We all know that car seats are at the top of the shopping list when preparing to bring home our baby. There are so many different models of car seats out there but we wanted to break it down and explain the different components and hopefully ease your search for the perfect one.

In this article you will be provided with answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about car seats. We outline information about baby car seats and keeping your baby safe while in the car, as well as tips for buying new and used baby car seats.

Q. What are the main factors to look for in a baby car seat?

The first car seat you’ll purchase is an rear-facing infant-only car seat. As your baby grows, the most important factor is that you find one that matches your child’s size and weight. It needs to also fit properly in your car and is easily installed.

 Q. What types of baby car seats are available?

There are several types of baby car seats such as infant seats, front facing car seats, and convertible seats. There are also combination seats (front or rear facing), booster seats and integrated car seats. With each type of seat there are variations.

Q. Is a five-point harness or a shield safest for my baby?

A five point harness gives your child the greatest protection because it holds your baby tighter in the seat in the event of a crash. A T-Shield or over-the-head restraint allows too much room or can get in the way of chubby tummies and legs. The stalk of the T-Shield can cause serious injury to your baby.

Q. How can I find out how to safely install my babys car seat?

Most places will let you test drive the car seat for a short demo. Additionally, all car seats (except most second hand seats) come with printed directions. If after reading the directions you still are not sure how to properly install it. You can call or email the manufacturer. Some police stations and hospitals have assistance programs well.

Q. Is there a correct way to secure my child in the baby car seat?

Yes, there is a correct way to secure your child in his car seat. How you secure your baby in the car seat will likely depend on the age and size of your baby. For children under a year of age they should be placed in rear-facing seats in the center of the rear seat. You can also attach a mirror to the seat to observe expressions from your own rear-view mirror.

Older children can sit facing front and their seat are generally placed behind the driver or behind the passenger seat in order to utilize the shoulder/lap belts.

Q. What is LATCH?

LATCH refers to Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. It is a baby car seat installation system. The lower hooks are attached between the bottom of the back of the seat and seat itself. The tether piece is a strap made of seat belt material with a clip that secures forward facing baby car seats and prevents excessive movement of the baby’s head in crashes.

Q. What is a Tether?

The tether is a strap made of seat belt material with a clip. It attaches to the clips on the seat and secures front facing baby car seats. In a crash it prevents excessive movement of the seat and the baby’s head, reducing the severity of injuries.

Q. How can I tell when my child is ready to use car seat belts without a booster seat?

Your child will be ready for using the car safety restraint system when he or she can sit all the way back in the seat and the knees can bend comfortably over the edge of the seat. The belt crosses the shoulder between the neck and the arm and the lap belt is low and touches the thighs. Your child must be able to remain seated the whole trip.

Q. Can a baby car seat be used safely in an airplane?

Yes it can. Airlines require children age 2 and under, to be in approved car seats. The seats must be 16 inches or less to fit in the airplane seats. Call ahead and find out if your seat is an approved. Once on the plane, the staff will be able to assist you.

Q. Is it safe for me to use second-hand baby car seats?

Yes it is safe to use second-hand baby car seats provided you do a safety check.

  • Belts and harnesses should not be frayed or cracked.
  • There should be no cracks or tears in the seat cover.
  • The seat should recline easily and stay upright when the baby is seated.
  • Look into the history of the seat. If it has been in a car crash do not buy it; its ability to safely restrain your child has been compromised.
  • If the seat doesn’t come with a manual contact the manufacturer to ensure the seat will be properly installed.
  • If the seat is more than 5 years old do not use it, it may have been in a crash and older baby car seats may not fit in new model cars.

Q. What should I do if my baby car seat is recalled?

In most cases, the manufacturer will provide you with instructions of what to do if baby car seat is recalled. In some cases they will replace the recalled parts for free.

Q. Are there baby car seats available for children with special needs?

Children with special needs may require different restraint systems. Discuss your options with your pediatrician. Agencies such as Easter Seals have programs and information on baby car seats for special needs children.

Q. What is the best type of harness for my baby car seat?

There are four types of harnesses in baby car seats. The six-point harness has two straps at the shoulders, two at the hips and two at the crotch. The five-point harness is the same, but with one strap at the crotch. The t-shield is a padded triangle that latches at the crotch while the overhead shield comes down from over the head and latches in front of your baby, resting over their legs.

The safest are the five or six-point harnesses. These prevent excessive movement of the baby in crash situations. The t-shield and the over-head shield allow for too much room in the incident of an accident.

It’s best to do thorough research on a car seat, test out a few to ensure they fit in your car, and read the reviews. We hope this FAQ has provided a number of helpful tips to keep your baby safe while riding in the car.