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Understanding Your Car’s LATCH System 101

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LATCH system upper anchor
With a few pointers, it’s fairly simple to master your car’s LATCH system
Photo: The News Wheel

You might be familiar with what the LATCH acronym stands for — Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children — but you might not be aware of how to locate your vehicle’s anchors. Or how to secure a car seat via the product’s tethers, for that matter. We’ve rounded up some helpful pointers to take the headache out of using your vehicle’s LATCH system.

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When (and when not) to use LATCH

Before you install a car seat via LATCH, it’s important to realize that this system does have a weight limit. This weight limit capacity is the manufacturer’s way of letting you know how much force the tether anchors can safely handle, as Experienced Mommy blog founder Becky Hunt shares.

As long as the baby or toddler using the car seat is under that weight limit, it’s safe to anchor the seat using the LATCH system. If their weight exceeds this limit, then it’s best to install the car seat via the seatbelt method to help ensure that the seat is as secure as can be.

What to know about LATCH tethers and anchors

LATCH system upper anchor
Upper anchor
Photo: The News Wheel

If you’re new to using a LATCH system, there are two key components you’ll want to locate and familiarize yourself with: tethers and anchors. As long as you focus on these two parts, then installing a car seat via the LATCH system should be fairly painless.

Car seats typically have two lower tethers to help you install the product via your car’s LATCH system, as Hunt articulates. These tethers are straps with hooks on the ends that attach to your vehicle’s metal anchors. Most vehicles include lower and upper tether anchors. In some car seat models, especially combination and forward-facing ones, there might be a third strap on the back of the car seat to provide additional stability.

Depending on your vehicle’s make and model, sometimes it can be tricky to locate the LATCH anchors. Sometimes a manufacturer hides them, so you might need to use your hand to dig around the seatbelt and behind the upholstery to find them. You can also look for LATCH system symbols that the automaker incorporated somewhere on the upholstery to indicate the location of the lower and upper anchors.

LATCH system lower anchor
Lower anchor
Photo: The News Wheel

What to do when you’re still stumped

If you need more help locating your vehicle’s anchors or could use a visual to help install a car seat via LATCH, check out YouTube tutorials from your car seat’s manufacturer. Browse tutorials from reputable parenting bloggers like The Car Seat Lady for even more pointers as well as some car seat safety hacks. You can also check out the National CPS Certification Program’s listing of child passenger safety technicians to find someone to coach you on proper car seat installation.


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