As a parent, there are probably so many things that you find confusing about protecting a child – especially if it’s your first one. “What’s a rear facing tether and why do I need it?” “What’s the difference between rear-facing and forward-facing ones?” or “How does it affect the safety of my child?”
There are so many questions regarding tethering, and all of them have to be answered at some point. The safety of your child is at stake here. No matter how good of a driver you are, there could always be a maniac that will slam into you. In these situations, a rear-facing tether may be the only thing that could save their life.
What Is a Tether?
A tether is a type of seatbelt designed for children. It is located on the back of a regular convertible car seat or a combination one. This belt, or “tether,” is generally used rear-facing for babies and toddlers, changing it to forward-facing as the child gets older.
If you've come across the term "LATCH" in car seat terminology then this also refers to these tethers as part of an overall system of securing a car seat to a vehicle. We talked about LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) in detail in one of our previous articles so check out that article for further information. The tether is a key component of the system.
The rear facing tether is there to secure the child seat and prevent it from moving further in case of a collision. It will also keep the child secure in place, keeping them protected (provided you anchor it correctly).
There are two kinds of tethering: Australian and Swedish. If you tether a rear facing car seat the Swedish way, the seat rebound will be greatly reduced. Most people prefer the Swedish method because it brings an overall better stability in case you become the victims of a car crash. We like to study the Swedes as they have lead the way in car seat safety for the rest of the world partly due to their use of Extended Rear Facing Car Seats.
Technically, you are not required by the law to use a tether. So far, the only country that made it a requirement is Canada. To be frank, the law doesn’t require of you to give healthy food to your child either – but you do it either way, because it’s what’s good for them, right? The same thing applies to tethers.
Tethering a rear-facing car seat is optional. So, if you do it, at least do it correctly.
Rear Tethers and Compatibilities
Before going for a rear facing tether, here’s one thing you should keep in mind: not every convertible baby seat was made with tethering in mind. If you do not see a tethering strap on the convertible – just don’t try to attach it. It may just bring unnecessary injuries to the child.
It’s possible that your car doesn’t have an anchor for a rear facing tether. So far, Volvos are probably the only cars that have such an option. However, as a non-Volvo user, you can also improvise and secure the tether to a metal, fixed vehicle anchor point that is attached to the structure of the vehicle. This is typically the track of the front seat. Your child car seat should have come with a short black strap that is used for anchoring to this anchor point. This way, you can use its original tether strap to improvise a safe rear racing tether to the anchor strap. The below video presentation courtesy of Britax demonstrates how to do this using the Swedish method.
If you decide that you actually need such a tether, but do not want to improvise, here are the front seats in the US that permit it.
You may not want to tether a convertible unless it’s one that has been mentioned above. Not all seats were designed for this, and doing this may just make it unsafe for the child.
On the other hand, if your seat does allow for rear-facing tethering, you should definitely do it. Even when it comes to the above-mentioned seats, tethering is optional in the United States; however, given the opportunity, you should definitely take advantage of it.
Doing so will prevent any rebound, and the seat will stay safely in its place. It’s like having an extra seatbelt. Also, keep in mind that a tether strap may affect the sensors coming from the airbag – so make sure that your car accepts this kind of tethering. You may also want to try different locations before installing a tether.
Steps to Take to Install a Rear-facing Tether
Once you have the car seat and the tether at hand, here is how you install a rear facing tether:
- 1Pull the car’s front seat all the way up to make way.
- 2If possible, remove the plastic cap on the seat track so that the connector strap goes in as far back as possible.
- 3Take the connector strap from the tether and slide it under the track for the seat
- 4Pass the metallic part through the loop. This will create a slip-knot effect and finalize the installment of your rear-facing tether anchor.
- 5Take the child seat and use the lower anchors or the seatbelt to secure it (depending on where you are placing it).
- 6Connect the metal end of the tether connector strap with the hook. Move the front seat back, leaving only room for one finger between the front seat and the back of the child seat.
- 7Tighten the tether to minimize the slack, but be careful not to crank it. While a front-facing car seat needs to be super tight, a rear facing one doesn’t need to be as much.
The below video gives a demonstration of the rear facing tether installation on a Volvo with its built in anchor points.
There’s no law that forces you to opt for rear facing tether. However, in the event of an accident, you’ll thank every lucky star for taking that extra step. Children are fragile, so you have to be extra careful and offer them all the protection they need.