Car Seat FAQ
What is the purpose of a car seat?
A car seat is to hold your child firmly still in the event of a crash, and to absorb the speed and impact of a crash or hard stop. A proper car seat will prevent any 'impact' injuries your child might otherwise suffer in the event of a crash. It does this by holding your child firmly in place and stopping forward motion of your child's body. For an older child, a car seat or booster seat will prevent being ejected under or over the seat belt, which is designed for someone of adult weight and height.
What kind of car seat do I need for my baby/child?
A seat that is appropriate for their height, weight, and level of physical development. Infants need rear-facing bucket seats or convertible seats, older babies and toddlers need convertible rear facing seats until they reach 20 pounds AND the age of one year. It is furthermore recommended that all children under 35 pounds (the maximum limit on most rearfacing convertibles) remain rearfacing to the limit of the seat. Most children in the US can safely rearface to between 2 and 3 years, some longer. Rearfacing is proven to be 5x safer than forward facing and is always the preferred option.
What is the best seat for my child?
The seat that fits your child, your vehicle, your budget, and that you will install and use correctly EVERY SINGLE TIME your child is a passenger in a vehicle is the seat that is 'best' for you.
You can see what seats are most compatible with your car at this link:
How can I be certain I am using my car seat safely each and every time I use it?
The very first rule in using a car seat and confirming that it is in proper use as the manufacturer designed it is to read and understand your seat's user manual. This manual should stay with the seat and you should refer to it frequently as your child grows and you must make adjustments to the seat to accommodate that. Your manual is one of the most important items about your seat and this cannot be overstated.
If you don't know how to use the seat correctly, it will not provide adequate protection in the event of an impact.
Check that your vehicle's seat belt has not loosened since you last used it. The installed car seat should be firmly fastened down, moving less than an inch side-to-side or front to back at the belt path
when firmly tugged or pushed.
Check your child's harness straps (if in a harness). They should not be twisted or frayed in any way. Do not use any straps that have become frayed- replace them immediately.
Make sure the chest clips are fastened correctly, and that the harness fastens properly into the crotch buckle. Give it a tug to make sure it clicked in there.
If in a belt-positioning booster, check that the vehicle's seatbelt's shoulder strap sits diagonally down the middle of the chest, and is not touching your child's neck.
Make sure the seat still fits your child properly and that they have not outgrown it.
Weekly make sure that the hard seat body is not cracked or worn in any way.
Make sure you replace your child's safety seat when the manufacture states the seat is expired. The plastic will degrade over time and this can affect its strength. Most manufacturers recommend retiring a seat after 6 years.
What are tether straps?
Top tethers are a length of webbing which attach to the top of a child restraint. All U.S. child seats manufactured after September 1, 1999 are required to have a tether strap. Tethers provide an additional method of securing a child restraint to the vehicle. They can be used in many vehicles, but must be used with automatic belt systems that do not lock except in sudden stops or impacts and for belt systems that do not keep a child restraint from moving more than one inch forward or backwards or side to side.
The tether has two parts: The tether strap which is located on the child seat, and the tether anchor which is installed in the vehicle. Most new cars (after 2000) have anchors. If your vehicle does not have an anchor, make an appointment to have one installed that fits your vehicle and your car seat.
What is LATCH?
L.A.T.C.H. is short for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. LATCH is includes two lower anchors and a top tether. LATCH anchors are designed specifically for car seat installation. The idea behind LATCH is to make car seat installation easier. Both seat and vehicle need to be LATCH compatible. A LATCH car seat can be used in a vehicle without LATCH by using standard seatbelts.
NOTE: Refer to your owner's manual for weight limit on LATCH use
Here is a great website with information on Tethers and LATCH:
What kind of harness is the safest?
The five point harness is by far the safest harness style available. T-shield and over the head shield/tray style seats are better than no car seat at all, but don't work to hold your child as snugly and safely as a 5 point harness. T-shield are no longer manufactured and overhead shields are quickly disappearing from the shelves. http://www.cpsafety.com/articles/fivepointshield.aspx
Why are overhead shields dangerous? What potential threat do they pose to my child
The over-the-head and T-shield car seat designs utilize a 3-point harness system. There are three points of contact with the body- over the shoulders and at the crotch buckle. It is missing 2 additional points at the hips, which the 5-point harness provides. This 3-point harness is in and of itself not terribly harmful, though it will not hold your child as securely as a 5-point harness. What causes the problem is that in an over-the-head or T-shield design, the safety strap passes through the arm and then down into the crotch buckle, effectively holding the straps away from your child's body and preventing a snug fit. Without a snug fit to your child's body, there is more room for your child to travel in the event of an impact before being caught by the harness (which should prevent all
Additionally, your child will impact the overhead arm due to the inadequate harness system. There is no energy-absorbing foam on this arm, or on the tray shield. So your child's abdomen and very likely their head will strike this arm of essentially naked plastic at a very high velocity. Substantial injuries have been reported and one death attributed directly to this type of impact.
Unfortunately, consumer demand drives the market. On the surface, the over-the-head shield seats look safest. As long as people don't realize the dangers, they will continue to buy these seats and manufacturers will continue to sell them.
If you own an over-the-head shield or T-shield seat, please stop using it immediately. Don't re-sell it; cut the seat cover and tether apart to render it unusable and discard it with your garbage. Purchase a 5-point harness or other appropriate seat for your child.
For additional information you may visit the following links:
How long do I need to keep my child rear-facing?
A child must be kept rear facing until they reach BOTH a minimum of 20 pounds AND 1 year of age. Both of these milestones must be reached before it is safe to turn them forward facing. If they weigh 19 pounds and are over a year you must keep them rear facing, and if they are 28 pounds and 10 months you must keep them rear facing. It does not matter if their feet are touching the back of the seat; it is far better to suffer a potential leg of foot injury than a neck injury. Best practice is to keep the child rearfacing to the maximum limit of the seat, even if that means they are 2 or 3 years old.
