TECH: CAMLOCKS OR LATCH & OTHER SEAT BELT SUGGESTIONS
Basically speaking, there are two different harness design closures, a Latch & Link or what’s termed as a Camlock model. Both perform the same job as attaching each part of the harness together, but they offer varying pros and cons.
So why choose one model over another?
First of all, the Latch & Link model harness requires a little more hand and arm dexterity, the ability to slide all the pieces together while you set the latch into the lock position. In most cases of a door car, you have the room around the seat to articulate your arms to fasten the harness together.
Although, a lot of that is changing with the new styles of seats which fit a person’s body tighter. Naturally a stock OEM seat bucket or bench seat would have a lot of room, but quite a few racers are opting for an aftermarket seat with its higher side panels. And certainly, dragsters with their tighter roll cage confines almost always will dictate the use of a Camlock set of belts.
“I would have to say that more racers today are opting for the Camlock design,” says Jeff Hefler of Pro 1 Racing. “While it is more expensive, it appears racers are spending more on their cars so cost is not a problem. The Camlocks snap-in easily and quickly.”
“Probably 99 and more percent of the belts we manufacture are with the Camlock design,” says Justin Taylor of Taylor Motorsports. “The Camlock belts are easy to attach the harness together. Of course, in some applications such as in dirt circle track racing, dirt may get into the Camlock mechanism and cause an issue, but that’s not a problem in drag racing.”
“The Camlocks offer a positive engagement or disengagement, especially when you’re in a hurry, but there is a price point to them,” adds Ben O’Conner of Impact Safety. “As such, we still sell a fair number of Latch & Link belts. In an incident where the driver may be hanging upside down in the seat, with one quick turn, the Camlock design will disengage all the belts, it’s possible with the Latch & Link that one of the components may hang up and restrict driver exit, but they are just as effective as the Camlocks.”
Two other things worth mentioning are the lap belt harness offered in either a “pull-up” or “pull-down” adjustment. For cars with tight seat confines, the pull-up design makes it easier to adjust the belts tight as you can simply “pull-up” to tighten the belt. “We sell both designs and it’s about split 50/50 as which a racer chooses,” said Hefler. “In a door car where you might have more room to ‘pull-down’ the harness to tighten it, a pull-down adjustment is satisfactory, as opposed to a dragster with limited arm movement where a ‘pull-up’ adjustment is almost mandatory.”
One last thing to mention is the shoulder harness attachment point. In most cases, that point is often too low below the shoulder. We see this time and time again in dragsters where everything is seemingly out in the open, but the same can be said about door cars.
The fact is this: The first method of defense in keeping you planted comfortably in your seat, are your seat belts. Besides making sure they’re pulled tight to your body, the proper mounting of those belts to the frame of your car is of equal importance. In many cars, the seat belts are mounted improperly. Not only does that cause for an uncomfortable feeling to the driver, but it does little to keep the driver tight in the seat.
At one time, the NHRA Rulebook stated the shoulder harness should be Mounted level with shoulders to 4” below.” With all due respect to the powers-that-be who wrote the Rulebook, it’s that “4-inches below” issue which is wrong. With the harness mounted too low, it causes a crunching feeling in your back rather than holding you tight to the seat.
The shoulder harness should be anchored level to no more than 10-degrees down from the top of the shoulders and as close to the shoulder as possible. In a dragster, this can be accomplished by draping the belt around the top of the shoulder hoop. Some people have said this is not acceptable as should the cage be ripped off it could expose the shoulder belt to damage. However, if the cage if ripped off a chassis in an accident, you’ve got more problems to worry about than just the seat belt.
Regardless of your style race car, the proper mounting of the seat belts and choice of type is imperative to safety. Once it’s done right, your comfort behind the wheel will be improved.