When it comes to keeping your kids safe, don’t risk installing their seat incorrectly. Here are a few easy steps to installing the seat correctly.
Before you even think about putting it in the vehicle…
- Read the manual. Now, I know most people loath reading instructions… but I would hope that in this case you would make an exception. Read both your vehicle owner’s manual and the car seat manual from the manufacturer. You’re not only looking for proper installation, but also information such as the weight and height limits for the seat.
- If you are borrowing a car seat, or have bought one second-hand, be sure to check the seat carefully, and ask if it’s been in a vehicle during an accident. Make sure it has all the instructions and hardware, it has no discolored stress marks or cracks, the harness is not worn or torn, and it has a properly working buckle and latch. Also look for the sticker from the American National Standard Institute and expiration date. If the seat of over 7 years old, toss it. NEVER USE A SEAT IF IT HAS BEEN IN AN ACCIDENT.
- Choose the right seat. Car seats are made to fit children at different ages and heights. A baby under 20 lbs and under 1 year, should always travel in a rear-facing seat. Toddlers who weight between 20 – 40 lbs and are over the age of 1 should ride in a forward-facing seat. Pre-school kids between 20 – 80 lbs, and those shorter than 4.75 feet should use a booster seat until the age of 8. All children under 13 should ride in the back seat.
Time to install the seat…
- Anchor the car seat. All vehicles manufactured after September 1, 2002 are equipped with the Universal Anchorage System (UAS) and lower anchorage bars for securing the seat. Then properly thread the seat belt or UAS through the child car seat, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Apply a lot of pressure. Kneel on the child seat to push it into the vehicle’s seat. Use your muscles to tighten the seat belt or UAS. Then grab the seat and try to move it side to side, don’t go easy on it either because you want to make sure it won’t move if you have an accident. It shouldn’t sway more than an inch in any direction.
- Tighten the straps on your child. Check the tension on all straps – they should be tight enough so you can only fit one finger between the child and the straps. All straps should lie flat against the child’s body and the chest clip should be positioned at armpit level. If your child whines don’t give in and loosen the straps – the result could be deadly in a collision.
If you are still unsure of how to correctly install your child’s safety seat, or you want someone to double-check your work, you can take it to a child car seat inspection station. Certified technicians will inspect your child car seat, in most cases, free of charge – and show you how to correctly install and use it. Follow the link provided to find one near you. http://www.nhtsa.gov/cps/cpsfitting/index.cfm
One last point… you may want to put a blanket or towel under the child seat to protect your vehicle’s seats from spills, crumbs and whatever else your child may throw its way.
Bob Bell Chevrolet of Bel Air
1230 Belair Road
Bel Air, MD 21014