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Are You Using Your Child's Safety Seat Correctly?

  • Drive Safe-Tips/Guides-Safety

If you're a parent who has young kids, you know how quickly they grow out of their clothes. Child seats are a little bit like that – your child will grow out of their infant seat and then need a toddler seat and eventually a booster. Like clothes, you want to extract maximum value out of your child's safety seat for as long as possible. But do you know how to do this safely?

Does your child's car seat fit properly?

Check for proper installation:

  • Is the car seat firmly secured in the vehicle?
  • Is it level?
  • Are the harness straps tight and secure?
  • Is your child being held upright in his or her seat, not leaning forward or backward, and at least as upright as a person sitting in an adjacent seat would be?

Is your child's car seat in the right place?

Once you've installed your child's car seat, check to ensure that it is properly placed. The car seat should always be placed in the centre of the back seat. You shouldn't have to move the front passenger seat forward to fit your child's safety seat behind it. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends moving your child's car seat as far back as possible without blocking foot room for an adult passenger or making contact with another object such as a wall or headrest.

When checking to make sure that you have correctly installed your child’s safety seat, keep these tips in mind:

Is your child in the right size car seat for their age and size?

To keep your child safe in the car:

  • A rear facing infant car seats should be used until at least 1 year old. The harness straps should be adjusted so that there are no gaps between the child's shoulders and the top of their head.
  • A forward facing convertible car seats should be used until at least 2 years old. Again, the harness straps should be adjusted so that there are no gaps between a child's shoulders and the top of their head.
  • Booster seats must remain in use until your child reaches 8 years old or 4 feet 9 inches tall (whichever comes first).

Is your child the correct age for their current car seat?

Car seats are designed to keep kids safe until they're between 16 and 29 kilograms, which is about 5 years old. Your child should be at least 1 year old to use a car seat.

Make sure your child fits properly in their car seat by checking the manufacturer's instructions and labels on the seat itself. You can also check your vehicle's owner manual for guidance. The best way to know if your child fits properly is to have him or her try it out in person.

To find out what size will work best for them, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my child tall enough?
    Babies need a rear-facing car seat until they're 2 years old or weigh 9 kilograms, whichever comes first—and then can move into a forward-facing one when they weigh 11 kilograms.
  • Is my child heavy enough?
    Once kids reach 18 kilograms or 4 feet 9 inches tall (1 metre), they should be using booster seats until 8 years old or 36 kilograms. Booster seats give children better protection because they eliminate any gap between themselves and an adult safety belt worn during an accident; this helps reduce injuries from road forces acting on their bodies.

Also read: Guide to child car seats and sizes

Follow the manufacturer's instructions

Always read and follow the manufacturers' instructions for your child's safety seat. It doesn't matter what brand you have; if the manufacturer says to install the seat in a particular way, then that's how you should install it. If you have any questions about your specific model of car seat, ask!

Make sure you read the labels on both the vehicle and the car seat

  • Read the labels on both the vehicle and car seat.
  • Check that you have installed it correctly, according to manufacturer guidelines.
  • Check that it fits your child by verifying that their height, weight, and age are within the recommended ranges.

A note on secondhand car seats

Secondhand seats are a safety concern, because unlike new seats, they may not have been inspected by a technician or tested for defects.

However, if you obtain a secondhand seat from WheelWell, you can be assured they have gone through rigorous inspection and restoration. Wheel Well’s focus is for the safety of children, whatever their financial situation. They work towards ensuring that lower income families can also benefit from keeping their child properly and safely buckled up while driving in a car.

You can check to see whether your seat is second hand by looking at the label on the underside of the car seat. Car seats are labeled with an expiration date and have an average lifespan of about five years. Any other time stamps or marks will indicate when the last inspection took place.

There are certain risks associated with using secondhand car seats:

  • Missing parts (such as screws) that could cause injury in case of a crash or sudden stop
  • Deterioration from wear and tear over time leading to compromised structural integrity


Child car seats generally have labels with instructions on how to install them properly and safely as well as when it's time to replace them with a new one. Keep in mind that these labels may become faded or damaged over time and make sure you read them carefully before installing your child’s safety seat in the vehicle.

If you're not sure if your child's car seat is installed correctly, rather be safe and have it checked by a certified technician than be sorry.


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

Guide to Child Car Seats and Sizes

Guidelines Towards Choosing the Right Car Seat

Our Partnership with Wheel Well

Disclaimer: This information is for educational, or entertainment purposes only. It must not be construed as advice, legal, financial, or otherwise. We do not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability, and accuracy of this information.


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