You Bought a New Car Seat, Now What?

You’ve chosen the car seat and you’re ready to install it. Where does it go? Middle? Sides? Use the lower anchors? Seat belt? Tether the car seat or not? All of these things need to be considered when choosing that perfect spot for the car seat. First things first.

Have you read the manual? This needs to be done before ever trying to install the seat. There are many quirks in the various car seats on the market. There is no one way to install all car seats; you have to read the manual. Check the weight, height, and fit limits of the car seat for all modes of use. It will hold the answers to most questions. If it doesn’t, check your vehicle manual. It will usually hold the rest of the answers. If you’re still confused, it will have the contact information of the manufacturer so you can ask them directly. Most car seat manufacturers have phone numbers, e-mail, as well as Facebook and other social media pages. Manufacturers are more available now than ever before. Read more about what can be found in your manual here.  4ever4


Where does the car seat go? Unless you happen to drive a single cab pick-up truck where the air bag can be manually turned off, the answer is usually that the car seat will be in the back seat. This is what the University of Buffalo has to say about the back seat:

“They found that occupants of the back seat are 59 percent to 86 percent safer than passengers in the front seat and that, in the back seat, the person in the middle is 25 percent safer than other back-seat passengers….After controlling for factors such as restraint use, vehicle type, vehicle weight, occupant age, weather and light conditions, air-bag deployment, drug results and fatalities per crash, the rear middle seat is still 16 percent safer than any other seat in the vehicle.” See more at: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2006/06/8026.html#sthash.28zaXKmq.dpuf

Are there other children in the vehicle? The middle position is best reserved for the most vulnerable child. We know rear facing seats provide the most protection. When multiple children are in the vehicle, the middle would generally be reserved for those no longer rear facing. This doesn’t always work when installing three car seats in one row.Read more about three across in vehicles here. The need for things like school drop off lines or lack of shoulder belt in the middle might trump the ideal. When parents have only one car seat the recommendation is almost always to use the middle seating position. Later I will discuss more about installing in the middle position.

three across

Is the middle accessible? There are some really large vehicles out there and some very petite parents. While middle might be considered the safest, if the parents cannot get the child in and out of the vehicle, it won’t do them much good. Other concerns may include health concerns limiting range of motion for getting into the middle position etc.

Does the seat go rear facing or forward facing? You will need to consider the various modes in which the seat can be used. Is it a rear facing only seat that goes to 30 pounds or 30″ or a convertible car seat that goes both rear facing and forward facing? For a child under two, rear facing is the only appropriate choice. For a child over two, does he meet the requirements to rear face or forward face? Read why rear facing is still the safest option. If it’s a combination car seat or dedicated booster seat, the seat can only go forward facing.


Does the car seat fit in the middle? Almost all car seats cannot brace against the front vehicle seats; meaning they cannot be forcefully touching. This is not only because of the way the seat was tested but due to safety measures in the vehicle itself. If a car seat doesn’t fit in the middle, particularly if the driver is very tall, the car seat may need to be installed behind the passenger seat or a new car seat may need to be chosen. The middle of various vehicles can look very different. Some vehicles will have lap only seat belts, some have seat belts that come from the ceiling, and some vehicles will have a hump in the middle seating position or a console. The vehicle manual will need to be checked again to see if a car seat is able to be installed in that position, or if any measures need to be taken prior to installing the seat. For example, the Chevy Equinox comes with a bungee cord to attach the center console to the tether anchor so that position can be used for a rear facing seat.

Do you install with the lower anchors? This is a much bigger decision than it sounds. All current car seats can be installed with either seat belt or lower anchors, but not all vehicles are equipped with lower anchors.  Those vehicles equipped with lower anchors aren’t generally equipped in all seating positions. Vehicles model year 2003 and newer are required to have two seating positions that have lower anchors. Due to this, many vehicle manufacturers only put them in the outboard seating positions, not the middle. There are both vehicle manufacturers and car seat manufacturers that prohibit ‘borrowing’ those out anchors to install a car seat in the middle seating position. You will need to again read both your vehicle manual and car seat manual. Lower anchors also have weight limits.Read more about that here. After the limit is met, the car seat must then be installed with the seat belt. Keep in mind that seats must pass all applicable testing with both seatbelts and lower anchors.  They are both safe.


