Car seats can be complicated. Small wonder parents, especially new ones are always asking questions about them. This post brings together in one place at least 21 commonly asked car seat questions so you can dramatically increase your baby safety car seat IQ in under 1 hour.
I won’t pretend this is the most comprehensive car seat questions resource anyone could ever find. But it’s taken care of every important question the typical parent needs to know about child safety restraints.
Let’s dive in and learn what we can about car seats so you can do all the right things and avoid the most common car seat mistakes. Speaking of car seat mistakes, what are the 5 most common mistakes parents make? Find out below.
Answers to 21 Car Seat Questions Parents Frequently Ask
By the time you’re done reading through this post, you’ll have learned loads about car seats. You won’t find any specific information about particular car seat models though. But your general knowledge about these essential pieces of baby gear will increase tremendously.
1.What Are the 5 Most Common Car Seat Mistakes?
The Canadian Pediatric Society says that roughly 80-90 percent of all car seats aren’t used correctly. Car seat mistakes happen all the time, and you as a caring parent should do whatever it takes to keep your baby safe during car rides. Did you know tat correct use of car seats can reduce the risk of death, hospitalization, or severe injury by more than 71 percent compared to NOT using safety restraints according to Oxford Academic? Here are 9 shocking car seat mistake statistics to nudge you towards the path of greater caution.
Mistake #1: Loose car installation is the number #1 car seat mistake parents and other caregivers make. This is especially true with cheap car seats without an adjustable base. The parent secures the seat, tests it and finds it’s still a tad loose and assumes that’s how it’s supposed to work.
Consult the car owner’s manual and car seat installation installations when setting the car seating up to install it correctly. And if the instructions manual is sketchy, go over to YT and watch videos where a CPST (car seat technician) demonstrates how to correctly install that particular seat.
Mistake #2: Routing the seatbelt through the wrong belt path. For example, routing the seatbelt via the forward-facing belt path when installing a rear-facing-only car seat and vice versa.
Mistake #3: Not getting the recline angle right. According to Today’s Parent, this is a common mistake and one parents MUST avoid. This often happens when trying to install an infant car seat with a non-adjustable base. In most cases, the manufacturer says to place a rolled towel or a pool noodle underneath the seat to get it to recline better. A 45˚recline is what child safety experts recommend.
Helpful safety tip: When shopping for a baby car seat, choose one that features a recline angle indicator. This indicator is normally a bubble or a line. Graco infant car seats usually have this feature, and it’s hard to not get the recline angle right with most modern Graco car seats.
Mistake #4: Not tightening the harness straps tight enough so that the child undoes them easily or they come undone without a fight during a crash. If you have to pay more to get a car seat with an easy-to-adjust no-rethread 5-point harness, do it.
When the weather gets cold, avoid bundling up baby in a snow suit for using anything puffy causes the harness straps to fit differently and can make them less effective at protection during a crash.
Mistake #5: Transitioning to a booster or forward-facing car seat (convertible car seat or all-in-one car seat) too soon or carrying a child in an infant car seat when it’s clear they no longer fit in it. Studies have shown that strapping a child forward-facing before they reach age 2 can increase the risk of injury.
In case you’re interested, here’s a list of 12 deadly car seat mistakes to avoid.
2. What Types of Car Seats Are There?
There are 3 main types of car seats namely infant car seats, forward-facing car seats, and booster car seats. Kids under the age 2 should always ride in the rear-facing position as study and after study has found this is the safest seating position for kids this young.
Infant car seats are rear-facing-only car seats for newborns, infants, and toddlers, and most are abandoned at between months 15 and 19 for a convertible car seat.
When a child reaches the indicated weight and height limits of an infant car seat, they’re ready to transition to a forward-facing car seat known as a convertible car seat or all-in-one car seat. An all-in-one car seat is a convertible car seat that includes the booster seating mode. Some convertible car seats rotate, and that’s nice because it makes getting baby in and out the backseat a breeze.
Note: convertible car seats offer both rear-facing and forward-facing seating and some can be used from newborn until the little passenger is ready for the booster seat.
Finally, there are booster car seats. They’re called booster car seats because their job is to boost the child’s height, elevating them to a position where they can comfortably use the vehicle’s seatbelt. You can buy a booster seat separately, or you can get it as a seating mode on an all-in-one convertible car seat.
There are two other kinds of car seats namely stroller frame strollers and travel systems. Travel systems is a two-part stroller consisting of an infant car seat and a compatible stroller. It makes it possible to take care of your baby comfortable when you’re outside of the car.
