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In honor of Child Passenger Safety Week, we created this comprehensive guide on the best practices for parents to follow when buying, installing and using a car seat.
As a family-owned auto shop in Mays Landing, Kneble’s Auto is proud to help new parents in the Atlantic County community who want a safe and comfortable driving experience for their children.
How to Pick the Right Car Seat
As you search for the safest car seat for your child, it’s important to account for the unique traits of both your child and your potential car seat options.
Let’s take a look at some of the most crucial factors to consider in regards to both your child and the range of car seat options you are considering.
This video begins our series for Child Safety Week, which is from September 15th to the 21st. Now in this video, our focus is on choosing the right car seat or booster seat as being the first step in traveling with your child. It’s overwhelming the number of choices on the market. Where do I begin? Car seats have come a long way since I last purchased one.
Hi. I’m Nancy at Kneble’s Auto Service Center. Now after taking a four-day class to become a certified child safety technician, thank you, I was amazed of all the information there was to know. I recommend following the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of Gold Standard Protection Guideline in helping to select your car seat. Now it identifies four areas to choose for your car seat. It identifies the age of the child, the weight of the child, the height of the child and finally, the developmental level of the child.
Now once you’ve checked off all of these four items, it comes down to your personal preference. Here are some other things to consider though. How often do you want to purchase a car seat? Do you want that child seat to grow with the child? For example, that a seat starts at rear-facing, as recommended by the manufacturer, and then it moves forward-facing as the child grows. Is the child seat easy to install in your vehicle? Is the child seat heavy to carry? Because some of these car seats can weigh up to 30 pounds. Do you need more than one car seat to fit in the back of your vehicle at the same time?
Remember, your car seat is one of the most important purchases you are making as it’s carrying your precious cargo. Continuing our series tomorrow at 12:30, to check out the next area to focus on the car seats.
Shopping For the Child
Keep in mind the following characteristics about your child when buying car seats:
- Developmental Level
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides a free tool that lets you search and compare car seats based on your child’s age, weight, and height.
Shopping For the Car Seat
As you search for safe and reasonably priced car seats that meet the unique needs of your child, keep the following tips in mind as you inspect each option:
- Check for a label that reads “FMVSS 213“
- Check the NHTSA website to see if the seat has been recalled
- Register new car seats so you can be notified of recalls
- Never buy used car seats if has been in an accident or the history is unclear
Is your child in a car seat? And is that car seat safe?
Hi. I’m Nancy at Kneble’s Auto Service Center.
Now, for your convenience, here’s a list of five tips before even using the car seat.
Number one, is there a label on the car seat reading FMVSS 213? Well, this label certifies that the NHTSA, which is the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard has been met for the child safety seat. Because each test is performed under different crash scenarios, but it must pass a simulated crash head-on collision at 30 miles an hour.
These tests are done on child seats for children 80 pounds and under. The crash performance tests are mandated by the federal government, and to receive that stamp of approval for that label, they must pass all vigorous tests to certify their performance.
Number two, never buy a used car seat unless you know for sure it has not been involved in an accident. Also, remember to look for the expiration date on a car seat to make sure it isn’t older than six years old. Because plastics have the shell of the car seat they start to deteriorate over time, and ports also can be missing or broken.
Number three, it’s important to know if there’s a recall on your car seat. Now, you can check for car seat recalls on the NHTSA website.
Number four, once you buy a car seat, it’s recommended to complete the registration card. So if the seat is recalled in the future, you will be notified to get it fixed or replaced immediately.
Number five, you should never modify any car seat or booster seat as they can change the performance in a crash. If needed, use only the padding the manufacturer supplier recommends with the car seat.
Well, thank you for watching, and be sure to check out our website for other videos on car seat safety.
Remember, as always, Wednesday at 12:30 you could see a new video. See you here at 5473 Somers Point Road in Mays Landing for your next car care need.
