How To Properly Install A Car Seat: Safety First!
First, take time to read the owner manuals for both your vehicle and your car seat. Even if you think it may not be too interesting, you may be surprised to learn something new.
Use a Rear-Facing Child Seat Until Age 2
Babies should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 2 years old. If you are in a front-end crash (the most common type of crash) a rear-facing car seat allows your child’s head, neck, and spine to move evenly into the seat, not away from it.
As your child grows, you might have to switch from using a smaller rear-facing-only car seat to using a bigger rear-facing convertible car seat that can hold a larger child. After your child reaches the weight limit for rear-facing, you will then turn the convertible seat forward-facing, or use a forward-facing car seat with a 5-point harness and top tether.
Find The Best Place in The Car
The safest place to ride for all children age 12 and under is the back seat. If your vehicle has three places in the back seat, the middle option is the best bet. Although, as you may learn from your car owner manual, the middle seat may not work with a car seat even if it does have a seat belt. In that case, you need to decide if you want your baby positioned behind the driver or behind the front seat passenger.
Check This Video:
Installing Infant Car Seat With Separate Base
Two Ways: Use The Seat Belt or LATCH
With the vehicle seat belt, place the seat belt through the car seat at the belt path openings. Arrows on the car seat or directions on the car seat label will show you the correct belt path to use.
With the Lower Anchors And Tethers for CHildern (LATCH), locate the lower attachments that connect to the car’s lower anchors (see the vido above).
Check This Video:
Installing a Rear-Facing Child Seat
After Age 2, Switch To Front-Facing Child Seat
After your child is at least 2 years old and is too big for a rear-facing car seat, put him in a forward-facing car seat with a 5-point harness and top tether. Use that car seat until your child outgrows the weight or height limit allowed for that car seat.
Check This Video:
Installing a Front-Facing Child Seat
On all forward-facing car seats, use a top tether when securing the car seat. The seat belt and LATCH are both safe, but don’t use at the same time. Choose the one that gives the car seat a snug fit.
However, only use LATCH for children less than a certain weight. The car seat label lists the weight limit. If your child’s weight reaches the limit for LATCH, you will need to switch from using lower attachments with top tether to using a seat belt with top tether.
Do The Snug Fit Test
You will notice in these videos, most adults will use their knee to push down the child seat into the car’s seat while tightening the seat belt. Once the belt is as tight as you can make it, do the INCH TEST to see how much the child seat can wiggle.
A properly-installed child seat shouldn’t move more than ONE INCH front to back or from side to side. This rule applies for front-facing car seats and rear-facing car seats. It also applies when the seat is secured with either the seat belt or LATCH.
Your Growing Child: Know Their Height & Weight
Your child may need a forward-facing car seat with a harness that has a higher weight or height limit before moving to a booster seat. However, it is safer to use a forward-facing car seat with a harness and top tether. Your child is better protected than in a booster seat with a lap and shoulder belt or just using a seat belt alone.
Remember, Car Seats Expire
When your child gets too big for her car seat, you can give the seat to someone you know. Make sure the seat has all the original parts, labels, and instructions.
Also, car seats expire. You can find the expiration date on your car seat. Look for the date on a label or imprinted on the plastic.
If the car seat has expired or was in a crash or is missing parts, throw it away! When you throw away an expired or unsafe car seat, take it apart and put the pieces in separate dark trash bags to prevent someone else from using it.
For more information,visit safekids.org.