A Refresher on Belt-Shortening Clips—and Where to Find Them

This article originated in the November/December 2018 issue of Safe Ride News.

All CPSTs have been trained in how to use a belt-shortening clip (BSC), the heavy-duty device that holds webbing so that a CR can be installed using a lap belt with an ELR retractor.  However, few CPSTs have used one outside of certification training because, of course, vehicles with belts that require this device are now old—and, even back in the 1980s and ‘90s, such belt systems were not particularly common.

Still, it is good for CPSTs to know how to identify situations that require a belt-shortening clip and how to help a parent use one, if needed.  The situation might be rare, but if a CPST encounters a child who is riding in a vehicle so old as to need a BSC, then the vehicle is also lacking other modern safety features.  In such a vehicle, tight installation is even more critical.

All vehicle models with belts that require a BSC for CRs were made prior to September 1995, the date that the lockability requirement went into effect.  In those older cars, a BSC is needed when a seat belt has a sewn-on (nonsliding) latchplate and an emergency-locking retractor on the lap portion of the belt that cannot be switched to automatic locking mode.  Seat belts that require a BSC  for CR installation are often lap-only belts, but some are lap-shoulder belts (in which case, the retractor with only ELR mode is the one that spools the lap portion of the belt).

Using a particular technique, the user threads a BSC onto webbing to hold a loop of slack, leaving the unlooped segment of webbing—when entirely pulled out of the retractor spool—at the proper length to tightly install the CR.  This skill is taught during certification training, and this demonstration video provides a review.

As CPSTs are taught during certification training, a BSC is not a regular locking clip.  To hold webbing in a crash, a BSC must be a bit larger and stronger than a regular locking clip, so a regular locking clip should never be used as a substitute.  While CPSTs don’t need to have as many BSCs in their kits as regular locking clips, they should keep one or two on hand or, at least, know where to acquire one.  Technicians may not realize it, but the LATCH Manual always contains information on BSCs and their part numbers.  (In the new 2019 edition, this information is on page 14 as part of coverage of situations in which LATCH can’t be used.  For the past several editions, the listing of manufacturers that supply BSCs for those who need them includes:

  • Ford:       Part number F03Z-5461248-A
  • GM:         Part number 94844571
  • Toyota:    Part number 73119-22010

Use these part numbers for ordering BSCs, as well as verifying that a clip you have is actually a BSC  (and not a regular locking clip).   The number appears on packaging and is often stamped onto the BSC.

While it is always ideal for add-on parts to be of the same make as the vehicle, a BSC from a Ford, GM, or Toyota brand can be used in a vehicle from a different manufacturer, if needed.  However, GM and Toyota have indicated that their supply of BSCs is almost depleted, and therefore most dealers may not be able to supply them.  Ford, however, does have some inventory available through two third-party vendors, and for the 2019 LATCH Manual, Ford asked that SRN list the websites for these vendors among the Ford brand bullets (page B-71).  Through these vendors, the clips are essentially free ($0.01), but shipping and taxes apply:

To find a BSC on either of these sites, be sure to search the Ford part number given above (rather than entering just a product description) in order to ensure acquiring the correct part.

As the use of BSCs in CPS has become increasingly uncommon, the emphasis on the BSC skill in the certification curriculum has shrunk as well.  With a curriculum revision expected sometime in 2019, it remains to be seen how CPS training will handle this topic in the future.