Home / Car News / Car Seat Foibles: Tips for Installing Your Car Seat Properly


I know what you’re thinking; you read the title of the article and thought that installing a car seat is a no-brainer.  On the outset, putting in a car seat might appear to be an elementary procedure, but a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that three out of every four cars equipped with a child seat have it installed incorrectly.  This can result in some pretty dangerous scenarios if you find yourself in an accident or even a minor fender-bender.  Make sure you aren’t one of the three and follow the easy steps below to ensure the soundest safety for your little one.

So I Put it Forward….or Backward?

A 5-Point harness.

A 5-Point harness. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When faced with the dilemma of putting the seat either forward or backward you need to account for the age of your child. Any toddler under the age of two should be facing the rear of the vehicle.  Why you ask?  The rear-facing orientation comes from a lot of data and information of infants involved in car accidents.  Up until the age of two (or until the child has reached the maximum height or weight limit for the particular seat) the weight distribution of a toddler allows a rear-facing position to decrease the chances that any injury or damage will occur to the babies spine and neck.  Once the child is above the age of two, turning the seat to the font becomes more beneficial, especially when supplemented with a booster.

As far as seat placement is concerned, the car seat should always be placed in the rear-middle seat for both children under and over the age of two.

Getting it Just Right

Now that the orientation has been covered, you need to make sure that all of your other bases are equally protected.  The following are some common oversights when installing a car seat and how to navigate around them.

  • Confused on a certain mechanism during the installation process?  Oftentimes manuals and instructions can quickly gloss over something in a way that might be clear to one person and foggy for another.  99.9% of all car seat manufacturers will have phone numbers you can call with someone standing by to guide you step by step through the installation of your car seat.  A great resource for any parent.
  • Look for the anchors that are built into most cars.  These are small, “U” shaped metal hooks that are typically situated next to the seat belt.  These anchors work in conjunction with a car seat’s LATCH system.  A LATCH to anchor system of attaching a car seat ensures the absolute safety and stability of the installed seat.
  • If your car was manufactured before 1996 the seat belts won’t be equipped with the automatic locking system (the mechanic that doesn’t allow the lap or shoulder belt to extend any further after engagement with the lock).  To ensure that the belt stays locked, it might be in your best interest to invest in a locking clip. These are generally inexpensive and can be purchased at most any baby supply or child care store.
  • The child harness should be tight enough to allow one adult finger to glide back and forth between the belt and the child but allow for no more than two fingers.  If you can fit two, consider tightening the strap a little further
  • If your toddler or infant is having a hard time holding their head up while in the seat, place a folder cloth or towel under the front.  Your child’s head should generally be placed in a 40-45° angle.

Want a little more help? Consider signing up for a car seat installation workshop.  These classes generally only last about 30 minutes and can be a great resource for parents or childcare providers who have no previous experience with putting in a car seat.  Properly installing a car seat can be the difference between injury or no injury for your child.  Make sure you have done the proper homework to ensure the absolute safety for your little one.


About the author: markmccrell


Mark McCrell is an auto aficionado who loves to drive his 1974 Buick LaSabre around town and write about all things auto. He currently blogs for the website AutoInsuranceQuotes, which specializes in auto insurance tips.


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