Do you install with the seat belt? A seat belt is almost always allowed for car seat installation. Do you have inflatable seat belts? Few car seats allow installation with inflatable seat belts. You will need to decide what to do after the lower anchor weight limits have been met if your seat does not allow for use with inflatable seat belts. You must lock your seat belt to keep the car seat tightly installed. Seat belts lock in several ways depending on the vehicle’s model and year. Read more here about locking your seat belts here. You will need to read both your vehicle manual and car seat manual to answer these questions.

Do you use the tether? If your car seat is forward facing with a harness, the car seat needs to be tethered. We know tethering greatly reduces the risk of injury for forward facing children and the tether should be used if at all possible. Vehicles model year 2001 and newer are required to have three tether anchor positions, which means many vehicles that seat 6+ may have several positions without tether anchors, particularly in the third row. The non tether positions are best reserved for non-forward facing seats. For older vehicles without tether anchors, anchors can sometimes be retrofitted. If you have a Britax, Peg Perego, Combi, or Diono convertible, your car seat also has the ability to tether while rear facing. There will be instructions in your car seat manual on using the tether in the rear facing position. Some vehicle manufacturers will tell you they cannot recommend tethering when rear facing because it is not in the vehicle manual. This leaves it up to the parent on if they choose to tether when rear facing or not.


How tight should the seat be installed? A car seat should be installed so that there is less than one inch of movement side to side or front to back; testing with the force of a firm handshake at the belt path. You can get more information and see a great visual here. You also need to make sure you are using the correct belt path for the direction of the seat. Convertible seats have one belt path for rear facing and a different one for forward.

These are some great tips to get you started on your installation process. The best thing you can do though is read both your vehicle and car seat manuals and to find a CPST to help educate you on the installation and use of your new car seat. You can look for CPSTs in your area here. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states an 80% misuse rate when it comes to using and installing car seats. This supports how important it is to see a CPST to help ensure you are in the 20% using and installing their car seat correctly. Maybe you read this first and have yet to choose a seat. You can see our full recommended list of car seats here.

Peg 4-35 featured image

Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 Rear Facing Only Car Seat Review

Looking for a quality, Italian made car seat?  The Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 rear facing only car seat might be the seat for you.  With 2 included infant inserts, deep seat pan, and adjustable no-rethread head support and harness, it is a viable option for both small and large children.

Peg 4-35 featured imageCSFTL Quick Stats:

  • Rear facing only 4-35 lbs, 32″, OR 1″ from the top of the head to the top of the shell
  • Bottom harness position 4.5″ (both inserts) ,6″ (stage 2 insert) ,7.5″ (no inserts)
  • Top harness position 10.5″
  • 18″ tall shell
  • 7 year expiration
  • 1 crotch buckle positions
  • Built-in anti-rebound bar on base
  • No-rethread harness built into adjustable head support
  • Dual stage infant inserts
  • Infinite recline positions on base by just turning a knob
  • Tri Zone level indicator
  • Push button lower anchor connectors


Car Seat Features

Peg 4-35 baseless ARB

The Primo Viaggio 4-35 comes with several features.  The first to notice is the handle that can be put all the way down by the child’s feet for anti-rebound protection when installed baseless.


Peg 4-35 head support


Next is the no-rethread harness incorporated into the adjustable head support.  This allows you to easily adjust the harness straps without needing to take the seat apart.  There are 6 different height settings to fit a variety of children.  The head support also provides extra support for an infant’s small head.


Peg 4-35 inserts

The Primo Viaggio 4-35 includes 2 infant inserts.

