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article details
Author Various
Categories Integra, Integra Safety
Create Date January 14, 2002 03:35
Last Update June 19, 2002 23:36
Harness Installation

by Chris Heerschap

READ THIS WARNING! (CYA)Racing is dangerous. Incidents will occur resulting in injury and death of participants. In best conditions these products may limit trauma. This product will not prevent trauma associated with racing incidents. Only install these products with the guidance of a certified engineer and the user's sanctioning orgranization. (sic) Replace these products after any crash, fire, or any evidence of wear to any of their materials or components. User is responsible to inspect this product before every use. These products are distributed without warranties of any type.

The disclaimer printed in the Racer Wholesale catalog and on the belts in several places.

With that said... let's talk about installing 5 point belts in the G3 Integra. If you've ever driven in an autocross, or have just driven hard enough to generate some serious G's, you'll know what it's like to try to drive the car, keep it under control, and stay in the driver's seat all at once. There are several tricks out there to make the stock three point belts work better to keep you in place, even one I've used myself.

But, in perfect honesty, none of them work even remotely as well as a set of good racing harnesses. If you plan on doing any racing with your car, or if you enjoy a good vigorous drive, I strongly suggest you consider a set of racing belts to improve your own performance. After driving with them, I'd go so far as to suggest that belts be the first modification you make to your car. If you have to spend more time keeping yourself in the seat than you do driving the car, something's wrong. Once you can focus completely on driving the car, the driving experience is sweetened and the level of performance you can reach is much higher.

One other thing-- You might read this and think "Geez, what a safety weenie". That's possible. I just want to say that I don't see any reason to take any unnecessary risks with safety equipment on the car. If you install safety equipment wrong, it can be less safe than the OEM stuff. You can do whatever you want with your car, but you must be ready to take responsibility if you do something dumb. Okay, enough preaching, let's get on to the install.

Let's start out with the basics of what we need. I got my belts from Racer Wholesale. I purchased the AutoPro five-point belts, which are 3" wide lap and shoulder belts with a 2" crotch strap. If you're looking to put belts in a G3 Integra, and you're trying to stick to a budget, here's exactly what you need, with part numbers and prices from the latest Racer Wholesale: (Understand that I don't work for or with Racer Wholesale, I'm just providing this to simplify things if these are the belts you want. There are other belts out there, including the more expensive camlock belts, and it's up to you to find them.)

Qty Part# Description Price _
1 AUT-5700 5pt H-type shoulder harness system $69.99 (set)
1 AUT-7070 Harness Pads (optional) $16.99 (pr)
4 AUT-109 5/8" eyebolt, nut, and washer $2.49 (ea)
5 AUT-107 Snap hook $2.49 (ea)
1 SPA-1001 4x4x1/8" backing plate $2.99 (ea)





TOTAL (w/o shipping): $112.38

Let's take a look at how we would install these belts. Please note! I strongly recommend you get the Integra Service manual if you're going to do stuff like this on your car. I has many detailed descriptions and illustrations, and I'm just going to breeze over things which would be duplicating what is said there, such as removing the seat. Information on getting the $65 manual is in the back of the Owner's Manual. Do yourself a favor and get it.

First thing to do is take the driver's seat out. This is accomplished with a 12mm socket wrench. Slide the seat back all the way to access the two bolts in the front. Undo the bolts, then slide the seat all the way forward to get at the two in the back. Both are under plastic covers which easily pry off. Remove these bolts, then tip the seat back. Remove the seatbelt warning wiring and put the seatback all the way forward. (If you leave the warning wiring disconnected, the seatbelt nag light will not come on when you're not using the stock 3-pt harnesses.) Remove the seat from the car.

LAP BELTS:

On the right hand side of the driver's seat is the stock seatbelt buckle. A large bolt with a 17mm head holds it in place. Remove the 17mm bolt and put it in a bag. It's a really good idea to keep all the parts you're removing in a nice bag somewhere where they won't get lost in case you decide to put everything back. As it turns out, the AUT-109 eyebolt is the same 7/16-20 UNF thread as the bolt you just removed. Take the nut and washer off of an eyebolt, and thread it in until it is tight. These two pictures illustrate what this will look like.