And when transferring baby out of the car seat to the stroller, you get to do it without disturbing their sleep. As for stroller frames, these are aluminum frames that use a car seat adapter to connect the frame with a stroller. Here are the pros and cons of stroller frames vs. travel systems.
3. Are Secondhand Car Seats OK?
Used car seats are generally not a good idea for babies. However, you can know certain critical pieces of information about the old seat, there’s no reason you can’t buy it. If you know for sure that the used car seat has not been in a crash, isn’t expired yet, isn’t modified, and isn’t the subject of any recent car seat recent call, go ahead and buy the secondhand seat.Otherwise, buy a brand spanking new infant car seat or whatever seat type you want because that’s the only way to ensure it’s safe for ferrying fragile tots around.
4. How Do I Know If a Car Seat Has Been Recalled?
The best way to know if a car seat has been recalled is to fill out the postcard that comes in the package and mail it in. If you didn’t get this card for some reason, search for the manufacturer’s website and register the car seat model online. If you do this, obviously there won’t be anything to mail in at all. The third option is to sign up with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If you do any one of these three things, you’re ALWAYS sure to get recall notifications if and when they happen.
5. How Do I Know About the Car Seat Laws Applicable in My State?
The problem with car seat laws in the US and other countries is that they’re not static. They keep changing, and you want to keep up with the changes in the requirements to avoid trouble with the law. Regardless of which state you’re based in, there’s a little trick to know the car seat regulations you need to comply with.
To know the applicable and current car seat rules in your state (US), click here. What you find is a map of ALL 50 US states, and if you click on any state, you instantly access the child safety laws that apply to that state. If you click on Arizona for example, you’ll find that violating the applicable rules in this state attracts a $50 at this writing.
6. How Do I Know If My Car Seat is Correctly Installed?
By testing the car seat for movement. Give the car seat a tug side-to-side and front-to-back. If the car seat moves move than 1″ in either direction, that’s a clear sign that it’s too loose and therefore not properly installed. Be sure to re-read the manual to make sure you did the install right. YT videos on the specific car seat may also be useful. And if all else fails, contact a CPST so they give the install a look-over and correct any mistake.
7. How Long Do Car Seats Last?
Car seats can last and typically do last for more than 10 years, but manufacturers recommend using a car seat for a specified duration post-date of manufacture. Every car seat has a lifespan displayed on a label, and the typical lifespan is 6-10 years depending on brand and car seat type. For example, Chicco infant car seats expire 6 years after the date of manufacture, convertible ones last 8 years, and booster car seats 8 years, and All-in-one convertible car seats as long as 10 years.
8. Do Car Seats Actually Expire?
Yes, car seats expire, at least according to the companies that make them. These brands say that somewhere around year 7, the overall integrity of the seat begins to deteriorate and this makes it somewhat less safe. However, most car seat manufacturers agree that the plastic on car seats (they’re mostly plastic) is good for at least 10 years.
9. Why Do Car Seats Expire?
According to Chicco, car seat expiration dates exist to “provide an extra level of protection.”
Car seat technology keeps evolving as do safety standards and regulations that govern the manufacturing process. Modern car seats have come a long way and offer way more protection than their earliest predecessor. Many newer models have certain features and technologies that make the model somewhat safer than previous versions.
And as a car seat ages, natural wear and tear weaken it progressively. The same goes for extreme weather conditions like high temperatures. This can cause invisible cracks that can undermine the structural integrity of the car seat over time.
Also, car seats may rust over time, and this combined with all the other factors mentioned above can make the car seat a tad less safe.
10. Should I Use an Infant Car Seat or a Convertible Car Seat for My Newborn?
You can use either an infant car seat or a convertible one provided that the little passenger doesn’t weigh outside of the listed weight limits and height limits. That said, it’s been found that infant car seats consistently fit newborns better compared to convertible car seats.
In many cases, brands use infant head support inserts to help newborns fit better in infant car seats and convertible ones. This included head and body support insert makes it possible to strap in newborns and tiny babies. Brands instruct caregivers to stop using the newborn insert when the child reaches 11 pounds.
According to Chicco USA, it’s not a good idea to use blankets, clothing, or even an infant insert that the seat’s manufacturer hasn’t approved.
12. How Long Should a Child Ride Rear-facing?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that little ones ride rear-facing for as long as possible, even after they turn 2, which is the age the experts at What to Expect say a child needs to reach before they can seat forward-facing.
And according to the CDC, parents should carry children rear-facing from birth to around age 4. During this time, the CDC says to strap in the child in a rear-facing seating position in the backseat with the harness secured in place. Doing this provides the “best possible protection” to young ones in this age range.
