8 Tips for Installing Your Baby’s Forward Facing Car Seat

It’s that time again to get forward-facing car seats in New Zealand: your baby just turned a year old, and it’s time to turn the car seat around.

If you’ve never installed a forward-facing car seat, no problem — we can help with that too. Here are some tips for installing your baby’s forward facing car seat.

  1.   Latch

Install using LATCH or a seat belt – whichever is easier. Both are safe ways to install your car seat, and you don’t need to use both (although some people do). The LATCH system uses anchors at the top of the vehicle seat. The tether strap is always required with a forward-facing car seat – sometimes it’s required when installed rear-facing too, so check your manual if you’re not sure. Some cars have lower anchors in all seating positions; others only have them in the centre and outer seats of the back row (but check your vehicle owner’s manual because it varies by make and model).

  1.   Read the manual

It’s not exactly a page-turner, but reading your car seat instruction manual is important. It’s not only there to help you install your baby’s car seat, but it also contains all the safety information you need to know. Make sure you read it before installing the seat and keep it in a safe place (not the back of your car) for future reference.

  1.   Check for recalls

You might think that recalls are only for food and electronics, but child seats can be recalled too. So, before you buy or install your baby’s car seat, check if it has been recalled by visiting (for US) and (for NZ) and searching for the model number — which should be printed on a sticker on the car seat itself or in the manual. If there is one, contact the manufacturer to get a repair kit or replacement.

  1.   Pick the right installation position

You can install forward-facing car seats in three different positions: centre rear, centre front, or outboard rear (the sides of your vehicle). By law, children under 12 years old must sit in the backseat — so this will probably be where you’ll install your baby’s car seat in its rear-facing position too.

  1.   Review the size limits of your car seat

You should never use a car seat beyond its expiration date or if it’s been involved in an accident, even if it seems to be in good condition. Additionally, be sure to consult your car seat’s size limits and never allow your child to exceed them – this means height and weight limits as well as age restrictions. If your child exceeds the size limits of his or her current forward facing car seat, it’s time for an upgrade!

  1.   Check the seat

Before you install your forward-facing car seat, make sure it is appropriate for your child’s age, weight, and height. Read the car seat label and manual to ensure that you have selected the best seat for your child and that it has not been recalled by the manufacturer.

  1.   Register your car seat

Registering the car seat with the manufacturer allows the company to inform you of any product recalls. If a recall is issued, you will receive information about how to obtain a repair or replacement from the manufacturer.

  1.   Find a safe place in your vehicle for installation

Read your owner’s manual to determine where in your vehicle is safest to place the forward-facing car seat. Install the seat in back on a flat, level surface, away from airbags and passenger side doors or windows with side impact protection features (SIP). The AAP recommends that children be seated in the middle of the backseat when using a forward-facing car seat; however, if there are no SIP features on that side of your vehicle, place them on either side of the backseat instead.

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