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Old 05-10-2008, 10:40 PM   #1
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A Car Seat Primer

There have been a lot of car seat questions lately, so someone suggested a thread with all the pertinant info.

Car Seat Guidelines:

Rearfacing: Children should rearface until 2yrs, per the AAP recommendations(See HERE: Most states laws will not reflect this and will say 1yr AND 20lbs. This is the bare minimum and kids are 5X safer when left rearfacing until at least 2 years. Many convertible car seats will accomodate a rearfacing child until 35-45lbs. Contrary to popular belief, broken legs are not a concern when rearfacing. Rearfacing convertible car seats can be installed as upright as 30 degrees(35 for the First Years True Fit) to give older children more comfort.

Forward Facing: Children should remain in a 5pt harness until they are least age 4 and 40lbs. Most children are capable of proper booster use around ages 5-6. Also, at that age, children are better able to understand that they need to sit correctly in the booster. Many of the manufacturers say you can place a 3 yr old in a booster, but a real life three year old does not have the capacity to sit correctly 100% of the time. There are many seats out right now that will accomodate longer harnessing.

Booster: Children should remain in a booster until they are approximately 80lbs and 4'9" tall. For most children, this is around age 10-12.

Car Seat Selection:

There are many, many options on the market and all are considered safe when used according to manufacturer instructions. Always read the manual and keep it in a safe place. There are some seats that are considerably easier to use than others.
For infant only seats, there are some key features to look for:
Front harness adjuster
EPS foam(most have this now)
5pt harness
Some popular infant seats include the Chicco Keyfit 22 or 30, the Graco Snugride 35, Graco Snugride 22 or 30, Baby Trend Flex Loc, Safety 1st Onboard 35 and the new Britax Chaperone.
Personally, I don't care for Evenflo seats, simply because they must have the handle DOWN in the car and have 1.5" of clearance in front of them.

There are MANY convertibles car seats out there, ranging from $50 to $300.

Some popular seats include the Britax Marathon/Boulevard/Roundabout50, the new Britax 70 seats Sunshine Kids Radian 65SL/80SL/XTSL, Evenflo Triumph Advance, Symphony, Momentum, First Years True Fit/True Fit Premiere/True Fit Recline, Graco MyRide and the new Safety 1st Complete Air. All of these seats rearface to 35-45lbs and have tall shells. The Britax seats have built in locking clips. Both the Radian and the Britax seats tether in the rearfacing position. The Britax 70 series seats take up much less room front to back than other seats. The True Fit Premiere has an anti-rebound bar that acts similar to the rf tether. The Evenflo has a great adjustable harness. It harnesses from 5-50/65lbs. All harness beyond 40lbs and will get most, if not all, kids to an acceptable booster age. The True Fit is a newer seat on the market, but it offers a nice, deep seat that is great for extended rearfacing. It also has nice, tall harness slots and built-in lock-offs. The Recaro Como and Signo rearface to 35lbs and ff to 70lbs. They do tend to narrow at the top, so broad shouldered kids may be uncomfortable sooner in this one.
The Cosco Scenera is a great, budget friendly seat. It's about $50-55 and rearfaces to 35lbs. Most kids will outgrow it around age three, some less, some longer, but for $50-55, that's ok. It's a basic, no frills seat that is easy to install. The Safety 1st Avenue is another choice under $100. Nice, tall shell and tall harness slots. The Evenflo Tribute is another low cost option that many Walmarts are now carrying. The Scenera at Target rearfaces to 40lbs.
As a side note, I usually recommend against the Graco Comfortsport because it has the LOWEST harness slots on the market and is outgrown before age two by many children and is generally twice or more as expensive as the Scenera. Yes, it is plush, but that extra padding makes the short harness issue even worse.
Any convertible will be safe when installed correctly. Reading the manual is key. The pricier seats do offer some features other seats do not have, such as lockoffs and non twist straps.

