Ultimate Guide to Installing Booster Seats In Your Car

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No matter whether you’re a parent of a newborn baby or if you are a parent of a toddler who’s crawling or walking all over the place, safety is the topic that’s probably on your mind the most. This is the trust when you think about riding in the car with your child.

If you’ve ever wondered exactly how to install a booster seat safely in your car for your child and which booster seats are best for your child, then you’ve come to the right place.


The Biggest Mistakes When Installing Booster Seats

The fact of the matter is, there are four to five children’s lives lost every single day thanks to car crashes.

This is one of the most difficult statistics to come to grasp with as a parent, but once you realize that, you can take the steps necessary to keep your child safe and sound when riding along in the car. Because the truth is that this statistic is due to mistakes on the part of parents who don’t know how to properly install booster seats.

One big mistake made by parents is not choosing the right booster seat in the first place! So many new parents and old parents alike don’t know where to start with this one. However, the fix is pretty easy!

All you have to do is research online about what booster seat is ideal for your child’s age, weight, and height. You’ll have to keep measuring your child to ensure you move onto a new booster seat when the time is right.

Even if you have the perfect booster seat for your child at this stage of their life, installation is where another huge mistake comes into play. The overwhelming majority of booster seats are not installed correctly by parents, which drastically reduces the safety of your little one.

Here are some of the most common installation mistakes: not routing seatbelts in the right manner, not locking seatbelts, forgetting to tether your booster seat, and not giving enough weight to the booster seat during the installation process. The easiest fix here is to just look through the manual of your booster seat and ensure you’re doing a proper installation!

Using the wrong booster seat or installing it incorrectly can have major consequences. For example, one woman in the UK has been found negligent in a car crash, which left her three-year-old daughter with horrific injuries.

This was all because the mother of the three-year-old didn’t use the correct booster seat for her child’s age, weight, and height. If she had simply put some extra effort into choosing the right car seat and updating it based on her child’s age, that crash could have been easily avoided.

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So, How Do You Install a Booster Seat Correctly?

Now that we’ve gone through the big top mistakes that are made when installing and choosing booster seats, it’s time to bring you through the correct installation steps. By the end of this, you are going to be a master at installing booster seats in a safe way.

However, as there are different steps and tips for every age group, that’s how these steps are going to be broken up. Feel free to skip down and learn about how to install a booster seat depending on your own child’s age and information.

1. Up to One Years Old / Four Pounds

For this age and weight of the baby, you’re going to need a car bed, which is a specific type of booster seat for newborn children. This kind of seat is going to keep your baby flat on his or her back. Ensure that his or her head is in the center of the car, rather than anywhere close to the doors.

Depending on the doctor’s orders, you will know whether to lay your baby on their back or on their belly. This is crucial to know in order to keep your baby happy and healthy.

In terms of installation, the car bed is going to be secured to your car with the seatbelt, which you’ll notice is not typically as tight as booster seats. That doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing any security though!

Depending on your bed, you may have to install it with lower attachments, as well. Read through the manual that came with the car bed to understand more specifics.

2. Up to Two Years Old / 4 to 40 Pounds

There are three big tips that we have when installing a car seat for your child that’s around forty pounds and up to 2 years old:

  • You are going to be installing a rear-facing car seat with your child. This is one of the most important things to remember – it will keep your child as safe as possible. You will use either a seat belt or lower anchor attachments for security.
  • There is an angle indicator on the car seat. This is going to show you if the car seat is reclined properly or not. You may not think about this during installation, but if the recline is not correct, your child might have trouble breathing.
  • Remember the Inch Test when installing such a car seat. If your car seat moves more than one inch in any direction, then it’s not secured properly and needs to be adjusted before hitting the road.

3. Two to Five Years Old / 21 to 65 Pounds

Now we’re going to get into the more complicated installation methods for these kinds of car seats:

  • This is the age where you can move from a rear-facing car seat to a front-facing seat in the back of your car. You can install this car seat with a top tether and some attachments at the bottom of the seat or with a top tether and a seatbelt, depending on what your manual recommends.
  • You have got to use a top tether when installing a car seat that’s facing the front of your car. There is going to be some anchor in your car where you can attach the tether. This is a super important component of the car seat as this is what’s really going to hold the seat in place in the event of a crash.
  • And of course, you’ve got to remember the Inch Test! Ensure your seat doesn’t move more than an inch in any direction, just like the previous age group.

4. Six to Eight Years Old / 40 to 120 Pounds

Once your child has gotten to this age range, then you’re not going to have to worry so much about the installation process. Why you ask? Well, your child is going to weigh enough at this point that they will hold the seat down with their own weight.

The booster seat has got to be used in the back seat, but as mentioned, when your child is in the seat, you don’t have to use any secure latches on it. However, when your child is not riding along with you, use the seatbelt to keep the seat from jostling around in the back.

In addition to when your child is not in the car, the seatbelt should be used when the child is in the booster seat for additional safety.

5. Nine to Twelve Years Old / Anywhere Over 80 Pounds

Go through the Seat Belt Test to see if your child is ready to move away from a booster seat and just use a seat belt. The shoulder belt has got to be right between the shoulder and the neck, their lower back needs to be against the seat, and their knees must bend at the curve of the seat.

If your child passes that test, then great! He or she is ready to move on and use seatbelts. However, the same installation tips for the previous age group should still be used if they still require the use of a booster seat.

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How Can You Make Sure Your Booster Seat is Installed Correctly?

As mentioned above, when you want to ensure your car seat or booster seat is installed correctly, the Inch Test is the way to go. This is a tried and tested way, verified by a number of experts, to know whether your seat is installed correctly.

You simply have to move the seat to both sides and from top to bottom. If it moves more than an inch, adjust and make the seat more secure. If the seat doesn’t move more than an inch, then you and your little bundle of joy are good to go!

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Some Advice From the Experts

But don’t take just our word for it! There are plenty of experts out there who have some words of advice when choosing and installing booster seats:

Grainne’s biggest advice to those parents who are wondering about booster seats is that timing is everything when it comes to booster seats. Don’t rush your child to progressing to the next stage of seating before it’s their time.Grainne Kelley
As long as you can, Haynes suggests that you keep your baby or toddler rear-facing in the back of the vehicle. This has been tried and tested as the safest position for your child to be in when you’re driving the car. Never put your child in the front of the seat until they have passed 12 years old.Haynes Studstill
One of her biggest pieces of advice is to keep those car straps snug on your child. They may throw a little hissy fit when you tighten the straps, but this should be no reason for them to ride with straps that aren’t tight enough. This is just compromising their safety!Dr. Alisa Baer