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Britax Marathon ClickTight Review

Ever since I’ve been paying attention to car seats (and admittedly, this was only when I had my second child … ), people have been telling me: “Britax ClickTight is the bee’s knees!”

And here are some twins’ toes!

OK, not exactly in those words. I think I’m the only person who says that.

But let me tell you, my little apiculturists: Britax ClickTight is the bee’s knees!

So what IS ClickTight, exactly? Well, it is a car seat feature that allows for easy, breezy, lemon squeezy seat belt installation of your child’s car seat.

Wait what? Seat belt install? What about the LUAS?! (Lower Universal Anchorage System) Well folks, I’m here to tell you something that might blow your mind: there’s a maximum weight for those lower anchors.

I’m working on a more elaborate post about LUAS limits (sometimes referred to as LATCH limits), but let me give you a Cole’s Notes version:

When car manufacturers designed lower anchors in the late 90s, children were in harnessed seats till about 40 lb, and car seats themselves weighed, at most, around 25 lb. Let’s do some quick math here. Lower anchors were designed to restrain a total of 65 lb of car seat and child. TOTAL.

Fast forward to 2019. We now keep children harnessed longer; kids shouldn’t move into a booster until they’re between 5 and 7 years old, and depending on the child, that may mean they are riding in a harness until they weigh 50 lb or more.  In Canada, harnessed seats have a maximum of 65 lb, and some American seats are now rated to 90 lb. The Britax Marathon, like many other seats these days, weighs in at just under 30 lb, so having an easy seat belt install is critical.

As you and I know, seat belts are designed to restrain large adult males, so it’s no trouble for the seat belt to restrain a heavy car seat and a heavy kid. But seat belt installs can be tricky. Locking the seat belt and getting it tight enough can be a challenge even for a seasoned car seat tech, and some seat belts are positioned in such a way that a secure seat belt install is near impossible with some car seats!

The ClickTight panel on Britax car seats lets you skip the grunt work of tightening and locking your vehicle’s seat belt until you get less than an inch of movement from side to side at the belt path. All you do is lift up the panel, thread the seat belt through, buckle it, then close the ClickTight panel until—guess what—it CLICKS! No need to lock the seat belt. No tugging. No grunting. No need to break a sweat.

Here’s a video I made (cinematography courtesy of my father):

https://www.facebook.com/MamanLoupsDen/videos/251960552421915/

 

To open the ClickTight panel, you press down on the dimple on the ClickTight dial, then, grasping the dial like a key, turn clockwise. To close it, you push forcefully and directly downwards on the panel until it clicks and the ClickTight dial returns to its usual orientation. I find I often need two to three pushes to get it to click. (Probably because I’m pushing too daintily on the first try!)

If your vehicle has inflatable seat belts, be sure to check the Britax inflatable seat belt policy to determine whether the Marathon ClickTight may be installed with the inflatable seat belts in your particular vehicle. Currently their policy is to not allow inflatable seat belts with their ClickTight line.

Now that I’ve covered the ClickTight, let’s take a look at the rest of this fabulous car seat.

Rear-facing mode

Specifications

  • Weight range: 5–40 lb (2.3–18 kg)
  • Maximum standing height: 49″ (124.5 cm)
  • Must have 1″ (2.5 cm) space between top of child’s head and top of the headrest
Look how upright it can be for a baby with head & neck control! Lots of room in a 2018 VW Golf!

Installation & fit to vehicle

The biggest hurdle for most parents when it comes to selecting a rear-facing seat (or two, or in our case, three) is finding one that is compact front-to-back. An extremely common car-seat-choosing faux pas I see is assuming that any car seat will fit in any vehicle. Not the case, folks. Not the case. If you choose a car seat that has only one recline angle, that recline angle must be suitable for both a newborn baby and a toddler. And guess what? A seat needs to be quite reclined to be safe for a newborn, so that seat takes up a lot of space in most vehicles and can even make the front passenger seat unusable.

The Britax Marathon ClickTight has seven possible reclines. For an older baby with head and neck control, the Marathon can be very upright, making it a great choice for tight spaces. It fits easily in the back row of our Honda Odyssey with our centre-row captain’s seats pushed all the way back.

Rather than requiring you to squint at a line etched into the side of the seat to make sure it’s installed at the correct angle, the Britax Marathon ClickTight has an easy-to-read recline indicator. For a baby without head and neck control, the black ball needs to be all the way in the light blue area. For an older baby, you’ve got lots of wiggle room, with the acceptable recline angle being anywhere inside the two shades of blue.

