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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
That’s it – you’ve done it!