Stage 1

  • Must be used with the stage 2 insert.
  • Attaches to the adjustable head support via a button on both sides.
  • Can be used from birth to about 8 lbs or when the child’s diaper reaches the crotch buckle with just the stage 2 insert.
  • Provides a cushion to fill excess space.

Stage 2

  • Can be used at any weight/age.
  • Helps bump the child to the bottom harness position.
  • Provides a bit extra thigh support.

Peg 4-35 harness retainer


The harness retainer is currently a popular feature.  This allows the user to hold the buckles back making it easier to put the child in the seat without having to dig buckles out from under them.
Peg 4-35 canopy


The UPF 50+ large canopy is another popular feature on seats helping protect children from excess sun exposure.


Peg 4-35 EPS foam


Under all of the quality fabrics, you find a fully lined EPS foam layer covering both the seat shell and head support.  This EPS foam adds extra impact protection.

Peg 4-35 breathability


One of my favorite features are these holes in the bottom of the seat, which provide extra breathability.


Peg 4-35 storage compartmentFinally, note the storage compartment in the back of these seat.  This provides a place to store the manual, an access door to adjust the head support, as well as an extra way to check the angle of the base once the seat is installed.

Base Features

The base has several more common features such as a recline foot, recline level, push button lower anchor connectors, and seat belt lock off.  They added a few things to these features to make them more unique though.

Peg 4-35 ARB install


One of their more unique features is their anti-rebound bar, which is required.  This comes uninstalled right out of the box, so it will need to be added.  It can only click into place when it is correctly installed.  This anti-rebound bar helps with cocooning which can happen when a rear facing seat rebounds after a collision.

Peg 4-35 level & knob


The recline foot features a knob that allows the foot to be put in any position.

The Primo Viaggio 4-35 also features their unique TriZone level indicator.  There are 3 sections to the level, each one with a weight range.  When installing, make sure the bubble is in the correct weight range for your child.  This is one feature that can cause some issues, and we are working with Peg Perego to straighten it out.  In some vehicles, the recline either isn’t enough with the foot all the way out or not inclined enough for the bigger kids with the foot all the way in the base.  When we get an update, we will update this post.



Peg 4-35 base installedWith Base
Start by putting the base on the vehicle seat and adjusting the recline so the bubble level is in the correct position for your child’s weight.  Once the bubble is in the correct position, either install with the lower anchors or seat belt.  With either installation method, begin with unlatching the blue lock off.  Then, either put the seat belt through the guides, tighten, and latch the lock off OR attach the lower anchors to the vehicle anchors, tighten, and latch the lock off.  A correct installation will have 1″ or less of movement at the belt path.

Peg 4-35 handle at head

The car seat handle can be in any locked position except the position by the child’s feet.  This position is to only be used when doing a baseless install.  Peg Perego prefers the handle to be in the position right above the child’s head for the highest level of safety though.

Peg 4-35 baseless installBaseless
To install without the base, push the grey buttons on either side of the handle to move it down by the child’s feet.  Then, set the seat on the vehicle seat and thread the lap belt through the belt guides on the handle.  There are 2 positions the shoulder belt can be put in.  This seat allows European belt routing where the shoulder belt is threaded through a blue clip on the back of the seat, which can help with stability.  If the shoulder belt isn’t long enough, leave the shoulder belt against the vehicle seat back.  Once the seat is tight, lock the seat belt, make sure the red level line is level with the ground, and verify that there is 1″ or less of movement at the belt path


Child fit

Peg 4-35 JoJo – Preemie Huggable Images Doll
4 lbs, 17″

Due to Jo’s small size, she’s modeling the Primo Viaggio 4-35 with both the Stage 1 and Stage 2 infant inserts. She fit very well with her shoulders just barely above the bottom harness position. The Stage 1 insert has a an extra support that sits behind the crotch buckle to fill the room between her diaper and the crotch buckle.

