While most people generally believe a car seat can’t be installed in a truck, that isn’t necessarily the case. Depending on the type of truck cab your vehicle is considered, installation methods may differ slightly. Installing a car seat in a truck significantly differs from installing in a car.
The main difference between installing a seat in a truck versus a car is the tether. This is going to look vastly different in a truck than it would in a car due to the difference in how the seats are designed.
Different Types of Truck Cabs
There are several different names for the various types of truck cabs. The cab is essentially the amount of space your truck has in its “cabin.” To keep it simple, the main types are regular (single), extended, and crew.
Regular (single): Single cab trucks have one row of seating and a single set of doors on each side.
Extended: Extended cab trucks have one row of seating plus a small amount of space behind the row seating. This usually includes one or two small seats.
Crew: Crew cab trucks have two rows of seating and four doors in total.
Each type of truck cab will have it’s own rules and regulations for car seat installation. For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on installing a car seat in your single cab truck.
Is it Legal?
The short answer to this question is yes. However, there are certain stipulations that need to be met for it to be considered legal. First and foremost, the seat needs to be able to support at least 85% of your child’s car seat (source).
If your child’s seat needs to be forward-facing, your truck should have a spot for the top tether. The tether is essential because it will reduce head excursion up to 6 inches if you were to get into a crash.
Rear-facing seats must never be installed in front of an active airbag. If your truck has single row seating, this is definitely something to keep in mind. There are several American made trucks with single-row seating that have a key-activated on/off switch for the truck’s passenger airbag.
If you need to install the rear-facing seat in front of an airbag, be sure to turn off the passenger airbag beforehand. Keep in mind, many newer makes/models of American made trucks don’t have the turnkey option to shut off the passenger airbag.
Finding the Tether Anchor in Your Truck
If you aren’t sure where the tether anchor is in your truck, you should consult your vehicle manual. All vehicles manufactured after 2001 will have a tether anchor located somewhere behind the back seat.
1.Behind the Seat Anchors
With many trucks, you’ll likely find the tether anchor behind the truck’s seat. You may need to fold the seat down in order to find the anchor. While this can definitely make installing the car seat more tricky and inconvenient, it’s essential to ensure the safety of your child while riding in your truck.
Some trucks may use webbing loops. These are located behind the vehicle headrest. To tether with webbing loops, feed the seat tether through the loop behind the headrest and attach the anchor to the webbing loop behind the middle seat’s headrest (source).
Then, remove some of the slack without tightening it all the way. Finish installing the car seat, whether that be via LATCH or seatbelt, and then remove the rest of the slack from the tether. When finished, tuck the extra tether behind the seat’s headrest.
3.Behind the Seat Loops
These loops are vastly different from tether anchors in cars. To install this way, it’s best to consult your vehicle’s manual to ensure you do it correctly. Typically, the car seat tether will be fed through a webbing loop (like the previously mentioned style), and then anchored to a seat loop directly behind the vehicle seat or the adjacent outboard position.
Once your child’s seat is tethered, installation is essentially the same as it would be if you were installing in a car. If you’re unsure of the fit, it’s always recommended to find your local CPST to check your child’s seat.
You can find a list of CPSTs here.
Car Seats, Trucks, and the Law
While the safest place for your child is in the back seat, we know not every vehicle has that option. National law states that if your child’s seat is incompatible with the back seat of your truck, or your truck doesn’t have a back seat area, you can safely install their car seat in the front row.
The general rule with installing your child’s seat in the front is to make sure it isn’t installed in front of an active airbag. Due to the speed and force a deployed airbag gives, it will do more harm than good to your young child.
Let’s take a quick look at the seat belt laws for trucks/car seats in Florida, Indiana, Arizona, and Texas.
Law in Florida
Florida State Law on safety belts and child restraints require all children under the age of 5 to be in a harness car seat designed specifically for their size and age. Children under the age of 12 should be in the rear (back) seats if possible.
However, if your truck doesn’t have a back seat, your child can sit in the front so long as the airbag is turned off or they’re in the middle.
Law in Indiana
Indiana State Law requires all children under the age of 16 to be restrained in a vehicle. Children under the age of 8 should use a rear, forward, or booster child seat as well.
There isn’t a specific law for or against your child riding in a single cab truck, but common safety practice would be to make sure the airbag is turned off.
Law in Arizona
Arizona State Law requires all children under the age of 8 to make use of a child restraint seat. It’s recommended that children under the age of 3 are rear-facing. While it’s recommended children ride in the back seat, AZ law states that it’s okay to ride in the front as long as your child is in the proper seat for their age and the airbag is turned off.
Law in Texas
Texas State Law doesn’t have any specific legislation dictating where children should sit. If you’re in Texas, it’s recommended to have your child in their proper safety seat with the airbags in the off position.
Putting a Car Seat in an Extended Cab
Extended cab trucks have a little more space behind the row seating that can come in handy if you don’t want to install your child’s seat in the front. However, if you need to install your child’s car seat in an extended cab truck, here are some guidelines to follow (source):
- Child seats are intended to have 80% of their base supported by the seat cushion.
- The head restraint on the passenger side can be removed to help the seat fit better.
- The tether anchor will likely be located behind the seat cushion and will take some finesse to get it connected.
- Make sure the seats in your extended cab have a seat belt that can be used to install your child’s car seat.
- When in doubt, consult your vehicle manual to find out if your extended cab seats are car seat compatible.
Car Seats and Pick Ups
Now that you’re more familiar with the laws and logistics of car seats and trucks, we hope you’ll have an easier time getting your child’s seat installed properly. As always, consult a CPST if you’re unsure of the safety or fit of your child’s seat in your car.
In some cases, though, putting a child safety seat in your truck just isn’t plausible. Your vehicle manual may even prohibit you from putting a car seat in the front row. Unfortunately, in this case, you’ll have to use a different vehicle to transport your child. Failure to do so could result in serious injury, death, and fines/charges.
By making sure the airbags can be turned off and getting the seat professionally checked, you’ll be all set to take your little one for a cruise without worry.