When using the Marathon ClickTight in rear-facing mode, you must install the anti-rebound bar. It is designed to prevent rebound rotation in the event of a collision. Once you’ve lifted the ClickTight panel, you slide each side of the anti-rebound bar into the two structure tubes marked by red indicators. Closing the ClickTight panel will secure the anti-rebound bar.

Set the recline of the seat before you install it by pulling the recline handle on the back of the seat and grasping the bottom of the seat to rotate it to where you need the black recline indicator ball to be.

As you saw in my tutorial video, installing the Marathon rear-facing with the ClickTight is a dream. You don’t need to squeeze yourself inside your vehicle and behind the seat to apply downward pressure, and you don’t need to squint to ensure a line etched in the shell is parallel with the ground.

Remember to read your vehicle manual for car seat installation instructions and read your entire car seat manual. When in doubt about your installation, contact the manufacturer’s customer service line and/or reach out to a CPSAC-trained Child Passenger Safety Technician.

Fit to child:

You can use the inner or outer buckle slot in rear-facing mode. Move to the outer slot if the buckle is underneath your child. Remember, the harness should be at or below the child’s shoulders in rear-facing mode.

We have been testing the Marathon ClickTight in rear-facing mode with both my daughter who is 3.5 years old, 32 lb (14.5 kg) and 38 inches tall and the twins who are just shy of 20 lb (9 kg) and just under and just over 30″ (76.2 cm) tall.

Because of the no-rethread harness (meaning you do not need to unthread the harness to adjust the height), I can easily switch around who’s using which seat in the van. (This is usually done according to the preference of my most vocal passenger—the 3.5 year old.) She normally rides in a Marathon next to one of the twins in a narrower convertible seat in the centre row of the van, and the other twin rides in our other Marathon in the back with big brother in his booster. But if I’m out with just the twins, they ride next to each other in the centre.

Both the twins and big sister seem content and comfortable in the Marathon, although compared to other seats we’ve tried I do notice there’s less legroom. My daughter has zero complaints about the legroom and is happy to place her legs in a variety of positions.

Note that the rubber impact-absorbing chest pads are not required in rear-facing mode. They’re designed to absorb impact in forward-facing mode and are strongly recommended for forward-facing riders. The comfort harness covers that secure around the harness to protect baby’s neck are also optional. I ended up removing both the chest pads and harness covers as I found it much easier to get a secure harness fit without them.

Forward Facing

Specifications

  • Weight range: 22–65 lb (10–29.4 kg)
  • Maximum standing height: 49″ (124.5 cm)
  • Top of ears must be below the top of the head pad
  • Harness must be at or slightly above shoulders

Installation & fit to vehicle

The most important quirk of Britax car seats in terms of vehicle compatibility is that the vehicle headrest must not put pressure on the car seat headrest. Be sure to test this when trying a Britax seat in your particular vehicle. Test it with the car seat’s headrest at its highest to make sure that as your child grows and you raise the headrest, the seat still works in your vehicle. If your vehicle has forward-leaning headrests that cannot be removed (either because they are fixed in place or because the vehicle manufacturer does not permit their removal), you may not be able to use a Britax seat in forward-facing mode at all headrest heights. (You should be able to find information about your vehicle’s headrests in your owner’s manual; if in doubt ask a Child Passenger Safety Technician.)

Otherwise, because of the ClickTight panel, even seat belt geometry that can be really challenging with other car seats is no problem. Lift the panel, thread the seat belt through the forward-facing belt path, buckle, and close the panel. And since you’re using the vehicle seat belt to install, no need to worry about switching from LUAS as your child grows. (In case you’re wondering, you can use the Marathon with the LUAS up to a child-weight of 40 lb. But if you are installing your Marathon ClickTight with LUAS, you’ve paid for the functionality of the ClickTight panel for no reason. The LUAS is present because by law it has to be, but this is a seat that is designed to be installed with the seat belt.)

Remember to remove the anti-rebound bar in forward-facing mode.

Fit to child

When using this seat in forward-facing mode, remember to use the outermost buckle slot and that the harness should be at or slightly above the child’s shoulders.

Miss Cub rode in the Marathon forward-facing for a few weeks, and we tested my son in it while it was in the house. At the time he measured 48″ (122 cm) and I was extremely impressed to find he still fit in the Marathon with the harness above his shoulders.

The top harness height is 18.65″ (47.32 cm), making it one of the highest top harness slots on the market for a convertible car seat. Some seats are as low as 15″ (38 cm) and the highest available is just over 19″ (48.26 cm). Many seats on the market will have a seemingly high height maximum for forward-facing, but the standing height maximum means nothing if the top harness slot is too low. Once the harness is coming from below the child’s shoulders, the seat is outgrown, regardless of whether they are shorter than the height limit. The ClickTight’s high top harness height means children can stay harnessed longer, and it would be unusual (thought not impossible) for a child to outgrow the Marathon ClickTight and not be ready to move into a booster.

