An appropriate child car seat is the only piece of equipment parents legally require but buying the right seat is just the start.
Sometimes fitting it is the biggest challenge and with so many different installation methods, it’s no surprise that errors occur.
The good news is that help is available. Most of the big retailers have now signed up to the Which? Best Practice Charter meaning more and more store staff are being trained by specialists. Numerous free car seat checks are also happening across the country and like Diono, many companies now have trained experts available to answer any questions.
When buying a car seat, even if it’s the second or third one, we would always recommend the following:
1. Get an in store demonstration and then see if it fits in your car.
It’s a myth that all seats fit in all cars. Head room, angle of seat back and shape of the seat are big determining factors. Also check your child sits comfortably and is fully protected. The top of the head rest should never be lower than the top of the ears.
2. Ask for fitting advice at the retailer and follow the instruction manual.
Never allow harnesses or seat belts to twist. Remember to check your car seat regularly as seat belts become loose over time. Also as your child grows out of clothes, check the harness is at the right height and the head rest is still providing the right protection. Contact the manufacturer if you are unsure about anything.
3. Seek out independent advice.
Information is available from a number of organisations including Child Seat Safety, Good Egg Guide and Road Safety Great Britain.
- Buy your car seat from a retailer who has trained staff
- Some car seats only fit certain vehicles, so check before you buy
- Always read the instructions and your car manual before you start
- Adjust harness fit with your child prior to beginning the installation
- Decide where you will place the seat
- Don’t fit your child’s car seat into a seat with an airbag unless it can be deactivated
- Check belt path and movement during install, securing the belt with a locking clip once a secure fit is achieved
- Consider extended rear facing (beyond 9kg) for the safest ride possible
- Avoid bulky coats that can interfere with a snug harness fit
- Be aware of other common fitting issues including buckle crunch and harness twist
Up to 85%* of car seats are fitted incorrectly! Having conducted a multitude of car seats checks here at Diono, we have noticed some common issues which regularly occur.
Twisted harness or seat belt
Causes increased wear and could multiply the crash forces transferred to a child. Have a quick check every time you put a child into the harness to make sure everything is straight.
Means the child is subject to increased forces on the neck. You should not be able to pinch the harness webbing.
Could lead to the buckle breaking and the car seat being released. Make sure the buckle is not on the edge of the seat causing a pivot point.
It may seem sensible to hold the seat back but a car seat should move forward with the child in an accident to make sure it protects them.
Incorrect shoulder harness height
If the harness is too low it is likely to fall off the shoulders and if it is too high it will cut into the neck. It also means the child can move out of the area protected by the car seat.
Incorrect seat belt position
For older children in booster seats, check the lap belt is across the top of the thighs, not the abdomen and the shoulder belt is on the shoulder not the neck.
Other issues can occur. Always ensure fitting instructions for the relevant model of seat are followed and seek advice from the manufacturer or a qualified expert if necessary.