Peg 4-35 Fiona Stage 2




Fiona – Newborn Huggable Images Doll
7 lb, 17″

Fiona also fit very nicely in this seat.  This first picture of her is with just the Stage 2 infant insert.  With the harness in the lowest position, her shoulders are just over the harness position.  Without the Stage 1 insert she has quite a bit of room between the crotch buckle and her diaper.


Peg 4-35 Fiona Stage 1&2Here she is modeling the seat with the Stage 1 and Stage 2 infant inserts.  The harness was one click up from the lowest position with her shoulders just over it.  As you can see, the Stage 1 insert helps her fit behind the crotch buckle much better.  Either fit is fine, but I liked her better with both inserts.

Peg 4-35 Anders




Anders – 4 months
16 lbs, 26″

I really like how Anders fits in this seat.  Due to his size, both infant inserts were removed.  Even with good head control his head still falls to the side when he sleeps.  In previous seats side head slump has always been an issue.  The head support in this seat is in perfect position and is shaped well for complete head support for him.

Peg 4-35 Grace



Grace – 16 months
19 lbs, 29″

Grace fit very nicely with plenty of growing room.  She’s modeling how nice the anti-rebound handle is to rest her feet on when installed baseless.



Peg 4-35 Lucas



Lucas –  16 month Huggable Images Doll
20 lbs, 31″

Lucas also had a nice fit.  He was quite a bit closer to the top of the seat than Grace, but still fit with 1″ or more of shell above his head.


Overall thoughts
I really like the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 rear facing only seat.  It has high quality materials, it will accommodate a wide range of child sizes, and the baseless install was incredibly easy.  For me, the biggest drawback was the manual. I found it to be poorly worded and had to clarify several stipulations with Peg Perego while completing this review. A confusing manual increases the potential for misuse, especially for a brand new parent.

Now comes the best part, the generous folks at Peg Perego provided this Atmosphere Primo Viaggio 4-35 for us to review, and they would like to give one away to one of our readers.

**Contest is now closed.  Congrats to Michelle N!**

If you don’t win, don’t despair! Find the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4-35 on Amazon.com!

Peg Perego provided the Primo Viaggio 4-35 rear facing only car seat for this review, but CSFTL was not otherwise compensated and opinions, as always, are all our own.
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Britax Pioneer

Britax Pioneer Review

Britax Pioneer

Britax Pioneer. This model is 4.5 years old, 41 lbs and 41 inches tall.

I’ll start this review with a confession:  I’m a huge fan of Britax seats.  My oldest daughter rode in a Britax Wizard for most of her rear-facing years and my younger daughter still rides in a Britax Boulevard occasionally.  I’ve found these seats very easy to install and use properly and the Wizard made me an early fan of the no-rethread harness. For the record, the “best” seat is the one that the caregiver can install and use properly *every* time.  That’s not the same brand or the same seat for every situation. As my kiddos have grown, they’ve had a variety of seats but most of them have been Britax because we’ve found them easy to install and use properly for our kids.  When we turned my youngest daughter’s car seat from rear-facing to forward-facing,  it was  no great surprise that the first place I looked for a combination seat was Britax.   Britax has three offerings in the combination seat category:  the Pioneer, The Frontier 90, and the Pinnacle 90.  Britax released the Pioneer at the same time as the Frontier and the Frontier gets much of the attention. It’s understandable — the Frontier features the Click-Tight system, which allows caregivers to install the seat with ease. Click-Tight is kind of like magic, and for a lot of situations, that’s worth every penny. The Pioneer is essentially the same seat but with a slightly shorter top harness slot and without the Click-Tight system. That sentence alone makes the Pioneer not for everyone.  With that in mind, I sort of avoided the Pioneer until now.


CSFTL Quick Stats: Harnessed Mode

  • Forward Facing Harness: minimum 2 years & 25 lbs, up to 70 lbs
  • Seated Shoulder Height: Forward Facing Harness: 12.5 – 19.5 inches*
  • No rethread harness
  • Push button lower anchor connectors
  • Recline allows for flexibility in installing on a variety of surface levels
  • 9 year expiration

*Pioneers made before 4/4/14 have a max seated shoulder height of 18.5″  Pioneers made after this date have an extra inch of seated shoulder height.