And as always, feel free to schedule your next appointment through our website or call us at 609-625-3286. Thank you.
As demonstrated by the points above, the NHTSA has put considerable effort into making it easier for parents to determine which car seats meet their safety standards.
Other Factors to Account For
Once you’ve narrowed down a list of NHTSA-compliant car seats that fulfill the unique needs of your child, ask yourself the following questions:
- How many car seats am I willing to buy as my child transitions?
- Will the car seat be too heavy for me to carry around?
- Can the car seat fit comfortably inside of my vehicle?
- Do I need more than one car seat in my vehicle?
Once you have a safe car seat that fits with your lifestyle, it’s time for installation.
How to Install a Car Seat Properly
The location and direction of your child’s car seat are not arbitrary choices.
We can provide a general overview of the installation process, but you MUST refer to the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure safety. Their guidelines should help you determine your best approach for the following three steps:
- Choosing Where to Install the Car Seat
- Determining Which Direction the Car Seat Should Face
- Securing the Car Seat With a Latch & Tether or Seatbelt System
Let’s take a closer look at each of these steps.
Choosing a Location for the Car Seat
The back-center seat of a vehicle is typically considered the safest location for a car seat, but every parent, child, and car is different!
Watch this video for more insight on finding the safest spot for a car seat:
Choices, choices. Where do I put the car seat in my vehicle? Hi, I’m Nancy at Kneble’s Auto Service Center, continuing my series during Child Passenger Safety Week. Let me help you navigate your way through deciding the best location to install the child’s seat. Remember, you will be transporting that precious cargo in the car seat.
Not all vehicle seat positions are the best option. First and foremost, never, ever put a rear-facing seat in the vehicle where an airbag can be deployed. Now, if your only choice is the front seat for this rear-facing car seat, you must, and I emphasize must be able to turn off the airbag to prevent deployment.
The back center seat is considered the safest position, provided your vehicle seat can properly fit the car seat, and the vehicle’s manufacturer allows for it. Always refer to both the manual for the car seat and the vehicle’s manual to assist in picking the safest location for your car seat.
Thank you for watching. Tomorrow we will continue our series at 12:30, where I will be discussing the proper way to install your car seat.
Determining the Safest Direction
It is recommended for infants to use rear-facing car seats until they are grown enough for a forward-facing seat, which will typically be around their toddler years. Watch our video on this topic for more insight:
You finally made your car seat selection. Whew! You used the gold standard guidelines identified by the National Highway Safety Administration for the child’s age, weight, height, and developmental level. Congratulations!
Hi, I’m Nancy at Kneble’s Auto Service Center. Now, the next step to move forward with the safety is to determine what direction the car seat should be installed in the vehicle. Always follow the label on the side of the seat with the manufacturer’s recommendation. But be aware, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends keeping your child in a rear-facing seat for as long as possible. Rear-facing seats distribute the force of the impact of the crash across the entire head and body, since it supports the entire head, neck, and back of the child, using the harness with keeping them securely in the seat. The child’s head moves with the seat, decreasing the possibility of head and neck injuries. Also, the car seat acts as a cocoon for the child, protecting the child during the accident.
Now some people want to put the car seat forward-facing when they notice their child’s feet reaching the back of the seat because they are afraid that child’s legs will get injured. I confess I had that thought myself with my child. But this is a fallacy that your child’s legs will become injured during an accident. Leg injury during an accident is a rare occurrence, so much so that it is still safer to keep the car seat rear-facing for as long as the child fits the maximum guidelines for the height and weight recommended by the manufacturer.
Continuing our video series tomorrow at 12:30, when we will be discussing choosing the right seat position in your vehicle for that car seat. Thank you for watching.
Securing the Car Seat Properly
You will either use a latch and tether system or a seatbelt system to secure the car seat in its place. It is not recommended to use both.
The car seat manufacturer’s guidelines should tell you exactly how to secure the car seat based on the system you use. It is recommended to park your vehicle on a level surface before installing the car seat!
