What should you expect at a full car sea

What should you expect at a full car seat clinic? You should see forms filled out, gathering information about your vehicle and child. The seat will be removed from the vehicle and all straps will be checked. The fit of the child in the seat will be checked. The tech should be talking to you continuously, showing you what they are doing and how it’s done. When it comes to installation, unless your install is unique and incredibly difficult

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Looking back – What’s the deal with Rear facing?

We’ve gotten many requests for an article detailing the benefits of keeping your child in a rear facing car seat for as long as possible.

Let’s start with when you may have first heard of this in the news:

A lot of attention was brought to rear facing last year when the American Association of Pediatrics changed their recommendations to say that they recommend all children should remain rear facing til at least 2 years old.

Does that mean that the law has changed?

Many people have interpreted this to mean that the law had changed.  It hasn’t.  In Canada, laws are set from province to province.  However, all provinces (and most territories) have laws that include correct use, and all new seats insist that a child be 1 year old, 22lbs AND walking unassisted before they can turn forward facing.

This child is 14 months old, 26lbs and not only walking but running. Actually, he appears to be making a run for it!

This means that it is legal for a 12 months old, 22lbs, walking baby to ride forward facing in the car.  Which brings us to our next question…

When is it safe for me to turn my child’s seat forward facing?

The answer to that is more complicated then it would seem.  In part, 12 months was chosen for a reason.  It is absolutely safer to ride forward facing at 12 months then it is at 8 months or 10 months,  However, US data has shown that a toddler is up to 75% less likely to suffer from severe injury and death when riding rear facing until the age of two.  This data was responsible for the increased recommendation last year by the American Association of Pediatrics.

The big question of course is why is rear facing so much safer?

What’s the science behind this?  The majority of severe crashes are front impact.  In a collision, everything in the car is thrown towards the point of impact, including arms, legs and heads.  A rear facing child, by contrast, is instead caught and cushioned by their seat, protecting their spine and head.  No pressure is put on the child’s neck and often they escape even severe crashes with no injury at all.  By contrast, a forward facing child is instead thrown forward and their heavy head pulls on their neck.  In extreme circumstances this can lead to a phenomenon called ‘internal decapitation’.

Joel’s Journey – the story of a boy who suffered from severe injuries in a crash.

So should I turn my child forward facing at 2 years old?

Swedish data, which goes back to the 1960’s, has shown that the benefits of rear facing continue past the age of 4.  The Swedes have been rear facing older children for many years now, and public awareness is so common that even without laws, the majority of parents leave their children rear facing until they are ready to move to a booster, skipping the forward facing harness stage all together.  In Sweden, rear facing past the toddler years is made easier because there are many larger seats on the market that offer more legroom and can take a child up to 55lbs.

Swedish Style Rear Facing seat

So when is it safe for my child ride forward facing?

Well, for starters, toddlers have big heads, compared to the rest of their bodies.  Older kids, (starting at about 3 or 4) have heads that are more in proportion to their bodies.  This means that when riding forward facing, that there is less ‘pull’ on their heads in a sudden stop.  In addition, their bones are stronger, and they are better able to take the force of the crash, as distributed by the 5 point harness.

But what about their legs?

Many people worry about a rear facing child’s legs.  Relatives and friends can be horrified – “what about their legs?!?” is something we hear often.  The question is two fold: people worry that their child’s legs are not comfortable and that they are not safe.  First, children are incredibly flexible.  The majority of children curl up in bed, while they play, even while sitting on a kitchen chair.  Being curled up in a car seat is no different. Children sit cross legged, stick their legs strait up or kick them over the sides of their seat. Some older children will even complain when finally turned forward facing because they don’t like the feeling when their legs dangle and go to sleep.

He looks terribly uncomfortable.

Children’s legs are also safer while rear facing.  There have been many reports of broken legs from forward facing seats because their legs fly forward in a crash and strike the vehicle interior.  There are few reports of an injury to a child’s legs while rear facing, and none of them can be directly attributed to the direction the child was facing.  The more important point is that even if children’s legs WERE being broken while rear facing, it doesn’t change the fact that we are trying to protect their necks.  Legs are a lot easier to fix than necks.  There is a catch phrase among techs – ‘Broken leg, cast it; broken neck, casket’.

What would happen if you got rear ended?

Other people will comment on how a rear facing child is at risk during a rear impact collision.  This is also not true.   Since most crashes are frontal impact, the majority of the force is being thrown towards the front.  In order to duplicate this force backwards, both cars would have to be reversing at high speed.  Most reversing crashes happen in parking lots, and the speeds (and the risks)  just aren’t the same.

