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So your thinking about harness belts in your rig?

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At every event I attend and people look inside my cab and see the harness belts I always get questions on them.  I installed mine about a year ago and put them thru their paces this last year all over the country ranging from Windrock Park in TN to SMOOR in Southern Missouri to Big Snow in  MI to Tigerton WI.  I put hundreds of hours on the trails this year and felt I am able to give my opinions on them in case others are considering if they should abandon their OEM seat belts.  Like anything their are pros and cons to all modifications and I hope this helps others make appropriate decisions as there is much to consider. 

The Pros & Cons:

​The first thing to know is there are many variations of harness seat belts ranging from how many "points" attach to the vehicle (3-point, 4-point, 5-point, etc) to how wide the straps are (2", 3", 4", etc) to the actual clasp style that secures the belts.  If you go with a 5 point harness belt you will have to change out your OEM seats to one that allows the 5th strap to go between your legs (anti-submarine strap).  There are OEM seat modification kits on the market where you can cut your stock seats to allow for the strap to be run down thru the seats between your legs.  After reviewing many options I personally chose to go with a 3" wide harness belt with a 4-point hook up using my OEM seats as they were in good shape and my rig is used 90%+ off road on slow speed trails so the anti submarine concern was not too great.  Anti Submarine 5th strap is intended to keep your body from literally being passed under the seat belt when you are in a head on collision as the force of the impact will send your body downward & forward and in many cases could result in your body literally getting pushed under and out of your seat belt into your open floor area by your gas pedal.  I trailer my vehicle as its a rock crawler more than anything now a days and my main concern was flipping over or rolling down a hill and I wanted to keep myself as secure in the cab as possible if hanging upside down or flipping.  The 3" wide straps are very wide and very comfortable as are cushioned and the 4 point harness belts keep you extremely tight in your seat when latched.  For my personal use I love them - they are comfortable and keep me tightly in place.  Just because they work for me does not mean they will work for you however.

Pros:  

These things keep you tightly in place and makes driving much more comfortable as your body does not have to use muscles to stay upright.  It is very relaxing and even on long 10+ hour trail rides you feel less exhausted when rolling back to camp.  You can fall asleep easily as your body can't move forward so great place to relax too!  The belts I purchased are from 50-caliber and have much cushioning so there is no strap pain or feeling of being tied down.  The straps mount to a harness bar you have to mount separately in your rig.  I purchased my harness bar from Rockhard 4x4 and they come unfinished.  The harness bar once installed becomes a structural member of your roll cage and has an optional pad cover that you can place over it if interested.  The harness bar bolts to your roll cage with some special mounting brackets provided with the bar.  The harness bar has slots in it that the harness belts loop thru and have special metal clasps that you use to secure the straps to the bar.  I had to watch a few You Tube Videos on the proper routing of the belts to make sure they were secured.  Once they are in, they are a solid attachment point.  The 4 point harness belts have a lap clasp as well as a chest clasp to secure everything together.  The 2 different clasps allow you to keep just the lap belt on for more flexibility in movement or if you are about to take on a good vertical climb and things are getting sketchy you can lock in the chest straps and are basically immobilized from forward or side movement.  You are literally locked in place with only your head movement being possible side to side.  To release the belts it is a simple process and they will not release by accident so I truly feel more secure and safe when rock crawling or hill climbing.  My head could never hit my side window or dashboard. If hanging upside down I am at least in one place.  The harness bar is a great place to mount your fire extinguisher as is easy to reach from the drivers seat for both front seat occupants.  I also have now mounted my spare tire to the harness bar relocating it from the back of the Jeep to improve my center of gravity and increase my rock crawling clearances.  When I moved my 37" x 14.5" tire my JK rear end literally went up 1" increasing my lift.  Lastly you have to admit - they do look just plain cool.

