NTPOG Saftey Harnesses Review

Author: William Howell (Teamtech) with input from John Haley (Schroth), and Jerry Huang
TeamTech 5 point 3 inch Safety Harness, Schroth 4 point 2 inch Safety Harness, RCI 4 Point 3 inch Safety Harness


Overall Impressions
Upon the first inspeciton, the TeamTech harnesses appear to be of the highest quality. The webbing seems to be stitched very soundly, which is what you would expect out of an FIA approved harness. One nice feature of the TeamTech harness is that when the FIA approval date expires, you can send the harness back to TeamTech to have the webbing redone, and have the harness reapproved for use by the FIA. This feature will have no bearing if you do not plan to do any type of competition driving that requires FIA approved safety equipment (like me), but it is good to know that TeamTech is willing to offer this service.

All of the metal hardware, except the center cam lock, is stainless steel, and very beefy. It looks like this harness will have no trouble holding the largest of drivers. The harnesses are available in a rainbow of colors (including silver, blue, black, red, white, green, etc.) and configurations. Clip in or bolt in mounting hardware is available. Pull up or pull down adjusters are also available. The harnesses are usually custom made according to the customer specified hardware configuration, adjustment configuration, and belt lengths. Very nice indeed. The cam lock is permenantly mounted to the anti-submarine belt, although you can permenantly mount it to any of the 5 harness belts by disassembling the back plate of the cam lock. The cam lock has a rotating cam that locks and unlocks the harness belts. One nice feature is that when you turn the cam lock to unlock the harness, the cam lock will stay unlocked. That way, you do not have to use one hand to hold the cam lock and the other to remove the harness.

The Schroth harness is slightly smaller, using a 2 inch belt vs. a 3 inch belt on the TeamTech and RCI harnesses. The Schroth looks to be of very high quality as well. It is more suitable for a daily driven car that is raced on the weekends. Schroth offers many different options with their belts; they even offer a 3 point belt with an inertial reel so that you can use it daily. This particular setup is a 4 point harness that is designed to work with the stock seat belts. This offers a clear advantage over the TeamTech belts if you want a simple install that does not require any custom fabrication. The Schroth also has a quick release on the shoulder belts so that you can detach the shoulder belts without having to remove the whole harness (this is useful on the passenger side if you need to push the seat all the way forward to get into the back seat).

The Schroth harness uses a different design than the Team Tech and the RCI harness. On the TeamTech and RCI harnesses, all 5 points are locked into the cam lock. On the Schroth, the shoulder belts are permenantly attached to the lap belts and there is a latch on the lap belt that holds you in. The shoulder and lap belts are adjustable, although, they are not the easiest adjusters I have used. Overall the belt is very high quality, but shoulder pads are necessary because the belts themselves are not very wide, which causes them to be very uncomfortable when the harness is tightened.

Here are some pics of the TeamTech, Schroth, and RCI harnesses. The top ones are the Teamtechs, the middle Schroths, and the bottoms are the RCIs.

    
    
  

Installation Impressions
I chose to use clip-in hardware on the lap belts and bolt in hardware on the shoulder belts to mount my Teamtech harnesses. I had to purchase 3 eye-bolts, and some bolts to mount the shoulder belts. The TeamTech harness does not lend itself to a simple bolt-in installation. I had to do some custom work to get them to fit to my satisfaction. Luckily, there is a small square hole in the bottom of the seat frame that I used for the anti-submarine belt. The metal is of medium thickness, so I used some large stainless eye-bolt washers (these things are over 3 inches in diameter). The eye-bolts for the lap belts thread right into the stock mounting points, but the eye-bolt on the seat was too long and had to be cut. On the outside lap belt mounting point, I used the stock mounting point, but you have to also mount the stock seat belt with this bolt (unless you plan on using the 5 point seat belts all the time). I had to make a small spacer that fit on the eye-bolt and fit the swivel stock piece for the stock belt. That way, I have the eye-bolt for the harnesses, but I also retain use of the stock belts. To mount the shoulder belts, I had a custom piece of 1/4 inch steel cut and welded to the rear bulkhead so that the belts would come out between the back and bottom cushions of the rear seat. This moves the mounting point up about 3 or 4 inches from the stock mounting points for the rear belts. Ideally, you would want the shoulder belts at shoulder level (or slightly higher), but without a roll bar or harness bar, this was impossible. BEWARE: NEVER MOUNT THE SHOULDER BELTS SO THAT THE ANGLE BETWEEN THE SHOULDER BELTS AND FLOOR IS MORE THAN 45 DEGREES! In the event of a crash, spinal compression could occur.

