Even if you get your retailer’s trained staff to fit your car seat for you in the first place, you need to know how to fit in correctly yourself as you may need to remove and replace it at some point. It’s also important because you must refit the seat from time to time, as day-to-day use can cause the fixture points to work slightly loose.
When fitting your car seat, follow the instructions to the letter, and if they’re not printed on the seat itself, keep a copy of them in your car in case you ever need to refer to them when you’re away from home. If you find the instructions at all unclear, visit your retailer or call the manufacturer – don’t make time or pride an excuse for compromising on your child’s safety.
In particular, when fitting a forward-facing Group 1 or Group 0+-1 seat, get inside the car (moving the front seat forward if necessary) so you can use your knee to press the child seat hard against the car seat as you tighten the seat belt to remove any slack in it. When correctly fitted, there should be hardly any forward or sideways movement in the child seat.
It might sound neurotic, but it’s a good idea to check your car seat before every journey and that the belt is tight particularly if there’s any chance that anyone other than you may have even unwittingly tampered with the fittings – a classic example is a centre rear passenger who has accidentally released the buckle on your child seat instead of their own seat belt.
Securing your child
Make sure you know how to fit your child’s harness, and regularly check that the straps are in the correct position for your child’s shoulders (you’ll need to adjust them as they grow).
Once the harness straps are tightened, you should be able to fit only one or two fingers horizontally between your child’s chest and the straps. You’ll need to adjust the harness every time your child uses the seat because the amount of clothing they are wearing will affect the fit of the harness. Bear in mind that the closer the harness is to your child’s actual body, the less their body will move in an impact, so it’s a good idea to remove particularly thick clothing before they get in the seat.
When seating a child in a Group 2-3 booster seat or booster cushion, position the lap belt across the top of the child’s thighs or the bottom of the pelvis – and never across their abdomen. Pull the seat belt as tight as possible (although it is not necessary to engage the seat belt’s ratchet system).