Booster Mode

  • Booster child weight: 40 – 110 lbs
  • Booster standing height: 45 – 60 inches
  • Top shoulder belt guide height: 22 inches
  • Can use LATCH in booster mode
  • Compatible with Secure Guard anti-submarining clip
Pioneers made before 4/4/14 have 18.5" top shoulder slots

Pioneers made before 4/4/14 have 18.5″ top shoulder slots

The Pioneer is a nice option for caregivers who don’t need that extra height and who are willing to work a little harder to install the seat. The Pioneer is also about $100 less than the Frontier, a price difference that told me I’d be willing to make the leap. My 4.5 year old just turned forward-facing this spring. She’s of moderate height but has a pretty short torso so I thought the Pioneer would be a good option for her. I also figured we could use the Pioneer as a booster for her down the road so when I found a deal on one, I went for it!






Britax Pioneer Belt Path

Britax Pioneer Belt Path


Installing with the seatbelt was a little tricky, though no moreso than the Graco Argos we also have.  Second confession: part of the reason I got the Pioneer was to avoid installing the Argos.





But I digress.  Back to the Pioneer install…  There’s a plastic panel covering the area where the Click Tight would be if this was a Frontier.  The seatbelt goes *over* this space.  We learned later that the lower anchors of the LATCH system would go *under* this space.  Even with the manual on hand, this is not obvious at first.  Since my kiddo is over the max weight limit of 40 lbs for those lower anchors, I installed it with a seatbelt, over the plastic piece.


The cover opens to reveal the belt path, making it fairly easy to thread the seat belt through.  Once that’s threaded, I used my non-dominant hand to push the seat down and remove slack with the seatbelt.   It took a bit of pushing, tugging and sweating to get the seat in but eventually, I was able to get a rock-solid install.

The Pioneer has two cupholders, plus a little cubby that’s about the right size for a juice box at the end of each cupholder.  Those features are very important to my kiddo — she loves being able to keep a small assortment of snacks, stickers, and flowers in there. The no-rethread harness makes it easy to adjust the strap height.  This is nice if a friend is riding with us — just grab the handle, squeeze,  and pull up or push down to adjust.  This feature alone makes me a huge fan of the seat — I’ve had a few seats over the years and for us, the convenience of not having to take the seat out to adjust the slot height has guided us toward no-rethread harnesses being a top selection criteria.

FAA Approved

Initially, the Pioneer, Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 were not approved for use on aircraft due to the Click Tight system (which is not present on the Pioneer).  Britax has issued a retroactive approval for these seats to be used on an airplane.  I’m not sure this will ever be a travel seat for us — I prefer to travel with a lighter weight seat like the Britax Boulevard, but it’s good to know that it’s an option.

Pioneer booster belt guide

Pioneer booster belt guide

Booster Mode

I was very hopeful that the Pioneer would be equally nice in booster mode.  Our booster rider is 8 years old, 50 lbs and 49 inches tall.  She is very particular about how the seat feels; if it’s not padded enough, it’s not for her.





Pioneer belt guide

Pioneer belt guide

Converting the Pioneer to booster mode is fairly simple.  The harness just tucks out of the way and stays in the seat.  The crotch buckle flips over and tucks underneath the cover.  Having these parts remain in the seat makes switching between modes pretty simple. The Pioneer’s belt guides are tucked below the shell of the seat.  This means that for shorter children, threading the shoulder belt can be a bit tricky. In my Mazda 5′s third row, this made for a pretty hard-to-use belt guide.  Threading it was a challenge and the belt had a hard time retracting properly once it was in the belt guide.  I wouldn’t choose to put this seat in my third row as a booster.




Britax Pioneer in booster mode

Britax Pioneer in booster mode. This model is 8 years old, 49″ and 51 pounds.

