Car Seat Fit & Harness

Harness Fit

The three main things to watch when using a harness are:

  • Height of straps
  • The chest clip
  • Snugness

First, let’s make sure the harness straps are at the right level. If we are rear facing, the straps should coming out at or below the shoulders, at the closest option. If we are forward facing, the harness straps should start above the shoulder line at the closest option.

Second, let’s make sure the chest clip is at arm pit level and everything below the chest clip is nice and snug. The chest clip helps keep the shoulder straps up and protects the child’s organs by bracing against the ribs.

Lastly, let’s pull the harness nice and snug, but not too tight. You can check this by preforming the “Pinch Test”. At the shoulder, going up and down, pinch the harness straps to see if you can gather any in your fingers. If you can, it may need to be a little snugger.

View Pinch Test Video

Rear Facing Vs. Forward Facing

It is always best to stay rear facing as long as possible; it is much safe than forward facing. Once we outgrow the infant seat, we can move to a convertible seat which will function both rear facing and forward facing.

Generally, these convertibles will work rear facing up to 40 pounds. Once you reach that weight limit, it's time to move forward facing. Also note that some seats also have height limits. If you exceed either the height or weight of the rear facing seating position, it’s time to move to forward facing.

Harness Vs. Booster

It is always best to stay in a harness as long as possible; it is much safer than just a seatbelt, even with a booster. Most new forward facing seats have a weight max of 65 pounds, but can vary, so check your seat to be sure. There is often a height restriction as well.

Once you have exceeded either the height or weight of that seat or position, it’s time to move to the booster and eventually a seatbelt.

Installation Tips & Guides

General Installation Tips

Here are a few details to consider during installation:

  • Seat Position: When choosing a seating position, consider leg room of front seat passengers. You may also need to consider things like ease of use as well as access to latch or tether anchors.
  • Latch vs Seatbelt: Never use both the latch and seatbelt methods of installation at the same time. Neither is safer than the other, but sometimes one may be easier to get snug and secure. Latch typically maxes out at 65lbs including the weight of the seat, so typically its best to just use the seatbelt in forward facing seats. Also, be careful using latch in the center seat as many vehicle manufacturers will not allow that. Always refer to the vehicle manual for proper use of latch.
  • Tether: The tether must always be used in forward facing seats. This is the strap that secures the top of the seat to the vehicle (usually in the back window or back of the vehicle seat). Always refer to the vehicle manual for proper routing.

Infant Seats

Infant seat or infant carriers typically have a base that the seat clicks into (though they can be used without). Always refer to your manual for specific installation instructions.

Here is a great video on installing the rear facing infant seat.

Starting with the base, place it in the vehicle and adjust your level (most seats have a recline adjustment option). Once level, we can use either the seatbelt or the LATCH system, but never both.

If using a seatbelt, run the seatbelt through the belt path and buckle the seatbelt. Once secured, place one hand in the base and press while pulling the seatbelt snug with the other. To lock the seatbelt in place you will either use a built in lock-off, or you will need to pull the shoulder belt all the way out until the seatbelt locks and remains locked as you feed it back in.

If you choose the latch option, you will need to locate the latch bars between the seat back and base of the seat (not all seating positions or vehicles have latch). Hook the latch straps into those bars, then place one hand in the base and press while pulling the latch strap snug with the other.

You will know the seat base is secure when the level is still correct and the seat moves less than one inch at the belt path. Then you can place the seat into the base to secure it. Make sure you can always fit your hand smoothly between the car seat and back of the front seat, so they are not pressing against each other.

Convertible Rear-Facing

Convertible seats can be installed both rear facing and forward facing, but note that each position has its own height and weight limit as well as belt routing. Always refer to your manual for specific installation instructions.

Here is a great video on installing the rear facing convertible seat.

When installing the rear facing seat, make sure the seat is in the proper recline (using the level feature) and configuration. Also ensure that you are using the rear facing belt path when routing your seatbelt or latch strap.

Choose either the latch or seatbelt for installation, but never both. Often the latch is the easier option for rear facing, but it’s not always an option. Be sure to review both your vehicle manual and car seat manual for clarification.

For Latch, attach the anchors to the designated latch bars in the crevice of the seat while routed through the rear facing belt path. For Seatbelt, route the belt through the rear facing belt path and buckle it, then pull the seatbelt all the way out from the top until the belt remains locked as it retracts.

Once connected, make sure the seat is level and push down on the seat while pulling the belt or strap until it’s tight. Once snug, the seat should move less than 1 inch in any direction at the belt path, other areas may have more wiggle room and that’s ok.

Forward-Facing

Forward-facing seats can include convertibles, combination boosters and more. Anything forward-facing with a harness. Always refer to your manual for specific installation instructions.

Here is a great video on installing the forward-facing seat.

Before you start, make sure you have identified the forward-facing belt path (if convertible), tether attachment (at the top back) and any recline adjustments that need to be made for forward facing use. Also remember that we now need to adjust the harness straps to “above the shoulders”.

Next, place the seat in and run the seatbelt through the forward facing belt path and buckle it. Also, route the tether over the back of the seat and secure it to the tether anchor (marked with a logo) and pull tight.

To secure the seat, pull the shoulder belt out completely until the retractor locks and stays locked. Then feed the belt back in and pull the belt tight until you have 1 inch or less of movement at the belt path.

Boosters

Belt-positioning boosters are designed to help a child transition from a car seat to the seatbelt, since most children that have outgrown the car seat are not yet big enough to fit a seatbelt alone. These may include high-back boosters and backless boosters.

Here is a great video on installing the booster.

When installing a belt-positioning booster, place the seat into the vehicle, some seats have a latch or tether option for keeping the seat from moving when not in use, secure those but do not tighten them very much.

Place the child in the seat and ensure that the belt lays across the hips and shoulder and not off the shoulder or against the neck. If using a backless booster, also ensure that the child has a head rest.

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