An amazing story of why rear facing is so important, even in a rear ending

Rear facing also offers excellent protection during side impact crashes.  Again, because the majority of cars are moving forward, side impact forces happen at an angle.  Rear facing children are thrown into the corner of their seat, with their head and torso staying contained inside the shell.  By contrast, a forward facing child’s limbs and head both are thrown outwards towards the point of impact possibly striking the vehicle interior and putting stress on the child’s neck.

The dummy shows how the limbs and head are thrown forward in a crash.

Is there ever a time when forward facing is safer than rear facing?

Rear facing becomes unsafe is when the car seat is being used incorrectly.  This means that you must respect the weight limits, height guidelines and installation methods of your car seat.
Okay, I understand that I should keep my child rear facing for as long as possible – How exactly should I do that?

Set proper expectations.
It helps to know you will be rear facing for several years so you can plan accordingly. This means that you can set the proper expectation with friends and relatives from the start, and avoid the questions and confusion down the road.

It really helps to buy the right seat.
This means buying an infant/child (convertible) seat after your child has outgrown their infant seat.  (Or, depending on the seat – skipping the infant seat all together if you choose – more on that another day.)

When shopping for an infant/child seat, look for one that has a nice high rear facing weight limit and a tall shell.  This will help to keep your child rear facing for longer, eliminating the possibility of having to buy another seat down the road, or the need to turn the child forward facing earlier than you had intended.

It also helps to buy a seat with tall top harness slots so that when you do turn your child forward facing, they will fit in the seat until they are really ready to move to a booster seat.
(More on that in another blog post)

The Graco MyRide 65 will get most children to a safe booster age.

You can make rear facing more comfortable for you and your child.
It also helps to know that once children have good head control they can be put at a more upright angle – 30* from vertical for most seats.  This more upright angle not only gives you more space for the driver and passenger, it is also safer for your growing child.  Newborns need the 45* angle because when their heads tilt forward it can close their airways, not because a car seat is necessarily safer that way.

If you have a smaller vehicle and don’t think a larger seat will fit in your vehicle, remember that most infant/child seats actually take up less room than an infant seat.  If once you install the seat if it is bumping up against the front seats, try the seat in the centre.  Some narrower seats will fit better this way, so that the top of the seat comes out between the driver and passenger seats almost overlapping the front seats.  (remember that you will probably need to install with the seat belt in the centre as most vehicles do not allow UAS in the centre seating position.)

A 6lbs newborn in the First Years True Fit

Think about buying a seat for each vehicle your child rides in regularly.
Moving a rear facing infant/child seat can be time consuming and frustrating if you have to do it often.

Plan how you will get your child into the car.
Older children can climb in themselves.  This can be very motivating for some kids!  In messy spring and winter weather, you may prefer to carry your child so that their shoes stay dry.  Alternatively, some parents remove shoes before the child sits down all the way.  This can also be more comfortable on longer drives.

Don’t worry that your child will want to turn around.
Many children are able to flip back and forth in different vehicles and never have a problem.  Also, for many children, it would never occur to them that they could ride in a different way then the one they are presented with.

Even if your child does start to protest rear facing, think about it.  Are they protesting rear facing? or are they objecting to being confined?  Many young toddlers hate to be strapped down, no matter which direction the seat is facing.  And this this safety decision shouldn’t be any different from any other.  If your child wanted to play in the road, or with a sharp knife you would not allow it, no matter how much they fussed .  This is a safety decision and one that is not theirs to make.

Rear facing with the whole family!

With a little forethought and planning, rear facing your child through the toddler years and beyond can be no big deal, and knowing that your child is 75% safer should keep you both smiling.

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Save the Date!

Child Passenger Safety Conference 2012

 Child Safety Link, Atlantic Car Seat Safety and the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada are pleased to be offering a one day conference April 27, 2012 in Truro, Nova Scotia.

A variety of sessions are planned, including updates on car seat safety regulations and seats, tools for conducting excellent presentations, networking with other car seat advocates, and much more.

Main Conference:  $60.  Bursaries will be available.

Friday April 27, 2012
Truro, Nova Scotia
Glengarry Best Western Hotel

Pre and post conference courses:

  •  Children’s Restraint Systems Technician Recertification Course, April 27 and 28th (participants attend the conference on April 27th , and practice skills and participate in a car seat clinic on April 28th.
  • Becoming an Instructor: April 26-28, 2012

Experienced technicians who have an interest in teaching others may apply to become an instructor of technician training through the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada.

There will be a one day introduction to course planning on Thursday April 26.  Instructor Candidates will then attend the conference on April 27 and assist with teaching the technician recertification course on April 28th.  For more information and an application form, please contact Kim Mundle at kim.mundle@iwk.nshealth.ca

We hope you will plan to attend.  Please feel free to pass on this notice to your contacts who may be interested.

