The LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) System is a common feature you will find in modern child car seats used to secure the seat to the vehicle. These are a really popular feature with parents as an alternative to using the vehicle's seat belt to secure the seat. However, parents may not be aware of the important LATCH weight limits that apply when using this system. We explain everything you need to know below so please read on to ensure that you are aware and don't put your loved ones at risk.
Why are there LATCH Weight Limits?
Child car seats have developed significantly since the LATCH system first came about and advancements have enabled child seats and harnesses to have a higher weight range. When LATCH was first introduced your typical harnessed child car seat had a maximum weight limit of 40lbs and the seats themselves only weighed around 10-15lbs.
However, the latest Top Rated Car Seats of today might have a maximum child weight up to 90lbs and many seats can weigh over 25lbs. There has therefore been a large potential increase in the overall weight and, as a result, stress that might be put on the lower anchors used to secure the seat and child compared to what was originally envisaged by the LATCH system.
The reason for the introduction of LATCH weight limits is that there is concern that the lower anchors in the vehicle may not be strong enough to hold heavier children in heavier seats in some crashes. Although no real world crashes have proven this to be the case, there have been several lab test failures that give cause for concern.
In a crash it is the combination of your child's weight plus the weight of the car seat that puts the stress on the lower anchors. Some of the latest car seats have higher weight limits for a child using the 5-point harness than can be accommodated by a vehicle's lower anchors and when this limit is reached a seat belt must be used to secure the seat instead of the lower anchors.
So what exactly are LATCH Weight Limits?
LATCH Weight Limits were introduced into US safety standards (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard [FMVSS] 213) in February 2014. The weight limits relate to the maximum combined weight of your child and car seat when using the lower anchors forming part of the LATCH system (i.e. they don't affect the top tether part of the system). The applicable LATCH weight limit depends on when your car seat was made.
The table below shows the weight limits introduced via the FMMVS 213 February 2014 update and applies to all car seats manufactured after this date. NOTE however that these are maximum weight limits for car seat manufacturers and they may choose to use lower limits so you need to check the limits for your specific seat. More on this below. Also note that if you have a Convertible Car Seat that the LATCH weight limit may vary between use of the seat rear facing or forward facing.
FMMVS February 2014 LATCH Weight Limits
Rear Facing LATCH Weight Limits
Car seat manufacturers may allow the use of lower anchors for a combined total weight of child weight + car seat weight of up to 65lbs
Forward Facing LATCH Weight Limits
Car seat manufacturers may allow the use of lower anchors for a combined total weight of child weight + car seat weight of up to 69lbs
Don't be alarmed by the table above! If your child's car seat was manufactured AFTER February 2014 you don't need to worry about calculating the limits yourself as all seats made after this date have to state the maximum child's weight for using the lower anchors in both the manual and on a sticker on the seat itself.
Working out the actual limits set by the Federal safety standards if your seat was made BEFORE February 2014 and doesn't state it can be quite tricky. Most vehicle manufacturers state a limit of 65 lbs when the car seat and the child’s weight are combined, but some defer to the car seat manufacturer’s instructions, whilst others specify a 48 lb limit for just the child’s weight. This is why Safe Ride News publish a detailed LATCH Manual for use by Child Passenger Safety Technicians to help work it out. The LATCH Manual contains the most up-to-date lower and tether anchor weight limits stated by vehicle manufacturers, as well as guidance for the use of LATCH from all Child Restraint manufacturers.
So here are your options if you have a pre-Feb 2014 manufactured seat and can't find the LATCH weight limits:
- Contact your car seat manufacturer directly to ask them about the applicable limits for your seat.
- Contact a Child Passenger Safety Technician in your area to ask them.
- If in doubt, use your vehicle's seat belt instead of the lower anchors to secure the seat.