Installing a child-safety seat correctly is no easy feat. It’s a big deal, the seat has to be properly installed in the vehicle, and the child has to be properly installed in the seat. It sounds simple, yet 80 to 90 per cent of parents can get it wrong. Quite a scary stat.
In the quest to acquire the multitude of things you need when you have a baby, it can be overwhelming when you start to investigate child car seats. Rear facing, front facing, boosters, weights, heights, tethers, anchors, positioning in the car … it’s a lot of details. And they’re details you need to get right.
We wish we could give you a “fit-all” solution however you will need to ensure you adhere to the installation standards of the specific seat you have purchased. Here however is a simple start and summary of the basics. Beyond this we further recommend you watch a video or two online in particular to the specific seat you are installing to ensure you are 100% on track.
- The car seat must be the right type for the age and weight of your child
- It must be current, and have full instructions accompanying it and displayed on the sticker (also ensure you check the expiry date – seats can get old and forego their safety standards).
- It must never have been in a collision, whether the child was in it at the time or not
- For front facing seats, tether strap must be securely and properly in place
- Your child must be properly harnessed in the seat, with no padding, bulky clothing or bedding interfering with the straps. For warmth, bundle your little one over the straps, or look at specialty covers that don’t interfere with the seat performing its job.
- Your child’s caregiver’s vehicle must adhere to the same rules.
- If you don’t know how to install the car seat and can’t work it out, take the seat and your car to the car dealer. Most will install it for free, or for a small fee. It’s worth it because an improperly installed car seat is almost as bad as no car seat at all
The Extras – a few things to watch out for when installing the seat:
A child-safety seat that moves more than an inch: Check your child’s seat by grabbing it near the seat belt path or Latch belt path and giving it a tug. If it moves more than an inch in any direction, reinstall it to get a tighter fit.
Latch anchors or seat belts that are used incorrectly: If you’re using a seat belt to install a child-safety seat, make sure the seat belt’s retractor is in the locked position. If you’re using the Latch system, make sure you’re using the Latch connectors correctly (some can only be used in one direction).
Check for worn straps and padding. Used car seats are fine if they meet current standards and are in good repair.
A harness that doesn’t fit: If your child is in a rear-facing seat, the harness shoulder straps should be at or below shoulder level; in a forward-facing seat, the straps should be at or above the shoulders. The chest clip should be at armpit level. Safe Kids Worldwide says parents can then check for too much slack in the harness by pinching the strap at the shoulders. If you can pinch any webbing, tighten the harness straps.
Make sure that metal components of the seat are never in direct contact with the child’s skin. They can get very hot and burn the child.
Extras: If it didn’t come with your child-safety seat, don’t use it. This includes aftermarket (not sold with your car seat) headrests or blankets that attach to car-seat straps or go under your child when secured. There is no government agency that monitors their safety effectiveness, and these things can compromise the effectiveness of a car seat. Toys and baby mirrors: Avoid attaching toys and mirrors directly to the car seat or seat-back. In a crash, these can become airborne objects that could hurt your child.
Please note the above should be used as a guideline only. Whichever option you chose remember to ensure you understand exactly how to install the seat you have chosen and read all the instructions provided by the manufacturer.
We hope this helps you make the correct decision and improves the safety of your family.
The Soccermom Team
Safely chauffeuring your children since 2006