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Installing a Racing Harness for a Race Car? The Fast Racer’s Checklist
By Matt Lambert at Right Motorsport
DISCLAIMER – this article should not be used in place of the manufacturers recommended guidelines and instructions. The information provided in this article is for reference only and should be used in conjunction with the seatbelt providers recommended instructions.
When considering the installation of a racing harness in your performance vehicle, it might initially seem like a straightforward process. After all, it's just some webbing strapped across your hips and chest, right?
However, once you start contemplating the forces at play and the intricacies involved, you'll realize that it's far from simple. Harnesses aren't just about aesthetics; they are a critical safety component that can make a world of difference when it comes to your well-being inside the vehicle.
In this article, Fast Racer will delve into our “Racing Harness Checklist”, and why installing a racing harness could be a significant safety upgrade for your racing car.
Remember, when picking a racing harness for you, ensure to go with the big-name brands, such as the OMP, Sabelt, Sparco or Zamp-Racing which you can find the “Race Car” tab on the webpage navigation menu.
How to fit a Racing Harness for Race cars: The Racing Harness Checklist
Shoulder Belts: The Vital Connection
Shoulder belts are an integral part of a racing harness, and their proper installation is paramount for safety, as a best practice case, follow these pointers:
Correct Attachment: Racing harness can be fastened either to a roll-cage or bolted directly to the vehicle chassis using mounting plates provided in the harness kits. The mounting points should be solid and integral to the vehicle chassis. Any other mounting point should not be used.
- Check out these examples linked here by Zamp-Racing.
- Optimal Adjuster Position: The three-bar adjuster on the shoulder belts should be appropriately positioned, with only one bar showing, and adjacent to the harness bar. This ensures that the belts are securely held and can function effectively.
- Avoiding Obstructions: The shoulder belt three-bar adjusters should not obstruct the belt's flow through the shoulder belt opening. They should be positioned behind the seat back, as close as possible to the bar, allowing for smooth movement.
- Preventing Twists: The shoulder belt should not be twisted or constricted through the shoulder belt opening in the seat. This ensures a direct and unobstructed path for the belt from the top of the HANS or shoulders to the attachment points.
- Secured Position: Shoulder belts must be securely fixed in place to prevent horizontal sliding on the harness bar or roll cage. This stability is crucial for maintaining proper restraint.
- Angled for Safety: Shoulder belts should run at an angle from zero degrees to a maximum of negative 30 degrees, with no upward angle from the shoulder or HANS to the attachment points. Correct angling enhances their effectiveness.
- Proper Spacing: The spacing between the anchor points for shoulder belts should be in accordance with safety guidelines and should not allow them to cross over each other, ensuring optimal functionality.
Lap Belts: Protecting Your Pelvis
Lap belts are another critical component of a racing harness, with their angle and position being of utmost importance:
- Correct Angle: The lap belt should be positioned at an angle between 60 degrees and 80 degrees, measured from horizontal. This positioning ensures that the lap belt rides properly over the pelvis, preventing submarining and abdominal injury.
- No Bunching or Folding: When wearing the lap belt, the webbing should lie flat and not be bunched or folded around the seat opening. This ensures that the belt functions as intended without any risk of accidental release.
- Avoiding Abrasion: Care should be taken to ensure that the webbing path beneath the lap belt does not rub against any edges of bolts, seat brackets, or seat openings that could cut or abrade the webbing.
- Close to the Seat: The lap belt should be positioned close to the seat, at an angle not exceeding 25 to 30 degrees off the seat. This ensures that it provides effective restraint while remaining comfortable.
- Secure Attachment: The snap hooks on the lap belt should be correctly clipped to the eye bolts, with the latch toward the bottom and secured with wire or a cotter pin. This prevents accidental detachment.
Anti-Sub Straps: The Submarining Safeguard
Anti-submarine (sub-strap) belts play a crucial role in preventing submarining, and their correct installation is vital:
- Proper Positioning: The sub-strap opening in the seat bottom should be correctly positioned, and the sub-strap must not be routed around the front of the seat.
- Single vs. Dual: A five-point (single) sub-strap should be center-mounted 10 to 20 degrees forward of the tangential plane of the shoulder belts through the sub-strap hole. In contrast, a six-point (dual) sub-strap should be mounted a minimum of 20 degrees rearward from perpendicular, with two points of attachment approximately 4 to 6 inches apart.
- Avoiding Obstruction: The adjusters on the sub-straps should not be positioned or caught in the sub-strap opening in the seat.
- Correct Attachment: Snap-on or bolt-in brackets for sub-straps should be attached properly with approved backing plates, using the hardware provided by the harness belt manufacturer. Mixing hardware from different manufacturers should be avoided.
Other Considerations: Safety Beyond the Harness
Apart from the harness itself, several additional safety measures should be taken into account:
Padding: High-density padding should be used around areas where the driver's head could potentially come into contact with the roll cage. This padding should meet safety standards to provide effective protection.
Zip-Ties: Secure roll-bar padding in place with zip-ties to prevent movement during driving.
Headrest Padding: If used, headrest padding should also meet safety standards to prevent head and neck injuries.
Regular Inspections: Perform regular inspections to ensure that all webbing and hardware are in good condition. Check for signs of damage, cuts, fading, or elongation. Harnesses should be within their specified date of use, as per SFI and FIA standards.
Installing a racing harness in your performance or race vehicle involves much more than strapping some webbing across your chest and hips.
It's a meticulous process that requires attention to detail, adherence to safety guidelines, and a commitment to your well-being on the road or track. Properly installed racing harnesses can offer superior restraint, support, and protection compared to standard seatbelts, making them a worthwhile investment for both performance and safety-conscious drivers.