car seat safety

Car Seat Safety - How to Install a Car Seat

At Chicco, child safety is our priority – especially when it comes to riding in the car. That's why we're committed to helping parents and caregivers learn the ins and outs of proper car seat safety, including how to install a car seat, and whether a forward- or rear-facing car seat is the best option for your child.

Rear-Facing: Why and How Long

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children ride rear-facing in their car seats as long as possible. Because rear-facing is the safest option for growing children whose skeletal systems are still developing, be sure to maximize the height or weight limits of the seat. According to the AAP, "this will include virtually all children under 2 years of age and most children up to age 4."1

When rear-facing, a child's head, neck and spine are all supported by the car seat during an accident.

Children are flexible. What seems cramped to you is not necessarily uncomfortable for a toddler.

Since kids' bones and joints aren't fully developed yet, they're much more flexible than adults. Even though riding rear-facing longer may require them to cross or prop up their legs, these seating positions are no big deal to a flexible toddler and allow for crucial protection of the head, neck and spine.2

When rear-facing, a child's head, neck and spine are all supported by the car seat during an accident.

When rear-facing, a child's head, neck and spine are all supported by the car seat during an accident.

Secure Car Seat Installation

LATCH vs. Seatbelt

When installing a car seat in your vehicle, you can use either the vehicle seat belt or LATCH system. (LATCH stands for "lower anchors and tethers for children.") Both methods are equally safe, so choose the one that gives you a confident, tight and secure fit. Check the owner's manual for your vehicle and your child's car seat for details and specific instructions. For forward-facing car seats, always supplement your installation with the top tether.3

LATCH installation is only approved up to a certain weight. Refer to the labels/manual for your child's car seat and switch to seat belt installation when the time comes.

The Inch Test

To ensure your installation is secure, do the "inch test" by giving the car seat/base a tug forward and from side to side. If it moves more than one inch in any direction, uninstall and start over.4

Getting Help

If you have questions or want hands-on assistance, can help you find a car seat checkup event in your area or contact a local child passenger safety technician (CPST). You can also get in touch with a nearby CPST via

Installing with LATCH

Installing with the Vehicle Seat Belt

Did you know?

Car Seats Can Expire

Check the seat for a label or imprint indicating the date of expiration. Often it's 6-10 years after its date of manufacture.5

Buckling Your Child Properly

Step 1

Tighten the Harness

Buckle the harness and chest clip then put your hand behind the clip to eliminate slack in the webbing. Tighten the harness until your hand is touching your child.

Step 2 Step 2

Test with a Pinch

If you can pinch any of the harness webbing between your fingers, it means the harness is too loose. When the harness is properly tightened, your fingers will simply slip off.6

Step 3 Step 3

Chest Clip Height

To ensure your child's chest clip is at the correct height, line it up with the top of his armpits. When properly positioned, the chest clip is designed to keep the harness straps parallel over the torso in a crash.7

Watch Demo on securing your child

Did you know?

Winter Coats Can Interfere With Your Child's Harness

Avoid buckling your child with his winter coat on since the bulky fabric could prevent a tight harness fit. Instead, buckle and tighten him in without a coat, then put the coat on backwards or use a blanket.8


Space created by coat


Transitioning to the Next Seat

When to Make a Change

There's no reason to rush from rear-facing to forward-facing, or from a five-point harness to a belt-positioning booster. Keep your little one in his current car seat as long as possible until he reaches the maximum weight or height allowance from the manufacturer, whichever comes first.9

Maturity Matters

As you consider making the move to a belt-positioning booster, remember that age and maturity are as important as height and weight. Since belt-positioning boosters rely on the vehicle seat belt for restraint—rather than a 5-point harness—your child must be able to sit relatively still and keep the seat belt properly positioned on her body throughout every car ride.

How to use a Booster Correctly

The vehicle lap belt should lie flat across your child's upper thighs—not across the soft abdomen—and the shoulder belt should cross over the middle of her shoulder and across the center of her chest.

Graduating From a Booster

Children are usually ready to move from their booster directly into the vehicle seat anywhere between 8 and 12 years-old. To see if your child is ready, buckle her into the vehicle seat and make sure her back and bottom are pushed all the way against the backrest. If her knees bend naturally at the edge of the seat, the vehicle lap belt fits across her upper thighs or low on the hips and the shoulder belt fits across her shoulder and chest, she no longer needs a booster.10

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