When kitting out your side-by-side UTV, safety has to be a priority. You can look at some of the more interesting features and customisations after you make sure that everyone is strapped in. Seatbelts, handholds and roll cages can be the difference between minor bumps and bruises and serious injury. But, with so many different types of seatbelts and harnesses out there, you have to be careful to get precisely the right option. Below is a quick guide to choosing the best type of harness and the right product for your vehicle.
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The different types of harness and seatbelts available for your UTV
If you are new to driving a UTV, you might be surprised at just how many different types of seatbelt and harness that there are. Here we will look at the 2-point up to the 6-point harnesses. Essentially, what these terms mean are the number of connection points from the belt to the seat.
Let’s start with the 2-point belts. This could either be a sash, so a single strip of fabric from the shoulder to the opposite hip, or a lap belt. The former isn’t all that common a design. Lap belts are more common as a simple form of restraint for passengers in coaches. In all honesty, it is the bare minimum in security. It should stop users jolting out of their seat when drivers brake suddenly but offer nothing for the torso. Coach tours can get away with this. UTV tours can’t.
The next step up is the 3 point belt. This is the seatbelt that you would typically find in a car. You have the sash element that connects to the opposite corner of the seat, but also the lap belt element for extra security. This is fine for driving and travelling in cars because it should keep everyone in their seat during a collision. Some UTVs may also come with these seatbelts as standard. But, they don’t offer the best full-body protection.
A popular choice for side-by-side UTVs is to go for a 4-point harness instead. This harness is much better than a seat belt because you get two thick shoulder straps holding you down, a more secure lap belt and a strong connection right in the middle. Harnesses aren’t dissimilar to those restraints on amusement park rides and rollercoasters. When you compare the speed and bumps of these rides and UTV ride, you can see why harnesses are so essential. A 4 point harness could prove to be more than enough for most UTV owners. But, there are alternatives.
The 5 point harness takes this concept of the thicker harness with the central connections and individual straps. But, it adds another connection point between the legs. You might wonder why this is necessary. Many of us won’t have used anything like this since we were in a stroller or high chair. This bar stops people sliding out of their seats and while this isn’t something you expect to happen, you may as well prevent against it.
Finally, there Is the 6-point harness. This option is very similar to the 5-point model in its style and purpose. The difference is that you get a second bar between the legs. Many UTV owners will say that this is overkill and overly protective. This is understandable if you already have a high-end 5-point model installed. But, there have been accidents where the bar on those 5-point models failed. This is just a form of insurance policy for those that want the most secure option possible.
You can find more facts about different harness types at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seat_belt.
Why should you upgrade from 2 or 3-point harnesses to a 5 or 6-point harness?
As you can see from the design and connection points on the 5 and 6-point harnesses, these are far more secure and better for safety. Therefore, you can ensure that your vehicle has the best possible safety standards when you install these models. Obviously, additional safety features and safety gear are important too. But, these harnesses are a great starting point. You might find that 6 points are a bit too much for your needs and that 5 is enough with the one bar between the legs. Or, you might decide to play it safe.
It is important that you not only install these harnesses into your driver’s seat, but that your passenger seat also has the same protection. If you roll a UTV on a nasty drop, your passenger beside you deserves the same amount of protection. You also need to consider the belts and harnesses in the back seats. How much protection should these passengers have? What do you have there already and how might you improve things for your passengers and crew?
Upgrading for maintenance
Also, don’t forget that even if your vehicle already has a good 5-point system in place across all the seats, you will still need to make upgrades. These harnesses don’t last forever. Over time, the belts can wear down and become looser. Wear and tear in the belts could cause them to snap under pressure during a crash. You also need to look out for fault with the clasps and locks. You don’t want the harness coming loose. If you think a harness looks tired, change it. It is better to be safe than sorry.
Finding the best harnesses to upgrade your vehicle
There are lots of great companies out there that offer some well-made, secure harness with 5 or 6-points. It is important to consider the following when choosing the right option.
- How strong is the material used?
- Are the connection points secure?
- Does the product offer enough comfort through padding in the right places?
- Are there additional features of interest – such as phone holders?
- Is the harness easy to install?
You can search for the best harnesses for side-by-side UTVs based on your make and model. Specially designed harnesses from Polaris, for example, will be more compatible with a Polaris UTV. Compatibility is essential for the best fit. Also, if you go with a legitimate product from the brand, it should have the quality you are after.
Considerations for upgrading your UTV with new harnesses
So how do you fit your new harness into your UTV? Well, the process isn’t an easy one. You will have to take your vehicle apart and install these harnesses carefully to ensure they are secure. So, it makes sense to have a complete overhaul of the vehicle and upgrade all the harnesses at once. It might cost more in the short-term but it will save on time and effort in the long-run.
- Strip out the doors seats and centre console to give yourself access to the old harnesses or seatbelts currently in place.
- Disconnect the safety switch
- Remove the side panels and door striker for access to the hardware
- Remove that hardware carefully
- Install your harness securely and reconnect the safety switch
- Made sure that the shoulder straps, harness and bars are all attached securely.
- Put the centre console back in
- Put the seats and doors back in and then put the shoulder straps over the seat.
Now, this is a pretty rough guide to get you started. Details will vary by model and it is best to check with the manufacturer if you are unsure. Some will have some pretty helpful YouTube Videos out there.
Wouldn’t it be better to get a new seat with a 5-point harness built-in?
This is an option. If you are going to go to all that trouble of installing the new harness by taking out the seat, you could instead put in a new seat. New seats with built-harnesses will eliminate those compatibility issues, provide the best fit and won’t impact the installation process. Take a look at your seat when checking for wear and tear on your harness. Would it be cost-effective and safer to replace both? Again, there should be some great options from your brand that are comfortable and compatible.
Don’t underestimate the importance of finding the right safety harness for your UTV
While those 5 and 6-point harnesses offer the best protection, you can also find some strong, secure options in 4 point harnesses too. As long as there is protection across the body with tough straps and secure clasps then you should be fine. Don’t rely on a typical car seatbelt to protect you from harm in the worst crashes. A lap belt isn’t even going to be comfortable over the bumps at high speeds.
Take your time to find the right option that will offer security and that is compatible with your vehicle. Consider your budget too because it isn’t going to be enough to get just one if you often ride with a passenger. Do your best to create the safest environment within your side by side and don’t get complacent. Before long, you will need to upgrade them again.