Children Car Seat FAQs

The 50 Questions You Need to Ask Before Buying A Car Seat

Below, we have composed a list of common questions that you may run into when buying car seats. Sources come from a variety of accredited locations. You will see Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) concerning safety, installation, and transitioning between different types of car seats.

Common Questions

Q1: Why do I need a car seat?

It is a legal requirement for you to have a car seat for your children. You also purchase them to ensure the safety of your children during any car accident. No standard seat belt will be able to protect your children adequately.

Q2: Why Child Car Seats Expire?

Car seats expire because materials in the car seat will break down over time. Typically, car seats have a shelf-life of anywhere between six to ten years. There is a location on any car seat that you can find to determine its expiration date. Usually, you can find them near a bar code or on a sticker.

Other typical reasons for car seat expiration dates include changing standards in manufacturing and the parts not being available anymore. We can listen to the explanation of experts from the following video.

Q3: How Many Years Can I Use My Child Car Seat?

The number of years you can use your car seat will depend on the type that you purchase. In rear-facing car seats, you will be able to get a maximum of two years of use out of it. You get about two to four years in front-facing car seats. Three-in-one and Four-in-one car seats can get up to seven or eight years.

These numbers will vary based on the quality of the car seat. Those made of better materials will last longer. Be sure to pay attention to the expiration date of your car seat. If buying a used one, be doubly sure to check this. If they are unsure, do not buy it.

Q4: Is it Secure for My Baby to Travel in the Front Seat?

The safest place to put your child in when riding a car seat is in the back seat. It is not secure to place your baby in the front seat. Airbags will deploy quickly and most likely injure your child in the process. Their head is likely to bounce against the airbag, causing damage. Car seats are for preventing head movement, which is crucial in a child’s survival during a car accident.

Q5: Is it Okay if My Child’s Seat is Loose?

A properly installed car seat should not move more than an inch. Be sure to give it a good push or tug, known as the inch test, to ensure that your child is secure. Nothing in your child’s car seat should be loose.

Q7: How do I Securely Install a Safety Seat?

The first step is to check your automobile’s owner’s manual to see the best place to put your child. If the owner’s manual is not available, anchored car seats will need metal hooks that you can find by feeling between the top and bottom cushions. These hooks are known as the lower anchors and tethers for children (LATCH) system.

You will either find hooks indicating the LATCH system or a loop to put a seatbelt through. There may be arrows on your car seat to show you the best path to take when using the belt system. Either connect the latches or lead the seatbelt through the available gaps. Be sure to lock your seatbelt if that is an option.

Be sure to perform the inch test before driving in your car. Also, the latch system has weight limits that should be available on the seat or the user’s manual. The typical weight for undoing the LATCH system is 40 lbs.

Q8: How Long do You Keep a Child in a Child Car Seat?

How long you keep your child in a car seat will depend on their growth. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests you can consider removing a booster seat once they are eight years or older.

You should base this decision more on how naturally they fit into a standard seatbelt. The belt should be snug along the shoulder, chest, and thighs. If you need to adjust the strap to account for this happening, they are probably not ready.

Q9: Why is Rear-facing Safer Than Forward-facing?

Consumer Reports have stated that children aged 23 months or younger are 75 percent less likely to sustain an injury in a rear-facing seat. Rear-facing seats face the direction that the vehicle is moving. So when a vehicle crash occurs, the car seat is flung in the direction the car is most likely to continue moving: forward.

Q10: When Should I Switch From a Rear-facing to a Forward-facing Car Seat?

You should switch from a rear-facing to a front-facing model when a child reaches two-years or older. You can also base this decision on what you see. Are they outgrowing the rear-facing seat?

If they are, you may need to ditch the old seat sooner. Children outgrowing their car seat is not a safe experience. There are also good suggestions included in the owner’s manual of your selected safety seat.

Q11: Which Child Car Seats can I Use on an Aeroplane?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) shares that the best place to keep your child on your airplane is on an approved child restraint system (CRS). This document has more information, but the device will have to be approved by the FAA. This information can be found with the owner’s manual or usually on the available tags with your car seat.

Q12: Is it safe to use second-hand car seats?