More information and a link to registration forms will follow.

Kim Mundle
Car Seat Safety Specialist
Child Safety Link, IWK Health Centre
Toll free: 1-866-288-1388

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Infant/Child (Convertible) Seats

Infant/Child (convertible) seats

Infant/Child (also known as convertible) seats can be installed rear facing or forward facing.  Some can also be used a booster.  Please review and follow the manuals for your car and your car seat when installing a infant/child seat as they may use different installation methods depending on the seat.

We recommend looking for a seat that will keep your child rear facing for a long time.  Rear facing is the safest way to travel.  Transport Canada and Child Safety Link recommend that children rear face as long as possible, to the limits of their seat.  We also prefer seats that will keep your child in a harness until they are mature enough to sit safely in a booster – generally, around school age.  For some kids this will mean finding a seat with high top harness slots, for others it will mean finding one with a higher weight limit, and for still others it will mean finding both.

These are some of the commonly available seats, listed with both pros and cons.  All seats test to the same safety standard, no matter the price.  Just because we haven’t listed a seat does not necessarily mean we don’t recommend it, only that we haven’t had time/information to list it. Feel free to ask for more information if you are interested in a specific seat.  Other than the two seats we specifically do not recommend (found at the end of the list), the seats listed are in no particular order.

We have noted our favourite/most recommended seats with an *

Cosco/Safety 1st Scenera *

Weight range rear facing:
5 to 35 or 40lbs.  (There are two versions of this seat.)
Weight range forward facing:
22 to 40lbs
Top harness slot:
15 inches
Life Span:
6 years from date of manufacture

Average Price:
$69 – $100


  • Low cost seats.
  • Simple install.
  • Great for rear facing.
  • Suitable for newborns (some versions now come with a newborn insert).
  • Great lightweight seat for travelling.


  • Not tall enough to get a kid to booster age.
  • Little padding.
  • Often needs a pool noodle(s) or rolled towel to install rear facing.
  • UAS clips are not easy to use.
  • Can be ‘tippy’ when rear facing with a locked retractor.
  • Manufacturer is strict on the measured standing height limit of 32″ for rear facing

Graco MyRide 65 *

Weight range rear facing:
5 to 40lbs.
Weight range forward facing:
22 to 65lbs
Top harness slot:
16.5 inches
Life Span:
7 years

Average Price:


  • High weight limit for rear facing.
  • Easy to install.
  • Excellent for newborns when used with included insert.  Note: Never use a third-party insert with a car seat.
  • Lowest slots on the market (will fit a newborn weighing at least 5lbs).
  • Has separate UAS straps for forward facing and rear facing, which makes changing the direction of the seat easier.


  • Must be taken apart to adjust harness height.
  • Shell may not be tall enough for tall children to get to booster age.
  • UAS clips are basic style.

Note: Is very reclined while forward facing; some kids really like this, some kids don’t.

Safety 1st Complete Air *

Weight range rear facing:
5 to 40lbs.
Weight range forward facing:
22 to  65lbs (2012 compliant models – older models had a 50lbs FF limit)
Top harness slot:
17 inches
Life Span:
8 years
Average Price:


  • High weight limit for rear facing, tall shell.
  • Narrow seat suitable for three across situations.
  • Continuous harness (no re-threading to change harness height).
  • Level line available for both infant and toddler.


  • Not suitable for newborns or younger babies.
  • Limited cover options.
  • No harness covers available; straps may irritate some children’s necks.
  • Manufacturer is strict on standing height limit of 36″ for rear facing

The First Years/Lamaze True Fit *

Weight range rear facing:
5 to 35lbs.
Weight range forward facing:
23 to 65lbs
Top harness slot:
17.5 inches
Life Span:
7 years

Average Price:


  • Tall shell great for tall kids.
  • Removable headrest helps fit seat in car for young babies.
  • Excellent for newborns.
  • Built in lockoff reduces tipping and installation issues in older vehicles.
  • Cover removes quickly and easily to be cleaned.
  • Deluxe UAS clips.
  • Anti-rebound bar included.
  • Bubble indicator shows level for infant and toddler


  • Lower rear facing limit may not get all kids to 3 years of age.
  • Lockoffs are mandatory but may be incompatible in some vehicles; they can also have a bit of a learning curve.
  • Big and bulky seat.
  • Anti-rebound bar may make more upright installation more difficult.

