Proper Baby Car Seat Installation: 10 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Proper Baby Car Seat Installation (10 Common Mistakes To Avoid)

Are you really getting it right with your baby car seat installation? Or is your baby car seat as safe as it should be as regards its installation? If you’re reading this article chances are you already buy your baby car seat or planning to buy but want to be on the safer side as to how to properly install a convertible car seat for a child. So,  take this article right away to your driveway to see for yourself whether your child’s car seat is installed in a proper way to ensure his safety. Go ahead and you’ll be amazed at what you might be doing wrong.

Going by the rampant problem of incorrect car seats installation faced by many American owners and the report of the Washington, D.C.-based National Safe Kids Campaign, showing four out of five safety seats are used incorrectly, with an average of three mistakes per seat, it’s easy to assume that this might be the same problem faced by many car seat owners in other parts of the US and the world as a whole. Therefore, pointing out these deadly and common mistakes of baby car seat installation will go a long way to save many children and child mortality rate in the US in particular and the world in general.


Imagine how many lives have lost in road crashes and how disheartening it will be to find out in the statistics that some good numbers of those not surviving the heinous incidents were children in car seats meant to save them.

Take a look at this scary statistics which shows the figure of children (all under 5 years) losing their lives in a deadly car accident in 2001 as near 500 while over 200 of the victims were found to be in car seats supposed to save their lives. Who knows what went wrong with those car seats? Perhaps, they were not correctly installed. Well,  the good news is, it’s still not late for you to find out if you’re making any of these common car seats installation mistakes today and fix it so that you can help save the lives of your children.

In addition to reading this article, you should also endeavor to always keep your car-seat installation guide close to you in your car so that you can easily access it anytime.

Mistake #1: Baby Car Seat is Too Loose in the Car

One of the major car seat mistakes of all time to which many users pay little or no attention to is not checking their car seat to ensure they’re tight before driving off. This is very important to do by taking a hold of the seat close to the area where you have the vehicle’s safety belt and where it passes through the seat. Doing this,  test the seat to make sure it is not loose. And to know if it’s tight,  you shouldn’t be able to move the convertible car seat forward or to the two sides (left and right,)  more than an inch. But if you’re able, then know certainly that it’s not right and then try and re-tighten it. I must be blunt with you this is one of the common mistakes many parents overlook time without numbers according to experts. What happens if there should be a collision in a car with a loose seat? The child could hit the back of the front seat heavily and sustain serious injury to either his face or head.

In the case of a baby car seat, use your arm and then rest your knee on the seat while putting as much weight as possible and then tighten the seat belt.

Once you’re done with that,  another you shouldn’t forget to do as most parents do is locking the seat belt.  This again is very important.

Also, as part of precautionary measures, you shouldn’t forget to use your car’s seat belt lock and since most shoulder-belts’ ways of working differ from those lap-belts; you should endeavor to reference your car manual for instructions.

According to Joseph Colella of Safe Kids’ child-passenger-safety training and technical manager, some cars, particularly, those manufactured before 1996 don’t have enough belt-locking capabilities and, as such, you may need to use a locking clip. This clip, you should be able to have one in your car safer seat as they normally come with it.

Mistake #2: Allowing Harness To Be Too Loose On The Child

Watch out for the harness to make sure that it’s neither too tight nor too loose once you have your kid tightened to the car seat.  Stephanie Tombrello, executive director of Safety BeltSafe U.S.A., in Torrance, California.

According to Stephanie Tombrello, executive director of SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A., in Torrance, California, to know if the harness is loose, test it by squeezing the fabric in the harness strap between your fingers if you’re able to pinch it this way it means the harness is too loose. So, fix it fast by tightening it and make sure it fits closely but comfortably.

Why do you need to take all these steps and what will happen if you fail to?

Simple! To protect your child from serious injury because if a road crash should occur in such a car with loose harness, the tendency of the child coming out of the seat and hitting any part of the car or co-passengers thereby leaving him with fatal injury is high. In some cases,  the worst thing, which you wouldn’t want to happen is for the child to crash out from the car and it would be very dangerous for him. Experts confirmed this to be the possible danger of letting the harness loose so be watchful and safe your child from falling a victim.

Mistake #3: Impatient Switching To Front-Facing

Most parents again fail in this aspect by not waiting for their infants to reach the American Academy of Pediatrics’ requirements of 2-years-old or maximum height or weight capacity of the car seat before switching from rear-facing to front-facing. It’s very important that you comply with this rules and regulations for you child’s safety. According to Michael Sachs, M.D., a Los Angeles pediatrician, the problem with most people is that that mistake the ‘and’in the guideline for an ‘it’s and so turned their infants around too soon than normal. In view of this,  it is incumbent upon parents to fulfill holistically both the requirements for weight and age limits before switching to front-facing. The simple interpretation of this is, no child should turn front-facing before his first birthday and again,  on that premise,  if on the day he turns 1 you check his weight and it’s below 20 pounds, you should continue rear-facing with him until he reaches the recommended weight.

Again, there are things you need to understand about why not following these requirements can be dangerous for you child. At that age, the child’s major bones responsible for the protection of his spinal cord are just growing and so rear-facing will be his strongest advantage as he can easily bear the great pressure of the crash with his back. So, invariably, the strongest part of his body at that age remains his back and that explains why rear-facing should be his best option. As against the risk in rear-facing,  his spinal cord can easily get exposed in front-facing and this can lead to severe injury or death for the child.

What then is the simple fix for this is to obey the weight and height limits set as holistically as possible or as you would follow the gospel laws.

