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Additional information on Orbit Infant System tests

Aug 27th, 2009 | By Clint & Mindy | Category: Featured Articles, Lead Article, kids

Readers of our recommendation not to buy the Orbit Infant System may have had questions upon hearing the manufacturer raise a dispute about Consumer Reports’ test methodology, and whether that may have contributed to the seat failures in our tests.

Those tests found that the infant carrier detached from its car seat base in two of six simulated 30-mph frontal crash tests that Consumer Reports commissioned at an outside laboratory. We conducted the tests using the guidelines for speed and impact crash simulations dictated by the federal standard for child restraints.

We’re posting this blog to describe how our tests were conducted and to reiterate our “Don’t Buy: Safety Risk” Rating for the Orbit Infant System.

The manufacturer has essentially raised two concerns about our testing, the first of which has to do with the positioning of the harness strap that holds the infant in the carrier. 

In these tests we followed the guidance of the manufacturer’s instruction manual and used the dummy specified in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 213. The manual states that the straps should be positioned even with or just below the child’s shoulders. We tested this seat with the dummy required when evaluating child seats of this size. We confirmed, and an outside expert verified, that when we used the top slot position for the harness the straps were indeed at or below shoulder level.

The manufacturer also raised a concern that the testing facility did not use the “StrongArm” mechanism on the seat to tighten the belts used to install the base. The StrongArm mechanism, when rotated, amplifies a person’s strength to help tighten the belts that hold the seat base in place when installed in a vehicle.

The manufacturer’s instruction manual says that the belt has reached “optimal” tightness when the seat base does not move more than one inch in any direction, and FMVSS 213 dictates a required range for belt tension. Lab personnel installed the bases in our tests to meet the one inch condition and within the belt-tension range of the standard without needing to use the StrongArm mechanism.

Our point here is simply to make clear that we followed the instructions in the manual in ways that any reasonable parent might do also. Moreover, lab personnel and our own engineering staff are certified passenger safety technicians trained in child restraint installation.

That’s why we were troubled by the failures in the test and why we feel it is important to make our findings public.

We continue to stand by our test results and recommend that parents who are looking for a convenient travel system choose an alternative instead, such as the $245 Graco Stylus Travel System 7U02GA03. It passed our tests and is a CR Best Buy.

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