Youth seats: Extended harnessing options have come quite a ways in a few years. The Graco Nautilus was released in 2008 and is very popular. It harnesses to 65lbs and then converts to a booster, both high and no back. Dorel(Cosco, Safety 1st) offers the Apex, which harnesses to 65lbs and converts to a booster to 100lbs. The Apex requires a tall headrest or seat behind it when used in booster mode. The Britax Regent is a large seat that harnesses to 80lbs. It has the tallest harness slots on the market and is big and plush. The Regent has been discontinued(as of 2009), but can still be found. It is probably overkill for many kids, but is still a great, safe seat. The Britax Frontier 85 harness to 85lbs and converts to the tallest highback booster available. There are also combination seats, which harness to 40lbs+ and convert to a booster. Many of these have low top harness slots. Any and all Cosco/Eddie Bauer seats have the shortest harness slots on the market. Most children will not make it to 40lbs in them and they turn into not so nice boosters. Graco makes the Cargo and it is a nice harnessed seat, but a not so nice booster. The height adjusters are buttoned to the fabric cover and come undone all the time. Evenflo makes the Chase and the Generations 65, which are actually nice seats. The new Generations 65 is a budget friendly HWH seat. The Chase is about $60 and has very tall harness slots. It makes a decent booster. The Generations is more, but has tall top harness slots and makes a decent booster. Evenflo now has the Maestro, which harnesses to 50lbs and converts to a booster.

Expiration: Yes, car seats do expire. Some are 6 years from Date of Manufacture(DOM) and some are 7-9 years. Check the manual or the back of the car seat for a date. Also, they expire from the date of manufacture, not the date of first use. They expire for several reasons. The plastic can degrade with temp. extremes, the instructions and others can be missing, they may have been recalled or are broken. No, they don't expire right on the date, but no one really knows when they will fail. The manufacturer will not be held liable if a seat used past the expiration fails. It is not a ploy to get people to buy more carseats. There is a video out there showing a ten year old Britax in a crash and the back is torn out. It is safest to discontinue use of the restraint when it expires.

Installation: Proper installation and use is the key to car seat safety. A properly used Scenera is much safer than an improperly used Britax. When installed, a car seat should not move more than one inch side to side, at the belt path. On infant seats and many rearfacing seats, the top of the car seats will move around. This is normal and is called "cocooning". Britax and Sunshine Kids allow their seats to be tethered rearfacing and will eliminate this movement. For forward facing, the seat should be top tethered when possible. It will reduce head excursion by up to 6"! All vehicles since 1999 have anchors installed and all vehicles since 1987 have, at least, predrilled holes in which an anchor can be installed. Most dealerships will be able to get you the parts and some will install one anchor free of charge. The parts are usually less than $20 and can be installed in minutes.
Starting with the 2003(although some earlier models have it) model year, vehicles(excluding large trucks, such as the Excursion) are equipped with LATCH. These are the hooks in your seats. These take the place of seatbelts. Oddly enough, MANY vehicles don't allow LATCH in the center. Please check your car manual for information on where it is in your vehicle. Some allow you to "borrow" anchors from either side. For example, I own a 2001 Ford Escape with LATCH. Britax allows me to use two of the outside anchors in the middle.
Now, there is some confusion about locking seatbelts. Beginning in 1996, all vehicles must have some way of locking the seatbelts. Some cars have seatbelts that pull all the way out and lock. Others lock at the buckle. Check your car manual for specifics. Although some cars belts lock, this locking mechanism can cause rearfacing seats to tilt. While not unsafe, it is annoying. A metal locking clip(sometimes called an H clip) can fix this. The clip should be installed on the buckle side, about one inch from the bucle. Cars prior to 1996 will require the locking clip.

Random car seat tidbits:

The middle is considered safest, but the outboard sides are perfectly safe, especially for rearfacing car seats. Some seats don't fit in the middle. There is no law saying you have to put the seat in the middle.

