The 10 Most Common Car Seat Installation Errors We See

Baby Bodyguards staffs CPST’s who help  approximately 5 parents a day install their baby’s safety seat. We can’t help but take notice of the same errors we are seeing time and time again.

Here are the most common mistakes we see:

1-Using LATCH in a center seating position when it is not allowed by the manufacturer – most vehicles do not permit you to install a car seat in the center, using the two inner LATCH anchors from the side seating positions. Check your vehicle and child restraint manuals. If nothing is specifically mentioned to allow it, don’t do it.

2-Using LATCH and a seat belt together – you must use one system or the other, not both. Either method is safe when used correctly, so go with the method that gets you the best install

3- Using LATCH beyond the weight limit. LATCH is only good up to 40lbs unless otherwise stated in your vehicle or in the car seat manual. If the vehicle and car seat manuals defer to one another, err on the side of caution and assume a 40 lb limit.

4-Incorrect seat belt routing on a booster – make sure to read and follow the instructions for how to route the seat belt correctly over your child. Many boosters have arm rests that need the lap belt routed under them instead of over.

5- Loose car seat install – a car seat must be installed tightly enough that there is an inch or less of movement in all directions at the belt path when pushed or pulled on.

6-Incorrect belt path used on convertible seat install – you must use the belt path designated for the type of install you are doing. Usually the rear facing belt path runs under the child’s bottom/legs and the forward facing belt path runs behind their back.

7-Chest clip out of position (usually too low) – the chest clip should be at armpit level at all times.

8-Aftermarket accessories (head positioners, body padding/positioners, strap covers, hanging toys, under car seat mats/upholstery protectors, mirrors, suction cup window shades, seat belt tighteners/ratchets, bunting bags/liners, custom car seat covers, etc.) – if it did not come with your seat or is not specifically allowed by your car seat manual, don’t use it. The less “stuff” involved in your car seat install, the better. Nothing extra should go between the car seat and vehicle seat, the baby and the car seat, or the baby and the harness. Toys, mirrors, and window shades can come loose in a crash and injure passengers. Mats can interfere with an install. Many manufacturers will void the seat’s warranty if aftermarket products are used. There are no safety standards for these items, so even those that claim to be “crash tested” or “meet all federal safety standards” (there are none!) cannot be trusted as safe.

9- Not using the top tether anchor when the lower LATCH anchors are used for a forward facing seat – the top tether MUST be used when a seat is installed forward facing with LATCH.

10- Unfortunately the most common mistake we see, not by our clients, but just general observation, are parents riding around with babies/children with no car seat at all. I cringe every time I see this and just pray that child makes it through the early years without being subjected to a crash.