There are three things you must be aware of when purchasing a used car seat. First, be mindful of any recalls on the car seat. If the car seat has a recall, it is not safe to resell. If they are not precise about the exact make and model, and have no proof of this, find another car seat.

Second, you have to be aware of the car seat’s expiration date, which will determine the longevity and quality of the parts. Finally, you need to be sure that the chair has not been through an accident. Those who have “tested” these parts in an accident may have those safety features worn out.

Other Questions

Q13: When is my child ready for a booster seat?

This information is with the manufacturer’s owner’s manual. Move them into a standard booster seat when they are at or above the maximum weight of the suggested limit. The booster should allow the seatbelt to rest naturally on their body. The NHTSA suggests keeping your child in a front-facing seat until they can no longer fit, which can be up to 65 pounds.

Q14: Why are booster seats safer than seat belts?

A study by Montana State University has affirmed that the placement of your seatbelt is paramount to a child’s survival during an accident. Because of this, most states have pretty strict booster seat laws. For example, Montana’s laws require some form of booster seat for those below age six and beneath 60 lbs.

Q15: When can I put my child in the front seat?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends (AAP) that children stay secure in the back seat up to age twelve. State regulations will have differing opinions, so you may also base your decision upon their suggestion. Given that 35 percent of child deaths were associated with no buckles deciding to buckle up your child in a secure back-seat location is a lifesaving decision.

Q16: How do I install a car seat in a pickup truck?

Installing a car seat in a pickup truck can vary depending upon the type of vehicle that you have. If you plan on purchasing a pickup truck, be sure to limit yourself to extended, crew, and super cab options. Those are best suited to fit little ones securely in the seat.

Many trucks that are aware of this will have tethers in standard locations. These can include between the upper and lower seat cushions or behind the top seat. Some even have options for tethering your car seat outside. Your owner’s manual may provide more guidance.

Q17: How Long Does a Child Need a Car Seat or Booster Seat?

The NHTSA suggests keeping children in car seats up to age 12. Some can get out early based on how large they are. You will know they are ready based on the position of their seatbelt being secure and in natural places. Do not be too eager to get your child out of their booster, as placement of belts are crucial to survival.

Q18: When can You Switch Your Baby to the Booster Car Seat?

The answer to this question is in the owner’s manual of your safety seat. When considering most standard car seats, you can keep them in a standard front-facing car seat until they reach up to 65 pounds. Usually, this means that once they reach school age, they are ready to upgrade to a booster seat. But base that decision on a combination of their weight and height.

Q19: What are the Laws for Child Restraint Systems?

The laws for CRSs depend on the state that you reside. Answer this question by looking up the information through your DMV’s website or by calling the local DMV branch. Each state has their own opinion. For example, Alabama requires you to keep your children younger than six in a booster seat. In California, children below age two and 40 lbs must be in a rear-facing car seat.

Q20: When is My Kid Safe to Use a Seatbelt Instead of a Booster Car Seat?

Your child is safe to transition from a booster seat to a seatbelt once they appear naturally placed in a seatbelt. If the belt does not rest naturally on their shoulder, chest, and thighs, they are not ready to upgrade to the next level. Some children are unable to make this transition for some time. They could be in a booster until age 13.

Q21: What Brands of Child Car Seats are Compatible with My Car?

To determine this, you must find out a couple of essential things. First, you need to be able to fit your car seat in your car. It is more of a problem for those with smaller cars (e.x. Versas and Fiats). Regardless, measure out a space for your car seat and use that measurement to determine the dimensions of what you need.

Second, many cars come standard with fasteners, latches, and locking seatbelts. Check to see your owner’s manual or feel between the cushions of your vehicles to find the hooks needed for the LATCH system. If this system is unnecessary, your seat still needs to be secure enough to pass the inch test.

Q22: How can I stop my child from undoing the child seat harness?

The first step to prevent your child from undoing the straps is to inform them that it is unsafe. Every parent has a different strategy, use what you know works with your child. You may plan for punishments or rewards if they manage to leave it alone.

Q23: Can a child use an inflatable seatbelt?

