At Car Seats for the Littles, we draw a pretty hard line around what we will and won’t review. Please act surprised when I say that 99% of the time, our reviews are solely about car seats. So when a product comes along that isn’t a car seat, and you’re seeing it here, that’s because its car seat-related, it doesn’t interfere with the car seat, and it’s pretty useful.
For many caregivers, unbuckling a child from the car seat can be a real challenge. The FMVSS regulations require that a buckle can only be released with 9-14 pounds of pressure on the buckle1. Anyone with arthritis or other mobility impairment can find meeting this standard quite a struggle.
That’s where the Unbuckle Me becomes the second item on our list of similar devices like the BuckleBopper. The BuckleBopper has already proven itself useful to many of our readers, so we were eager to see how the Unbuckle Me stacks up. They started with a Kickstarter campaign last year and were quickly funded. The first production models are entering stores and available via Unbuckleme.com now. Read to the end of this review for a special coupon just for CSFTL readers!
Does Not Attach to the Car Seat
I cannot stress this part enough — the UnBuckle Me does not attach to the car seat in any way. Families who use one will need to find a suitable location elsewhere in the vehicle to store it. Since that’s our biggest concern, having something interfere with the harness or car seats, we were eager to see how the Unbuckle Me works.
The design is quite simple. It’s one U-shaped piece of plastic with a little nub on the inside and a rubber coating on the top.
Loosen the Harness First in Some Cases
Sometimes, we found it necessary to loosen the harness before using the Unbuckle Me. That wasn’t always the case but it was the case for one of our reviewers.
If this is the case for your situation, loosen the harness first, slip the Unbuckle Me behind the crotch buckle, then press the Unbuckle Me to release the buckle.
Lucky for you and unlucky for her, one of our admins sliced her thumb open while we were writing this review. We sent our Unbuckle Me out to her in a hurry!
Here’s what admin Emily had to say.
I could see its use for people with limited mobility. It’s a bit annoying to get it onto the crotch buckle on both a Graco Extend2Fit and a Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit. I had to use my other hand to get it onto the buckle and then push the Unbuckle Me to release the buckle. As I’ve used it more I’ve gotten used to it more. I’m going to keep going with it even as my thumb heals.
I had my dad try it (he’s 73 and has some minor arthritis) and he said it was too annoying to bother with. Comparing it to the BuckleBopper, it’s a bit more awkward to hook on to the car seat but overall is more effective.
My friend is raising her two grandbabies. She suffers from severe rheumatoid arthritis and struggles to unbuckle them from their car seats. At one point, she misplaced her Buckle Bopper and had to ask a passerby to help unbuckle the kids. She was an ideal candidate to test the Unbuckle Me!
She finds the UnbuckleMe easier to use than her Buckle Bopper. She’s able to get the kids unbuckled with nary a struggle. The kids use it to unbuckle their own seats in the carpool line at school.
Admin Katie got an Unbuckle Me for her family as well. Her kiddos are old enough to use the device to get out of their car seats, with a little help from Mom in one case. For her 4 year old, Katie positioned the device behind the crotch buckle, then had her child apply the pressure to release the button. Her older child was able to position the device without assistance. He was also able to position it for his 4 year old sister so she could then apply the pressure to release herself.
She shared the device with her mom, who really likes it and pointed out that it’s easy to use with your palm or straight fingers instead of thumb depending on where the pain or weakness is. Our friend with rheumatoid arthritis had the same observation.
Unbuckle Me in Action
We asked our favorite 4 year old to show us how the Unbuckle Me works. She’s able to use it to release herself from her car seat with ease!
First, slide the Unbuckle Me behind the crotch buckle. Our model was able to do this without issue. Her car seat is forward facing and we found that she didn’t have to loosen the harness first. We did have to loosen the harness first in rear facing mode.
Then, she placed both hands over the Unbuckle Me and pressed down on the device. She did not have to keep one hand behind the buckle in order to use it.
Next, she pressed down on the Unbuckle Me to release the buckle. You can see that the buckle toungues are now loose from the crotch buckle.
Finally, she removed the buckle tongues from the crotch buckle and she was ready to head into school!
The Unbuckle Me offers some critical help for caregivers with any kind of limitation that makes releasing their child from the car seat a challenge. It’s also a great way for older children to release themselves from their seats.
Coupon for CSFTL Readers!
Because it doesn’t attach to the car seat in any way or interfere with the harness and it’s so darn useful, we’re thrilled to share a 15% off coupon for this product with our users! Just visit www.unbuckleme.com and enter the code UnbuckleTheLittles at checkout.
1 Section of FMVSS 213 that applies to the required release pressure:
Buckle release. Any buckle in a child restraint system belt assembly designed to restrain a child using the system shall: (a) When tested in accordance with S6.2.1 prior to the dynamic test of S6.1, not release when a force of less than 40 newtons 👎 is applied and shall release when a force of not more than 62 N is applied;
(b) After the dynamic test of S6.1, when tested in accordance with the appropriate sections of S6.2, release when a force of not more than 71 N is applied, provided, however, that the conformance of any child restraint to this requirement is determined using the largest of the test dummies specified in S7 for use in testing that restraint when the restraint is facing forward, rearward, and/or laterally; (c) Meet the requirements of S4.3(d)(2) of FMVSS No. 209 (§ 571.209), except that the minimum surface area for child restraint buckles designed for push button application shall be 0.6 square inch; (d) Meet the requirements of S4.3(g) of FMVSS No. 209 (§ 571.209) when tested in accordance with S5.2(g) of FMVSS No. 209; and (e) Not release during the testing specified in S6.1