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How to Install a Car Seat Correctly

When it comes to car seat safety, the truth is that installation is not as easy as it may seem. Over time, buckling our seat belts becomes second nature – buckling up our bundle of joy in her brand new car seat, however, is a little bit more complicated.

According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, car seat misuse rates range anywhere from 44% to 81% across Canada, while misuse rates for booster seats stand at 30% to 50%. Avoid being part of this troubling statistic – use the following guidelines to help keep your little one safe in the backseat by making sure his car seat is properly installed.

Choose the Right Car Seat

Before installing your new car seat, it’s important to take the time to ensure that the car seat you’ve purchased is the correct one for your child. Choose the right “Car Time Stage” as outlined by Transport Canada:

  • Stage 1: Rear-facing seats (Infants)
  • Stage 2: Forward-facing seats (Toddlers)
  • Stage 3: Booster seats (Under 9 years old)
  • Stage 4: Seat belts (Youth)

Installing a Rear-Facing Car Seat

Because babies have large heads and weak necks, rear-facing car seats are angled backwards to provide extra support for your baby, protecting them in case of a sudden stop or crash.

While the following steps will help guide you through installation, it’s vital to consult both your car seat user guide as well as your car owner’s manual for a complete guide that’s specific to your model of car seat and vehicle.

Note: whether it’s rear-facing or forward-facing, always install a car seat in the back seat of your vehicle – this protects your child from the front seat airbag in case of a collision.

Step 1: Pick the Most Secure Option

There are three different ways to install your rear-facing car seat, and while all of them are safe, you should choose the one that best fits your vehicle.

Option 1 is the Universal Anchorage System (UAS) – consult our owner’s manual to find out if your car is equipped with UAS.

You can find your vehicle’s UAS anchor bars by looking for this symbol:

Option 2 is the seat belt only – this should be used if your car seat is equipped with a built-in locking feature. Consult your car seat user guide and car owner’s manual for proper locking technique.

Option 3 is a combination of seat belt and locking clip – if your car seat and seat belts have no locking feature, this is the best option for you. Once again, consult both car seat and vehicle user guides to correctly installation using the locking clip.

Step 2: Check Angle and Give

The second step to safely installing your child’s car seat is to check that the car seat is at the correct angle, as indicated in the car seat user guide, or on the seat itself.

If you need to adjust the angle, use the seat’s built-in angle adjustment, or use a tightly rolled towel to increase the recline angle if necessary.

Step 3: Check for Give

Next, check for give – holding both sides of the seat (only where the UAS belt or seat belt is threaded through) try moving the seat in every direction. You should be able to move the seat only 1 inch in each direction.

Installing a Forward-Facing Seat

When your little one outgrows his rear-facing car seat, it’s time to graduate to a forward-facing one.

Step 1: Pick the Most Secure Option

Just as with a rear-facing seat, your child’s forward-facing car seat can be installed one of three ways, using either the seat belt, your car’s universal anchorage system, or a combination of seat belt and locking clip. Choose the correct installation method based on your specific model of car seat and vehicle.

Step 2: Attach the Tether

Unlike a rear-facing seat, a forward-facing car seat has an extra step in the installation process: attaching the tether.

Consult your car’s owner’s manual to locate your vehicle’s tether anchors, then route the tether strap according to instruction. Attach the hook to the anchor, and remove any slack.

Step 3: Check for Give

In the same way that you checked your rear-facing seat for give, check to make sure your forward-facing car seat does not move more than 1 inch in any direction by holding both sides of the seat, where the UAS or seat belt is threaded through the car seat.

Buckling Up

When it’s time to get your little one all buckled up in their newly installed car seat, make sure she’s snug in her harness to keep her as safe as possible. Heed these “Buckling Up” tips from Transport Canada to ensure your child is securely buckled up in her rear-facingor forward-facing car seat.

Still have questions about your car or booster seat’s provincial requirements? For information about car seat safety regulations in Canada, take a look at these common car and booster seat questions and answers.

How to Install a Car Seat Correctly

They are our most precious cargo, and we would take any and all precautions to make sure they’re safe and sound in the backseat of our cars – our children.