However, in my Mazda 5′s second row, it has a nice belt fit and my older daughter found it easy to use in booster mode.  While it’s not her everyday booster, it’s nice to know that this would work as a backup for her or her friends. The Pioneer only works as a high back booster — it does not convert to backless mode.








Cover Changes

Presto! Change-o! Swapping the Pioneer's cover was a snap.

Presto! Change-o! Swapping the Pioneer’s cover was a snap.

Since installing the Pioneer isn’t the quickest process in the world, the no-rethread harness makes transitions smooth.  One other nice feature is that you can swap the cover out without having to uninstall the seat in the process.  I was able to purchase a replacement cover and get it onto the seat without uninstalling the seat.  That’s thanks to these little velcro bits behind the flap that covers the harness.







Overall Impression

The Pioneer fits my younger daughter very well and works nicely as a high backed booster for my older daughter.  Both kids were pleased with how it feels and we’re pleased with how easy it is to use, once installed.  Though the Frontier gets so much of the attention, the Pioneer is an excellent choice for budget-minded caregivers who are willing to work with a more traditional install. Standard disclaimer: CSFTL was not compensated in any way for this review, nor was this seat provided the manufacturer. As always, our thoughts and observations are all our own! Want to try a Pioneer for your Little?  Check them out at Amazon.com.


Hyperthermia — Summer Days Can Be Lethal for Littles

It’s about halfway through summer and sixteen children in the United States have lost their lives to hyperthermia due to being left in a vehicle. It’s utterly heartbreaking every time a new one hits the headlines because it is so very preventable. Think it could never happen to you? Think you could never, ever, forget about your child in a car? Think again.

I spent a great deal of time researching for this post.  What stuck with me the most and made a lasting impression on me were the parent stories posted on kidsandcars.org, as well as The Washington Post article “Fatal Distraction.”  For a moment, that was me.  I was transported in my mind’s eye to opening the car door and realizing what happened.  That my child was in the car.  And had been in the car all day.  And it is my fault.  At that moment, something clicked, and I got it.  For the first time, I really got it.  Accidental hyperthermia deaths happen because in that parent’s mind, in that moment, the child isn’t there.  The baby hasn’t been forgotten.  In that parent’s mind, the baby is already at day care, or safely at home with his other parent.  In short, if you are capable of leaving your cell phone on the counter as you fly out the door, or locking your keys in your car, you are capable of forgetting your child in the car.

TempAccording to Golden Gate Weather Services, the temperature inside a vehicle can climb from 80 to 123 degrees in about an hour.  A not so official experiment conducted by CSFTL backed this up, as you can see from our photos.  However, our thermometer stopped functioning once it reached 122 degrees.  My non-scientist, scientific conclusion is that if it is too hot for electronics to function properly, it’s certainly too hot for a person.

Kids and Cars is the organization tasked with the heart-wrenching job of tracking vehicle hyperthermia deaths.  In 2014, there have been 16 deaths.  The average per year is between 29 and 49, for a total of over 720 deaths since 1990.

In nearly three-fourths of the recorded incidents, the child’s death was completely unintentional.  The child was unknowingly left in the vehicle by a parent or caregiver, or the child had become trapped in the vehicle from playing in it.  Once again, completely unintentional.



The following stories are all from normal, attentive parents. Involved parents that show up for their kids’ soccer games and research what kind of baby food is best and make sure their baby’s crib isn’t recalled and which school districts fit their child best. They all have one thing in common: they forgot. They were wrapped up in remembering all of the 16,000 things we all have to get done every day: from picking up the dry cleaning to figuring out what’s for dinner to remembering to schedule that dentist appointment. They were running on autopilot to get to work or school or get the groceries put away, and they forgot. None of these stories end with a child losing their life, but had the circumstances been just a little different, they very well could have. Don’t think it couldn’t happen to you, because it could.

