Installing car seats can prove to be a major hassle, especially when the manual seems impossible to navigate. Luckily, most infant seats are installed in the same way. We do want you to keep in mind though that some seats have specific instructions depending on the way they’re made, which requires a few extra steps.
For example, some seats are equipped with Smart Harnesses that connects via Bluetooth to an app. This sends notifications to your phone when there’s any type of potentially distressing situation. Others may have LATCH specific instructions as there are a few different LATCH types. We’ll go into more detail in this post.
Installing Via Seatbelt
All car seats have the ability to be installed via the vehicle’s seatbelt. However, depending on the car seat model, there may be a slightly different way to do so. As always, be sure to consult your car seat manual to confirm that you’re installing correctly.
- Get familiar with your manual. Like we mentioned above, some car seats may use specific belt-locking technology. Familiarize yourself with the technology so you know how to handle it when installing.
- Place the car seat base, rear-facing, in your back seat. The safest possible spot is your vehicle’s middle seat, but we know this isn’t always plausible depending on your family and vehicle size.
- Thread the seat belt through the indicated belt path. There are specific holes meant for the vehicle seat belt to be thread through. This path ensures the seatbelt keeps the base and seat in place.
- Buckle the seatbelt and lock the belt. To lock the belt, pull it out completely until you hear a click.
- Tighten the seatbelt to ensure a secure fit. Tighten the seatbelt as you would if you were wearing it. While doing so, push down in the middle of the base to ensure it stays in position.
- Check your angles. Before using, make sure your angles are correct. Many seats come with a handy bubble indicator to help you with this.
- Connect your infant seat to the base. Once you’re confident that it’s installed correctly, click your infant seat into the base. Make sure the seat doesn’t move more than one inch side-to-side or front-to-back.
Installing Via LATCH
LATCH technology made itself known in 2001 and any car manufactured after 2002 is equipped with the proper LATCH technology. The purpose of this new system is to help parents install their child’s car seat by making the process easier and less stressful. With that said, here are some general instructions for installing via the LATCH method.
- Locate your LATCH parts. The LATCH parts for infant seats are located on the base.
- Place your base in the desired spot in your vehicle’s back seat. Again, the center seat is safest, but some vehicles may only have anchors in the side seat spots.
- Hook your lower connectors. Your connectors will latch to the anchors located where the two parts of your back seat meet.
- Pull the adjuster strap to secure installation. The adjuster strap is located inside the base. Pull the strap until the seat is secure. Use your hand to push down on the base to ensure it doesn’t move.
- Connect your car seat to the base. Once the seat is connected, check to make sure your base doesn’t move more than one inch side-to-side or front-to-back.
Things to Know Before Installing an Infant Seat
Before going out to your car and installing your new investment, there are a few things you need to consider. First and foremost, keep in mind the type of car seat you purchased. Is it an infant seat or did you opt for a convertible option?
Which Method is Better?
One installation method isn’t necessarily better or safer than the other. However, LATCH technology was created to make installing car seats easier. For this reason, we prefer using the LATCH method to install a car seat.
Keep in mind, if you chose a convertible seat, once the combined weight of the seat and your child surpasses 65 pounds, you can no longer use LATCH installation. Car seats are only tested to that weight limit, so once your child reaches this point, safety becomes questionable. All car seats are able to be installed either way, so it’s completely up to your personal preference which method you use.
Common Installation Mistakes
Although seats come with instructions for installation, it’s still really easy to make mistakes. Luckily, these issues are super easy to troubleshoot as long as you know when to spot them.
- Twisted straps. You may not think a small twist in the harness straps or seatbelt is a big deal, but any twists can inhibit the secure installation or fastening of your child.
- The base is too loose. It’s extremely important to make sure your base doesn’t move more than an inch in any direction. A relaxed installation can greatly reduce the effectiveness of the seat in keeping your child safe.
- Using both LATCH and seatbelt installation. When installing, you should only choose one of the two available installation methods. Neither one is safer than the other, but using both can actually cause a loose installation.
- Using the top tether of LATCH while rear-facing. Infant seats won’t come with a top tether, but rear-facing convertible seats do. If you’re using a convertible seat with your infant, the top tether should not be used until the seat is flipped to forward-facing mode.
To make it easier on you, here is a quick guide with important terms and words that will be used throughout this post.
- LATCH: This is an acronym for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. This is an alternative installation system for all car seats that makes installation quicker and easier.
- Angle: The car seat angle is the position in which the car seat is sitting. Depending on your infant’s age, the angle will need to be adjusted accordingly.
- Lower Anchor: The lower anchor is the part of the LATCH system located where the vehicle’s bottom seat meets the back support in the backseat of the vehicle.
- Bubble Indicator: The bubble indicator is a level located on the side of the seat that helps ensure your baby’s car seat is at the correct angle for their age.
- CPST: a CPST is also known as a Child Passenger Safety Technician. These are highly trained individuals who have extensive knowledge of car seats and how to correctly install them. CPST’s are great resources if you want a fit or installation check.
Keeping Baby Safe
It’s not nearly as difficult to install a car seat as one may think. As long as you’re familiar with your seat’s manual and you follow the instructions we’ve provided, you shouldn’t run into any issues. Bear in mind common mistakes when installing as well to avoid running into those issues. The more informed you are about proper installation, the better. If you’re still worried your baby’s seat isn’t installed correctly, find your closest CPST and they can do a certified fit check for you. After all, your baby’s safety is the number one priority, right?