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Old 04-14-2017, 06:59 PM   #1
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Educate me: 5-point Harness & Steering wheel

I am starting to strip out and modify one of my cars for DE and possibly racing at a local track/club in the (distant) future. I just put in a Sparco R100 seat and I am considering a 5-point harness. The current track rules for racing state:

Quote:
"Race cars must be equipped with a 3-inch wide, 5-point (minimum) harness in good condition as determined by the COMMA tech inspector. A single point quick-release harness disconnect device is required. "
What should I look for, what should I avoid? For the DEs, the stock seat belt is fine, but I prefer a 5-point.

The car currently has a stock 3-spoke steering wheel with a non-functioning airbag. I know nothing about racing steering wheels. Should I get one? What should I look for?
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Old 04-14-2017, 07:38 PM   #2
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it gets funky if you want to keep your horn.
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Old 04-14-2017, 09:22 PM   #3
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I just replaced the 6-pt harness in my Spec Boxster (it was out of date) and the key differences are:
  • 5-pt vs 6 pt
  • Width (2" vs 3" vs combined 2"/3" for HANS compatibility)
  • Type of end mount
  • Type of center connection
  • Color
  • Price

The main difference between 5-pt and 6-pt is that a 5-pt harness runs right up the middle (hello!) whereas the 6-pt rides a little more to each side. Both sub straps in a 6-pt belt can attach to the same floor mount if needed and often both sub straps attach to a common bar that inserts into the central connector.

Some people say that a 6-pt spreads the load over more area and might decrease sliding side-to side, but I think that the choice is mostly about the potential for increased comfort of your private parts.

Since the rules specify a 3" belt that might limit your options. The 2"/3" HANS belts have 3" everywhere but the belt narrows to 2" at the upper shoulders for a better fit over the HANS device (the 3" belts will fit but they are a little bit wide). My old belts were 3" everywhere and I just made sure that they were properly fitted over the HANS each time. My new belt is a 2"/3" HANS combo.

The type of end mount is obvious and depends on the type of mounting anchors and/or if the shoulder straps will wrap mount around the roll bar or cage vs clip or bolt mounts.

There are several types of center connectors and different adjustors (some are steel and some are aluminum). There are also options for "pull up" to tighten or "pull down" to tighten. Most production car racers use pull down belts for both the shoulders and lap belts (single seat racers use pull ups so the crew can reach in and tighten the belt where there isn't room to pull down). Some belts can be configured to be either pull up or down (flexi).

In regards to color, I was surprised that plain black belts were often cheaper than the same belt in red or yellow. Of course, my car is black so I like the contrast of red belts. Damn.

Expect to spend $250-$500 per set. Try to focus on finding the safest belt and not necessarily the cheapest.

Note: If you plan to ask an instructor to ride along with you, it is best practice to provide the same level of safety to the instructor that is provided to the driver. What this means is that if the driver has a racing seat and a 5-pt harness, it is best practice to provide a racing seat and 5-pt harness for the instructor/passenger.

This is because the safety of everyone in the car is generally viewed to be equally important and it would be in poor taste to ask someone to voluntarily ride along to help you learn to drive better while asking them to take more risk with their safety by providing only a stock seat and 3-pt seat belt when the driver has a racing seat and a harness.

This can mean that the cost to move to racing seats and harnesses could be double if there was an expectation that the instructor could/would just use the stock seat/belts. This isn't a hard and fast rule and maybe some instructors or organizations wouldn't bat an eye but a lot of them will. Plus, you really want everyone in your car to come out of an incident with equally high chances of walking away, right?

With all this being said, I bought the Schroth Profi-II 6-pt HANS harness. $395.
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Old 04-15-2017, 06:01 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thstone View Post
...
In regards to color, I was surprised that plain black belts were often cheaper than the same belt in red or yellow. Of course, my car is black so I like the contrast of red belts. Damn. Expect to spend $250-$500 per set. Try to focus on finding the safest belt and not necessarily the cheapest. ...
A quick look at Amazon and eBay showed that you can get lots of brightly colored ones with "JDM" in the name for about $50, but then I suppose I could just tie a piece of rope from my neck to the rollbar for a lot less.

Quote:
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...Note: If you plan to ask an instructor to ride along with you, it is best practice to provide the same level of safety to the instructor that is provided to the driver. What this means is that if the driver has a racing seat and a 5-pt harness, it is best practice to provide a racing seat and 5-pt harness for the instructor/passenger.

