How to install a car seat

How to install a car seat

Becoming a parent is one of the most nerve-wracking and rewarding experiences we can go through. There is so much to worry about and prepare, is the nursery ready? Have you built the crib? Is your home baby-proofed? Those are just a few of the countless questions parents of a newborn must ask and answer.

An essential, and one of the most frustrating, aspects of preparing for the arrival of your child is the installation of a car seat. This stumps the majority of parents, the experts at Safe Kids Worldwide estimate that 3 out of 4 car seats are installed incorrectly, and the often confusing manufacturer instructions do little to alleviate this frustration.

We know that your child's safety is your top priority, which is why we have put together this guide to help you ensure that your child’s car seat is installed properly and secure.

Before jumping straight into the installation, it is advisable to spend some time familiarizing yourself with the car seat you have purchased. Does the car seat use the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) or seat belt system? Is it front or rear facing? Do the seat and base separate? These are the questions you should find answers to before installation.

LATCH or seat belt?

All modern car seats give the option of securing them using either the LATCH or seat belt systems, choosing which one to use beforehand will significantly decrease frustration and the time needed for the installation. But what is the difference?

The LATCH system relies on a series of tethers with metal hooks being secured to metal anchors located beneath, and around, the back seats. This method has gained popularity since September 2001 when manufacturers were mandated to include LATCH anchors in all vehicles they produce.

The traditional seat belt system relies on threading a seat belt through designated areas of the car seat.

Which one you choose depends on the car seat you bought, its recommended installation method, your vehicle, and what works best for you. We highly recommend that you spend some time reading the car seat manufacturers instruction manual as well as your vehicle’s owners manual, this will give you a good foundation to base your decision on.

Front or rear facing

Manufacturers and professional bodies, such as The American Academy of Pediatrics, alike advise that all infants should be placed in a rear-facing car seat until they either, reach the height and weight limits set by the manufacturer or are at least 3-4 years old. This is due to rear facing car seats providing better support for your child’s head, neck, and spine in the event of a crash.

Directions for a rear-facing car seat

Separate the carrier from the base. You will be installing the base of the seat as this is the section which will stay in your car at all times, separating the two parts will make installation easier. This also gives you the perfect opportunity to learn how to separate the sections;
Place the base on your cars back seat where it will be secured, double check with the car seat instruction manual and vehicle owners manual to ensure the placement is correct;
On the base of the seat, you will find a dial, most of the time they are red, and a level which alternates between blue and red. The dial is there for you to adjust the seat and make sure it is level, turn the adjustment dial until the level checker is solid blue and if there is any red showing simply adjust the dial until the level checker is completely blue;
If you are using the LATCH system, locate the anchors and attach the tethers. Following this you will need to tighten the tethers so that the base can’t move more than one inch (2.5cm) in any direction, this part can be tricky so you may need to place your entire weight on the car seat to ensure it is tightened and secured as much as possible;
If you are using the seat belt method, thread the seat belt through the designated areas as instructed. You will need to make sure that the seat belt does not bunch up or get twisted. Once threaded, fasten the seat belt and attach any additional tethers as directed by the car seat instruction manual, check that the base is secure and does not move more than one inch (2.5cm) in any direction.
Once the base is in place and secured, attach the carrier and spend some time getting used to attaching and removing it from the base.

So there we have it, your guide to installing a car seat. As this concerns the safety of your child we recommend checking with the manufacturer's instruction manual as well as your vehicle’s owners manual as you go. If you are still unsure if the car seat has been installed correctly, check with a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician. Click here to find a CPS Technician near you.

Did we miss anything? Do you have any tips or advice for our readers about installing a car seat? Let us know, we are always happy to hear from you!

For more information, or if you have any questions about installing a car seat or scheduling a routine vehicle inspection give us a call on (707) 570-2500, visit us at 1015 Santa Rosa Ave.Santa Rosa CA, 95404 or book an appointment with us online. The friendly and knowledgeable staff here at Santa Rosa Transmission and Car Care will be more than happy to help!


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