Check out this video for additional insight about car seat installation:
Let’s see. You’ve made your car seat selection. You determine the proper direction for the car seat. You know what seat in the vehicle it’s going, and now you need to install it properly.
Hi, I’m Nancy at Kneble’s Auto Service center. Rear-facing seats are installed differently than front-facing seats. The difference in the installation is that rear-facing seats, they need to be angled properly on the seat. The proper angle keeps the child’s airway open and keeps the head positioned appropriately. The angle for rear-facing seats is positioned at an angle called a reclined angle and that is between 30 and 45 degrees. Now I know what you’re all thinking. How am I going to judge that? How do I know that? Well, I’ve got you and so does the car seat manufacturer.
On your car seat, depending on the manufacturer, it may have a level or it may have a marking as a guide to install the seat at the proper angle. Now your vehicle needs to be on a level surface when checking for the correct angle. Also, many rear-facing seats have a base or foot to help with this adjustment. Forward-facing seats, they’re positioned with the back of the car seat resting against the back of the vehicle seat and make sure the base of the car seat sits approximately 80% on that vehicle seat. Always check the car seat and the vehicle’s manuals, when installing a car seat.
Attaching the car seat to the vehicle can be done in one of two ways. Using the latch and tether system or using a seat belt system, it’s not recommended to use both. Always refer to the car seat manual and the vehicle manual to help, when using these systems. To test the success of your installation, your vehicle should not move more than one inch from side to side or back and forth, when you firmly grip at the belt path.
Boom, you did it, success. It’s recommended to keep your child in their car seat for as long as the car seat manufacturer recommends for that child’s height and weight. My daughter once reminded me that I put her in a booster seat before for the recommended weight because her twin sister got to go in the booster seat, and I gave into her, whoops, not something I would do today or recommend.
See you tomorrow at 12:30 for the final step of putting your child in the car seat the proper way. Thank you for watching.
How to Properly Harness Your Child
Once you have selected a suitable car seat for your child and installed it securely in your vehicle, it’s time to practice securing them in the seat!
Check out our how-to video on the proper methods for harnessing your child, then continue reading below for a deeper dive into the subject.
I will assume you have successfully completed viewing car seat series one, two, three, and four. That refers to the car seat selection, the car seat direction, the car seat location in the vehicle, and the car seat installation.
You can now feel confident, and put your child in the car seat. Hi, I’m Nancy, at Kneble’s Auto Service Center.
Now, harnessing your child, properly, is the final step in maintaining car seat safety. Make sure your child’s positioned against the back of a car seat, in order to harness them properly. Now, car seats have a three-point or five-point harness system. The five-point harness system has the additional strap and buckle between the child’s legs.
If your child is in a rear-facing seat, then the shoulder straps with the harness should be positioned from below, or at the child’s shoulder.
If the child is in a forward-facing or booster seat, then this shoulder strap should be positioned from above the child’s shoulder. And, the retainer clip should be positioned at the armpit level of the child.
To test that the harness is securely into place, you should not be able to pinch more than an inch of this webbing at the shoulder, or at the hips. And, this is referred to as the Pinch Test.
It is recommended not to place any towels, blankets, or padding under the harness straps unless they’re allowed by the car seat manufacturer.
Rest assured, your child is now snugly secure in their car seat. Thank you for watching. As we want every child safely and properly placed in the car seat. Check out our next video, tomorrow, at 12:30.
Know Your Car Seat’s Harness System
Three-Point Harness Systems
While five-point harnesses are more common on new car seats these days, you can still find some three-point harness car seats. This option only provides two shoulder straps and one between the legs, with no hip straps.
Five-Point Harness Systems
Car seats with a five-point harness have an additional straps and buckles near the legs that secure their hips. And like three-point harness systems, they have two shoulder straps.