13. What Do I Do With My Expired Car Seat?
You can recycle it, trash it, or give it to a car seat technician for use during car installation demonstrations. If you decide to trash it, be sure to cut the harness straps to discourage folks who may get their hands on the car car seat down the road from using it.
14. Is a Convertible Car Seat the Same as an All-in-One Car Seat?
A convertible car seat is similar to an all-in-one car seat in terms of features and how they work. In fact, an all-in-one car seat is a convertible car seat with the main difference being that it provides the booster seat mode. In other words, you can use an all-in-one car seat right from birth and continue using it through toddlerhood and booster mode age.
If you find the right all-in-one option, you can buy one car seat and forget about upgrading to a different seat in the future. You may want to invest in a lightweight FAA-approved car seat for air travel though because most convertible car seats are big, bulky, and challenging to globe-trot with.
15. What Shouldn’t I Do With Car Seats?
According to What to Expect:
- You should never leave your baby unsupervised in the car. It might get too hot in there and who knows what might happen.
- Don’t put an infant car seat to uses the manufacturer didn’t intend. For example, don’t use the car seat as a bed especially when you’re not around. Actually, if your baby falls asleep while still in the car seat, unbuckle them and move them to the crib or other safe place.
- Never use a secondhand car seat UNLESS you’re 100% certain it’s never been in an accident and isn’t damaged or expired.
- Don’t leave twisted portions on the harness straps as twisted straps might increase the risk of injury in a crash.
- Never use a rear-facing car seat forward-facing as this could make it unsafe.
- Never forget to attach a forward-facing car seat to the tether anchor via the forward-facing tether strap.
- Never install a car seat in the front seat.
- Don’t stop tightening and making adjustments if the seat moves more than 1″ side-to-side or back-to-front.
16. Do Infant Car Seats Come With a Base?
Yes, they come with a detachable base. You can easily remove the top part of the seat (the carrier) and transfer baby to a stroller or just carry them around by the handle grip when outside of the car. Some bases are adjustable, which makes it easier to set the seat at a safe recline angle. It’s usually one base, and if you get extra compatible bases, you can easily switch your infant car seat between vehicles.
17. When is the Right Time to Purchase an Infant Car Seat?
Chicco advises parents to get an infant car seat for the expected new family member at least 1 month before the due date. Buying the car seat early allows you enough time to get your hands on it and learn how to use it properly. And if there are problems installing the car seat, you can contact a car seat technician to help with the install. Find a CPST here. Simply type in your zip code or city and state to find a technician near you. This professional will teach the correct way to install a car seat, mostly for free.
18. Where is the Safest Place in a Car to Install a Car Seat?
If your vehicle allows, the best place to install a baby car seat is in the middle of the backseat. Why the middle of the backseat? According to an article published in the National Library of Medicine, kids who seat in the middle of the backseat face up to 43 percent less injury risk versus their counterparts sitting on either side of the seat.
19. Can I Take My Car Seat On a Plane?
Yes if the car seat is approved for use in aircraft. The vast majority of car seats these days are FAA-approved. Be sure to ascertain that what you have is actually plane-friendly before bringing it with you.
20. How Do You Install a Car Seat?
Use the lower anchors (LATCH) or the seatbelt to install a car seat. However, you shouldn’t use both at once. Learn how to install a car seat here. Read your car’s manual and the car seat’s instruction manual to learn exactly what to do. If you face insurmountable difficulties, consult a car seat technician for assistance.
21. How Do You Clean a Car Seat?
Here’s how to clean a fabric car seat. Take the car seat out of the car for easier cleaning. Use a vacuum clean to suck up dry bits of food and other materials from the crevices. Apply a cleaning spray or a mild soap to the fabric and agitate with a cloth or brush if it’s too dirty and finally wipe down with a clean damp cloth. Air dry before reinstalling.
And here’s how to clean a leather car seat: Get the car seat outside of the vehicle. Vacuum it to pick up crumbs and debris. Mix vinegar with water in the ratio 2:1 to make a cleaning solution. Spray this homemade cleaner sparingly to the seat or use a cloth to apply it. You may want to apply vinegar solution to a small portion of the leather first. Use a microfiber cloth to run the seat, pressing harder on the leather where necessary. Finally, wipe with a dry towel and air dry. Prolonged exposure of leather to direct sunlight can harm it.
Are there any questions whose answers you didn’t find here? Tell us about this in the comments box below.
As a medical professional practicing in the United States, Joe Waweru medically reviews every piece of relevant content at kiddofreddom.com, but nothing he says here should be construed as medical advice of any kind.