An inflatable seatbelt provides some additional security but produced new challenges for car seat manufacturers. If you have a car seat built in the past few years, they have potentially addressed this issue in their owner’s manual. Otherwise, check out your manufacturer’s website or a list of car seats approved for inflatable seat belts.

Q24: Can three car seats fit on the back seat of my car?

The answer to this question depends heavily upon the room in your car. If all three seats need the LATCH system, you will need three separate hook systems. Do not overlap these systems.

All three car seats need to be secure. If their shapes do not complement each other, you cannot force them in. In this case, you may need to consider more narrow car seats. Always be sure to measure out your available, if possible, before making a purchase.

Q25: Where do I find information on car seat safety checkpoints?

Information on car seat safety checkpoints is on www.safekids.org. You may also find a Child Passenger Safety (CPS) technician. They have training in ensuring the safety of your child. The NHTSA also has a directory of these individuals. The Safe Kids Coalition also has many safety events where you can educate yourself on the subject.

Q26: How should I clean the car seat?

Many car seats have removable pads that you can machine wash. You can also clean it using a mild soap and water combination. The key is to get there early so the stain will not stick around. Do not place a harness in the washing machine, as it will potentially ruin its ability to stay secure.

We have prepared related videos for you.

Q27: Where do I find information on automobile and car seat standards?

This information is on the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) web site at www.nhtsa.dot.gov. The best car seats will cite these standards. However, it is always best to check the website of the NHTSA directly. We have mentioned their car seat recommendations before, but you will be able to find them here.

Q28: How tight should my harness straps be?

The website safekids.org says that the best way to determine where your harness needs to be is through the pinch test. If you pinch the webbing, your fingers should slide off of it. If the harness is loose, you will be able to pinch the webbing easily. You should also avoid bulky and loose-fitting clothing if possible.

You can refer to the following video.

Q29: Can I install my car seat next to a side curtain airbag?

Do not place your child next to any airbag that protrudes into the seating space. It is why you are unable to place your front-facing seat in the passenger seat of the car. Side curtain airbags do not explode into the passenger space. As a result, there is less risk here. Check your car’s owner’s manual to see how their airbags deploy. Check for any recalls while you are at it.

Q30: When should I move my child from an infant carrier to a convertible car seat?

This information is in your car seat’s owner’s manual. Convertible car seats have broader weight requirements, and they often include infant car seats. Check the manufacturer’s weight allowances to be sure that your baby will fit appropriately in the car seat. If you are uncertain, you can call their customer service line.

Q31: I’ve been in an accident – can I still use my car seat?

We recommend replacing any car seat that was in a crash. Even if it looks durable, there could be internal damage that would make it unsafe. Just to be sure, replace the seat. Most insurance companies will cover this expense – to be safe; please request a police report on the accident.

Q32: Why shouldn’t my child wear a winter coat when strapped into a car seat?

Winter coats are bulky. Because of this, children can easily slip from their grasp. By having the harness directly on their body, it can secure them without any chance of them moving out of the harness. It is always good to have an available blanket for these situations.

Q33: What are the common misuses of child seats?

In a study by the NHTSA revealed the most common misuses of child seats in a small number of states. The most significant mistake comes from the misapplication of age weight requirements of the car seats. Other issues include loose harness straps and retainer clips; the majority of parents had one or more failures that were “critical.”

You can also refer to the following video.

Q34: When can my child move from a rear-facing to a forward-facing seat?

This information is on the owner’s manual of your car seat. Speaking of typical situations, children typically switch over at age two. However, children can usually stay in their rear-facing car seats up to 40 pounds. Base your decision on whether or not your child fits in the car seat correctly. If not, it may be time to move them to the front-facing variant.

Q35: What do I do if my child seat does not rest properly on the car seat?

If your child does not fit properly in the car seat, you will either need to convert it to the next level or buy a new car seat. It is why purchasing a three-in-one or four-in-one car seat comes in handy. Pay close attention to the weight and height maximums of any car seat you are buying. This information provides you a good baseline of when to transition.

Q36: Are there any guidelines for the length of time that children can sit in child car seats?

When speaking to the amount of time one can spend continuously, such as long trips, there are no clear guidelines. Long journeys can be tough on little ones, so be sure to give them some sort of distraction if they are toddlers. Infants are pretty good at entertaining themselves, but you will still want to check on them. Both of them will let you know when they are upset.

