Seat belts as tie downs

I’m in the process of making a boat trailer and am in the market for some straps that I can leave/attach to the trailer. I agree that the cam straps are most convenient and sturdy. Has anyone ever used or thought of using car seat belts? I was thinking of the middle seat type adjustable buckle. You could snap it in and then adjust it to be tight. Those straps are meant to hold a lot of force and be secure plus they are wide. I’m basically trying to devise a really quick and secure solution for loading boats of various sizes.

It would depend on boats and rack style

– Last Updated: Sep-03-14 1:00 PM EST –

It might, in many cases, also depend on how secure you want the boats to be. I would never use permanently-attached straps simply because different boats have different widths, and in the case of canoes and similar boats, it's best to have the strap come straight down along the sides of the boat, rather than being angled outward. Permanently attached straps would not allow that option, so for real security in that case you'd definitely need gunwale stops, which of course must be adjusted to fit the particular boat. So depending on the types of boats and whatever rack adjustments might be needed, you won't be saving any time. How much time are you saving anyway, when it takes about one minute per strap as it is?

Will you be able to keep the buckle from making hard contact with the hull? In the case of canoes, I doubt that this will be possible, unless you angle the straps outward, which again will make fussing with gunwale brackets necessary (so no time saved).

Another thing with permanently attached straps is that they won't last all that long. Being out in the sun, all day, every day, will deteriorate them pretty quickly - at least that's my expectation. I wouldn't count on the mechanical parts within a seatbelt latch to be rustproof either, since they are designed with the expectation that they will be out of the weather.

Carrying kayaks on saddles would probably be the best-case scenario for permanently-attached straps, as strap alignment isn't too critical in that case.

On the topic of saving time, last night after being out in a canoe fishing, I thought about some people's comments about rope and knots being slow to use. So I counted seconds while tying each trucker's hitch. Start to finish was about 10 seconds, maybe 15 if it were awkward for some reason. It takes me a lot longer than that to change from regular shoes to paddling shoes, and I don't feel like I need to save time there either. To each his own, but if you used rope and kept one end permanently tied to the rack, and if you had some practice at this, you'd be looking at 30 seconds or less per boat when attaching the main tie-downs. And when the rope deteriorated from sun exposure, it would be cheap and easy to replace.

Seriously, Byron?
Leave the automotive stuff where it was designed to be used.

There are enough varieties of tested, purpose-made straps for securing boats to trailers available that you should be able to find something adequate without needing to reinvent the wheel. And you really shouldn’t experiment with something as critical anyway.

If expense is an issue, polyester yacht braid of appropriate spec and learning a few knots is an option.

Good points
Once I get this trailer setup with racks, I plan on leaving the boats on the trailer full time. My goal with this trailer is to be able to carry both canoes and kayaks and have the whole kit ready to roll at a moments notice. Loading and strapping 7 boats takes more time than I want to spend. I have no choice but to leave my fleet outside so I cover them with a tarp and keep them on a wooden rack with carpet as padding.

I did consider that the buckles would rust and get jammed. That is a good point about not being able to adjust the width if I bolt them in. I’m reluctant to install saddles for the kayaks in the event that I’m hauling 6 canoes or something.

Decisions, decisions…

Why not?
Seems like seat belt straps would work pretty well.

If you can get them for the same price as cam buckle straps, they could be a lot more convenient and a lot stronger.

So every time you want to go paddling, you’re going to tow a trailer with 6 or 7 boats on it? Which means every put-in has to have parking for a trailer, the boats you’re not paddling have to be secured and then there’s the extra fuel for the trailer? Sounds like a kooky plan to me.

should work
Seat belts are made of polyester fabric because they are likely to be subjected to UV exposure for prolonged periods of time and because there is little stretch.

Both nylon and polypropylene are less UV resistant that polyester. So whether you use seat belts are some other polyester webbing material, it is a good choice if your plan is to leave it exposed to UV for any length of time.

The closures on seat belts are not designed for constant exposure to the elements and would likely be damaged by such. I would not trust any quick release mechanical spring latch for securing boats to a trailer or roof rack. Too much can fail, especially with exposure to rain and grit.

stainless steel seat belt buckles
Old fashioned seat belt buckles of the type still used on aircraft are available in stainless steel if you look around. I know a few folks who use them as quick releases on whitewater canoe or C-1 thigh straps.

what willowleaf said

– Last Updated: Sep-03-14 2:22 PM EST –

In fact, I'm not sure the belt and it's stitching are made for constant exposure to the elements. Yes, the buckles are stainless but the guts of the buckle are not. Throw in some sand and grit and it sounds like a lot of frustration to me.

OTOH - find someone with an old british convertible, and ask them how their belts held up to the elements!

nothing but ropes, I tell ya!
In fact, I discarded all of my seatbelts in place of rope. You just have to learn a few knots and your passengers will all be safe.

Had an MGB

– Last Updated: Sep-03-14 2:34 PM EST –

with a top full of holes, so I usually left it off.

Floor pan completely rusted through, but the seat belts were fine.

I am sure that the guys I know who use that type of buckle on their whitewater C-1 and OC-1 straps get sand, dirt, and grit in them all the time and they report no problems.

Stainless steel cam buckles are also available as I have on a whitewater OC-1 Viper with Mohawk outfitting and it has given no trouble.

There is a thread here discussing the use of various buckles (stainless and otherwise) for thigh strap outfitting:

nice one slushpaddle

– Last Updated: Sep-03-14 2:42 PM EST –

In theory, if I keep the tarp on, the only time they will be exposed to sun/water is when I'm out on a trip. As far as trusting the mechanism, don't we trust our lives to this device every day?

I'm assuming that I can get seatbelts from newer model cars at the junkyard fairly cheaply and easily.

Another plus to a quick release style buckle, is that I can ask new/inexperienced tag-alongs to help get things strapped down without an exercise in proper strapping. (I would check it all afterwards of course.) I'm not sure how it works with you all, but I invite new folks to come out nearly every trip. Then end up doing nearly all the loading and strapping myself because no one knows what to do. I need to make friends with some more experienced paddlers I guess...

To paraphrase someone
from another field, it seems like an ingenious solution to a non-existent problem. I see no advantage. Cam straps = done.

I’m still trying to figure out why…

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... you get bent out of shape when someone points out that using rope is easy. All I did in my post above was point out that in this case, tying the boats that way would be plenty fast, to the point that there's really not a significant amount of time that you could save by making a method that's even faster.

You could cut your cam straps in two, and if you permanently attached each end to opposite sides of the boat-carrying location you'd have a very speedy method of attachment as well. I figured I'd just comment on the ease and speed of a method that I actually use.

Anyway, even using cam straps the normal way, which requires looping them over the boat twice, isn't all that slow, but if the OP wants something faster, that's okay.

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel !
use camlock buckle straps

Jack L

it wasn’t directed at you
I’ve already said what bothers me about some rope comments but this wasn’t directed at you. I was just poking fun and in a way at myself also.

Besides, both materials pale in comparison to shrink-wrap.

we had an old triumph
I was very young but I do remember my dad just put a tarp over it rather than ever put the top up.

Is it true that exposing lucas electronics to inclement weather will make them work properly?

not in my experience
The whole wiring harness had to be replaced in that vehicle.

I found a small town mechanic who was willing to do the work for a reasonable labor charge up front. It took him about 6 times longer than he expected it to.

When he was finished he told me he never wanted to see the car, or me again.

Won’t be as cheap as you think
A “discount” new replacement middle-rear seat belt goes for around $30.

That means a junk yard will probably charge $15-$20.

You could get really nice loop-end cam buckle straps for around $7 from strapworks.