What about my 3-in-1 seat?

In response to our recently posted entry: UK Standard 3-1 boosters, are they safe?

We had a number of parents wondering about their 3-in-1 seat, with detachable back/bottom and the risk their seat may have of detaching in a similar manor to that shown in the video on the link above.

The answer is complicated but we will do our best to explain it to you and allow you to make your mind up about your car seat.

These seats DO meet standard, under UK ECE 44.03 or 44.04.

In the UK there are multiple “Testing Houses”, where you find a crash test sled, electronic equipment and engineers with crash analysis skills. These houses have various companies submitting their seats for testing, some will use the same company for many years.

When a seat is placed on the sled in rear or forward facing orientation they have to pass a “minimum” threshold for a range of different things, including G-force, the distance a seat moves from the sled during an impact, head excursion and so forth.
The minimum however is enough to basically say “the child remained within the seat during the test. The speed at which the test is done is quite low, and cannot reflect what would be the outcome in an open road car-hit-dear type impact.

While the shells are blow moulded, they are designed to take some of the force from the child, some of these seats meet only the minimum standard requirements reflected in the  materials used, the lifespan applied (most of which do not state a duration, but realistically would not exceed 5-6 years). and largely the price applied at the checkout.

They are mass produced, they skim through testing, and when a problem occurs there is no one place to pin point, the seats have no single batch identifier and no original place of manufacture. They are made somewhere in China, and pass through a testing house somewhere in the UK.

If you have your doubts you’re probably right. We cannot (without building our own testing house, and testing each batch of seats as they come in, like they do with seats under NZ S 1754)  test each of these 3 in 1 seats to see what the outcome is. The fact is that as the back is NOT attached to the bottom, rather pressure mounted, with the belt oddly threaded through the seat back, the seat belt retractor above off to one side of the seat, there is a likelihood that the seat back can detach under force.

Unfortunately aside from the video recording, we cannot tell you that your seat is or is not safe, rather that it comes under a parental decision until the likes of NZ Transport Agency pick up on it and investigate it further … we have initiated this process.

–As a addition to this, I do recall seeing a car seat off to the side after an accident (fatal) where a child had one of these seats, the seat was in 2 pieces on the ground next to the car. Though I cannot say for sure if they took it out like this, or if it was viewed by investigators and as part of this detached during their procedure. It was also not clear if the harness was still in the seat or if it was used as booster, the child was of age that a harness was still required.

UK Standard 3-1 boosters, are they safe?

Many parents opt to by a 3-in-1 booster seat primarily because of the price, they’re cheap.

But are parents being misled into buying cheap potential death traps?
Sure they pass standards, but in some cases there is a huge difference between “passing” and “exceeding”. For example, these 3-in-1 boosters, vs. the Diono RXT, one of which “passes”, the other which clearly “exceeds” beyond the minimum.

These are sold in many baby stores, online stores as well as the likes of TradeMe. They’re often under $120, at times creeping down to as low as $69.

They harness to 18kg, and then become a booster seat to be used with a full adult lap/sash seat belt. When used in harness mode the seat belt “weaves” into the rear of the seat from the front, across the back and out the opposite side. They cannot be used with a locking clip as often the seat belt needs to feed over the arm rests, and there is no top tether attached to these seats.

To cut to the chase this is some recently recorded footage of a typical 3-in-1 booster seat sold here in NZ, under multiple brand name, makes and models. This is why we’re not pointing to any one brand in particular.

In the clip below you can see the base and back of the seat detach while the child is in the seat. These seats only “slot” together. When the seat belt locks at the pillar, the seat is pulled up hard to that same side, at enough of a force and angle that it disconnects the seat from itself.

Should these continue to be sold here, and is it time that seats imported from the UK are submitted to Bureau Veritas for certification under New Zealand’s NZS 1754 standard, the same as seats bought over from the United States of America?

Safe-n-Sound Maxi Rider Easy Adjust

Firstly let’s begin by touching base on a few things you may need to know.

This is the 4th generation of Maxi Rider car seat, the newest is very different from previous models.

*images of past models and differences.

Secondly this seat uses the “height marker” system used now on car seats in Australia, this system is unique to Australia and no longer bases it on the child’s weight. Although logically I would expect there to be some form of maximum tolerable weight limit that the seat can be physically capable of carrying. We’re yet to get a solid answer on this.
For more information on Height Markers, view this page.

The Maxi Rider Easy Adjust [MXEA] we have reviewed from is dated November 2012. Purchased from Baby City on January 18th 2013 for $499 (on sale, exclusive to Baby City). All boxes were dated the same.

The new features include:
+ No re-thread harness – as the name suggests, “easy adjust”
+ Adjustable headrest from the front of the seat (no need to uninstall).
+ 45 cm wide (was 50 cm)
+ Taller seat back/headrest
+ A stray away from the grey and black covers normally seen (though not entirely!)