Secure Straps & Buckles Based on Direction
Rear-Facing Car Seats
If you selected a rear-facing car seat the shoulder straps and harness should be positioned from below, or at the child’s shoulder.
Forward-Facing Booster Seats
When securing your child in a forward-facing booster seat the shoulder strap should be positioned from above the child’s shoulder with the retainer clip positioned at the armpit level of the child.
FAQs About Child Passenger Safety
Here are the top five questions frequently asked about using a car seat and car seat safety.
The most frequent question, number one, is how long is that car seat good for?
Well, the answer is car seats should not be used after six years as they expire. Manufacturer’s stamp an expiration date on car seats. The plastic over time starts to deteriorate and other components of the car seat can start to break.
Also, older car seats may not meet government safety standards.
Number two, how much should a baby weigh in a forward facing seat?
The answer is always, always, always refer to the manufacturer’s recommendation for that car seat. Children should stay in a forward-facing seat with a harness until they reach the top height or weight limit recommended by that manufacturer for that car seat.
Once they exceed that limit, which is generally between the ages of four to seven, you need to check the manufacturer’s label for your option with that seat, such as is that forward-facing seat, a convertible, combination, or is a forward-facing seat only.
Number three, where is the best spot to put my car seat in the vehicle?
Well, the answer is there are many factors to consider, such as:
- How many children are traveling in the vehicle?
- What is the height, weight, and age of the child needing the car seat?
- What is the belt system in the vehicle?
- Where’s the airbags in the vehicle?
- Where are you parking?
- Are you parking frequently on the street with traffic?
Generally, the safest location for a car seat is in the backseat, in the center, as is farthest from the door for crash impact.
Number four, when do I use a booster seat?
Now booster seats are used when the children no longer meet the manufacturer’s recommendation for height and weight for the car seat, but they’re still not tall enough to sit in the vehicle with their back against the seat and their feet flat against the floor of the vehicle.
Many boosters seats fit children 80 to 100 pounds. Booster seats keep the lap belt and shoulder belt in the proper position.
Number five, when to stop using an infant car seat?
The answer is these seats should not be used once the child exceeds the height and weight limit recommendation by that manufactured for that seat.
Rear-facing seats, they’re designed in crashes to distribute the force across the entire body of the child and the head of the child. In general, your child’s head should be the most one inch from the top of that car seat.
As always, check the manufacturer’s recommendation of that car seat.
Now that we’ve answered the five questions before to check out the rest of our child passenger safety videos on our website. Thank you for watching, and remember our weekly videos are every Wednesday at 1230.
A car seat should be used for no longer than six years — you should be able to find an expiration date from the manufacturer somewhere on the car seat. Make sure to adhere to these expiration dates because plastic deteriorates over time, and parts of the car seat can break.
Your baby should weigh no more than the maximum weight limit recommended by the manufacturer who produces your car seat model. Look for a label on the car seat that provides these guidelines.
Generally speaking, the center-most seat in a vehicle is the safest location for a car seat, as it’s ideal to position the seat as far from the door as possible in the event of an accident.
Booster seats are typically suited to children who have exceeded the manufacturer’s height and/or weight restrictions for their car seat, but are not yet tall enough to sit in a regular seat with back against the seat and their feet flat on the floor.
Always stick to the manufacturer’s guidelines when trying to determine when you should stop using a car seat or booster seat. But as a general rule, an infant’s head should be no more than one inch from the top of the car seat; rear-facing seats are designed to distribute to force of a crash across the entire body and head of the child, but may not be able to accomplish that if the child’s head protrudes.
You’re Traveling With Precious Cargo — Make Sure Your Car is Safe!
There’s one more thing you can do to make sure driving is as safe as possible for your child — make sure your car is as safe as possible! If you live or work near Atlantic County, NJ, feel free to stop by Kneble’s Auto Service Center in Mays Landing for a complimentary vehicle inspection to ensure that there are no potential hazards putting your family at risk!