How to fit a child car seat

Submitted by by Oscar on

Common installation problems

In June 2010, Which? Car experts visited the Bluewater shopping centre and offered parents a free car seat inspection.

Shockingly, just two of the 27 seats we inspected were fitted correctly. This is an even higher than the 50% to 85% of seats that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) estimates are incorrectly installed. See the video from the day below.

The common problems we found included twisted seatbelts, loose seatbelts or harnesses, and buckle crunch.

Similar issues are evident from other studies too. Portsmouth City Council has been running safety days for the past three years. Its road safety team manager, Michelle Love, said the number of incorrectly installed seats it has seen has dropped from 90% to 73% in that time, but the majority of parents still have problems getting it right. 

Twisted seatbelts

If a seatbelt is twisted, it will not react as it should in a collision, and in fact it may fail to work altogether.

When fitting your child’s car seat, make sure that seatbelts run smoothly and securely through any fittings. The same applies if the car seat uses the seatbelt to hold your child in place.

Loose seatbelts and harnesses

A child could be thrown out of the seat in a crash if the seatbelt or harness isn’t correctly adjusted.

Always make sure the seatbelt is properly clicked into its buckle and that harnesses are secured tightly.

Buckle crunch

Positioning the car’s seatbelt buckle hard up against the child seat frame can cause the buckle to fail under crash conditions.

Only the seat belt webbing should be in contact with the frame of the child car seat. If the buckle of the adult belt lies across the frame of the child seat, pressure on the buckle (in an accident, or even under sharp braking) could cause the buckle to fail. If it fails, the buckle is likely to open, allowing your baby or child to be projected out of the seat, completely unrestrained.

Following retailer advice

In July 2011, we investigated how good the advice offered by retailers is and found it’s really hit and miss, whether you get good or poor advice, with many incorrectly demonstrating how to install the seats they were recommending. Read the findings and watch the video to see what sorts of mistakes they made.