When installing your carseat, you want to get it tight enough so that it moves less than 1″ when you tug side to side and front to back at the belt path. The belt path is where the seat belt or LATCH belt goes through and is usually under the child’s thighs on a rear-facing convertible seat and behind the child’s back on a forward-facing seat. Check the carseat manual and labels for where to place the seat belt or LATCH belt on an infant seat base.
It’s important to check right at the belt path for movement; the further away you get from the belt path, the more movement of the carseat there will be, especially for rear-facing carseats—there is nothing securing the carseat where the child’s head is, so it will naturally move there. It’s also important not to twist or tip the carseat at the belt path as these are natural movements carseats will make.
How hard should you tug? Use a firm professional handshake. There’s no need to try to shake loose your installation.
Carseat Installation Tips and Tricks
- Read your vehicle manual’s section on child restraints. LATCH may not be available in the center.
- Check the label on your vehicle’s seat belt to learn how to lock it.
- For a rear-facing convertible seat, recline it first before trying to install it.
- Pull out just enough seat belt to thread the vehicle’s seat belt through the correct belt path on the carseat and buckle it. Then lock the seat belt in place.
- Some carseats/vehicles can be tough combinations. Get the seat belt as tight as you can, then unbuckle it. Holding onto the seat belt tightly, let it retract a click or two and rebuckle.
- Use the carseat for leverage. Tilt the carseat away from the buckle, then lay across the seat and rotate your weight toward the buckle as you insert the latchplate into the buckle.
- If the latchplate (male end) is at an odd angle as it goes into the carseat belt path, it is acceptable to twist the seat belt buckle (female end) up to 3 complete turns. With each twist, however, you are losing strength and integrity in the buckle stalk, so it is recommended to twist just until you can get the latchplate to lie flat.
- If your lap-only belt won’t stay tight, you can flip the latchplate upside down and then buckle it.
- Put one hand on the edge of the carseat closest to the buckle. With the other hand, grasp the seat belt as close to the latchplate as you comfortably can and pull tight.
- Pull the LATCH strap end back through the belt path to get slack out more easily
- For a forward-facing carseat, attach the carseat’s top tether to the tether anchor directly behind the carseat and pull it tight.