A latch bar is a mechanical device that provides a point of attachment or locks something in place for safety reasons. There are a number of designs available, from the standardized points installed in cars for the purpose of attaching car seats, to bars that swing in place on amusement park rides to keep riders safely confined while in motion. In many cases, this piece of equipment must meet set safety standards because a failure could result in serious injuries or deaths.
In the case of latch bars in cars, the latch bar provides a point to attach a car seat or pet leash. The automotive industry uses standardized designs so car seat manufacturers can make products interchangeable in a variety of vehicles. This is critical for safety, as parents may need to transfer car seats between vehicles, including rental cars. The standardized system also meets safety standards to anchor car seats firmly in place in the event of accidents and other situations.
Latch bars for tailgates, doors, and other openings are also available. These can lock an opening closed or at a specific position, such as an angle for a tailgate. Drivers moving large loads that overhang on the bed may choose to leave the gate ajar, for example, and the latch bar will keep it in position to prevent the load from sliding out when the car brakes suddenly or goes around a curve. The latch bar usually locks into the side of the opening.
Metal is the most common construction material for a latch bar, as it is durable, sturdy, and will resist a variety of conditions, including extreme cold. Companies typically subject their materials to extensive testing to make sure they will withstand operating conditions without cracking, bending, or snapping. Very cold weather, for example, can be a concern with a latch bar used outdoors, and shearing forces may be present in a car accident, putting stress on car seat anchor points. It is important to use a bar rated for a given application to prevent injuries.
In the event that a consumer wants to install a latch bar to replace an old or defective model or to put one in place to increase safety, it is critical to follow installation directions carefully. Bolts and screws should be carefully inspected before use, as should all attachment points; screwing a latch bar into a cracked doorway, for example, is not very safe because it may pull out with pressure or could spontaneously fall out of place if the cracks widen over time.