18 Most Frequently Asked Car Seat Questions
Thank you Graco for providing these amazing resources for parents like us and sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own.
Rear facing vs forward facing, installation checks, when to transition to a toddler car seat -you asked, Graco answered! In case you missed the live demonstrations Graco held at the Safe Kids Child Passenger Safety car seat check events, here are the answers to 18 most frequently asked questions my viewers (you!) wanted the Child Passenger Safety Technicians at Graco to answer. Graco is always at the forefront of designing with safety in mind. They have been such an amazing resource for moms like me! Some of these answers are from Graco’s own car seat Q&A guide. Others I worked with the Graco team to answer specifically for you. For those of you who want to re-watch the live demonstration and installation stories again, I saved everything to the Car Seat Safety Highlight on my Instagram.
I also want to say a big congratulations to our giveaway winner! @wearetheyoons was chosen at random to receive the Graco 4Ever® 4-in-1 Car Seat. I love it because It grows with your child, from 4 – 120 lbs and through 4 modes of use.
Without any further ado, here are your 18 most frequently asked car seat questions:
1. Is it safer to put a child in the middle seat in a car seat in case of impact from one of the sides? What is the safest seat in the car to install a car seat?
a. The best seating location is one that: is recommended by your vehicle owner's manual and results in a secure installation of the car seat. Some vehicles have specific requirements for where the car seat can be installed, so be sure to check your vehicle owner's manual for available seating positions, if any.
According to crash statistics, the safest place for your child in any vehicle is the back seat. The center of the back seat can be the safest during a possible side impact.
Never place a child restraint in a vehicle seating location that has an active front air bag. In the event there is no available back seat and / or you have no other option than to place a child in a rear-facing car seat in a front passenger seating position, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that you take the following steps:
Ensure the child is properly restrained according to their age and size
Move the seat as far back as possible
Make sure the child is not leaning out of position, such as leaning forward into the deployment path of the air bag
Set the air bag ON-OFF switch, if available, to the OFF position
2. What is something I should look for when buying a transitional car seat?
a. Depending on the size of your child, you have different options on which car seats to use.
i. Infant Car Seat usage starts at birth riding rear-facing. After reaching the weight and/or height limits of the infant car seat, children can transition to either a convertible car seat or all-in-one car seat.
ii. Convertible Car Seats usage can start at birth as well, since many have a starting weight of 4 or 5 lb. These seats go rear-facing and forward-facing so children can use until they have reached the weight and/or height limits of the convertible car seats.
iii. All-in-Ones usage can start at birth as well, since many have a starting weight of 4 or 5 lb. Because these seats have different modes of use and some last up to 10 years, children can potentially use this one car seat only. Children should use the different modes of use until they have reached the weight and/or height limits.
iv. Once children have outgrown their rear-facing car seat, it’s time to transition to a forward-facing car seat with a 5-point harness. According to NHTSA, when compared to using a belt-positioning booster with a seat belt, car seats with 5-point harness restraints are associated with a 28% reduction in risk of serious injury. Graco® offers seats with extended harness weight ratings up to 65 lbs.
v. After they outgrow the need for a harnessed car seat, children should use a Belt-Positioning Booster Seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly, typically when they reach 4 ft. 9 in. tall, and between the ages of 8 and 12. Children tend to move to a booster around age 5-7. Children can graduate to just the vehicle seat belt once they can sit with their back all the way back against the vehicle seat, their knees naturally bend over the front edge of the vehicle seat, and are able to keep their feet flat on the floor. The lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest. The child must stay in position for the entire ride.
3. What is the best way to ensure your car seat is installed properly?
a. Before beginning the installation, review your car seat manual and vehicle manual for specific information about your car seat model and vehicle type. Begin by ensuring that the LATCH belt or seat belt are routing through the correct belt path for either a rear-facing or forward-facing installation.
b. Go through the checklist below to help confirm you have a secure installation:
i. 1. Test for Tightness: Grab the sides of the car seat at the belt path and move side-to-side and front-to-back. The car seat should not move more than an inch in any direction. If it does move more than an inch, repeat the installation and refer to your car seat manual.
ii. 2. Check the Level Indicator: Check the level indicator once more to make sure you are still within the blue zone. If the car seat is not level, repeat the installation.
iii. 3. Check the Harness Height: When using the 5-point harness rear-facing, the harness should be AT or BELOW the child's shoulders. When using the 5-point harness forward-facing, the harness should be AT or ABOVE the child's shoulders. Raise or lower the harness as needed.
iv. 4. Secure the Chest Clip: The chest clip should be at the level of the child's armpits. Raise or lower as needed.
v. 5. Do the pinch test: Pinch the harness webbing at the child's shoulders. If you can pinch any excess webbing, the harness is too loose. Use the front adjuster strap to tighten until you cannot pinch any excess webbing.
vi. If you have all checked all of the above, you have a secure installation!
