It doesn't matter how many safety features your car seat has if it's not installed properly. I'm sharing tips to help you find the right car seat for your child and how to install it properly. I'm also sharing why we chose the Britax Advocate ClickTight Convertible Car Seat for our son and why it's a good choice for any parent or caregiver.
I've partnered with Britax to share these car seat installation tips.
I remember the nerve-wracking task of installing our very first infant car seat. I was very pregnant and my husband and I sat in our garage in the sweltering Florida heat checking (and rechecking) the car seat to make sure it was installed properly. "There... did you see that? I think it moved more than an inch!" You get the idea. Now, two kids and several car seat reviews later, I feel pretty confident about my abilities in the car seat installation department. In fact, I'm a bit overzealous when it comes to car seats and ensuring that people know the dangers of improperly securing their seats and their children. I've read statistics stating that 46-72% of car seats are misused in a way that could be expected to increase a child’s risk of injury during a crash (source). Those numbers are absolutely frightening so I wanted to share a few car seat installation tips with you and why we chose the Britax Advocate ClickTight for our son.
Car Seat Installation Tips
Use the right seat for the right stage of development. This is probably a no-brainer for expecting parents. You're likely considering an infant "bucket" seat for your newborn. That's the route that many parents go since you can easily lift the car seat off the base when you've got a sleeping baby and many brands offer a travel system option for their infant seats. The only downside to the infant car seat is that your baby will outgrow it within a year or so and you'll need to purchase a convertible seat. For some, it's easier and more affordable to use a convertible seat from the very beginning. You can decide which stage car seat your child needs based on their height and weight.
- Rear-facing (using a rear-facing only car seat or a convertible car seat that can be used rear-facing and then forward-facing): The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all infants and toddlers ride in a rear-facing seat until they are at least 2 years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat manufacturer. Note that it says at least, that means your child should rear-facing until age 2 at a minimum.
- Forward-facing: Once a child outgrows their rear-facing seat limits they can face forward, but still use a 5-point harness until they outgrow the seat's harness limits.
- Booster Seats: After outgrowing the height and weight limits of a forward-facing seat, children should use a belt-positioning booster. They will stay in a booster seat until they can ride in the regular seat. Children usually transition from a booster to a seat belt when they reach 4' 9" tall and between 8-12 years of age.
Decide whether your child will be rear-facing or forward-facing. Based on the seat you choose and your child's age and weight, you'll need to decide whether to install it rear or forward facing. As mentioned earlier, rear-facing is safest for children and should be done until at least age 2.
READ the manuals. Notice that I said manuals. You'll need to read the manual for you vehicle to see which position is best for installing your car seat (for example, some cars/SUVs do not allow installation with the LATCH in the middle of the backseat) and then follow the car seat's manual to install the seat.
Choose the LATCH system OR the Seat Belt. Car seats are installed with either a seat belt OR the LATCH system (for most car seats). Do not use both as it compromises seat safety. Vehicles with a LATCH system have lower anchors built into the seat to tether the car seat, as well as top anchors for forward-facing installation. Just be sure to take into account that lower anchors have a weight limit of 65 pounds (so take into account the weight of your child PLUS the car seat). Once they reach the lower anchor weight limit, you'll have to use the seatbelt. If you install the car seat using the vehicle's seatbelt, you'll need to make sure the seat belt locks. You can do this by pulling your seatbelt all the way out and allowing it to retract. Some car seats also have built-in lock-offs which lock the belt in place.
Try to move the car seat at the belt path and make sure it doesn't shift more than an inch in any direction. It's important to get a tight fit so if the seat isn't staying in place, unbuckle it and try again. If you have questions about your car seat installation or are questioning your installation, it's always a good idea to have a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) check it.
Set yourself up for success. Choosing the right seat is a big decision and there are a lot of factors to consider. You can set yourself up for success by choosing a seat that ensures a tight installation every time. I recently had the opportunity to try a Britax Advocate ClickTight which has an incredible installation feature. The seat uses the Britax ClickTight technology to lock your vehicle seat belt in place without having to worry about tightening it yourself. It ensures a tight installation in every vehicle, every time, which makes our job that much easier. All you have to do is open the seat, run your vehicle seat belt through the indicated belt path and ClickTight the seat back into place. It's by far the simplest way I've ever gotten a perfectly tight fit the first time.
Britax Advocate ClickTight Convertible Car Seat
I'm the primary car seat installer in our household and I can be a little uptight about it (so my husband says), but I'd feel confident with letting him or my parents install the car seats themselves thanks to the ClickTight technology.
Check out my video installation of the Britax Advocate ClickTight to see how easy it is:
Not only does is the Britax Advocate ClickTight extremely easy to install, it also has a Click & Safe Snug Harness Indicator that gives off an audible click when you've pulled the harness tight enough on your child. I've always worried if the harness was too tight or too loose and this innovative feature makes it foolproof. I can't imagine going back to a car seat without it. This is especially helpful for my husband and the grandparents too.
The 14-position no-rethread harness is very easy to adjust as your child gets bigger. As you can see the seat accommodates a wide variety of heights, so my guy has room to grow.
If you decide to use this seat from infancy it has even more perks. The Advocate ClickTight has a 7-position recline to keep your little one comfortable while at the perfect angle. The level indicator helps you ensure that you install it properly, whether you're using the Britax Advocate ClickTight rear-facing or forward-facing.
It's so nice to have strap storage built into the back of the seat. With previous seats, we've just dealt with the straps hanging when the car seats were rear-facing. The Britax Advocate ClickTight has discreet storage for the top tether and the LATCH lower connectors and the compartments are easily accessible from the back of the seat.
Another incredible feature of this seat is the three layers of side-impact protection. I know my son will be well-protected in the unfortunate event of a collision thanks to the energy absorbing shell, foam lined headrest and external cushions.
I really appreciate the design of this seat. It is a heavier car seat at a little over 30 pounds due to the integrated steel frame but that gives me confidence in the safety it provides. With the simple ClickTight installation and the multitude of features I mentioned above, the Britax Advocate ClickTight is a hard car seat to beat. I'd highly recommend it if you're looking for the easiest installation on the market and top features in safety.
Buy it: You can purchase the Britax Advocate ClickTight from Britax retailers like Babies "R" Us or Target, or you can purchase online at Amazon.
Are any of these car seat installation tips new to you?
Have you had your seat checked by a CPST?
Disclosure: The Britax Advocate ClickTight convertible car seat was provided to me at no cost to facilitate this post about car seat installation tips. All opinions are my own. Amazon links are affiliate links.
If you like this post, be sure to check out my other car seat articles:
5 Things to Consider When Buying a Car Seat
8 Common Car Seat Mistakes You Might Be Making
Car Seat Use After an Accident - What You Need to Know
Amber Ludwig says
YES!! All so important!! I read our manual front to back before installing when I read that most seats were installed wrong!! I would love to say that Ive had our seat inspected by s CPST but to be honest Im not sure I trust them either!! I knew one personally and he switched his daughter to FFing so "she could see" before the age of 2.... I was blown away and seriously have my doubts lol. I do live in a small town though so Im sure that doesnt help!
Sapana V says
I agree car seat should be installed carefully. Thanks for sharing these great tips.
gloria patterson says
This is a lot of great information and I forwarding the link to my niece. She has a little girl that is 5 months old an and will soon need a larger car seat
I love this. Thanks for statign the step by step installation process.