Where should I position the shoulder straps?
Shoulder straps for a RF child should be at or below the shoulders. They should not come out from above the child's shoulders.
Shoulder straps for a FF child should be above the child's shoulders. You should also check the seat manual to make sure the slots you are using are reinforced. Some older seats require that a forward facing seat should have the harness ONLY in the top most position. A good rule of thumb is if the child would fit better forward facing with a lower slot, the child should be rearfacing anyway.
Where is the safest place in the car for my child to sit?
Children under the age of 13 should always sit in the rear seat of a vehicle. A child in a rear facing seat must NEVER sit in the front seat if there is a passenger side airbag- the deployment of an airbag into a rear facing seat can injure or kill your child. Children are the safest when placed in the rear of the vehicle in the center seat. They will receive the greatest protection from impact in this position. However, if you cannot get a safe installation in the center, it is still perfectly safe to use an outboard position.
How can I keep my child's car seat firmly installed in the vehicle if their seatbelt does not automatically lock?
You must obtain a locking clip and use that to secure the seat belt used to fasten in your child's car seat. You can find more information on locking clips here http://pregnancytoday.com/reference/...s/clipthis.htm
and see a picture of one here http://www.babyproofingplus.com/item515.htm
How can I most tightly install my child's car seat? How tight is tight enough?
Installing your child's car seat is best done as a multi-player sport. You can get your seat much tighter and more secure when there are two (or more) people working on it. First off, make sure you understand your seat's instructions very very well. Then thread the belt through as per the instructions, making sure that the seat belt does not twist while going through. Clip the seat in. Now sit in it and pull out all the slack you can. You can place your knee in the seat and provide firm pressure while adjusting the belt. Sometimes, you can achieve adequate force by simply pressing down in the seat with your hand.
You must not be able to move the seat more than an inch in any direction while pulling at the belt path.
If you have *any* questions regarding the instructions, please call and ask the seat manufacturer. That is what they are there for.
Who can I call for help in properly installing my child's car seat?
Check the above website for a Child Safety Seat Inspection Station Location. They can teach you how to install the car seat properly. This is worth doing each time you change car seats or vehicle.
Where can I find out the laws in my state?
Check the following website for the facts on your state:
Remember that the laws do not necessarily reflect when it is *safe* to stop using a car seat, only when it is legal.
When will my child be ready to sit in an adult seat belt without needing a booster of any sort?
At approximately four feet 9 inches and around 10-11 years of age. For additional specific information please see the following link:
The child should be able to pass the "Five-Step Test" before moving from a booster to an adult seatbelt
1. Lapbelt crosses the child under the hips, firmly on the thighs, and does not rest on the tummy.
2. Shoulder belt cross the chest firmly on the shoulder, not touching the neck, or sliding off the shoulder.
3. The child's bottom rests firmly in the bight of the vehicl seat.
4. The child's knees bend at the edge of the vehicle seat AND the feet rest flat on the floor.
5. The child can remain in the position for the ENTIRETY OF EVERY trip without bending, slumping, leaning over or playing with the belt.
If any of the above is not true, a booster is still needed.
Is a high back or backless booster safer?
A highback with EPS foam in the headwings is preferable for younger children (under 8) due to the increased side impact protection and helping the child to stay positioned. A mature child over 8 years can usually sit safely in a backless booster. A good rule of thumb is to keep the high back portion of the booster until the child is too tall for it before switching to backless.
Always make sure the belt fits your child properly in the booster you have chosen. Some boosters on the market do a really poor job of belt positioning. Dorel 3-in-1 seats are the worst offenders. They make terrible boosters.
What are the dangers of using aftermarket devices on a car seat, such as an attachable tray or the Mighty-Tite?
Add-ons, or things that have not been manufactured specifically for use with your exact car seat, have generally not been crash tested with each individual seat and are therefore not necessarily safe to use with your seat. It is best to avoid them. You can check the following link for additional information:
Do car seats expire?
Yes. Most manufactures will put a date of manufacture or and expiration date. Car seats expire after 6-9 years, in the US. If you are unsure about your carseat it is best to replace it.
Why does a car seat expire
Plastic and other materials degrade over time, even if the car seat is rarely used. After a few years the plastic can degrade enough that in in impact, the harness can actually rip through the back of the seat, allowing the child to be ejected!
Car seats expire because technology is always moving forward. Over time the seat designs change so much. New safety features come out, making older seats obsolete.
What should I do if my car seat is in an accident
The answer will vary, depending on the severity of the accident. Call your car seat manufacturer for guidance. Some manufacturers may want the seat back to do testing on it post accident. Inform your insurer too - they will most likely cover the cost of a replacement. Don't take a chance and do nothing, there may be internal stress damage to the seat that cannot be seen.
How can I safely fly with my child and their safety seat? How can I find out if my safety seat is airline approved?
Air Travel with Child Seats
It is safest for your child to have their own seat on a plane trip, and to be buckled into their car seat. Your car seat manual should provide information stating that the seat is approved for use on aircraft. There should also be a sticker on the seat itself.
Call the airline to ask what guidelines they have for car seat use.
What are the dangers of having unsecured (loose) items in my car?
In addition to buckling up the passengers, look around you in your car. Is Fido riding with you? He should be restrained - for your safety and for his safety. That metal coffee cup sitting next to you? That could hit baby square in the head if you were in an accident. Same goes for the cell phone.
Take a good survey of the car and determine what could potentially become a projectile in the event of an accident. Put the extras in the trunk. If you have a station wagon or SUV, make sure whatever is in the cargo area is securely tied down.