Cam Lock Harness Buckles for Off Road racing
There have been many stories over the years about cam buckle failures in off road race and recreational vehicles. Since cam buckles are now legal to use in some of the off road sanctioning bodies, we want to give you the information needed to help make an informed decision and whether they are right for you. We’ve used several brands in a multitude of racecars since the early 90’s along with selling them for about the same amount of time. What we know is there are many styles and some are better suited for the desert environment than others.
These images are of cams from 3 different manufacturers, as you can see some are affected more than others. Testing belts in vehicles has many inconsistencies, as the usage for each could not reasonably be duplicated. The images below are of brand new buckles from three different suppliers shaken in a bucket of dirt for about 60 seconds in the latched position. Note the difference in the designs and the amount of moving parts each has to make them function.
The concern with Cams shouldn’t be that they won’t release, it’s more that you may not be able to buckle them if they get dirt/rocks in them. There are several types of cam buckles; because of the variety of designs some are sealed better than other’s. The reality is they will get dirty inside and the dirt and whatever other crud will sit for weeks/months between races. What was once dirty water from the wash, beach or wherever is now dried hard. Some of the cam systems have thirty +plus parts inside them from springs to hard chrome lock shafts to drive pins to make them operate. That said, if you service them before you store the car you’ll probably be ok. If the cam will buckle, it should release. If you have a problem, it probably won’t buckle and lock so you want to have that problem in the shop before you leave…not in the desert.
The other thing to watch is getting in the car and dragging dirt and rocks into the seat with your shoes, which is hard to manage during a race. The cams are less vulnerable when latched because the holes are not exposed, when unlatched it’s easy to get dirt/rocks into the latch pin void which will obstruct belt from going into the cam which in turn will keep you from latching it.
If you’re using them and you have a co-dog jumping in after a tire change, you REALLY need to make sure they’re buckled before you take off. If you have someone new in the car, make sure they know how the cam system works.
Our conclusion is that the Cam Belts system will is acceptable for off road car if you service them. If you feel that a regularly servicing your belts may get overlooked, stay with the Latch & Link.