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A car seat serves as a critical piece of child safety equipment in your vehicle. According to statistical data, as many as 82 percent of child car seats are improperly installed. This puts your child at serious risk of physical injury in the event of an accident or sudden stop. In order to protect your child, it’s essential to make sure his or her car seat is installed correctly.
1. Within the owner’s manual for your car should be instructions for installing a car seat into that particular model of vehicle. If you have trouble comprehending the directions, you’re encouraged to contact the manufacturer of either your car or the seat. Your local Lou Fusz Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler dealership may also be able to help you install it.
2. When you have the option, take advantage of the tether system. Vehicles and car seats that were made after 2002 are required to work with the Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) features. This system is intended to uncomplicated car seat installation and improve child safety by allowing you to fasten the unit to permanent securements built into the car itself. While only forward-facing car seats are required to possess lower and upper tethers, all seats that feature five-point harnesses must have lower tethers. If your car doesn’t have the LATCH system, you can have it installed at your local car dealership.
3. When installing a front-facing child car seat, it should be flush against the back and bottom of the vehicle’s seat. To see the recommended angle to place the safety seat at, review the manufacturer’s instructions.
4. If your car doesn’t feature the LATCH system, you need to ensure that the seat belts of your vehicle have been routed through the proper holes and that they’re as tight as possible. After you’ve finished buckling in the seat, pull hard on it to see if it’s locked into place.
5. Wiggle the car seat around to ensure that it is secured firmly in place. It should be difficult or impossible to move it from side to side. If you can still tilt it forward or shift it around, unfasten it and keep trying until it stays in place.
6. Familiarize yourself with how the car seat harness operates. You should be able to adjust the harness around your child with the lever provided.
7. Make sure the harness is appropriately tight-fitting. If you can grasp any of it between your fingers, it needs to be tighter.
8. The plastic clip on the harness should be placed at about armpit level to keep the shoulder straps in the proper position.
9. To keep your baby as snug as possible in a car seat, consider placing rolled up towels or blankets behind their head and neck and around his or her body. There are also specialized supports available for this exact purpose.
10. Should your baby’s head tilt forward, you may need to adjust the seat’s angle. You can achieve this by rolling up a towel or blanket and stuffing it underneath the front. In most cases, a recline of 30 and 45 degrees is recommended to keep an infant’s head in a safe and comfortable position.
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It’s also important to check your vehicle owners manual to find out what your LATCH weight capacity is. There are some car seats and booster seats out there that offer LATCH systems with a max of 75 or 80 pounds. Most vehicles made between 2002 and 2005 only offer a max LATCH weight capacity of 45 pounds, however, after 2005 they’ve been getting stronger. Only use the LATCH system of a car seat for as long as the vehicle will allow, not the car seat.