Note: This is intended as a checkup for parents who are already familiar with their car seats, and should not be taken as a start-to-finish instruction guide for new parents. If anything here goes against the instruction manual for your car seat, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If you have any questions not answered here, seek the help of a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST). In the Phoenix, AZ area? Click here to book an in-person appointment.
Click Here to Read Part 1
Click Here to Read Part 2
Harnessing: every child’s dream come true. Most kids would rank buckling into their car seats right between flossing and pulling off a bandaid in terms of least fun activities. If you have that unique child who never fights to get into the car, I have one question. Are you 100% sure he’s human? Obviously, we don’t fasten them in for their enjoyment, but for ours (the enjoyment of getting them home safely!). Provided that you have followed the rest of the steps in my series, harnessing is pretty straightforward. After positioning your child all the way back in the seat and buckling the latches and chest clip, snug the harness by pulling the strap between your child’s legs. Check to make sure there is not loose webbing hiding anywhere (like around the hips), and that you are not choking him with the chest clip. The ultimate test for tightness is to try to pinch the harness webbing at the front of the shoulder. With your fingers up and down (not side-to-side), try to grab a little of the belt. If your fingers slide right off, it is tight enough. If you can pinch it and hold on, it’s too loose.
Some Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Someone told me the safest position to put a car seat is behind the driver. Is this true?
A: No. The back row center is actually the safest, because of the shock absorption on both sides. However, if the car seat proves to be difficult to install correctly in the center, try the outboard seat on either side. It is better to have it installed correctly in any position than it is to have it incorrectly anywhere else.
Q: Does the handle on my infant carrier car seat need to be in a specific position when in the car?
A: If the manufacturer’s instructions tell you so, then yes. However, all of the infant seats I have worked with the state that you may drive with the handle in any of the locked positions.
Q: Can I continue to use my car seat after the vehicle has been in a crash?
A: If it’s anything more than a fender-bender, then every car seat in the vehicle should be replaced. This is true whether the seat was occupied or empty at the time of the crash. The shock absorptive qualities of the seat are meant to function one time only, so even if you don’t see visible damage, it may not provide the necessary protection a second time.
Q: Am I allowed to clean my car seat?
A: Each manufacturer has different instructions, but they all have some way of cleaning them. More and more of them allow for the fabric to be machine-washed (a huge plus!), and some can even go through the dryer! Make sure to read the owner’s manual or perhaps a tag on the cover itself. Keep in mind, the rules for cleaning the buckle and the harness straps are most likely different, and following the instructions is critical for the safe function of the seat.
Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2!
Thanks for riding along with us, and please let us know if you have any additional questions!