in steps 1 through 4is very important. The three-bar slide adjuster must be located as closeas possible to the bolt in the mounting bracket. image by Crow Enterprizes
These sketches show the right...
These sketches show the right and wrong way to attach belt-mounting hardware to the chassis. Never mount hardware where the belt puts it in a bending load.