Top Tech Tips - Car Seat Safety Tips That Parents May Not Know
We aim to keep our most precious cargo safe, after all, that is our job as a parent or caregiver. So we do our best to select the most appropriate car seat for our children - rear facing them until at least 2 years old or even better the maximum height or weight of their child restraint, as recommended by the AAP; when we turn them forward we continue with a 5-point harness until they have max'd that out; from there we move into a booster seat and keep them safely "boosted" until they are able to pass the 5 Step Test and even then STILL keep them in the back seat!! We select the seat that fits our child, fits our vehicle and that we will use correctly 100% of the time - yep, check, check, double check!
Yet there still seems to be some tips and ‘tricks of the trade' that Child Passenger Safety Technicians (aka "techs") know after being ‘one with a seat' day after day, seat check after seat check and install after install. Sometimes having your hands on dozens of different child restraints in dozens of different cars just gives you that little edge up and thus... that's why we are here! To help. To Educate. To Keep your precious cargo safe!!
And so here's a short list, in no particular order, of some "Tech Tips" - things that a parent or caregiver may not know about car seat safety.
§ Car seat straps are not to be washed. If you can remove the cover of your car seat, then I should just wash the whole thing right? Unfortunately not. Follow your instruction manual for removal (and reinstallation) of your car seat cover, however, DO NOT wash the straps. They cannot be submerged, even in just water. Soaking a harness strap will wash away the fire-retardant chemicals and that is not something that can be reapplied. But, let's face it, children are messy and I can almost guarantee that in 5+ years of having a harnessed child, something sticky or messy is bound to get on the straps. Spot clean them carefully with a damp cloth or if they appear to have so much goo or grime and you've done your best, contact your car seat manufacturer, explain the accident, there is a chance they may replace them for you.
From a Graco SnugRide35 Manual "HARNESS STRAPS may be spot cleaned or replaced. DO NOT IMMERSE THE HARNESS STRAPS IN WATER. Doing so may weaken the harness straps. NEVER iron the harness straps"
§ Install your car seat with the seat belt OR LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children), not both. The most common answer I get when I ask a parent why they installed their car seat with both is "if 1 is safe then using both must be safer." Seems likely, however, the opposite is true. Car seats are crash tested with EITHER the seat belt or LATCH, not both so we really don't know what will happen or how the seat will perform and what affects this will have on the straps and your harnessed child. Remember, however, to always use the TOP TETHER when using a Forward Facing install regardless of whether it is with the Seat Belt or Lower Anchors. (Side note: Some Rear Facing seats also allow for use of a top tether, consult your owner's manual.) A great reference for LATCH basics was created by The Car Seat Lady, find it here.
§ Pull back the cover of your car seat to expose the belt path. In some cases, the cover of a car seat hides the belt path where the seat belt OR LATCH straps would be routed on installation. If you pull back the cover of the car seat or expose the belt path through the car seat cover, you will be able to get a better angle to pull on the belt for a more secure and easier installation. The Car Seat Lady shows an example of this on a Rear Facing Installation of a Graco MyRide 65 here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCRY_TKZziY&list=UURDr4YjUAXbmwv0hWXUIBoQ&index=29&feature=plcp
Here's a photo I took of my son's car seat. Pull back the fabric and see how I can access the belt to get a more precise angle to pull for installation.
As parents and caregivers we always want what is best for our children. Sometimes we just haven't been given all the tools. Professionals learn tips and tricks after lots of training and months or years in the field. Child Passenger Safety Technicians are available to help guide and teach parents how to keep their children as safe as possible in a vehicle. To find a local CPST, go to www.seatcheck.org. The more questions you ask, the more educated you will be and the safer your precious cargo will become!
These were just a few... What are your favorite car seat safety tips??