Choose the right model. Children under 2 years of age should ride in a rear-facing car seat, which comes in three types: infant-only, convertible, and 3-in-1 (convertible and 3-in-1 seats generally let your baby stay rear-facing for longer). Once your baby has reached the height and weight limit for your rear-facing seat (as specified by the car seat manufacturer), switch to a forward-facing model.
See how it's rated. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) uses a five-star system to rate a seat's ease of use. Any seat rated by the NHTSA is safe, but some have easier-to-read instructions and more user-friendly features than others. Go to http://www.nhtsa.gov/Safety/Ease-of-Use to see your seat's rating.
Check the manual. Before you install your car seat, always read the manufacturer's instructions as well as your vehicle's owner manual for any car seat guidelines.
Install a rear-facing seat. In the back seat of your car, attach the latch straps on the base of the car seat to the latch anchors in your vehicle's seat. Tighten the belt on the car seat's base to secure it to your vehicle; jiggle the base to make sure it's secure. Connect the car seat to its base.
Install a forward-facing seat. In the back seat of your car, attach the latch straps on the car seat base to the latch anchors in your vehicle's seat and tighten. Check your vehicle's owner manual to locate the tether anchor in your car; connect the strap at the top of the car seat to the tether anchor.
Harness your child into the seat. Buckle the harness and adjust it until it fits snugly. Put the chest clip in line with your baby's armpits.
Inspect your handiwork. Get your car seat inspected by a certified technician to make sure it's installed properly. Go to http://www.nhtsa.gov/cps/cpsfitting/index.cfm to find an inspector near you.
Copyright © 2012 Meredith Corporation. Reviewed and updated 2013.