Friday, September 4, 2009

How I Danced With The Car Seat Devil…and Won!

Nothing will frustrate a new father more than realizing he can’t seem to get that blasted car seat in tight enough! If you’re like me, you just assumed that it was going to be easy: put the seat or base in the car, loop the seatbelt through, and finished! But after trying to install two different car seat bases via the seatbelt in our Rav4 and having absolutely no luck with really securing it, I turned to the trusty internet.

So let’s back up first and cover off some important car seat points. You may find yourself the recipient of a used car seat and this may or may not be a good thing. For one, car seats have a relatively short lifespan. Due to regular use, exposure to heat and cold, etc., a car seat is only good for 5 – 7 years. Also, technology from early 00’s to today has changed (as we’ll see below), so you may be stuck with the archaic seat-belt installation if your seat/base doesn’t have LATCH hookups.

So with that said, my opinion is that its better to drop the coin (because yes, this stuff ain’t cheap) and get a new car seat. For those of us with newborns (and up to approx 50lbs), there are great travel systems available that bundle car seat, base, and stroller. We purchased the Chicco Cortina travel system and LOVE it! So many good things about it, but for the purpose of this blog post let me say the car seat base installation was super easy.

Let’s talk about installation. At first I tried to install my seat base via the seat belt method. I checked my vehicle’s manual and that was the only option it listed, so I assumed I was doing things correctly. The problem is that, for whatever reason, the seatbelt just wouldn’t tighten enough to hold the base in place properly…even after doing things by the book. If your vehicle was manufactured in 2003 or later, and you’re trying to use the seatbelt…

You’re doing it wrong!

Don’t get offended, just trust me. My car seat base visibly laughed at me as I toiled and swore trying to get this thing secure. But then, I learned about LATCH.

LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children and is mandatory for all vehicles built in 2003 and after. Two metal bars are installed just under the rear right and left seats that special, magical hooks can be attached to. I could explain it to you, but this guy does a great job showing how it works (and it looks like he’s using our model of car seat base too! Chicco FTW!):

Once your base is latched in, it will not move! Our base is now a permanent fixture of our back seat. If your vehicle manual doesn’t mention LATCH, it doesn’t mean you don’t have it. If you have a newer model vehicle, you *should* have the bars available. You’ll be able to determine it, in part, if you find identifiers on your rear seats showing where the bars are located (round plastic labels showing a child in a car seat at the bottom left and right of your rear seats).

So in summary:

- Loaner seats might seem thrifty, but you may be saddled with older technology
- Car seats have an expiry date that you need to check for any offered equipment
- To ensure your car seat is safe and technically up to date, buy new
- LATCH is your friend…seat belts are your enemy!
- If your vehicle was manufactured after 2003, you have LATCH hookups

Good luck and don’t let the car seat win!

1 comment:

  1. Many police and/or firestations will have a once a month drop in day where you can have your car seat installation inspected. Never hurts to do when you're first installing a carseat, as, even using the LATCH, it can sometimes be hard to get a proper installation going.