Mistake #4: Not Paying Attention To The Angle For Rear-Facing

Although you should be able to determine if your car seat is at the right angle or not using your car seat built-in level if not there is a tip here for you to try. Even at that, I still want to believe your baby car seat should come with one as most do but if not no problem. What is common in most cases is that most car seats are not installed correctly either being too downward or upright and you should avoid this.

To test your car seat level using my manual method here is the simple thing to do:

Get a piece of paper and form it into a triangle. Place the longest part of the folded triangle paper up to the level of the back of the car seat (at the exact point where your child leans his back) and then look at the topmost edge of the triangle to see if it is essentially parallel to the ground.

Anything different from this means it is not okay and, so you’ll have to try adjusting the seat and test with the triangle again until you’re able to get the correct angle 45.

Unlike in most rear vehicle seats which are normally slopped toward the back of the car and which is okay for an adult passenger. But in the case of an infant,  the

seats are meant to be on a flat surface when installed for the child’s comfort. Although you can get over this if your safety seat come with an adjustable pedestal commonly found in most seats but if not what you have to is what a technician will do to check a car seat.

In that case,  this is what you should do according to a San Diego police officer Mark McCullough, a certified child-passenger-safety instructor:

Place sections of a cut-up swimming-pool noodle beneath the area where the child rests his feet or use tightly rolled-up towels.

What can happen if you ignore this is that owing to the narrow nature of an infant airway your child’s breathing could be affected if by chance the rear-facing seat should lean far forward beyond the normal and your child’s head falls forward thereby disrupting her airway.


Mistake #5: Incorrect Usage of The Retainer Clip

The essence of the retainer clip is to ensure that the harness straps are where they’re meant to be. You can easily make a mistake while using the retainer if you’re not putting them in their right place which at the armpit level. Your child can be at a high risk of the straps slipping off his shoulder if not in the right place and the child can be chuck out from her seat in a road crash.

My advice for you, therefore, is to endeavor that you always check the retainer clips position every time you lock up. While it is possible for most parents to tamper with the right position unknowingly you should make it a habit to ensure you don’t move the clip as you’re trying to guide your child out of the baby car seat.

Mistake #6: Wrong Connection of The Harness straps Using The Wrong Slots

Because of the different harness slots that most safety seats have more often than not most parents make mistakes when installing and turn around  the seat without remembering to adjust the straps.

The three set of straps are for different slots and facing positions. For example,  while the lower two sets of the straps are meant for the rear-facing position, the top set goes with the forward-facing position. The problem with most seats in case there is a crash is that you’re left with only one topmost slots for extra support to keep the harness secure once the seat faces forward. Therefore,  to overcome the confusion arising from not using the right slots always reference your car seats instructions that comes with when you bought it.

You need to realize why it is important that you should be able to differentiate each of the slots and which is for what is that if during a collision the harness got broken as a result of your child facing forward the risk will be very high.

Mistake #7: Failure To Switch To A Booster Seat When It Is Due

Another serious mistake most parents make with using baby car seats is ignoring using a booster seat when a child reaches the expected weight and age limits requirements. For example, a kid aging from 4 to 8 or weighing between 40 and 80 pounds is due to switch to a booster seat. That enables him being lifted higher and fitted properly in the car’s seat belt. So, what are you still waiting for? Get your child a booster seat immediately. That’s the only way to grant him safety while traveling with you in his car seat.

You should know by now that using an adult seat belt for a child doesn’t no much restraining as it will do for an adult because crossing his body at the inappropriate spot thereby making them uncomfortable. And for this reason, children tend to pull off the belt behind them. A child in this state while traveling in a car seat can get severe internal damage or even chuck out of the car if a crash should occur.

Mistake #8: Using A Defective Baby Car Seat

Most of the baby car seats out there are already defective and as such recalled for replacement by the manufacturers but many of them are neither replaced nor repaired.

To check if yours among those recalled seats you can check via the list regularly kept by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It’s a very easy process, all you need to know is your car seat’s model number, model name, and manufacture date. You can find all these right on the seat.

Some of the reasons a car seat may be recalled include flammable seat fabric,  faulty buckles or latches. You don’t have to wait till when they start posing threat to your life before take them for replacement.

So, you eventually found out your baby car seat is on the list of the recalled ones, what you need to is to contact the manufacturer and you’ll be guided on what to do next.

Mistake #9: Going For a Used Baby Car Seat

Another thing you should avoid doing is buying a second-hand baby car seat. You don’t even know if the used car seat you bought or plan to buy is already recalled so when it comes to buying a car seat don’t compromise a new one no matter the price. Your child is more valuable than any amount of money you spent buying a pricey car seat.

Another reason you shouldn’t buy a used baby car seat is to avoid buying a seat that has already passed it’s useful lifespan or expired. Yes,  car seats do expire like every other product you see out there. According to Del Castillo,  car seats actually do expire after a specific date usually around six years, since the plastic can degrade after using it for some time and once this happens the effectiveness of the seat is altered.

Another thing you don’t know is that the differences in price doesn’t matter as both the highly-priced and cheap seats all are equally safe and are produced in line with the performance standard set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. So it doesn’t matter at what price you bought it but what does is the suitability to your families or children.

Mistake #10: Incorrect Installation

You’ve heard people say times without number that most American baby car seat users always fail to install their car seats correctly and you don’t think it’s setting aside a good time to learn or even read the car seat manual for proper installation guidance. No body will listen to you that you didn’t have the time to if anything bad happen to your child because you failed to learn this simple thing.

Go over the above mistakes one by one and see which one you’re already not getting and fix it.

Check things like the harness straps to be sure it fits properly, the seat shouldn’t pouch above an inch from front to back or from side to side.


If you avoid these common mistakes for proper baby car seat installation, you are likely to save your child’s life in the event of an accident.



Leave a Reply