Miss Cub seemed plenty comfy in the Marathon in forward-facing mode. I have heard some parents and children find the crotch buckle too short, but so far this hasn’t been a problem for us.

The impact-absorbing chest pads are “highly recommended” in forward-facing mode, but optional in rear-facing mode, especially for small babies on which the chest pads would prevent a snug harness fit. Tightening the harness with the chest pads on takes a bit of getting used to, but I find they really help the user pay attention to proper chest clip positioning. (Remember, we want that chest clip at nipple/armpit level!)

Britax car seats come with a v-shaped Versa tether which can be used as a crash indicator, helping parents know if they need to discontinue use of their seat after a collision. Note that the Britax crash policy has specific criteria to determine if a seat needs to be replaced after a crash, even if the tether indicator is still intact.

Things I love about the Britax Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat:

  • This seat is easy to install and use correctly 100% of the time—a car seat tech’s dream!
  • The ClickTight panel makes tricky seat belt installs a breeze.
  • A high top harness height keeps kids harnessed longer.
  • The no-rethread harness makes sharing the seat between kids of different heights hassle-free.
  • Many recline angles allows the seat to be very upright and compact, making it a great rear-facing choice for small vehicles.
  • The storage compartment on the back of the seat for the tether means no dangling pieces when installed in rear-facing mode.
  • The instruction manual is thorough and easy to follow.
  • The recline indicator is easy to read.
  • The super-lux padding provides maximum comfort (although my daughter has never complained about car seat comfort, even travelling long distances in decidedly un-padded models).

Things I like less about the Britax Marathon ClickTight:

  • The price point is not reasonable for every family.
  • The seat pan is not especially deep, so it makes for less legroom in rear-facing mode. This is not a safety concern, but some children may find it uncomfortable or, more likely, some parents may mistakenly believe it’s unsafe or uncomfortable and turn their child forward-facing before it’s necessary.
  • The seat is heavy. This is not a seat I would want to bring on a plane or carry back and forth from a taxi.
  • Because of the ClickTight panel, it’s easy for crumbs and other detritus from your child to fall through the space between the panel and the seat (compared to other seats where the crumbs will fall into the creases of the fabric cover but not into the seat itself). After using the seat only a month or so, and very rarely eating in it, I was surprised by how many crumbs were under the ClickTight panel. If your child snacks a lot in their seat, I’d check often and clean the seat often to avoid crumbs getting stuck and interfering with the harness adjuster.
  • Because Britax doesn’t want the vehicle’s headrest to put any pressure on the Marathon’s headrest, certain vehicles with forward-leaning headrests that can’t be removed (either because they’re fixed or because the manufacturer requires them in place) will be incompatible with the seat in forward-facing mode.
  • The seat itself is wide, so it’s not a suitable option if you are trying to fit three passengers in a row in most vehicles.
  • There are no cup holders. (My kids don’t seem to care but maybe this is important to yours?!)
Even at age 4, she still asks to ride rear-facing in her brother’s seat! (She weighs 35 lb and is 40″ tall here.)

Final thoughts

At a retail price of CAN$449.99, I’m not about to claim that everyone can afford a Britax Marathon ClickTight. The question is, do I think it’s worth spending this much on this car seat? (And I am the first to admit that there are some expensive car seats out there that I would not recommend investing in.)

The reasons I think a Marathon ClickTight is worth the investment if it is possible for your family:

  • A 10-year expiry means it will be good for multiple children.
  • A good fit for newborns means you can skip the bucket seat phase if you want (not something I recommend if you have twins, but for a singleton it’s very manageable).
  • A super-high top harness height means you are almost guaranteed that this seat will keep your child harnessed until they’re ready to move into a booster seat.
  • The frustration-free seat belt installation will save you gallons of blood, sweat and tears every time you need to move your car seat.
  • User-friendly features like the recline indicator, ClickTight panel and no-rethread harness make it very easy for you to use and install this seat correctly 100% of the time (which is what I, your friendly neighbourhood car seat technician, truly cherish in any car seat I recommend).

There are a couple of scenarios I can think of that do not allow you to take advantage of the ClickTight panel because you need to install the seat using the UAS. For example, in some vehicles with a third row, you can’t move the centre row’s outboard seat to access the third row if a car seat is installed using the seat belt. If your vehicle has inflatable seat belts, you cannot use the ClickTight panel, and if your vehicle seat belt is broken, obviously you also can’t. Just something to think about!

Have you been converted by a ClickTight convertible yet?

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