It was a no-school day, so I dropped my son off with the neighbor for the day while I went to work. I hopped in the car and starting driving my usual route, except I didn’t go to work. Wrapped up in my daily routine, I found myself in the parking lot of my son’s preschool, horrified that he wasn’t in the back seat and confused why there weren’t any other cars there. It took a full minute for my brain to reconnect that, in fact, I had already dropped off my son with the babysitter: there was no school. It’s not hard to see how a little variance in an ingrained routine can cause one to just… forget.

It was hot, really hot, that summer. The kids were out of school and we had just gotten back from some errands. It was easily 95 degrees outside. The baby was screaming and needed a nap and my 3 year old needed help out of her seat. I told my older kids to help her get out while I ran the baby inside to put her down. They had done this many times; it was nothing new to them. I go inside, get the baby down and stay with her to make sure she doesn’t roll off the bed. The kids are being quiet watching television downstairs. The older ones come up after a while and I ask if their sister is sleeping. They tell me they don’t know where she is and that she’s probably still in the van. My heart sank. I screamed and ran out to the van to find my van door open and my 3 year old still harnessed in her seat, drenched in sweat, sobbing hysterically. To this day, I believe the only thing that saved her was being able to push the automatic door button with her foot. I grab her, rush her inside, strip her down and give her a cool bath while telling the older kids to get her some water. She was going to be fine. We were one of the lucky ones. We were one whose mistake didn’t cost them a child.

It was a hot summer day and I decided to take my kids and meet a friend at our community pool. I had recently had a second child, with a large age gap in between my first and second children. I was getting my oldest out of the car as my friend pulled into the parking space near us. I saw her and waved. I got my oldest out of the car and she got her two kids out. When I saw that they were ready, I grabbed my purse and locked the car up. I started walking away and was confused as to why she was standing near my car. She said, “the baby?” and then I had remembered that I forgot to take my newborn out of the car, too. I don’t know how long it would have taken me to remember him if she wouldn’t have spoken up.


Now that we have realized and accepted the failures of our human brains and the possibility that we as parents can make a mistake, what can we do to prevent something so tragic from happening to us?

  • Remember the simple phrase, “Look before you lock.”
  • Keep your purse, or briefcase on the floor of the backseat. Force yourself to walk to the rear of the vehicle every time to get something. Even just a glance to the back seat is enough to jar a memory that a child is in the car with you, especially if they aren’t regularly.
  • Stow your cell phone in the back seat.  You don’t need it while driving and it will force you to check the back seat.
  • Put your left shoe in the back seat.
  • Keep a stuffed animal in your child’s car seat. When they’re in the car, put the animal on your front passenger seat as a reminder of your backseat riders.
  • Don’t leave sleeping children in the car and go inside – even in your garage. That car nap isn’t worth it when it’s far too easy to get wrapped up in other children, laundry, dinner, and phone calls and forget a child is asleep in a potentially dangerous situation.
  • Don’t leave children in your vehicle while you run in for an errand – even a momentary one. It takes a remarkably short amount of time for a child to overheat in an enclosed vehicle, even with the windows cracked. It’s worth it to take the extra few minutes to take your kids inside with you.
  • Set up a system with your day care provider or significant other.  Plan to call or have someone call you if your child isn’t dropped off by a certain time.  Call your significant other at the same time each day to make sure the other either has the child, or the child is in the correct spot.
  • Set an alarm on your phone.
  • Keep vehicles locked in the driveway and teach children never to play in a vehicle. Hyperthermia deaths can happen when a child decides to play in an unattended vehicle and becomes trapped.



These tips for reminders are not an all inclusive list.  If you have a system that works for you that isn’t on this list, don’t worry! Whatever you do that can remind you to look before you lock is an important step in child passenger safety. In order for these tricks to be effective, you need to remember that it can and does happen to anyone. It can happen to you.  Be mindful of your surroundings and be proactive in keeping your children safe.