This is because the safety of everyone in the car is generally viewed to be equally important ... Plus, you really want everyone in your car to come out of an incident with equally high chances of walking away, right?
...
With my car, it's not so much about expense as it is about weight. It's my 2000 S with the 2.5L engine. Until I resolve the lacking displacement, I was hoping to get by with a temporary seat for instructors:



(For this season when I ride dual, I was thinking of taking my stock '99, but considering your point, another seat and harness is probably best and not that much of an investment compared to the benefit. If the car and I both hold up 'till next winter, I may add a cage then too.)

Steering wheel: Is the major benefit of the racing steering wheels having the quick release? Thinking I will stick to the old 3-spoke for a while.

-Just to be clear, Thanks Tom. As always thorough and useful advice. Lots to consider.
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Old 04-15-2017, 06:18 PM   #5
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I think one main benefit to a race wheel is the fact that you can disconnect it, which gives extra room for getting in and out, especially with a cage and a halo seat.
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Old 04-15-2017, 08:23 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steved0x View Post
I think one main benefit to a race wheel is the fact that you can disconnect it, which gives extra room for getting in and out, especially with a cage and a halo seat.
^^ Exactly. ^^

Until you get a cage or halo seat, the OEM steering wheel should be fine.
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Old 04-15-2017, 08:26 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by 78F350 View Post
With my car, it's not so much about expense as it is about weight. It's my 2000 S with the 2.5L engine. Until I resolve the lacking displacement, I was hoping to get by with a temporary seat for instructors:

Love it!
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Old 04-15-2017, 08:35 PM   #8
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A quick look at Amazon and eBay showed that you can get lots of brightly colored ones with "JDM" in the name for about $50, but then I suppose I could just tie a piece of rope from my neck to the rollbar for a lot less.
Check if the rules require an "FIA" certification for the harness (POC and PCA require this). If so, that will rule out most of the under $200 harnesses.
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Old 04-15-2017, 08:49 PM   #9
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Get clarification from the organizing club you plan to run with and if you change belts, be sure to do it exactly as described in the harness instructions. Most clubs require a seat with pass-throughs for shoulder, lap, and sub belts. I don't see these from your pic but may be there. Every organization handles safety a little differently so go directly to the local source for specifics.

From my perspective, a seat, harness, hans, and roll bar ext are a package deal and I feel less secure in a harness only than in a stock 3pt in a totally stock car. If you plan to add a harness, do it all at once as a complete safety system.
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Old 04-16-2017, 10:01 PM   #10
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Thanks. I hadn't considered it all together as a system and wasn't even sure what a HANS was until after Tom brought it up. Now I realize that my new seat isn't a true racing seat, but built to look and feel like a race seat for the street.
I'll have a good talk with the track officials next weekend about my cars and goals, then start making a better plan.
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Old 04-17-2017, 05:37 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 78F350 View Post
Thanks. I hadn't considered it all together as a system and wasn't even sure what a HANS was until after Tom brought it up. Now I realize that my new seat isn't a true racing seat, but built to look and feel like a race seat for the street.
I'll have a good talk with the track officials next weekend about my cars and goals, then start making a better plan.
I've seen some folks run that seat (or one similar to it) - Sparco makes a good seat and yours looks like a hybrid - it can recline for comfort, but also has good bolsters and shoulder support. It looks like it has a pass through in the cushion for a 5 or 6 pt belt.

You can run that seat with your OEM seat belt and it will still provide some lateral support during maneuvering. One trick I used to do when I was still on the OEM seat was like this:
  1. Move the seat back a click or two
  2. Fasten the OEM seat belt as tight as I could, and then jerk the shoulder belt to lock up the inertial reel
  3. Move seat back up a click or two to the original position. This locks the shoulder belt and keeps it tight so you don't move around as much

When you do get to installing a 5 or 6 point harness, I agree with the other folks on this thread, and I too would recommend getting a HANS device with it. I'm not sure if the airbag would reach back far enough to protect the head if you are belted in a 6 pt harness vs OEM 3 point belt, but check out this video of a rally car that gets into a relatively low speed impact. The passenger has a HANS device, the driver does not.

Quote:
Originally Posted by steved0x View Post
I'll add to that, even without harnesses a race seat will hold you a lot better than the regular OEM seat.

Race seat + harnesses == fantastic! It took me a long time to unlearn clenching and bracing my legs for support and the death grip on the wheel to hold myself in place.

If you go with harnesses, I would add a HNR device (Hans, NecksGen, Schroth, etc) and also the BK roll bar extension - those harnesses hold you very upright in the seat and in the case of a rollover, you need that extra protection/headroom, and in an impact, the HNR device will keep your head from snapping forward.

I don't know if the airbag would deploy back enough to keep a person's head from snapping forward like in the below video, so it may not be as critical in a street car with an airbag... But dang...

https://youtu.be/g40YatgE_CE

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