Notice the "READ THIS WARNING" label... I believe it appears at least three times on the belts. This is safety we're talking about folks, let's not screw around and regret it later. This is serious.

The next step is to connect the other side of the lapbelt. I find using the stock mounting point to be very effective here as well. Remove the stock bolt, and transfer all the hardware in the same order to the eyebolt. It may be necessary to leave off one of the spacer in order for the eyebolt to thread in, and you will notice that the stock seatbelt no longer pivots. Personally, I prefer the stock mounting point because it requires no drilling.

Another option is to mount the lapbelt to the floor by drilling through the floor and using another eyebolt with the SCCA-approved 4"x4"x1/8" backing plate. If you use this mounting technique, make sure you get the backing plates. I only list one in the parts list above since I only drill one hole-- for the anti-submarining strap.

ANTI-SUB STRAP:

On the subject of the anti- submarining belt, this is easy to install while you have the seat out. Use a 7/16" drill bit to make the hole. In the picture, you see that:

  1. I have mounted the eyebolt in front of the seat support beam. (The front of the car is to the left in this picture.) Subsequent installs in other cars proved that it works just as well behind this beam and is less obtrusive.
  2. The seatbelt warning light wires are disconnected. I leave them this way, therefore the little nag light on the dash does not light.
  3. I should have vacuumed the car before taking this picture.

I did use the 4"x4"x1/8" backing plate underneath the car, as well as blue LocTite #242 on the threads. Since the only purpose of the anti-submarining belt is to keep the lap belt from being raised by the tension of the shoulder belts, the backing plate isn't really necessary, but since I had ordered eight (oops) I decided I might as well install one there.

A quick note on the purpose of the anti-sub belt... many folks look at it and think it's a "Ball Masher"... that's not the case. The purpose of the fifth belt is to keep the shoulder straps from pulling the lap belt up onto your stomach where it should not be. In a crash, the tension of the shoulder belts goes even higher, pulling the lap belt higher, allowing you to slide underneath, or "submarine" below the lap belt. The fifth belt prevents the lap belt from raising, thus allowing the lap belt to do its work properly, and if everything is adjusted correctly, there should be no unpleasant crushing from your body sliding into the anti-sub strap.

This is why I do not suggest using four point belts, since when you have the shoulder belts tight enough, the lap belt will be uncomfortably in your gut. I did run this way for a few weeks and do not suggest it. I'd even go as far as to say four point belts may be less safe than stock three point belts. My apologies to the owners of four-point belts, but you've probably already noticed this.

SHOULDER BELTS:

Now for the shoulder harnesses. There are many ways to install the rear shoulder harnesses, and all are compromises. The safest way is to mount the belts to a rollbar, directly behind the driver's shoulders. Unfortunately, this method requires a rollbar. Many folks do not want to put a rollbar in their car, especially one with the necessary reinforcement for harnesses. Barring this, there are several places that you can mount shoulder harnesses to the car.

  1. To the rear seatbelt lower mounting points.
  2. To the rear firewall or rear of the car.
  3. To the rear shoulder belt mounting point.
  4. To the upper rear strut tower bar.

Let's look at each of these and see why I chose where I did.

First: Rear seat lower mounting points/rear seat floor

The most common place to mount aftermarket harnesses on a car with rear seats is either through the rear floor (using backing plates) or to the rear seat belt mounting bolts. While this works, be very careful of this method of mounting.

Why? Because mounting the belts low like this causes them to angle up over your shoulders. In a head-on accident or severe deceleration, your weight will increase the tension of the shoulder belts... this is simple physics. If the belts go down behind you, this increase in tension is going to try to pull you to the floor. This increases the possibility of spinal compression, which does not even sound cool. I have heard that the maximum angle which is considered "safe" is 45 degrees... personally I'd stay well clear of that number because any downward slant causes this problem, although to lesser extents. Also remember that if you're a large person (height wise) and need the seat back far (like I do) this will increase the angle. In the Integra, I was looking at about 50 to 60 degrees of angle. Way too much for my tastes.

However, if you're only using the belts for autocrossing or you're satisfied that the angle isn't too severe, then mounting them this way can be simple and easy. (Mind you, someone who mounted belts this way in an Integra took 14 hours to complete the job since the gas tank needed to be dropped.)

