When was the last time you looked over your car seat manual or car owner’s manual for car seat mistakes? As a new mom, I remember “guessing” at how I was supposed to install a car seat but I never put much thought into the importance of a properly installed car seat. I remember reading through the booklet that came with the car seat, but I know I didn’t check the owner’s manual. Yikes!
I am a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician and thought it might be good to share the most common mistakes we see. So far, I haven’t seen one perfectly installed car seat in the checks I’ve done.
I wish it was easier for parents to know how to install their car seat, but with so many models of seats and cars, it’s often hard to figure out what is safest for your child, in their car seat, and your car.
3 Common Car Seat Mistakes
Does your car seat pass the Inch Test?
A properly installed car seat shouldn’t move more than one inch front to back or side to side when pulled at the seat belt path. This rule applies for forward-facing car seats and rear-facing car seats.
If your car seat is too loose, use the straps for the anchors or the seat belt to really pull and tug those straps tighter than you think is possible. This process typically involves me getting inside of the car and putting as much downward pressure as I can into the car seat or base while pulling hard.
Here’s a quick video from Safe Kids Worldwide: The Inch Test – YouTube
Is your car seat installed correctly?
Did your car seat come with both anchors (and possibly a tether) and a place for the seatbelt? If so, use one system or the other, not both. Many of the car seats we saw at a recent car seat check event had both the anchors clipped into the car seat and a seatbelt through the belt path.
Bonus Points: This is also a great time to look at your car owner’s manual to see where you can place car seats in the car. Many cars don’t allow for car seats to be anchored in the middle of the back row.
Did you know anchor systems and car seat belt installations are equally safe? That was new info for me!
Is your child properly fastened?
If your child is in a harness system, check to be sure the restraint clips are even with their armpits and snug. You shouldn’t be able to pinch the straps by the shoulders and grab any of the strap. This is called a pinch test. Learn more here: Right Fit – The Ultimate Car Seat Guide (safekids.org)
- If your child is rear-facing, the top of the straps should be at or below their shoulders.
- If your child is forward-facing, the top of the straps should be at or above their shoulder level.
Where can I get my car seat checked/installed? I suggest visiting this site and searching by Polk County (even if you are in a nearby county). There are also community events and I find Facebook Events is a great place to find car seat check events too! National CPS Certification | A Program of Safe Kids Worldwide (cyzap.net)
Is your car seat recalled? Click on the “car seats” menu. Check for Recalls: Vehicle, Car Seat, Tire, Equipment | NHTSA
How long should my child stay rear-facing? Passenger Safety for Little Kids | Safe Kids Worldwide
When is my child ready to be out of a car seat? I would highly recommend visiting this site for the safest information! Seat belts | Safe Kids Worldwide