Diono Radian (65 and XT)

Weight range rear facing:
5 to 40-45lbs. depending on model
Weight range forward facing:
22 to 65lbs
Weight range booster:
Top harness slot:
18 inches
Life Span:
8 years

Average Price:



  • Tall shell great for tall kids.
  • Highest rear facing weight limit on the market, with some of the highest slots for forward facing.
  • Steel reinforced shell.
  • Extremely narrow, useful for 3-across seat configurations.
  • Deluxe UAS clips
  • Folds flat for storage and travel (travel straps sold separately) and fits nicely on a plane with the child able to use the seat tray.
  • Booster fits safely on children of the right height (see “Cons”).


  • Can be difficult to install.
  • Can be incompatible with some vehicles.
  • Available only in specialty stores.
  • Expensive.
  • Rear facing ‘boot’ detaches when used forward facing, increasing the chance that it could be lost.
  • Cover is difficult to remove.
  • Booster is not a practical feature as will be outgrown at the same time as the harness.

Britax Marathon 65/Boulevard 65/Advocate 65

Weight range rear facing:
5 to 40lbs.
Weight range forward facing:
22 to 65lbs
Top harness slot:
16.5 inches
Life Span:
6 years

Average Price:



  • Super easy to install with UAS (unique design) making it convenient for travel.
  • Built in lockoffs.
  • Many cute prints for covers.
  • Extremely comfortable for the child.
  • Nice high weight limits on new models.
  • Cover is easy to clean without removing the harness.


  • Expensive.
  • Very high on base which can make it difficult to get an older child in and out of vehicle.
  • Not suitable for newborns without insert (which must be bought separately).
  • Some models include things like headwings, airbags, etc. which are all unproven features that Transport Canada does not test.
  • The seat shell height and top harness slots are the same in all models.

Eddie Bauer/Safety 1st/ Alpha Omega 3 in 1  (New Models)

Weight range rear facing:
5 to 35lbs or 5 to 40lbs
Weight range forward facing:
22 to 65lbs OR 22 to 50lbs OR 22 to 40lbs
Weight range booster:
40 to 80 OR 100lbs
Top harness slot:
17 inches
Life Span:
8 years
Average Price:
$115 – 240

We do NOT recommend using this seat as a booster, barring emergency (see “Cons”).


  • Widely available.
  • Some models have no re-thread harness.
  • Low cost models available.
  • Most newer models should get an average child to booster age.


  • Not suitable for a newborn or young baby.
  • Can be tricky to install rear facing.
  • Multiple models make this seat confusing to buy and recommend – always check and comply with the manual.
  • For some models, the top slot is not able to be used in harness-mode which severely limits the usefulness.
  • Eddie Bauer model is very high priced despite being exactly the same seat, structurally, as lower cost models.
  • UAS clips are not easy to use.
  • Booster mode does not fit well on most children – it fits loosely on lap making it possible for the belt to ride up too high on belly. As well, shoulder guides are quite low, making a poor fit that is quickly outgrown.  We do NOT recommend using this seat as a booster, barring emergency.  It is on the IIHS ‘Not Recommended’ list.

Evenflo Symphony 65

Weight range rear facing:
5 to 30lbs
Weight range forward facing:
22 to 65lbs
Weight range booster:
40 to 100lbs
Top harness slot
 17 inches

Life Span
 8 years
Average Price:


  • No re-thread harness.
  • Sure Latch Technology is very easy to use.
  • Booster fits most children safely.
  • Easy to use in all stages of use.


  • Sure Latch is incompatible with some vehicles.
  • Extremely low rear-facing weight limit.
  • Top slots may not get all children to a safe booster age.
  • Booster has unrealistically high top weight limit and will be outgrown long before the manufacturer-stated 100lbs.

Safety 1st Guide 65

Weight range rear facing:
5 to 40lbs
Weight range forward facing:
22 to 65lbs
Top harness slot:
16.5 inches
Life Span:
6 years

Average Price:



  • Slim profile good for 3 across.
  • Should get an average child to a safe booster age forward facing.
  • Easily affordable.
  • Widely available seat.
  • Plenty of leg room while rear facing.


  • Headrest design may push some children into an uncomfortable/dangerous position.
  • Must be taken apart to adjust harness height.
  • May not be tall enough to get all children to a safe booster age.
  • Manufacturer is very strict on standing height limit of 36″ for rear facing

Safety 1st Onside Air

Weight range rear facing:
5 to 40lbs
Weight range forward facing:
22 to 40lbs
Top harness slot:
15 inches
Life Span:
6 years

Average Price:


  • Some models have alligator style UAS clips.
  • Should accommodate an average size newborn.
  • Has ‘air protect’ technology.


  • Must be taken apart to adjust harness height.
  • Similar to the Safety 1st Scenera (which is a significantly less expensive seat), this seat is not tall enough to get all children to a safe booster age.
  • Manufacturer is strict on standing height limit of 36″ for rear facing

Evenflo Momentum

Weight range rear facing:
5 to 30lbs
Weight range forward facing:
22 to 65lbs
Top harness slot:
17 inches
Life Span:
6 years

Average Price:


  • Fits most children well, from infant to booster age.
  • Infinite adjust harness never needs to be adjusted.
  • Sure Latch is easy to use.