Second: Rear firewall/rear of the car

The second method of mounting the belts is to the rear firewall or to the back of the car. While this might be a fantastic option in a car like the NSX or the MR-2, this is not an option in a FWD car like the Integra. Also, while the shoulder straps I purchased are quite long, there is no way they would reach the back of a car the size of an Integra. They did, however, reach the back of a friend's CRX. If you have one of these cars and mount the belts like this, remember to use a backing plate of some kind, you don't want these bolts coming through the sheetmetal in an accident, that makes them kinda useless.

Third: Rear shoulder belt mounting point

The third method, the method I use in my Integra, is to mount the belts to the upper rear seat shoulder belt mounting point. This requires only removing the single bolt at this location and replacing it with an eyebolt, to which both shoulder harnesses attach. This puts the angle of the belts at a slightly downward angle, maybe 5 degrees under tension, which is good for preventing the dreaded spinal compression.

This isn't perfect, though, as there will be a slight angle in the belts because they are attached to the side of the car. In my experience (several months of driving with the belts attached this way) it is not uncomfortable, and I don't think the angle is enough to cause problems in an accident. The left belt follows the natural line and rests comfortably on the top of the shoulder, and the right belt passes under the headrest to the right, keeping it from pulling you too far to the left.

Fourth: Rear shock tower bar

One last possibility is attaching the belts to a rear shock tower bar. This would certainly work well for low-risk situations like autocrosses where control is more of a concern than safety, but unless the bar is quite beefy (I'm considering a custom-made bolt-in bar made of rollbar tubing) I would be a little concerned about the strength of some of today's popular rear shock tower bars in this situation. Also, it does lower the shoulder belts, but not as much as mounting them to the rear lower seat belt attachment points or the floor. This is not a recommended way of mounting your belts in a high speed event like a track event or daily driving. Always use your stock seat belts in addition to the harness.

Editor's Note: If you are going to mount it on the rear shock tower bar or on the floor in the rear of the car, you will need a very long belt. The "H-type" shoulder harness has an adjustable length of 31 to 84 inches. The individual shoulder harness only has an adjustable length of 26 to 38 inches. The "H-type" is the only one that will be able to reach back to the shock tower bar as shown below.

The H-type shoulder harness is able to reach to the rear shock tower bar. It was adjusted so that the H-strap is behind the head rest.

sabelt4_smaller.jpg (49357 bytes)


The harness in position.

Concerns about belt safety:

Some folks have mentioned concerns with five point harnesses without the use of a rollbar, saying it's unsafe, because if the roof caves in, you're unable to move out of the way. I had one person tell me they were in a Geo or some other small Schitzwagen, and it rolled, and he was lucky enough to dive into the passenger's seat when the roof collapsed, which he would not have been able to do if he was wearing five point belts. While searching the net on the subject, I came across a discussion on the BMW mailing list where the poster uses the same argument.

My opinion? I feel much safer in five point harnesses for the very reason that I can't get thrown around in the car. If your car is so structurally unsound that a roll will cause the roof to collapse, then this is not an optimum platform for performance modifications unless you plan on installing a roll cage. Most cars today are designed with strong passenger compartments for just this reason. While the front and rear are designed to crumple in an impact, the passenger compartment is designed to stay intact... and this is without a rollbar. I'll say it again... if you don't think your car could handle a roll without caving in, are you really sure you want to race or even drive hard in this car? (If you have a convertible, you should have a rollbar already.)

You may say my statements are based on theory, and this is true. But let me refer you to another BMW mailing list post by Steve Neski.:

    I have been instructing at BMW CCA events since about 1980 or so, and have seen the results of dozens of rollovers, (if you put three wheels off at Bridgehampton you have a VERY good chance of a rollover,) and I cant remember seeing one where the passenger compartment around the drivers head was crushed much beyond the top of the door pillar, but it is certainly possible.

What it boils down to is this-- it's your choice whether or not you use your belts on the street. Personally, I feel much safer with them, as I will when I install a rollbar into my car. This will enable me to mount the belts in the optimum position, just behind the driver's shoulders. In the meantime however, I much prefer being able to keep my car under control from the proper position and have any possible crash forces distributed across the increased surface area of the five point harnesses.

It's your call, use your head.

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