How to Install a Car Seat

Learn how to properly install a car seat and keep your baby safe while riding in the car.


Installing and using your infant's car seat correctly is critical. Yet, 3 out of 4 car seats aren't used properly. Install the infant seat a few weeks before your baby is due. You'll need it to bring baby home from the hospital. Have your installation checked by a Child Passenger Safety Technician. You can find one near you as Now, Sue Larkin, a Car Seat Safety Technician at Blythedale Children's Hospital in Valhalla, New York, and spokesperson for Safe Kids Worldwide, will take you through the installation process. First, read both the instruction manual for your car and the instructions that came with the car seat. They have to jibe in order for the seat to work correctly. Now, pick where in the back seat to install the car seat. Check your vehicle manual. If you can't put the seat in the middle, pick whichever side will allow you to use the seat correctly every time. Place the base of the car seat in the rear-facing position and make sure it works with your car. Some seats just don't work with certain types of cars. Next, secure the latch system. You'll find 2 latch anchor points where the seat cushion meets the seat back. Clip the metal connectors attached to either side of the base into the latch port in your car. Now, tighten the latch strap. You need to apply pressure. Push down on the base with 1 hand while you tighten the strap with the other. Make sure the base is secure by grabbing it on 1 side of the belt path and trying to move it side to side. It should not move by more than 1 inch. Put the infant seat on top of the base. You'll hear it click into place. Make sure the base is positioned at a 45-degree angle. Most seats have a level to indicate this. Place your child in the car seat and buckle the chest clip which should be at armpit level. Buckle the bottom of the harness. Pull on the strap to tighten the shoulder harness. If you can pinch the webbing on one of the shoulder straps together, the harness is too loose. Check the snugness of the seat base every time you place baby in it. It can loosen up over time. Also, recheck the shoulder straps. They need to be at or below your child's shoulders so, as your baby grows, you'll need to reposition them. Slats on the back of the car seat allow you to adjust the straps. For safety, keep the car seat rear-facing for as long as possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends having your child rear-facing until she is 2 years old.

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