Sarah Mahan
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How to Install a Car Seat

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A correct install can make all the difference.

Installing a Car Seat

Installing a Car Seat(Photo: jinglejammer)

Once you have the correct type of car seat, you want to make sure you install it correctly. This is one of the biggest mistakes parents make regarding car seats. Before you begin installation, read both the car seat user’s guide and any car seat information included in your car’s owner’s manual.

The Risks of an Incorrectly Installed Car Seat

In a car seat inspection study done by the Pennsylvania State Police, more than 80 percent of car seats were installed incorrectly. Problems included not having the child safety seat anchored tightly enough to the car’s seat, the car seat’s safety harness being too loose, facing the car seat in the wrong direction, and using a seat that has been recalled.

In a car seat inspection study done by the Pennsylvania State Police, more than 80 percent of car seats were installed incorrectly.

Using the LATCH System

As of September 1, 2002, practically every new car will have what’s called the LATCH system built into the seats. This stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. This system provides small metal hooks built in to the seats near the seat belt buckles and into the backside of the seats. You can then use the belts provided with your car seat to latch into these hooks.

In 2014, a new rule will take affect that will require car seat manufacturers to tell consumers not to use the lower anchors when the combined weight of the car seat and child is over 65 pounds, as this weight exceeds the guaranteed strength of the anchors.

How Tight Should it Be?

One of the most difficult parts of installing a car seat is making sure it is attached tightly enough. If you can move the seat more than an inch in any direction, it is not tight enough. One helpful way to get the seat tighter is to put your knee into the seat and push down while tightening the straps.

If that is too awkward to do by yourself, you can always use a second person to help.

Check out this video from for a step-by-step installation of a convertible car seat:

Tips for a Good Car Seat Installation:

When you put your child in the seat and buckle the straps you want to make sure the straps lie flat against them and that they are tight enough so that you cannot pinch any of the harness straps between your fingers. When your child is rear-facing you want the straps adjusted so that they come from below your child’s shoulders. And, while forward facing, the straps should sit just above the shoulders.

Once your child is buckled in, you want to make sure the chest clip is pushed up to the level of their armpits and not sitting low across their belly or mid chest.

Do you have any questions on how to correctly install a car seat? Leave us a comment below to join in the conversation.

The News Wheel Guide to Car Seat Safety:

  • Sarah MahanStaff Writer

    Sarah Mahan currently lives in the Bicycle Capital of the Midwest, Xenia, Ohio, with her band director husband and two darling daughters. She loves all things French and the written word. Sarah writes professionally for the automotive industry. While her forte in cars focuses on new vehicle technology and family-friendly features, she is developing a love for all things fast, maybe in an attempt to get to know her wild side. See more articles by Sarah.