If you have a forward facing child and a newborn and wish to put one in the middle, the forward facing child should go in the middle, as they are the least protected. The newborn in the rearfacing car seat is the safest passenger. The least protected is the ff child, so they should go in the safest spot.

Three seats across is almost always possible. It's just a matter of finding the seats that work. Babies R Us will let you try seats before you buy them.

Rearfacing toddlers do not need to be at 45 degrees. As much as 30 degrees is fine and is in fact, slightly safer.

Pool noodles makes excellent levelers for infant seats and rearfacing convertibles.

All in one type seats, such as the Alpha Omega and various clones(there are MANY) are not the last seat you will need, despite the box saying this. They makes great rearfacing seats, but forward facing, they have low top slots. The very top notch on the back of the seat is only for booster use. The seat failed testing when used in this position with the harness. As a booster, they are so so, but are much to short to get a child to 100lbs. Plus, they expire after 7 years and kids need a seat much longer than that. ETA: Dorel(Cosco, Eddie Bauer and Safety 1st) has released a new version of the 3 in 1. It harness to 50lbs and the top useable slot is now useable. It is MUCH improved over earlier versions, but still does not make a great booster. If you are considering this seat, be sure it is the newest version, with the higher weight limits.

An infant seat is not always necessary. There are many seats that will fit a newborn well. Britax seats tend to be too big, but some babies will fit them. The Radian, True Fit and Evenflo Triumph Advance work for many newborns. Britax seats will not work for many newborns, as the lowest harness position is 10". However, the newest Britax convertibles have lower bottom harness slots and an infant bolster is available.

Rearfacing seats can touch the seat in front of them. They shouldn't be jammed up against them, but they can touch. Please read your vehicle manual to make sure this is ok in your car. It is in most, but you need to check to make sure.

Straps should be "snug as a hug" You should not be able to pinch any extra fabric in the straps. The chest clip is just that, a chest clip. It should not be down by the belly. It should be armpit level.

Do not submerge car seat straps in water. This will weaken the fibers and they may not stretch like they should in a crash. Replacement straps are available through the manufacturer for less than $20.

Covers may be washed, but follow your car seat instructions.

Used seats are generally not a good idea, UNLESS you know who it came from and you know the history of the seat.

Car seats should be replaced after a major accident, although some, such as Graco require replacement after ANY crash. Almost all insurance companies will pay to replace them.

I'm sure there is more, but that's what I have for now. Feel free to add your own! These are just my experiences, but some of it is just fact.


Jacky, CPST and wife to Tim
Mama to my little red heads, Kenzie (7) and Maverick (4.5)Potty trained!

Last edited by jackyl08; 03-29-2011 at 08:55 PM.
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Old 05-10-2008, 11:59 PM   #2
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Re: A Car Seat Primer

Awesome info!!!
Sarah wife to Fred mama to Lily (12/06) Holly (11/08) and Jack (12/10)
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Old 05-11-2008, 10:33 PM   #3
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Re: A Car Seat Primer

Great info! You rock!

Here is some links from Mom2Riley!

HWH Seats (I have not added the frontier yet):

Here are seats I would recommend to keep your LO harnessed longer. These are in order of highest top slot to lowest.

Comparison Pics of Regent and Radian:

Comparison Pics of Regent and Boulevard:

Britax Regent ~ $240-$269 (normally $269) ~ This seat has a top slot of 21in and harnesses to 80lbs. It is a FFing only seat. By a long run will keep your LO harnessed the longest. It is not FAA approved and is a very large seat.

Graco Nautilus ~ $150 ~ (FF harness/HBB/ LBBooster) 20-65lbs for harness. Top slots are 18 inches high. Converts to a high back booster similar to the Turbo Booster, then to a low back booster. 19 inches at the widest point (the base) and 13 inches deep. FAA approved. Built in cup holder and side pockets. The base has two settings and can be slightly reclined. Available at Wal-mart by mid-January and will be at Babies R Us by the end of Feb. PICTURE:

Radian 65 ~ This seat is $200. ~ It can be used RFing up to 33lbs and FF up to 65lbs. Top harness height of 18in. This seat is not an easy install in all cars and before deciding on it I would go to to make sure it is compatible with your vehicle. This also RF tethers and has an 8yr life span, the others have 6yr. These are also FAA approved.

