5 Common Car Seat Mistakes
By Kara Hansen
Sep 23, 2015
Updated Nov 17, 2023
5 min read
Mistake #1: Car Seat Not Installed Tightly
Problem: Your child’s car seat seems wiggly and not tight. If your child’s car seat is not properly installed, it will not work the way it is supposed to in a crash.
Recommendation: To ensure that your car seat is installed with a tight fit, grip the car seat at the base, near where the seat belt path is. When you wiggle the car seat back and forth you should have no more than one inch of movement side to side and front to back. Sometimes it might require you to get in and use your body weight to get the seat tight enough.
Mistake #2: Retainer Clip Used Incorrectly
Problem: Child’s retainer clip not in the correct spot.
Recommendation: The retainer clip needs to be armpit level on your child. Many car seat manufacturers have a picture of the retainer clip on the car seat showing you where it should be on the child or it will be written on the retainer clip.
Mistake #3: Using Non-Regulated Products
Problem: A non-regulated product is anything added to the car seat that was not crash tested with the seat. There are no federal regulations that require testing for safety of these items so there is no way of knowing if the product you are adding to your car seat is safe or not.
Recommendation: Do not add anything to your car seat that did not come with it. This includes mirrors, toys, or homemade liners. They might seem like a good idea, but they're not approved and could incur other problems.
Mistake #4: Harness Straps Too Loose
Problem: If a child is not harnessed correctly into their car seat, they can be ejected in the event of an accident.
Recommendation: To ensure the harness straps are tight enough on your child do the “pinch test.” Put your child in their seat, tighten the harness, and then pinch the webbing upwards at their shoulders. If you are grabbing extra webbing in your fingers, the straps are not tight enough.
Mistake #5: Turning Your Child Forward Facing Too Soon
Problem: Children who are turned forward facing too early are more likely to be injured or die in a car crash than those who stay rear facing for longer.
Recommendation: Keep your child rear facing until they have reached the maximum height or weight limit of their convertible car seat. Dennis Durbin, M.D., F.A.A.P., a pediatric emergency physician and co-scientific director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia said, “A rear-facing child safety seat does a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine of infants and toddlers in a crash, because it distributes the force of the collision over the entire body.”
For more information on mistakes made when installing car seats please click on the links below: