As a parent, you probably take your child’s safety very seriously. A properly installed car seat is one of the most important ways to keep them safe when you’re on the road. The CDC and IIHS both have recommendations to help you keep your child safe in the car for every age between newborn to age 12.
While most parents might agree that car seats are necessary, many may find them confusing and even frustrating. To help, we spoke with Allana Pinkerton, a certified Car Seat Technician (CSP). She shared her expert insights regarding car seat safety, correct placement and installation and when to transition to a new car seat.
Allana Pinkerton Car Seat Technician
Pinkerton first became interested in car seat safety when she became a mother and learned that most car seats in the U.S. are installed incorrectly. Incorrect car seat installation and use can result in injury or death. As a CPS, Pinkerton teaches parents the essential ins and outs of car seats so they can make smarter, more informed decisions for their children.
Begin by Selecting a Car Seat
Car seat confusion can begin before you even own a car seat. Unlike many other baby items, car seats have an expiration. Car seat components have a shelf life that impacts their durability and reliability. Car seat makers include a sticker with manufacture and expiration date for the car seat. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t find a good deal on a great car seat.
When shopping for a car seat, Pinkerton told us, “It is okay to purchase an Open Box from a reputable retailer.” Taking this route, you can purchase a new car seat at a discount without sacrificing safety and peace of mind.
Pinkerton also shared that parents should “check for any damage to the car seat’s parts and pieces and be sure the box includes everything that is listed in the user manual.” No matter where you buy your car seat, Pinkerton says, “Ultimately, a parent should choose a car seat that fits their child, installs properly in their car and one they will use correctly every time.”
What Does “Open Box” Mean?
Open Box means the box has been opened and the item may or may not have been removed. These products are typically floor models or returns that have been inspected for safety, functionality, and cleanliness. Flaws, if any, will be minor. The original box may not be included.
How to Properly Install a Car Seat
Once you have the car seat, the next big hurdle is installing it correctly in your vehicle. Proper installation is key to a car seat performing correctly. The car seat should fit snugly in place. “A tight fit and a locked seat belt are key,” Pinkerton told us. “If the car seat is installed using the LATCH system, be sure everything is connected properly and the car seat moves less than one inch side to side, front to back at the belt path. If the vehicle seat belt is used, be sure it is in the locking mode so the car seat is held tight.” Check your vehicle’s owner manual for assistance too. If you don’t have your owner’s manual, look online to see if one is available.
Remember, you don’t have to go it alone. Pinkerton reminds us, “One of the best things is to seek out a CPS Technician to help guide you through it all and give you peace of mind.” If you’re unable to connect with a CPS, Pinkerton says, “Read the car seat manual, follow the instructions and never deviate from them.” You can also visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website for step-by-step instructions.
When, Why, and How to Transition to a New Car Seat
You’ve heard the saying, “They grow up so fast.” It’s true, and as they grow, their car seat will need to grow with them. From a rear-facing car seat to a seat belt, there are a few things to know along the way. “Car seats fall into a few categories. Infant-only, convertible and booster seats,” Pinkerton says. “The parent should review height and weight guidelines for each seat. Once a child reaches one of the criteria, it is time to transition to the next car seat. Age comes into consideration when it comes to turning the child forward-facing, and maturity needs to be considered when transitioning to a booster seat.” You can find even more details about selecting a car seat and when to transition to the next phase here.
One Car, Multiple Car Seats – No Problem
The day may come when you have multiple car seats in your vehicle. Many parents wonder about the “best” placement of a second or third car seat and if they can place a car seat in the middle seat? Pinkerton told us, “There is no ideal place. Refer to the vehicle manual to determine if the car seat can even be installed in the center.” Always keep in mind that the car seat is there for safety. “The most important placement is the one where the car seat can be installed correctly. Sometimes the center is not ideal because the seating position is too narrow or there is a hump in the vehicle seat,” Pinkerton said.
Final Words of Wisdom
There are many, many car seat options available to parents. “Yes, some are easier to use than others, but ultimately, when a car seat is installed and used properly every single ride, the car seat should perform to the best of its ability,” Pinkerton says. The key is to do your research and seek assistance when necessary.