Compass True-Fit ~ $175-$190 ~ It can be RFing to 35lbs and FFing to 65lbs. It has a top slot of 18inches. In RFing mode the headrest can be removed up to 22lbs to leave more room in your car for an infant recline. This seat won’t be out until mid January. This is FAA approved.

Safety 1st Signature or APEX ~ $80-$130 ~ This seat harnesses to 65 lbs and then can turn into booster mode up to 100lbs, although it does not make the best booster. This is a FFing only seat. The top slots are 17in on this seat, but by all accounts it seems to fit children longer then most 17in top slot seats.

HW Convertibles:

Here are some great video links about the importance of keeping your LO in a 5pt harness as long as possible as well as Extended Rear Facing (Rear Facing past 1yr and 20lbs/rear facing to your seats RFing limit). Here is a link to the carseat board, it i s a wealth of information I know I am throwing a ton of info out there, but I swear I am also going to put my car seat recommendations.

Here is info on Extended Rear Facing:

Rearfacing vs Forward Facing YouTube video:

Harness vs Booster Video:

Info on why to keep harnessed as long as possible:

This Thread has tons of other Helpful Videos:

Comparison Pics of Radian, Boulevard and Comfort Sport:

Britax Boulevard/Marathon/Decathlon ~ These seats are between $269-$300 unless you find them on sale. The all have a RFing limit of 33lbs and a FF limit of 65lbs. They can be tethered RFing. They are super easy to install and very comfy. These are all FAA approved.
The seats:
Marathon- The most basic model of the three; has a lever style harness adjuster, 4 harness heights, and the crotch strap does not adjust.

Decathlon- push button style harness adjuster, 4 harness heights, and a three position crotch strap that gives 1 more inch of room as compared to the marathon and boulevard. Infant inserts is great for a small baby; it also has a removable toddler head pillow; limited cover choices

Boulevard- has true side impact protection (the "wings"); has a lever style harness adjuster, and instead of having to remove the seat from the car to adjust the harness height you just turn a knob on the side of the seat, no adjustable crotch strap; removable infant pillow so is also a good choice for a very small baby

Target has Britax Marathons. Albee Baby online is a great place to get seats from online. They have a lot on sale, plus you don't have to pay shipping or sales tax. This link has all the Britax convertibles. I would stay away from the Diplomat and Roundabout as they only have a 40lb harness weight limit. I would definitely stick with a high weight harness so you can get the longest life for your money.

Evenflo Triumph Advance ~ This is between $130-$170 This is the newest version of the Triumph(you must make sure you are getting the version that goes to 50lbs). It has a RFing limit of 35lbs and a FFing limit of 50lbs. It has infinite harness adjust and is available at Wal-Mart, Target and BRU. This is a great HWH seat for the price, with easy installation. This is also FAA approved.

Radian 65 ~ This seat is $200. It can be used RFing up to 33lbs and FF up to 65lbs. This seat is not an easy install in all cars and before deciding on it I would go to to make sure it is compatible with your vehicle. This also RF tethers and has an 8yr life span, the others have 6yr. These are also FAA approved.

Compass True-Fit ~ $175-$190 ~ It can be RFing to 35lbs and FFing to 65lbs. It has a top slot of 18inches. In RFing mode the headrest can be removed up to 22lbs to leave more room in your car for an infant recline. This seat won’t be out until mid January. This is FAA approved.
Loving My Munchkins: Kolin [5.5.04] Ava [12.13.05] Aden [2.18.09]

Last edited by Calideedle; 05-11-2008 at 10:34 PM.
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Old 05-12-2008, 08:04 AM   #4
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Re: A Car Seat Primer

Great info! Thanks for starting this Jacky!
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Old 06-09-2008, 08:44 AM   #5
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Talking Re: A Car Seat Primer

Thank you so much for all of this valuable info! I had been planning to put my nearly one year old daughter into a FF car seat once she reached her first bday until I read your post! I will now keep her RF until she reaches 35 lbs. I also appreciate the comments about convertible and infant seats since I am expecting another baby in August! This is absolutely the info that I needed!!! You are truly wonderful!!!!

