Car Seat Typical Installation Errors
1. Car seat is not tightly installed in the vehicle and moves more than 1″ in any direction
Lack of understanding of how the seatbelt system locks. See Car Seat Tips for Parents – Seatbelts.
Extra weight needs to be put into the seat during the tightening of the seatbelt. Get a partner to push down on the seat while tightening the seatbelt.
Car seat rests on a hump in the center. Sometimes the car seat has to be moved to a side seating position in order to attain a secure fit.
Seatbelt system in the vehicle may not be compatible with the car seat. Seatbelt buckles that are too long, inflexible or too far forward from the seat bite may not allow for tight installations. Try another seating position or another type of car seat.
2. Harness straps are too loose. Harness straps should be tightened so that no more than one finger width can fit between the child and harness. Harnesses should fit snugly, so that the child is not enjected from the seat in a collision.
3. Harness straps are coming out of the wrong slots – for rear-facing infants the harnesses should be out from the slot on the back of the car seat that is “at or below” shoulder level and for forward-facing seats the harnesses should be coming out of the slots that are “at or above” shoulder level. Some older model forward-facing restraints only allow one position for the harnesses when the seat is turned forward-facing. Forward-facing options can usually be identified as they are straight horizontal slots. Rear-facing slot options are usually slightly angled. Check the car seat manual for direction.
4. Forward-facing seat is not in the up-right position. Often parents will turn the car seat from rear-facing to forward-facing and not adjust the recline feature to the up-right position. The ideal angle for rear-facing seats is 45 degrees. Once the seat is turned around, the car seat should be placed in the up-right position.
5. Universal Anchorage System (UAS) or Latch belt system is not used correctly. Some vehicles do not allow the UAS system to be used in the center seating position. Check your vehicle owner’s manual. UAS systems cannot be used as tethers. If you are not using the UAS system, ensure it is secured properly, or removed as per the Car Seat Manual directions. Use only the UAS system or the seatbelt. Do not use both together.
6. Tether Anchorage errors. All forward-facing car seats must be tethered to the vehicle in order to prevent excessive forward movement of the car seat in a collision. It is imperative that the tether be attached to the appropriate anchor point in the vehicle. The vehicle owner’s manual or the manufacturer of the car can provide information on appropriate tether anchorage points.
7. Locking clip errors. Locking clips are “H” shaped metal clips that are required when there is no locking system on the seatbelt or if a cinching seatbelt is not holding the seat securely. The child restraint manual will provide direction on its appropriate use. If required, locking clips are placed ” behind the buckle and will secure the lap and shoulder portion of the seatbelt together at pre-determined length.
8. Harnesses do not lay flat. During repetitive use, harnesses may start to fold instead of laying flat on the child’s body. It is important that these straps are adjusted to lay flat each time the child is placed in the car seat. Folded harnesses will concentrate the forces of the collision on a very small part of the child’s body, and can increase the risk of injury. Flat harnesses spread the forces of the collision over a much larger area, reducing the risk of injury.
9. Chest clips that are threaded improperly and not placed at arm-pit level. Check the car seat manual to ensure that the chest clip is threaded properly, and always adjust the clip to rest at the arm-pit level of the child. Clips that lock together should be checked to ensure they are working properly.
10. Using the wrong seatbelt path to secure the car seat to the vehicle. Combination car seats that can be used for both rear-facing and forward-facing have two seatbelt paths. Ensure that the correct seatbelt path is used for your installation. The proper path will be close to the back of the vehicle seat.
Loose articles in the vehicle interior. Many people don’t realize how dangerous it is to keep loose articles in the vehicle interior while driving. Loose articles can become airborne in a collision, and cause serious injuries to passengers, including the driver. Loose articles should be kept in locked areas, including the glove compartment or the trunk. Toys for children should be soft. A good rule to go by is that if you don’t want to be hit by it, lock it in the trunk!
This is not a complete list. You can dramatically improve your ability to install your child seat correctly by reading the section of your vehicle manual on car seats first and then reading your car seat manual. These two manuals together provide the information you need to ensure a successful installation.