Car Seat Installation – A Practical Guide

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If you have a child as well as a car, then you probably know that one of the most important obligations that you have as a parent is to keep your child as safe as possible whenever you are riding in a vehicle. Correct car seat installation is of critical importance to your child’s safety. This is much more important than choosing the type of seat.

Research has shown that as many as 70% of car seats are not correctly fitted and improper car seat installation is the leading cause of child injury and death in vehicles. This is an especially worrying trend considering the fact that children can die from accidents occurring while driving at speeds as low as 8km/h.

With thousands of children dying every year courtesy of car accidents, it doesn’t come as a surprise that most US states as well as most countries in the world have implemented car seat laws to guide parents with the aim of reducing the number of child casualties in accidents. Car seat laws vary significantly between US States, stipulating that children below a certain age (ranges between 5-8); and/or below a certain height (usually 57″/ 4’9″/ 1.45m); or below a certain weight (ranges between 60-80lbs) must use an appropriate car seat whenever riding in a car.

Most States go one step further to specify the type of child car seat that is required for a specific range of heights, weights or ages. It is important to check the specific legislation governing your State, available from the Governors Highway Safety Association website.

Things to Consider when Buying a Car Seat

Correct car seat installation all starts with buying the most appropriate car seat for both your child as well as your car. Some of the most important things to consider when buying a car seat are;
1. The age of your child.
2. The size of your child
3. Just how well the seat fits in the vehicle

The LATCH system

Cars manufactured after 1st September 2002 must have the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) installed. This is a system that was designed to complement car seats and make car seat installation not only easier but also safer. On the other hand, most car seats manufactured after September 1999 were installed with top tether straps which could be attached to the tether anchorages of the car. It is this combination of both the lower anchors as well as the top tether anchors that make up the LATCH system.

Car Seat Installation Tips – LATCH Safety Seats

In order to safely fit any LATCH safety seat, there are several tips for proper car seat use that should be followed.

1. It is crucial to be well familiar with the instructions for using the safety seat. It is only by reading the car seat user manual as well as the user manual for your car that you will be able to arm yourself with the necessary information required to safely fit the car seat.
2. Take the seats lower LATCH attachments and connect them with the car’s lower anchors.
3. You will then need to go through the instructions to know how to adjust and tighten the lower attachments that have been linked to the lower anchors.
4. Once this is satisfactorily done, turn your attention to the top tether straps of the car seat and hook them to the tether anchors of the car. Once again, ensure that they are tightly hooked.
5. If all the steps above have been followed to precision, the car seat should be well grounded and should not move either sideways or forward for more than an inch.

Car Seat Installation Tips – Rear Facing Seats

These are car seats that are meant for babies below the age of two. They include convertible car seats, rear facing seats as well as the 3 in one car seats. Proper car seat use should follow these steps:

1. Ensure that the harnesses of the seat have been placed in slots that are either below the baby’s shoulders or at the same level with them.
2. Once this is done, check to see if the baby is comfortable enough and also that the clip of the harness is at the middle of the chest and on the same level as the armpits of the baby.
3. Ensure that the sit is tightly fitted onto the cars seat in such a way that it doesn’t move more than an inch in any direction. You can do this by tightening the top tether strap as well as the lower attachments.
4. It is extremely important for you not to position the car seat on the front seat of a car that has active front air bags as the bag would cause a life-threatening risk to the baby when inflated.
5. The angle of the seat is also an important aspect to look out for. Placing the seat in a wrong angle can cause the head of your baby to fall backward . Always check instructions to get information on any angle indicators or angle adjusters that may be on the car seat.
6. If you are not well familiar with the instructions of fitting the seat, refrain from fitting it without help from someone who is well versed in fitting car seats.

For further information on rear-facing car seat installation please watch the relevant video below for your particular type of seat:

Rear-Facing Car Seat Installation with a Seat Belt

​​Rear-Facing Car Seat Installation with LATCH​

Rear-Facing Convertible Car Seat Installation with Seat-Belt

Rear-Facing Convertible Car Seat Installation with LATCH​

Car Seat Installation Tips - Forward Facing Car Seats

​These type of car seats are appropriate for children above the age of two years and generally up to the age of four years.​

  1. When using these seats it is important to harness the seat in slots that are either at shoulder level or above the shoulder level of the child
  2. Ensuring that the seat is fitted in a more upright manner is also extremely important for the safety of the child. This could involved adjusting the angle of recline.​
  3. In order to give your child extra protection and safety, try to always use the top tether strap. When well anchored to the seat of the car, this strap is essential in ensuring that in the case of an accident, neither the car seat nor the head of the baby get forward jerked too much.
  4. Look out for the weight limit of the tether anchor so as to ensure that your child's weight is always within the recommended limits.
  5. Once again, ensure that the car seat is not fitted on a front seat of a car with active front seat air bags. If anything, the back seat is always the best position to fit the car seat.

For further information on forward-facing car seat installation please watch the relevant video below for your particular type of seat:

​Combination Car Seat Installation with Seat-Belt​

​All-In-One Forward-Facing Car Seat Installation with LATCH​

​Car Seat Installation Tips - Booster Seat

​Booster seats are required after children have grown out of the forward facing seats when they reach a specific age/ height/ weight as stipulated by each State. Booster seats differ from the rear-facing and forward-facing seats in that they only help to raise the child's sitting level so as to ensure that the seat belt is of maximum benefit to the child and also to ensure that the child's neck and back are well positioned and supported. 

They can be used until the child becomes big enough to be able to safely use the lap belts and the seat belts. This normally happens from the age of 8 years old onward.​

  1. Read through the booster seat manual to get clear instructions on how to fit the booster seat.
  2. Always ensure that you use the booster seat together with the lap belts as well as the shoulder belts.​
  3. Check to see that the lap belt is comfortably and firmly strapped across the upper thigh region of your child.​
  4. Also check to see that the shoulder belt is correctly strapped right across the middle of the child's chest and shoulder and that it is not in contact with the neck of the child.​

For further information on booster seat installation please watch the relevant video below for your particular type of seat:​

High-Back Booster Seat Installation

​Backless Booster Seat Installation​

​​Combination Car Seat Installation as a Booster


Proper car seat installation is the most important factor in ensuring that your child's safety is optimum in the case of an accident or abrupt braking of the car. It is also important to abide by car seat laws as it will not only save you money but it will also enhance the protection and safety of your child.

By following these tips as well as purchasing one of ​The Top Rated Car Seats​ or one of ​The Best Convertible Car Seats for Your Younger Ones​ you can be sure of the safety of your loved ones whilst driving.


Robert is a father of a young daughter and has developed an expertise in child car seat safety. He is a keen supporter of the use of child safety systems having seen his daughter come away from a side impact collision unscathed due to the use of a child car seat. When he's not spending time reviewing child safety systems he works as a Technical Manager on major construction projects.

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