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Tips to Get the Best Out of Your Child's Car Seat

  • Wheel Well-Tips/Guides

As a parent and car owner, car seats are one of the most important purchases you’ll ever make. Choosing a car seat means ensuring it is the right fit for your child as well as your car.

Prices of car seats can vary quite drastically, ranging from R900 to R5,500 – and for a top-end premium model, you could pay as much as R9,500 excluding shipping, like the Silver Cross 360. But then, a car seat with this price tag comes with a host of benefits, such as the advantage of longevity, adapting to fit your child all the way from birth to 12 years of age. You might pay a hefty price upfront, but a well-made seat that lasts, offers maximum safety and comfort, and makes your life easier, is likely the one you’ll get the best use out of.

Of course, not everyone can afford top-of-the-range car seat models, so we’ve put together a few tips on how you can make the best out of the one you choose.

Car seat buying tips

  • Quality – Buy the best that you can afford, it’s worth it in the long run.
  • Comfort – When children are comfortable, engaged and happy in the car, they’re less likely to distract you while you’re driving.
  • Safety and compliance
    • Select a tested and approved car seat. A child restraint must comply with the standard specification SABS 1340 and bear the certification and/or approval mark.
    • All car seats sold in South Africa must adhere to the European Economic Community’s (ECE) regulations pertaining to child restraints. Before a car seat is allowed to go on the shelves, it must first undergo a rigorous set of tests as stipulated by the ECE. Only when a car seat passes will a certificate be issued to confirm compliance. This approval number will appear on an orange sticker on your car seat similar to the one below:

  • Period of use – Buying a car seat that grows with your child will give the greatest safety and comfort for as long as they need to use it without having to keep replacing it as they grow.
  • Features – Look out for car seats with adjustable height, reclining positions, and legroom.
  • Adaptive side impact protection – 25-30% of impacts are from the side so protection in this area is critical.
  • Product registration – Complete and mail the registration card that comes with your car seat or booster seat in case of a recall or other important information

Correct installation

Correct car seat installation is of utmost importance and there are two types of systems of installation:

  1. ISOFIX technology – This is an international standardised fitting system. If your car has ISOFIX, then this system is a quick and easy way to install a car seat without the need of a seat belt.
  2. Three-point static safety belts – With the safety belt system, installing a car seat is less convenient and a little more complex, which could result in improper installation.

If your car doesn’t come with ISOFIX, you can have the system fitted. If you’re using the three-point static seat belt, always double check for correct installation before driving away.

During use

When buckling your child in, check each of the following for safety’s sake:

  • Seat incline – Check the car seat manual for the correct incline according to your child’s age. This is especially important for infants as an incline that is too far forward can cause their necks to drop forward and result in suffocation.
  • Clothing – Avoid dressing your child in lose-fitting clothing, especially if the fabric is puffy as this allows too much space between the car seat straps.
  • Buckling in –Straps should be tight enough so that your child is sitting securely in, but loose enough that they are comfortable. Ensure that all buckles are fastened.

Maintenance

Keeping your child’s car seat grime-free will extend its life and appearance. It’s best to wipe up any messes as soon it happens and before the dirt sets in. However, the single most important tip for cleaning and maintaining car seats is to read the manual and follow manufacturer instructions carefully.

Food is a huge culprit that causes soiling of a car seat, particularly food that crumbles or melts. More importantly, those bits of fallen food can get into locking mechanisms or harness straps, making the seat unsafe in the event of a collision.

To clean, remove the seat out of the car and clean each component separately. A mild neutral pH soap is all that’s needed – nothing harsh and definitely no use of chemicals.

Follow this easy cleaning method:

  1. Remove the cover and check the manufacturer’s washing instructions.
  2. Clean the shell:
    • Vacuum dirt out as much as possible.
    • Remove stuck-on debris with the end of a flat screwdriver covered with a clean rag.
    • Remove dirt from crevices with a damp toothbrush.
    • Wipe down the plastic shell with a clean, damp cloth.
    • Thoroughly dry with a clean towel or leave to dry in the sun.
  3. Buckles should not be cleaned with anything else but water. Do not use lubricants or abrasives.
  4. Clean straps with a soft dry toothbrush. For heavy spills and mess, check with the manufacturer for cleaning instructions.
  5. For buckles, again check with the manufacturer. It’s important that buckles do not end up rusting, so if you do use water, make sure it is totally dry before reassembling.
  6. Test clasps.
  7. Re-assemble the car chair.

Passing it on

Once your child has reached 12 years of age or 36kg, you might be inclined to sell or give away the car seat. However, since it is a safety device, simply passing it on to another child is not advisable. A used car seat is unsafe if it has been in a car collision or has parts missing. At the same time, you don’t want it to go to waste and have it land up in the landfill either. So what do you do with your used car seat?

If you have a pre-loved car seat you no longer need, drop it off at any Supa Quick store nationwide. It will be donated to Wheel Well, who will check, recondition, and test it to meet EU regulations and standards. All donated and newly refurbished car seats will be distributed to families in need – now that’s making the most of your child’s car seat right to the very end!

Read next:

Choosing the right car seat for your child’s age
Car seat size guide

Disclaimer: This content is for informational, educational, or entertainment purposes only. We do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability, and accuracy of the content.

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