Standard Features include:
- Cup holders
- Rotating armrests
- Recline foot
- 6-point harness
-Comes with tether bolt
- Safe-Guard clip for use in booster mode

So let’s talk about first impressions.
The cost is up there, the seat cannot be used rear facing, so is only for use forward facing in the harness, and then as a booster seat. The seat states from “6 months approx.”, yet personally I would not recommend using it before the age of 2 years. Many children under this would require the extra padding that comes with the seat, while this is not an issue, we’d prefer to see children remain in their rear facing seat until at least 2 years of age (longer where possible/where your seat allows it).
The box then speculates that you can use the seat until 6-8 years of age, and then need a full backed booster from 8-10 years.  New Zealand’s law is expected to change to include children up to 7 years of age be in a booster seat. The great news is that the MXEA will allow your child to fit from 2-7 years of age easily.

The colour choices are limited blacks, grey’s, beige and vibrant red. I got the red and really like it teamed up with the black. The bottom padding is removable, and reversible (without un-threading the harness) which allows more red to be seen with older children.
The harness pads are not attached, so they move about when on the child, unlike American seats there is no chest clip to help keep them in place, nor is there any form of anti-slip material on the back to prevent movement (commonly found on UK seats), they end up becoming belly pads.
The seat sports a cover in behind the buckle that helps it to keep forward when the child is not in the seat, so no more fishing out the buckle from under your child’s bottom when trying to buckle them up.

Inside the box comes a messy mat for placement on the vehicle seat, under the car seat, which covers the bottom and back of the seat. There is also an instruction manual (keep an eye out for this one falling out as it is not attached, and just rests inside a pocket on the side of the car seat), a tether bolt comes attached to the tether strap. A complimentary Baby on Board sign comes tucked into the harness.

The side of the seat sports a mesh pocket, inside this it seems is an audio cable to which you can attach your toddlers IPod (sorry guys the pocket is too small for juniors Ipad). It seems SNS include this in their top level seats; later models will be released without a speaker, at a fraction of the price.

So the thing people want to know about, the height of the shoulder markers. As previously mentioned there are 9 slots, only 8 of these are usable for the internal harness as the top most maker lines up with the “booster line” at which point once your child passes this line they’re considered too tall for their seat, even though the booster guide goes another 7.5 cm (3 inches) past the top marker.

Measurements were taken without compression and with the reversible toddler padding removed.

#1 – 26 cm
#2 – 28 cm
#3 – 31 cm
#4 – 33 cm
#5 – 36cm
#6 – 38.5 cm
#7 – 40 cm
#8 – 43.5 cm
Booster slot #9 – 46cm

Bum to top #1 61 cm – #9 78 cm (Internal Shell height)
Legs width – 29 cm
Leg depth – 29 cm
Shoulder width – 37 cm
External seat width – 44 cm
External shell height (minimum) 70 cm (maximum) 89 cm

For a comparison to the Diono RXT view this page *Coming soon.

+ Quick, easy adjust harness with no need to remove the seat from the car to adjust
+ Light weight
+ Top tether strap
+ Easy to install, pull down cover for easy access
+ Passes no head-slump sleep test

+ Markers do not allow full use of the harness
+ Markers do not allow full use of the booster (a loss of up to 3 inches/7.5 cm).
+ Does not allow rear facing, yet costs as much as seats that also offer this feature.
+ Difficult to adjust harness, you need to pull and tug and only a small bit tightens (we’re awaiting a reply from SNS about this).

Maxi Rider Easy Adjust taller setting

Maxi Rider Easy Adjust lowest setting with toddler insert

Side view

Buckle Adjustment – shown in middle setting (3 settings adjustable).

Seat cover clips – over front access belt path.

9 harness slots

Height Markers – harness at highest slot (#9) Booster slot – harness reaches, but needs to be used with marker below

Harness at highest harness slot (#8)

Thumb showing booster slot – where it really should line up with (booster marker is the first white label below my thumb, and harness marker below that).

Yet harness can go up to 2.5cm (1 inch) below the shoulder, which means they can go past the marker if you wish… confused? We are too.

Rear view of seat

Seat width 44cm

Our thoughts,

It’s light weight and easy to swap between cars and the belt path covers make it easy to tighten the seat belt. It would be great if it had a locking clip, or built in lock offs as getting a tight fit in other cars can be fiddly.

Overall thoughts from our mini technician, 3.5 years old,

He really likes his “red” seat, because the armrests rotate, it has a cup holder and he can sleep comfortably in it. The seat allowed for 3 children (aged 2, 9 and 3) across the back seat. With the armrests rotating this allows us easy access to getting him into and out of the seat. He can move them himself once he is in the seat.