  • Low rear facing weight limit will not keep most children rear facing long enough.
  • Sure Latch technology is incompatible with some vehicles.
  • Slim harness straps can be uncomfortable for some children.

Evenflo Triumph 65

Weight range rear facing:
5 to 40lbs
Weight range forward facing:
22 to 65lbs
Top harness slot:
17 inches
Life Span:
6 years

Average Price:


  • Fits most children well, from infants to booster age.
  • Infinite adjust harness never needs to be adjusted.
  • Unique harness tightening mechanism is easier on people who have difficulty using their hands.


  • Harness tightening knobs are incompatible with many mini-van’s captain’s chairs.
  • Harness tabs can irritate children’s necks.

Clek Foonf

Weight range rear facing:
15 to 40lbs
Weight range forward facing:
22 to 65lbs
Top harness slot:
18 inches
Life Span:
8 years

Average Price:


  • Unique design is more upright, taking up less room in the car
  • Fabric is stain resistant
  • Available in fun patterns
  • Easy installation


  • Very expensive
  • Heavy, with metal frame
  • Not suitable for newborns and younger infants at all


We do not recommend buying:

  • Evenflo Titan
  • Graco Comfortsport

They both have incredibly short shells and low weight limits, and will be completely outgrown by 3 at the latest.  They do not last long enough to justify the cost.

This doesn’t mean they are unsafe and if a trusted friend or relative hands one down to you, I would still use it as long as your child fits appropriately.  Just be aware that it will not hold most children as long as some other seats.

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Installing a seat using UAS (universal anchorage system)

So now what?

You have a seat, you’ve adjusted it to your child’s height, you’ve registered it, you have a car -how do you install this thing?

First of all, you need to decide whether you are installing it with UAS (universal anchorage system) or the seatbelt.  This will depend on a few factors, like the year of your vehicle, other passengers/children, etc.  This choice will be discussed in another blog post.  We’ll link it once we write it.

UAS stands for universal anchorage system.  The hooks are available on all current car seats (if yours doesn’t have them, you should check whether or not the seat is expired) and the anchors are in all cars manufactured after September 1st, 2002.  Using UAS is not safer, but in some cases it can be easier.  It also is better in some particular cases, like infant bases or light rear facing seats where a locking seatbelt can cause the seat to tip to the side.  (Note: this is not a safety issue unless it’s extreme, but it can be a comfort issue.)

UAS also has it’s own weight limit, particular to the manufacturer of the vehicle.  Honda is 40lbs, most GM vehicles are 48lbs (the child’s weight).  To double check these weights look in your vehicle manual.  If you can’t find them there, you may have to call the customer service line to find out.  Since it’s fairly recent that car seats in Canada were able to go past 48lbs, many vehicle manufacturers have not started adding this info to the manuals yet.  If you are in doubt, err on the side of caution and switch to a seat belt install at 40lbs.

If you are installing a seat with the UAS strap, the first thing you need to do is find it.  All seats have a way to store the strap so that it is out of the way when you aren’t using it.  Storing the UAS strap is important, since in a crash the heavy metal ends will swing around and might strike your child or another passenger in the car.  Often they are stored clipped to the side of the seat, clipper to each other or in a special compartment under the child’s bottom. Check your owner’s manual if you aren’t sure.

This UAS strap is hooked into the infant seat base

Sunshine Kids Radian stores UAS clips on the back of the seat.

Now that you’ve found them, have a good look at them.  There is a right way up and a wrong way up.  The right way up is bigger and stronger!  If your seat installs in multiple directions (rear facing/forward facing) you need to make sure that the strap is threaded through the correct belt path.  Usually the rear facing belt path is under the seat, and the forward facing belt path is behind where the child’s back will go.

A typical UAS clip

Alligator Style UAS clip

Once the UAS strap is threaded, make sure that your clips are the right way up, and that the strap itself is lying flat without any twists.  Each twist in a harness or belt reduces the strength of that strap by 7%, plus it makes it really hard to get the strap to pull tight!

Once the strap is lying correctly, place the seat in the vehicle.  If you are installing a forward facing seat, dig the tether strap out now and make sure that it isn’t going to get stuck behind the seat while you tighten the UAS strap.  Nothing is more frustrating then finishing an install to realize that the tether strap is wedged behind the seat and you are going to have to start over.

