Is Your Car Seat Installed Properly?

A topic that is very near and dear to my heart is car seat safety. Even before I had Chief, I was always the crazy person who was obsessed with car seats. This got even worse when I got pregnant with Chief. I did extensive research to find the perfect seat for our new little squish. I did extensive research to make sure I knew how to properly install his car seat and how to place him properly in the seat.

Car seat facts

Did you know that 4 out of 5 car seats are installed incorrectly? Do you know if your’s is installed correctly? Did you read your manual before installing your seat?

Here are a few major tips you should go out and check with your car seat now.

  • Is your seat installed correctly? Is there less then 1inch of movement at the base of the seatbelt path.
    • To determine this, take your non dominate hand and firmly grasp the base of your seat at the seatbelt path and shake. If there is more then 1 inch movement then your seat is installed incorrectly. Make sure to tighten the latch straps, or the seatbelt and retest until there is 1 inch or less in movement.
    • If your seat is forward facing you MUST make sure that your tether strap is installed and used.
  • Is your child harnessed correctly?
    • If your child is rear facing then their straps MUST be AT or BELOW their shoulders.
    • If your child is forward facing then their straps MUST be AT or ABOVE their shoulders.
    • Chest clips MUST be at arm pit level.
    • Harness straps MUST pass the pinch test. Here is a link to the pinch test method. I personally recommend you do this every time you buckle in your child.
Strap Placement
Chest Clip Placement
Chest Clip Placement
Pinch Test
Pinch Test
  • Did you know that your car seat expires? Every car seat has an expiration date, it can be found stamped into the plastic of your seat, as well as on the manufacture sticker.
    • Car seats expire anywhere between 4 years-12 years. Each manufacture will vary.
    • Infant bucket seats tend to have a shorter life spans then convertible, or combination seats.
    • Car seats expire due to the break down of materials over time. Here is a great article from Car Seats for the Littles.
  • Did you now that you should replace your car seat after a crash?  Even minor crashes require car seats to be replaced. Here is a link regarding replacements from each manufacture.

Incorrect Car Seat Use

Are you using your seat incorrectly? Here are the most common mistakes made while using a car seat.

  • The seat is outgrown. Each seat has its own specifications as to when the seat is outgrown. Make sure to read your manual to make sure you are still able to use your current seat.
  • Not using the tether strap while forward facing.
  • Using a booster seat to early or not at all.
  • Improper clothing. Did you know that wearing bulky clothing in a car seat can affect the way the seat performs in a crash? (See Image Below)
  • Forward facing to early. It is highly recommended that you not forward face until your child is 2 years or has outgrown the rear facing limits of their seat.
  • Using a seat that has been recalled, expired, or previously been in a crash.

Using the Correct Seat

Are you using the correct seat for your child? Most parents are stumped when it comes to  when to change car seats. Your best way of know this is to read your manual and go by the guidelines provided. Don’t switch out seats until your child has fully outgrown the previous one.

For example, when using a convertible seat wait until the child outgrows the rear facing guidelines before turning forward facing. Same goes for forward facing to booster. Wait until the child has reached the maximum height and weight before transferring to a booster.

To find more information about what seat you should choose for your child check out Car Seats for the Littles. They are a fantastic organization regarding car seat safety.

Why this is important?

I can’t stress the importance of car seat safety enough. Some may say that I am a little crazy about it, and they would be correct 100%. But I have my rights to be. My son was in not one, but two very serious car crashes that could have been fatal. Every single nagging moment I have spent telling people about car seat safety, correcting their install, showing them how to properly install or helping with harness placement makes it all worth it.

The night of mine and Chief’s crash last December, I remember being scared out of my mind. The one peace of mind that I had was knowing that I had checked his strap placement and I knew his seat was installed correctly. The firemen were outstanding and were so kind even though I was yelling at them like they didn’t know how to do their job. They all commented on how Chief would have been much worse off had he not been in a seat, been in a incorrect seat, or had a bad install. They had seen it before.

When we reached the emergency room the doctors and nurses all commented on how they expected him to be worse off, but wasn’t because they heard he was installed correctly and could see he was buckled in properly. He had not yet been removed from his car seat. Now, I don’t say this like it prevented him from being injured at all. Because that isn’t the case. Chief still sustained a skull fracture from the force of the impact, but was otherwise ok. He still suffers from some emotional issues and still talks about the crash as if it were yesterday, but I am forever grateful I was able to leave that hospital with my baby.

So if you only do one thing after you read this article, please make sure that you check your car seat install and the harness placement on your little ones.



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