4. If your child is still rear-facing but their head is reaching the top of the car seat, is it time to turn them forward-facing? How long should our children stay rear-facing?
a. Children are safer riding rear-facing and should ride rear-facing as long as possible, until they reach the maximum rear-facing height or weight rating for their car seat and their head is at least 1” below the top of the headrest. If you are using an infant car seats and the child exceeds the maximum rear-facing height or weight or their head is above the 1” recommendation for the top of car seat, parents should consider moving the child to a convertible or all-in-one car seat, which would allow the child to ride rear-facing longer.
5. What’s the best car seat type to use for travel? Is there a good convertible for travel?
a. The best seat for travel is one that fits the child’s age, size, and developmental levels, fits the vehicle, and the caregiver will use correctly each time.
6. When do you transition into a booster seat (age, height, weight, etc.)?
a. According to NHTSA, when compared to using a belt-positioning booster with a seat belt, car seats with 5-point harness restraints are associated with a 28% reduction in risk of serious injury. Graco® offers seats with extended harness weight ratings up to 65 lbs. After they outgrow the need for a harnessed car seat, children should use a Belt-Positioning Booster Seat until the vehicle seat belt fits properly, typically when they reach 4 ft. 9 in. tall, age 8-12. Children tend to move to a booster around age 5-7. Children can graduate to just the vehicle seat belt once they can sit with their back all the way back against the vehicle seat, their knees naturally bent over the front edge of the vehicle seat, and able to keep their feet flat on the floor. The lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs and the shoulder belt should lie snug across the shoulder and chest. The child must stay in position for the entire ride.
7. Since wearing a coat in a car seat is bad. How do I keep my kids warm?
a. One way to keep your child cozy in their car seat during the winter months, instead of using bulky winter jackets, is to place a blanket over the child (over, not under the harness straps) until the car warms up. Parents can also dress their child with hats, mittens and booties as long as they do not interfere with the fit of the harness straps.
8. What’s the best indicator that it is time to switch car seats?
a. The best indicator that it is time to switch car seats is when your child reaches the maximum height and weight of the seat or if the car seat has reached its expiration date.
9. Should couples with two cars and equal time transporting their baby around get one or two car seats? Is it practical to invest in two car seats?
a. The number of car seats per household is up to the caregivers based on what is practical for their lifestyle. Whether you have one, two or three car seats in your family, the most important thing to remember, is the safest car seat is one that is properly installed. There are a number of things to keep in mind when installing your car seat. Before beginning the installation, review your car seat manual and vehicle manual for specific information about your car seat model and vehicle type.
10. Is the Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit car seat easy to install and would it be easy to move between two cars?
a. The Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit car seat features the Graco exclusive InRight LATCH attachment for an easy, one-second attachment with an audible click cue to help ensure secure installation. There is also an integrated belt lock-off for easier vehicle seat belt installation versus using the locking clip.
11. Where can I find current information on the time to become forward-facing?
12. What is the best way to clean/wash a car seat?
a. Always refer to your manual for care and maintenance instructions specific to your car seat.
i. Machine washable seat pad
ii. Buckle may be cleaned with a damp cloth.
iii. Harness straps may be spot cleaned.
b. Metal and plastic parts can be cleaned with mild soap and cool water.
13. How do you know which setting to use for reclining in rear-facing?
a. The car seat owner’s manual will provide instructions regarding the different recline levels. The amount of recline will depend on the pitch of the seats in your vehicle so it is also important to reference your vehicle manual when setting the recline.
14. How do you get the belt tight enough? Often struggle with pulling it tighter.
a. As long as the harness passes the pinch test at the shoulders, then the harness is nice and snug. One tip that might help get is to pull upwards on the harnesses to remove any slack in the harness that’s in the hip area.
b. Also remember:
i. When your child is rear-facing, the harness should be at or below your child’s shoulders.
ii. When your child is forward-facing, the harness should be at or above your child’s shoulders.
15. If my car seat doesn’t have a bumper for the head, do I need to get one?
a. Graco strongly recommends against using aftermarket products with Graco car seats.
16. If your child doesn’t weight enough for forward-facing requirements, but their legs looks smashed in rear-facing, what should you do?
a. If your child doesn’t weigh enough for forward-facing, it is safest to keep their rear-facing. Many parents often think that their children’s legs looked smashed while in rear-facing, but this doesn’t mean that your child is uncomfortable. In fact, kid’s joints are far more flexible than ours are as adults. This flexibility protects kids when they’re finding their balance, learning to walk, and even falling off playground equipment.
17. What are the rear-facing height & weight requirements for the Graco 4Ever you are giving away?
a. The Graco 4Ever Extend2Fit car seat can be used in the rear-facing mode from 4-50 lbs. and as long as your child’s head remains at least 1” from the top of the headrest.
18. Why can’t you add aftermarket toys to car seats?
a. Anything in your vehicle can become a potential hazard during a crash. A mirror could break, or cause additional injury if it came loose from the headrest and became a projectile. Toys hanging from a seat (particularly the handle of a rear facing only seat) can hurt the child if they go flying into the seat, or can pose a strangulation hazard if the attachment is long and flexible.