The tether is flung over the top of the car seat to keep it out of the way during installation

With the seat in the vehicle, attach the clips to the UAS hooks in your vehicle.  This can take some digging around.  Some UAS hooks poke out and are easy to see, others are quite recessed and it may be easier to stick your hand in and find it that way first.  We’ve run into a few that have caps over them when they are not in use – check your vehicle manual if you are having trouble finding them.

The clip should give a click when it attaches.  Pull on it, and make sure it’s really on there.

UAS clip attached to the UAS hook in the vehicle. (You can see it poking out.)

With both clips attaches, double check that the strap is still laying flat.  Now pull the slack out.  Check how loose the seat is.  In one in a million times it will be tight enough.  Most of the time though, you are going to have to push down on the car seat while pulling on the UAS strap.

Pulling the UAS strap on the Graco Safeseat base

There are lots of different ways to apply weight.  The easiest is to get a partner to push the seat down while you pull the strap.  Other ways include using a knee or two (my favourite for forward facing seats), laying across the seat, or standing behind it and pushing with your hips (this one is good for minivans and large SUVs!).

While apply weight, thread the UAS strap back on itself – this disengages the locking mechanism and will make it 100 times easier to tighten.  Most of the time if you can’t get an install all the way tight, this trick will fix the problem.  Sometimes you have to remove the cover, or find a hidden opening to make this easier.  Sometimes it’s not possible at all.  Push down on the seat and pull at the same time.  The UAS strap will tighten slowly.  Keep pulling!  Add a little bounce to your weight.

Don't pull straight up like this, it makes it a lot harder to tighten

Thread the end of the UAS strap all the way through the seat and pull that way.

When you think you’ve got it tight enough, get off the seat and check!  Use your hand (just one) to move the seat back and forth and forward and back.  You are looking for less than 1” of movement at the belt path.  The rest of the seat may move more than that and that’s okay.  Rear

facing seats especially may wiggle or tip at the top of the seat.  The seat does not have to be rock solid – less than 1” of movement is really okay.

Check for movement only at the belt path - the front of the seat may move more than 1"

If you are using a forward facing seat, now is the time to attach the tether strap.  Clip it onto a designated tether anchor (check your vehicle manual to find out where they are), and pull to remove the slack.  This does NOT need to be as tight as the UAS strap.

Hook the tether to the designated tether anchor - this one is on the back of the bench seat.

That’s it – you’ve done it!

Let's go Mom! (After we clear the projectiles out of the back seat...)

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Contest Winner – at long last!

We apologize for slacking on our contest draw this week, but we wanted to give everyone a few more days to enter before the big draw. Well, we picked the winner with a randomizer this afternoon and the winner of our very first contest is Julia Hill! Please contact us at atlanticcarseatsafety@gmail.com to make arrangements to claim your prize!

And thanks to our good friend Jeff for our beautiful new logo!


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Bursting the Britax Bubble

Many people who deal with parents and car seats hear a lot about Britax.  It is recommended as the ‘safest’ seat out there by word of mouth among parents at the playground and in the daycare parking lot.

Picture courtesy adventureplayground.org.uk

So what’s the big deal?

It goes like this.  Once upon a time, most infant seats kept your baby rear facing until 20lbs.

And they were all white and pastel too!

When they outgrew that, they went forward facing.  No matter how old they were.  Then they sat in a forward facing seat until they were 40lbs.

You could use these seats rear facing as well, but most didn't. They also had the 20lbs weight limit for a long time.

Again, no matter how old they were.  Then they sat in a booster for a couple of years and often were sitting in just the seatbelt by 6 or 7.

Except, then there was Britax.  Britax had convertibles that rear faced longer!  The shells were taller!  You could use the harness longer!  And the slots were taller!   It would last your child to a safe age both rear facing and forward facing.  Why wouldn’t you buy one if you could without bankrupting your family?

Here I come to save the day!

So child passenger safety experts got in the habit of recommending these seats.  As an added bonus, they came in fun patterns.  And they were super duper easy to install, with little neat things like built in seat belt lock offs and unique UAS clips.

You tighten each side individually, and they slide on a bar. It's very unique.

However in the mid 2000’s, other companies started to catch up to the lead Britax had.  At the time Britax rear faced to 30lbs.  Many other companies met that goal, and a few exceeded it before Britax made it to 35lbs (The Cosco Scenera, the Sunshine Kids Radian, The First Year’s TrueFit).  Britax harnessed to 65lbs, and then many other seats followed.

The First Years True Fit was the first seat to break the 30lbs barrier in 2009. (There had been seats in the early 2000s that went to 35lbs, but there had been nothing in several years)

They were still very easy to install, they still came in cute patterns, but they weren’t really the only long lasting seats on the market anymore.  Over the next few years, starting with Sunshine Kids, most of the other companies began to blow Britax out of the water.  40-45lbs rear facing.  18” top slots.  And best of all, prices that were $50-$100-$150 less than what Britax was charging.