Cons:  

There are a lot to be aware of.  Harness belts are not common on Road Legal Vehicles as 95% of the ones on the market are NOT DOT approved and hence it is illegal to drive with them on public roads.  This is because of the limited movement the occupants have.  When you come to a 4 way stop as example if the belts are harnessed you are unable to move your shoulders to lean far enough out to see clearly left and right so it increases your risk of not seeing side traffic clearly.  If you do not latch your chest straps you will have movement restored.  There are a couple companies who make DOT approved 3 point harness belts that operate similar to OEM belts but are extremely expensive ($1k+).  You also have to take into consideration if you ever have people in your back seat.  I don't have back seats but if I did, I would NOT have harness belts unless those in the backseat did as well.  You see if you only have them in the front seats and stop quickly your passengers in the backseat can hit their heads on the harness bar which is literally 18" in front of their forehead.  Even if you use the harness bar safety pad, the bar of 3" steel is not something you want to hit your head on.  If you have harness belts in your backseat AND if the occupants are wearing them it would stop them from hitting their heads on the front seat harness bar.  Harness belts for off road rigs are meant for off road rigs.  Do not purchase these to "be cool" as they are not safe on public roads, increase your risk of hurting others in an accident and are in most cases illegal.  When you install harness belts your seats are no longer able to be moved more than 1-2" forward or backward and will no longer pivot down or forward as they are locked in place by the harness bar in the rear and the seat belt strap length in the front.  So if you have a 2 door you can't pull the seat forward to let a passenger into the backseat.  They can only access the backseat thru the tailgate.  If you run topless no problem or have no backseat like me.   

It is not an easy install due to the OEM safety electronics you have to bypass ranging from the Air Bag sensors to the dash light to the bell that will keep ringing if you don't have your belts on.  I have seen some people keep their OEM belts in place and add harness belts to try and avoid some of these challenges.  There are a number of YouTube videos out there on how to turn off your belt chime and how to bypass the airbag sensor.  When I installed mine I took the OEM belts completely off and purchased a "fake" latch plate and basically latched my belts closed and after removing them from the frame, placed them under the seat so the Jeep thinks the seat belts are always latched closing the circuit so my airbags function normally and the belt chime never goes off.  Take your time as you want to make sure you maintain your airbag functionality.  You do have to remove your seats to get the seat belts out in the JK Jeeps to access all the bolts.


So in conclusion:  harness belts can be a real nice modification to your off road rig.  Do your homework and make sure you are buying them for the right reason.  I highly recommend them for rock crawlers on slow speed trails on vehicles without backseats.  If this is not you spend your money on skid plates or a winch as is better served.    


Regan O'Neill

The1869Homestead



Harness Belt Install

 Harness belts mount to a harness bar in the rear and to your OEM mounts on the front.


Harness Bar Required

​The harness bar comes unfinished steel. I painted mine to match my Jeep which was easy. The bar installed in about 20 minutes with about 12 bolts to the roll cage.


Air Bags / Seat Belt Bells

Harness belts are fully adjustable for all size people and once you set them up they never really have to be changed unless you get a different occupant who will then have to adjust the belts to fit their size.  Takes maybe 2-3 minutes to adjust. 

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Comments

Ed Grez on Thursday, 28 November 2019 19:30

Great write up!
Your Pros and Con are right on.
Years ago I raced a daily driver, road legal Toyota pick up in mud drags, 200 feet 3 gears in about 6 seconds. Most tracks where very rough and bouncy. I install a 5 point harness along side the OEM belt for the driver.
Yes the harness keeps you firmly in the seat making it much better to shift and steer, the same reasons not good of street. The restricted movement makes it hard to see anywhere but forward, good for drags bad for street.

Great write up! Your Pros and Con are right on. Years ago I raced a daily driver, road legal Toyota pick up in mud drags, 200 feet 3 gears in about 6 seconds. Most tracks where very rough and bouncy. I install a 5 point harness along side the OEM belt for the driver. Yes the harness keeps you firmly in the seat making it much better to shift and steer, the same reasons not good of street. The restricted movement makes it hard to see anywhere but forward, good for drags bad for street.
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Wednesday, 11 December 2019