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Old 06-14-2008, 10:42 AM   #6
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Re: A Car Seat Primer

Have any of you heard of or tried the Safeguard Go! Hybrid? I have small babies, but my 34 lb 5 year old will be starting Kindergarten next year. She is currently in the Britax Wizard (the precursor to the Boulevard), but she's beginning to get to tall for it. I would like to keep her in a 5 pt harness, but I also know most of her friends are already in boosters and she's beginning to really notice what others are doing - besides, with two other little ones, I need something that is easy to install/transfer for carpooling, etc. Also, she's in the 3rd row of our Tahoe and there aren't any lower anchors back there, which makes the Wizard install not as easy IMO, so I'm looking for something that will install easily with a seatbelt and top anchor. I've looked online at the Safeguard Go hybrid booster, but I haven't seen one in person and I don't know of anyone who has one or used it. Any comments? Suggestions?? The Safeguard hybrid has a harness mode limits of 60 lbs (which we probably won't see until she's in 6th!) and 52" and booster limits of 100 lbs and 57"

I just got the Chicco Keyfit for my youngest - our Thanksgiving baby - and I LOVE it! It's way easier to install than our old Peg Perego (which I replaced since it was 5+ years from date of manufacture).
Jill...Natural Birthing mama to my 3 b's...BLB (5/5/03), BWB (12/23/04) and our EC'd and CD'd thanksgiving blessing BCB (11/22/07)...and wife to DH Barrett
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Old 06-14-2008, 04:03 PM   #7
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Re: A Car Seat Primer

Ii went to to see if my jeep was compatible with the seat I want, but I can't find where I can look it up. help!
Sara If I'm slow to respond, it's possibly because I care for 3 non-napping children while being involved in a preschool co-op, a veggie co-op, a bible study group, and training for a 5k. I am a little busy.
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Old 06-18-2008, 05:47 PM   #8
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Re: A Car Seat Primer

Originally Posted by 5browns View Post
Ii went to to see if my jeep was compatible with the seat I want, but I can't find where I can look it up. help!
The database is not all inclusive. Many cars and car seats are not mentioned. Also, these are just everyday people listing their combos. What seat are you looking at and what model and year is your Jeep?
Jacky, CPST and wife to Tim
Mama to my little red heads, Kenzie (7) and Maverick (4.5)Potty trained!
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Old 01-15-2009, 08:43 PM   #9
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Re: A Car Seat Primer

We have a Radian Premier by Sunshine Kids, that I absolutly LOVE!!!! My daugher is too tiny to be in a booster but is too heavy to be in a 5 point harness. The Radian allows her to be in the 5 point harness up to 65lbs. It keeps her safer longer. I love that it folds and is aircraft approved. Also I just washed the seat cover for the first time, and it came out looking brand new.
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Old 02-17-2009, 01:20 PM   #10
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Re: A Car Seat Primer

Info for moms in Germany:
There are some rearfacing seats in size class 1 available here. You can get a BeSafe iZi Combi seat from HTS. They are expensive and hard to find but goes up to 18 kg in rear-facing position. Another possibility is the Wavo Bimbofix, which is mounted with Isofix. I The Recaro Polaric is also mounted with Isofix.

There are a few seats listed as rear-facing up to 13 kilos that can also accommodate a taller child than the standard Maxi-Cosi seats: Concord Ultimax and Britax-Römer First Class Plus.

Any seat you use should meet European safety standards and have an
orange sticker on it that says ECE 44/03 or 44/04.
Little Bear almost 3 years old and Baby Bear 15 Months
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