In 2010, Britax again tried to catch up with the pack.  Their newly designed convertibles went to 40lbs rear facing, and 65lbs forward facing (CDN version).  They are still very easy to install.  They are still very comfortable for the child and they still come in fun patterns.

Redesigned, and new patterns!

Other seats still exceed them in some areas, for example, Britax seats don’t have as much leg room as some others for a rear facing toddler and the slots aren’t as high as some others for a forward facing pre-schooler.

So while the word still goes around the playground, most up-to-date techs no longer recommend Britax over all other seats.  This doesn’t mean that the seats are unsafe or ‘less’ than they used to be.  It just means that with the advent of seats like the Graco MyRide, the Safety 1st Complete Air, and the Diono Radian, Britax has enough competition to no longer be impressive just because they are Britax.

Britax’s current line are very nice safe seats.  They cost an average of $300.  They have plush fabrics and are for the most part easy to use and have desirable features.  However, they still will not prevent injury in a crash unless they are used correctly.

The other reason that some techs no longer recommend Britax is due to a phenomenon called ‘The Britax Bubble’.  It goes like this.

“Oh, I know the harness should be tighter, but oh well.  He’s in a Britax.”

“Yeah, I thought we should keep her rear facing, but it was such a pain, so we bought a Britax”

“Yes, I know that it was previously in a crash and is now expired, but I can’t afford a new one, and I KNOW he’s safer in a Britax”

My Britax will keep me safe, even if the straps won't keep me in the seat!

See what I mean?

Comments like these and many many more show that some parents haven’t really thought through what their seat is capable of.  No matter how much you paid for it, no car seat will jump up and save your child if you use it incorrectly.  Britax seats often make it easy to use them correctly, and techs encourage parents everywhere to take advantage of those features.

In the end, if a Britax seat is in your budget and has the features that you’ve been looking for they are nice seats.

If a Britax does not easily fit your budget, or isn’t exactly what you need?  Don’t feel guilty for looking elsewhere.  All seats in Canada test to the exact same standard.  It’s a pass or fail test, and if it’s on the shelves, it has passed.  All those safety claims are just that, claims.  We don’t actually know if side airbags, or extra foam or wings will help in a crash – those kind of features aren’t looked at when a seat passes the CMVSS 213.

Wings and airbags!

What we are advocating here is this:  Have a car seat, follow the instructions, install and use it correctly every time.  Know your child is safe on every ride no matter how much you paid for your seat.

Posted in Car Seats | Tagged , | 11 Comments

How to adjust the harness on a front adjust infant seat – a picture guide

For most parents, the first two car seat related tasks will be installing the base to an infant seat and adjust the straps on the carrier to fit a tiny newborn.

This can seem intimidating, since the instruction books are written in legalese.  They are also very thick.

And these suckers are thick too!

Not to fret, this is not hard!  It’s easier to practice a time or two at home though.  With my first baby I ended up changing them from my hospital bed at 5 hours postpartum.  Not the most fun I’d ever had.

Start with a seat.

This is the Graco Safeseat with infant insert and my model's hand. 😉

First step is to remove the infant insert.  This one just pulls out.  Some use snaps.  For others you may have to wait until you remove the shoulder straps – we’ll do that next!

Just pull this one out, so that it isn't in the way

Now flip the seat over and look at the back.

Here's the back - don't be intimidated!

Looking at the back you can see how the shoulder straps go through the seat and under that plastic piece (referred to in the manual as the instruction manual storage spot.  Obviously my manual is a computer printout and doesn’t fit here.)  Then somehow they turn into one strap.  If you pull them down, you will see how.

This is the splitter plate, in my manual called the metal junction plate

The splitter, or metal junction plate is attached to the shoulder straps on one side and the strap you pull to tighten them on the the other.  To change the height of the harness straps, take one of the straps off of the splitter plate.

Do one at a time, or you'll forget which slots you are using!

Now pull the strap all the way back to the front of the seat.

All the way to the front!

Now use the smallest slots and thread the strap back through.  If your infant insert needs to have the harness threaded through it, do that now.

Push it through the slot on the front...

...And pull it through to the back.

All right, now for the trickiest part.  On seats that have a plastic cover (the instruction manual storage spot I was talking about earlier) you MUST put the harness strap back underneath it.  It’s supposed to help the harness slide easier.

They put holes in it so you can guide the strap down.

Look at the end of the strap.  Some straps will have just one hole.  If yours does, reattach it to the splitter plate.  If your strap seems to have more than one hole, use the shortest one.  This will help you tighten the straps more easily on a smaller baby.  (Don’t forget that you’ve done it though, or else you’ll think the seat was outgrown early!)

