Proper car seat installation is something every parent should take seriously. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 85% of child car seats are not installed properly! Yikes! That means if 100 people are reading this website, 85 of you have your child’s car seat installed improperly. Better keep reading!
Choosing the right car seat
While you don’t have to buy the most expensive seat out there, it’s important that you do a bit of research.
So you may be asking, how would you know what kind of car seat your child needs?
The first thing to note is, don’t just go to Walmart and buy the first one you see. Since new types of car seats are constantly coming out, the best thing to do is find a good site with honest and unbiased car seat reviews. A little bit of research upfront can save your child from serious injury later on.
To help you a bit here’s some factors to consider based on the NHTSA’s car seat recommendations for children manual:
- There are two important factors to consider when choosing your child’s car seat: his age and his size. The type of car seat that will fit in your vehicle should be your secondary concern (but it’s still important – you want to think about your child’s comfortability, too). Here are the NHTSA’s Car Seat Recommendations for Children:
- Rear-Facing Car Seat
For newborns to 1-year-olds, choose infant-only seats and convertible and all-in-one car seats.
For 1 to 3 years olds under height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer.
- Forward-Facing Car Seat
For 1 to 3 years olds who are already over the height or weight limit indicated by your car seat’s manufacturer.
For 4 to 7 years olds (with harness and tether)
- Booster Seat
For 4 to 7 years olds who have outgrown the forward-facing car seat with a harness (must still be in the back seat).
8 to12 years olds who are not yet big enough to fit in a seat belt properly.
- Seat Belt
For 8 to 12 years olds big enough to fit in the seat belt properly – but note that your child should still stay in the backseat (until 12 years at least).
2. Don’t forget to check the height and weight limits indicated in the car seat manufacturer’s instructions and comply!
3. Find the best place inside your car. As mentioned, the back seat is still the safest until your child is older than 12 years old. But, yes, not all back seats have seat belts so make sure to install one soon as you have decided where to put your car seat.
4. Lastly, don’t forget about the other passengers. It’s not just about you and your child, make sure to place the car seat in the best location where all passengers can be safe and secured.
Car seat placement
Now that you have a great car seat, where do you put it? Well, the best place is in the center rear seat. Also, the car seat installation should be done so that it’s facing the rear of the car, especially for infants. Yeah, staring at a seat probably isn’t as exciting as looking upfront for your child, but it’s the safest position, and that’s what we’re really after here, right?
The car seat should face the rear until about age 2 or when your child reaches the maximum height or weight limits (that should be in your car seat instruction manual). A big problem with this position is your child’s head may tend to fall forward. You can correct this by placing a folded towel under the front of the car seat to help level it out.
Once your child starts facing forward, keep the seat in the center rear. That remains the safest location for car seat installation.
Car seat installation guidelines
For exact installation instructions, you should do two things. Obviously, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the instruction manual. But you should also find a free car seat inspection station near you. These inspection stations are all over the country, are free of charge, and a trained expert will be happy to help you install any car seat. Why wouldn’t you take advantage of this!? No internet web page can compete with a real expert showing you proper installation firsthand. What are you waiting for? Search for a location now!
In the meantime, here are a few pointers:
- Don’t give an inch! If there is any more than an inch of movement from any strap, harness, or the seat itself, you need to tighten it up. Just one inch of movement can do serious damage to your child’s internal organs during an accident.
- If installing a forward-facing car seat, make sure it’s flat and tight against the bottom and the back of the seat. Really put some muscle into this to make sure it’s firmly in place.
- Be absolutely sure the car’s seat belt is through the correct slots. Once installed, give the seat a good yank to make sure everything is locked into place.
- If your car was made before 1996, you’ll want to use a locking clip for the car’s seat belts. Your owner’s manual will have more information on this. Very important.
- If you can move the seat side to side or forward and back more than an inch, readjust it. Check movement in all directions.
- Make sure you’re familiar with the harness buckling system. You can usually tighten and loosen the harness straps with the harness adjustment lever (yup, check the manual!).
- Don’t let the straps twist. They should remain flat.
- Once your child is buckled in, test the straps to make sure they are locked in, and make sure the vehicle seat belt is locked.
- If you don’t want to purchase head, neck, and body supports for your baby, use rolled-up cloth diapers, blankets, or towels to make sure your child is tightly secured in the seat. Everything and everybody should be snug!
Car seat installation isn’t too difficult once you get the hang of it. But honestly, no website or video will really be able to teach you car seat safety. The free car seat inspections are essential to your child’s safety!