Installation is where the Schroth has a distinct advantage over the TeamTech harness. The Schroth is designed to work with the stock seat belt system intact, and this simplifies installation greatly. The mounting tabs for the belts are much thinner than the TeamTech mounting tabs, but this allows one to bend the tabs in the desired direction. This is especially useful on the shoulder mounting points since this allows the use of the stock rear lap mounting points for the shoulder belts. This is not possible with the TeamTechs unless the rear seat is not reinstalled. Overall, the Schroths can be installed in 30 minutes vs. a few hours (not including welding) for the TeamTechs.

For the RCIs, Jerry chose basic bolt in installtion. Luckily, he did not have to purchase much mounting hardware, and he was able to mount the belts without doing any modification to the car. Jerry mounted the anti-submarine belt to the small hump directly under the front seat (where the seat brackets are mounted). The shoulder belts are a Y-style belt, that is, the shoulder belts joint together to form one belt that is then mounted to the car. Jerry mounted the shoulder belt to a bolt that is in the rear bulkhead directly behind the rear seat (see the above picture). I would not recommend mounting the belts in this manner. The bolts are not very large, and I would suspect that they could easily break in an accident.

One installation note: anytime you use the vehicle's sheet metal to mount safety harnesses, unless it is a reinforced area (such as mounting points for load bearing parts), you NEED to use a large washer on the front side and back side of the hole. I would recommend using eyebolt washers designed specifically for this purpose. The ones that I used in my car are 3 inches in diameter and about 3/16 inch thick.

Performance Impressions
With the belts in place, all three systems work equally well, although the 5th point on the TeamTech and RCI belts keep the lap belt from riding up when you tighten the shoulder belts. The TeamTechs and RCIs are more comfortable since the webbing is 3 inches wide vs. 2 inches for the Schroths. When shoulder pads are included on the Schroths, the comfort factor rises greatly! The TeamTechs and RCIs are easier to adjust, but harder to get in and out of. When putting the Schroth harness on, one just has to fasten one buckle, and tighten the harness. With the TeamTech harness and RCI harness, one has to buckle two lap belts and two shoulder belts into the cam lock. Once fastened, the TeamTech and RCI harnesses are easier to adjust, however.

Driving an autocross or track event with the harnesses is a completely different feeling. Instead of holding onto the steering wheel for dear life, a more relaxed grip can be used, and one can concentrate more on driving. Road feel is enhanced, and the harnesses keep one firmly planted in the seat. When the harnesses are installed, one may find that the seat needs to be adjusted for proper fit. Overall, if you plan to autocross regularly, a harness is a good investment.

There has been much debate about the use of a harness without a roll bar/cage. People have expressed a concern, that in a roll over situation, if the roof caves in, with a harness on you are not able to duck down as easily as with the stock 3 point seat belts on. This is a valid concern, especially in cars with low headroom such as the Prelude. However, I find that even with the stock seat belt, if it is locked, ducking down very far is not possible. Rolling a car at an autocross is an extremely rare occurance, but it has happened. I use my harness regardless. A roll bar/cage would make the car much safer, but in my opinion, the chances of rolling a car in an autocross are very low (unless you own a VW).



This page last updated 4/3/01.