Graco specifies that the strap must be OVER the splitter plate. Check your manual for similar instructions.

The next bit is easy.  Do the same thing again on the other side.  When you are done it should look like this:

My model helps to demonstrate again

Now, some seats also have the option to shorten the hip or waist straps.  This is the other end of the strap where it comes through the shell of the seat by the baby’s bottom.

The gold clip is called the anchor clip in the manual.

Pry the clip up from the shell.

Follow your manual's instructions for the hip strap anchor

Now that the anchor is in your hand, take it out and move it to the innermost hole.

The anchor through the smallest slot

And then snap it into place

And then tuck the tail as directed

Do the same thing on the other side.

All the adjustments made for a smaller baby

And that’s it.  Now, just buckle your baby in.

We've added a washcloth roll at the crotch for additional support

Have a safe and happy first ride!

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Using a 5 point harness

One of the most basic tasks parents do in a day with child safety seats is buckling a 5 point harness.

Let’s review the steps on that:

Start with a child in a car seat.  For this demo, we’ll be using Alice (11months) in a Graco Safeseat.  (She is learning to walk and banged her face on the coffee table.  Sorry about the bruises!)

Alice says 'buckle me in mom!'

First, dig the crotch buckle out from between her legs and clip the buckle tongue into it. Make sure that the hip straps go over the child’s legs.

Insert each buckle tongue in separately. On some buckles, you have to fit them together first and insert them at the same time.

Next do up the chest clip.  Make sure that the straps are over her shoulders.

All clipped up!

On some seats you may find it easier to do the chest clip first and then the crotch buckle.  That’s fine too – whatever works better in your seat.  (Usually I do the chest clip first in seats I don’t loosen every time, especially those that have a continuous harness.)

Now it’s time to tighten.  This seat has a front adjust harness pull strap.  Just grab and pull!

Just give it a pull - some need have a racheting mechanism and go tug, tug, tug. This one is a straight pull.

Some infant seats are rear adjust and will have flaps at the back.  You must tighten each side of the harness separately.  Grab the strap and pull straight down.

Pull straight down on each side

Once you’ve given it one good pull, pull the slack up from the hips.

Pull the slack up from the hip straps.

And pull again to get rid of the extra slack.

How tight is tight enough?  You want it tight enough that you cannot get a horizontal pinch at the shoulder, like this.

Try to pinch the harness horizontally right at the collar bone. You shouldn't be able to get a fold.

And then we’re ready to go!

Ready to go Mom!

To get the baby out again, reverse the whole thing.

Press on this little button (on some seats you lift a lever instead) to loosen the harness.

Push the button!

For rear adjust seats, you will have to pull the end of the strap up and pry it loose.  For seats that are difficult to tighten/loosen, you do not have to do this every time you use the seat.  It’s just easier on some seats.

You can see the whole mechanism here

Next step is to undo the chest clip and push down on the buckle switch.  Many seats have this as a button to push in.

For this seat, push DOWN to open the crotch buckle. Many seat use a button that pushes IN.

Now let baby loose!

I'm free I'm free!

And that’s all there is to it!

Posted in Car Seats | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Welcome to our blog! – contest

Welcome to our new and improved blog!

Atlantic Car Seat Safety is on the blogosphere!

The Contest!

For a while now, we have been trying to think of a contest idea to celebrate our 500th “like” and to help spread our message of Atlantic Car Seat Safety to more fans – but we didn’t have a prize to offer like a business would, with sales and products.  Does anyone want a rain check for a good price on a car seat?  Probably not… Then we figured it out:

The Prize?

We are offering a car seat house call.  That’s right, the winner of this contest will have two experienced technicians offer an individualized assessment of your car seat(s) and vehicle.  What would this be worth?  In parts of the country where this service is offered it is priced at $70-$100 dollars – but you and I know that it’s priceless.

The Details:

If the winner lives within 1 hour drive of HRM we will commit to setting up an appointment sometime within the next few weeks on a weekend or evening.

If the winner lives further than this, and cannot meet us partway… we regret that as volunteers, our means are limited.  This prize is transferable to a friend who could use it, or we will do our best to provide a phone/skype consultation, combined with a “care seat care package” with our best brochures, DVDs and handouts.

Rohan is 4 years old

Orion is 4 years old (and silly!)

Alice is almost a year old!

To Enter:

To enter for a chance to win this contest, please leave a comment at the end of this blog post and tell us what content you would like to see posted on our new blog.

The name will be drawn next Sunday night at 10pm AST and announced Monday morning (Feb 6).  We ask only one entry per household and you must have also “liked” us on Facebook to win.

Good luck and have fun!

Posted in Uncategorized | 44 Comments