Q37: What is LATCH?

LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. It provides an extra layer of security to ensure that your car seat does not move. Only use this and the seatbelt system if the owner’s manual states that you can use both. Lower anchors are for those below 65 pounds, but check your owner’s manual for details.

Q38: Is the LATCH system or the safety belt preferred?

They equally safe, but caregivers will have differing opinions on that. Regardless of the option you choose, its safety comes from your ability to install it properly. Pay close attention to weight limits in available owner’s manuals as you make your installation.

Q39: What is the safest position for my car seat?

The safest position for your child is in the back seat. It keeps them away from airbags that will protrude into the driving areas, commonly located in the front seat. If possible, you can keep your child in the middle, so they are far away from any side impacts. Regardless, side airbags do not typically enter the seating area.

Q40: When does my child switch to riding in a booster seat?

You can find this information in the owner’s manual of your car seat. The NHTSA suggests that you wait until they outgrow the front-facing seat entirely. If the seatbelt does not fit comfortably on their shoulder, chest, and thighs, they are likely not ready for this transition. The weight limits on your owner’s manual are a good indication.

Q41: How long does my child need to stay in a booster seat?

Again, this is a piece of information that you will find in the owner’s manual of your car seat. The NHTSA does suggest that the child is ready to transition from the booster seat once the seatbelt fits on them comfortably. It should be snugly fit across their shoulder, chest, and thighs.

Q42: Can I wash my child’s car seat cushion?

Most car seats have a removable cushion. The owner’s manual will dictate if that cushion is machine washable or hand washable. If you choose to forgo the instructions, you risk damaging the seat cushion. At that point, you may have to invest in a cushioned seat-covering.

Q43: What is ISOFIX?

ISOFIX are hooks that you find in your car that specifically accommodate tethering systems. Standard features of this are the hooks you see between the top and bottom cushions in your car. Also, you will see a slot that you can attach another rope onto the back of the seat. In some cases, you may even have a support leg. An ISOFIX seat is not right for every car, check with your owner’s manual for details.

Q44: When is my child ready to use a seat belt?

Your child is ready to use a seatbelt when it comfortably fits along their shoulder, chest, and thighs. It should be as if you were placing it upon yourself but in a smaller body. Do not try and skip ahead to this point, as failure to not provide them with a booster or high-backed seat when they need it could result in injury.

Q45: I can still pull out my car seat belt, which means the car seat can move around. Is this safe?

Yes. If there is a sudden stop or accident, the car seat belt will lock automatically, and the child car seat will be unmovable as a result. If you have an older car that does not have these seat belt locks, you should consider purchasing a new vehicle.

Q46: How do I know if the car seat is installed securely?

By performing the inch test, you will be able to test your car seat. When you tug or push on your car seat, does it move more than an inch? If it does, you need to secure the straps and check the owner’s manual. If it doesn’t move, your seat has passed the test.

Q47: How will I know when my child no longer needs a booster seat?

When your child fits comfortably in their seat without a booster, you will know. The seatbelt should fit comfortably along their shoulder, chest, and thighs. It should be as snug as and natural as if it were on you. If not, they are not ready to transition from the booster.

Q48: What is the difference between R44 and i-Size?

R44, otherwise known as ISOFIX, is a standard of car seat safety. I-Size, UN R-129, is the improved safety standards released in 2013. These standards are coming out of Europe. Many of these already apply to your car seats (or you may have an American variant). Check the owner’s manual to see if these regulations apply.

Q49: How should I wear a seat belt while I am pregnant?

Wearing a seatbelt while pregnant is identical to how you would wear it otherwise. Be sure that it lays comfortably along your shoulder, chest, and thighs. Place the lap belt below your belly if you are in a passenger’s seat. If driving, avoid letting your stomach touch the steering wheel. The following video is worth watching.

Q50: What is a convertible car seat?

A convertible car seat can transition between multiple modes. Typically, it transitions between front-facing car seats to rear-facing car seats. Because of this, children can stay in the rear-facing position longer, resulting in more safety. Despite it being a higher overall cost, a convertible car seat is almost always better than a standard infant seat.

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