By Cars.com EditorsOctober 28, 2011
About the video
Cars.com's Dave Thomas and Jennifer Newman explain the basics of how to use car seats properly.
<v Announcer>Cars.com Auto Review. Hi, I'm Dave Thomas. And I'm Jennifer Newman, and this is my son Ben. And today we're gonna answer questions parents have about car seats. Becoming a new parent can be overwhelming.
You'll need to know which kind of car seat you'll need coming home right from the hospital and all the other car seats your children will need as they grow older. So what types of car seats are there? There are four basic kinds of car seats. When your child is first born, you'll start with the infant seat. Then they'll move up to a convertible, which can go in the forward or rear-facing position. Next comes a combination seat or a booster seat. Check your seat's manual or label to determine when your child has reached the seat's height or weight limit. When they reach that limit, it's time to buy a new car seat. Before we start talking about how to install safety seats, new parents might just wanna know what a latch system is. <v Jennifer>The latch system is lower anchors and top tethers that make it easier for parents to install car seats in their car. You don't have to use them, but you do get the best fit. The first type of installation we'll cover is the infant car seat. The best place for an infant seat or any car seat is in the back seat center position. Many automakers don't have a dedicated latch anchor in this position. That means you shouldn't use the latch anchors from the outboard seats. Instead, use a seatbelt to install your car seat. The infant seat here has a base, which I found really handy when my kids were young. But when they got older and they moved on to convertible seats, I discovered they were much bigger and much harder to install. You'll start off with your convertible in the rear-facing position, installing it using the latch anchors or with the seatbelt. You want the back at an angle, usually 30 to 45 degrees, as listed on the seat's sticker. Some seats even have a level-like indicator to show you when you've done the job correctly. Some car seats recommend using the tether anchor in this position, but finding a place to attach it might be difficult. When your child reaches the height or weight limit for their rear-facing convertible, it's time to turn it around and install it using either the latch anchors or a seatbelt. In this position, you'll wanna use the car seat's top tether anchor. It keeps the car seat in place in case of a crash. <v David>You can also move your child from a rear-facing convertible to a combination seat, which is always forward facing and can later be used as a booster seat. It's installed the same way as a forward-facing convertible, and my son's even as armrests and cup holders. No matter which one of these car seats your child is in, make sure they fit in them securely. You wanna make sure the five-point harness is snug against your child and it passes the pinch test. That means you shouldn't be able to pinch any slack in the harness straps. The last seat you need to know about is the booster seat. This is the seat that will stick with your kids from the time they outgrow their convertible until they're ready to sit in the back seat with just a seatbelt. Most boosters aren't installed in a car, though some boosters can be attached to the latch anchors. Either way, you wanna make sure the booster positions your child so the seatbelt fits across your child's lap, not their belly, and the shoulder strap shouldn't ride up on their neck. While your child could easily stay in a booster until they're 12 years old, they're ready to sit in the back seat without a car seat once they're four feet, nine inches tall. But they should remain in the backseat until age 13. Hopefully, we've answered some of the questions you have about car seats. And remember, when you're shopping for a new car, take the car seats you already have with you to make sure they fit so you don't have to buy new ones. For more safety and family news, visit cars.com. <v Announcer>For more car-related news, go to cars.com or our blog, kickingtires.net.