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Shoreline Families

Car Seats: You're Probably Doing It Wrong

May 14, 2019 10:46AM ● By Rachel Belfield
Like most of us, I like to think I do most things in my life pretty well. You know, I read labels, research things before I make major decisions, and generally try to be a decent, informed parent and human.

So when it came to my children's car seats, I've been doing what seemed right: read the manuals, asked someone else to double check my work, and checked periodically to make sure straps and buckles were positioned correctly. We should be golden, right? Well, no, as it turned out.

I invited a certified car seat technician (find one here) over to check my kids' car seats because I noticed that my kindergartner was the only one left in a 5-point harness of all her friends, even those smaller than she is. To be honest, I thought for sure the tech would validate that I was doing it right, and that I was just a "super-safe mom" who could beam with pride at how much I cared for my children.

Well, this is pretty embarrassing to admit, but all four of our car seats had something wrong with them. All of them!

Here are just some of the things I was doing wrong:

  • I assumed that the expiration dates for all seats is 10 years, but it varies by brand, model, and year of manufacture. So you need to look up your exact seat and check!
  • I didn't see that the LATCH system shouldn't be used once the weight of a child plus the seat exceeded a certain amount.
  • I didn't know that a wiggly part of my son's seat's headrest was actually broken and needed a replacement piece of foam from the manufacturer.

I'm glad that I swallowed my (unwarranted, as it turns out) pride and invited someone who is an expert over to help me out. She taught me a lot that I didn't know and hadn't picked up after scouring car seat manuals for the last six years.  Seeing the way she installed, checked certain things about our seats, and gave me some pointers I wouldn't have thought of was way more memorable and helpful than anything you'll get out of the manual or online installation videos.

So after some research into seat features and reviews, I picked up four highly rated seats that are current, safe, and just right for my kids and our cars for about $250 total. No, it's not pocket change, but you don't have to buy the most expensive seats to find one that's safe, durable, and easy to install correctly.

I recommend finding a Child Passenger Safety Technician to help you out. Allow up to two hours for their time, and considering making a donation to help ensure they're able to pass their expertise on to more families. This is what their site says about compensation "If you feel like the service offered is worth something; gift cards, coffee, or donations to CPS organizations are generally welcome.  If you have no money, but have appreciated the service, a sincere thank you and hug really do make a technician feel great."