Top 10 things people do wrong with their carseats

Everyday when I am out and about, I see at least one person who is doing something incorrect with their child and their carseat.  More often than not, it’s more like three, four, or ten things wrong.  Here is a short list of the top 10 things that people do wrong with their carseats.

1. The harness of the carseat is not in the correct position.

How it should be… or below shoulder level for rearfacing and at or above for forward facing

2. Straps not tight enough

How it should be….the straps should be tight enough that you cannot pinch them between two fingers

3. Chest clip in wrong position

How it should be….the chest clip should be even with the armpits

4. Carseat not installed properly

How it should be….(a) The carseat should not move more than one inch at the belt path when it’s installed, (b) you are using either the seatbelt OR the latch, NOT both, and (c) if your car is made before 1996, you are using a locking clip

5. Infant seat handle in the wrong position

How it should be….READ YOUR MANUAL, every infant seat requires something different.  Some require it down, others require it up, and some don’t specify.

6.Using aftermarket products

How it should be….any aftermarket product that goes behind the child, interferes with the harness, replaces any part that came WITH the carseat, is not approved for use with the seat and by the manufacturer, or can become a projectile in the car during an accident should NOT be used.  This includes but is not limited to harness covers, head supports, bundle me’s, suction cup window shades, protective mats, toys on the handle bar of an infant seat etc.

7. Carseat not at the right angle while rearfacing

How it should be….for a reafacing infant, the carseat should be at 45 degrees.  For a toddler, the carseat can be between 30-45 degrees.  If you have a smart phone, you can download an angle level for your phone (if you have an iPhone, Angle Meter is a good one).

8. Latch borrowing

How it should be…first you might be asking yourself what is latch borrowing?  Latch borrowing is when you are installing your carseat with latch in a seating position that has no latch and are “borrowing” the inboard latch anchors from the seating positions on either side.  What is wrong with this, you may be asking.  Nothing is wrong with it if BOTH your car maker AND your carseat maker allow this to happen.  However, if BOTH your carseat and your car do not allow for latch borrowing, you cannot do it.  It is unsafe.  You may be asking yourself why this is.  It’s because the latch anchors in each seating position are 11 inches apart…in the center position (the seating position where latch borrowing would happen), the span between the inboard anchors on either side will likely be greater than 11 inches.  Some seat makers allow for latch borrowing ONLY IF the span when latch borrowing is also 11 inches while other makers allow for a great span between the two anchors.  Read your manual for BOTH your car AND your carseat…if it doesn’t specify, call the maker of both and ask specifically about latch borrowing.

9. Putting the infant seat on top of the cart

How it should be….the carseat should NEVER go on top of the cart.

Carseat Manual

Shopping cart

10. Wearing heavy winter jackets or snowsuits while in the carseat

How it should be….NEVER use heavy jackets or snowsuits while in the car.  In the event of an accident, the suit/coat will compress and the baby could be ejected from the carseat.  What you can do instead is find a thin fleece snowsuit (Columbia and Old Navy usually carry them) or thin fleece jacket, cover them with a blanket and preheat your car.  I live in Wisconsin, so I know about cold winters.  Snowsuits and jackets are never safe while in the carseat.

Safe Travels!

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  1. Nikki -  September 4, 2012 - 10:02 am

    you’re forgetting turning the restaurant highchairs upside down and putting the infant seat on them. NOT SAFE or even and intended use!

  2. Rebecca Bryant -  September 4, 2012 - 2:12 pm

    Okay, so if my carseat is foward facing, am I only suppose to use the latch belts, and not the seat belt? I have a Graco my ride 65. Thanks

    • Vanessa -  September 4, 2012 - 8:55 pm

      Regardless of which way your seat is facing, it’s secured with the seat belt OR LATCH. The lower anchors have a weight limit of anywhere from 40-48lbs so at some point your seat will need to be installed with the seat belt. Check your vehicle’s manual for the exact weight. 🙂 If you are in Canada then the top tether is legally required to be used and I’d recommend it anyway.

      • Rebecca -  September 8, 2012 - 2:05 am

        We live in Washington(: I’m using the seat belt, and the latches, even the top one. I always thought that was what you are suppose to do.

    • Alyssa -  January 20, 2013 - 4:08 pm

      Yes one or the other

  3. Stephanie -  September 17, 2012 - 10:30 pm

    Suction window shades? Really? I had no idea. I’ve been using one… well actually it keeps falling off….. ha. Won’t be using it anymore.

  4. Amy -  September 20, 2012 - 5:01 pm

    Rebecca- the way I understand it is that if you use both the latch system and the seat belt, it does not allow for enough flexion if there were to be an accident.

  5. Melanie -  October 24, 2012 - 6:06 pm

    Would you be able to recommend a convertible car seat that is easy to install rear facing and less then $200? My son is 14 months and rear facing. We have a britax boulevard 65 for our car now but I’m looking to get a second one for when my parents watch him. Easy to install is a must!
    Thanks in advance. 🙂

  6. Ashley -  February 11, 2013 - 8:56 pm

    My fiance has a 1993 chevy. How do you use the clip? We put him in the middle seat but I have no idea how to use the clip and I don’t want to do it wrong.

  7. Seth -  February 12, 2013 - 6:04 am

    If there’s that many common mistakes then the problem is with the seats, not the parents. Stop shaming mothers and start petitioning these companies to make seats that are possible for mere mortals to use correctly.

    • Emily -  February 12, 2013 - 9:10 pm

      I agree with Seth. It seems that instead of making the parents seem like horrible idiots who are certainly going to harm their children, you should be focused on WHY there are so many variables to ALL manufacturers that cause incorrect usage or installation. Personally, i read my manual cover to cover before my daughter was born, but there are still times that I’m sure someone would find something wrong with what I am doing. I certainly understand the seriousness of the situation, but as he said, if it is this commin of a problem there needs to be something done about it. This many parents getting it wrong tells me it is a design flaw.

  8. Angie M -  February 12, 2013 - 8:01 am

    It isn’t that difficult if you take the time and read the manuals. Also if you aren’t sure, find a car seat tech. Our local health department and fire department both have a certified car seat tech on staff who are more than willing to help you PROPERLY install your seat.

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