No Need for Noodles

NoodlelessInstallSeveral convertible seats on the market do not come with an adjustable recline foot.  Getting the proper recline for a rear facing seat is important, especially if you are using the seat for a young infant.  Pool noodles or tightly rolled towels are usually the go to method for adjusting the recline of a seat if no recline mechanism is available on the seat itself.  There are some vehicles that also have sloped seats, so even with a recline mechanism you may not be able to get the seat at the proper recline. The problem with pool noodles is that they can compress over time, especially those with holes in the center.  Installing a seat that doesn’t have a recline mechanism without noodles is possible.  Standing behind the seat and pushing it into the seat back not only gives you leverage to pull the belt or lower anchor strap up, it also adjusts the car seat to the correct recline. For a better visual we have provided a video that goes through installation without the use of pool noodles.   CSFTL always recommends reading your entire vehicle manual and car seat manual.  Visiting a CPST is also an important step in the installation process. Always follow the recline guides on your seat, whether they are a line or bubble indicator.


Vehicle Safety

At 29 years old, I like to think that I still count as being “young.”  For me, drivers education was a mere 14 years ago, so what I learned in class is still relevant today, right? As it turns out, some of the things I learned are now absolutely wrong, thanks to advances in occupant protection.  There have been advances to occupant protection that have nothing to do with what I learned in drivers education but are very important to remember when driving and transporting children and other passengers.

Hand Position

For decades, the standard for hand position on the steering wheel was to put your hands in the 10 and 2 position, if you were imagining the steering wheel as a clock.  However, because of the addition of airbags, this practice has been come obsolete and unsafe.  With your hands in that position, should the airbag deploy, you are looking at some major destruction to your hands and arms.10and2

Instead, the NHSTA and AAA suggest holding the wheel at the 9 and 3 position.  There is some conflicting opinions on going lower than the 9 and 3 position to  the 8 and 4 position.  Some say it provides you with greater hand protection, while others say that it gives you less control over the wheel, increasing the likelihood of an accident.10and2

It turns out, the way that we learned to turn back in the “good ole days” is now also a no go.  The “hand over hand” method also puts your hands in direct fire of an exploding airbag.  Instead, the experts listed above recommend using a push/pull method.  Instead of switching your hands over top of one another, they recommend pushing up with one hand and pulling down with the other.


Sitting Position

The driver and passenger need to be positioned at least 10 inches away from the airbags.  A good visual for this is to picture the length of your forearm, from your wrist to your elbow.  For the driver, if the vehicle is equipped with an adjustable steering wheel, try to position it towards the chest, and not the face.  In order to maintain a proper belt fit, the seat for both the passenger and the driver should be in an upright position, with feet being able to be firmly planted on the floor.


Other Vehicle Safety Features

Some vehicles are now equipped with backup cameras and backup sensors.  These are fantastic features that enhance what you are able to see around you.  However, they are not a total substitute for doing a walk around the vehicle before entering and using mirrors to check your surroundings.  Doing a walk around before entering the vehicle ensures that there are no objects or children hiding in blind spots that may be missed by mirrors or backup cameras.mirrors

Another additional safety feature that a large number of vehicles now offer are a variety of airbags, including side curtain airbags, knee airbags, and torso airbags. Some cars are even coming equipped with a front center airbag that deploys between the driver and the passenger.  These are all designed to reduce impact onto a hard surface.  Please remember to NEVER place a rear facing car seat in front of a frontal air bag.  The force at which these airbags deploy is deadly to a child sitting in a rear facing seat.

Torso airbags are what we want to focus on right now.  They are built into the front seats not into the side of the vehicle, or into the dashboard or steering wheel.  One mistake I happen to see frequently in the field is people putting non-regulated seat covers onto cars that are equipped with this type of airbag.  So what is the issue with this? The cover is masking the airbag.  In an accident, the airbag is being covered and won’t deploy properly leaving you without an added safety feature.











Emergency Preparedness

Are you prepared for an emergency? Storms, breakdowns, or even zombies? It’s always good to be prepared and ready just in case and keeping an emergency kit in your vehicle so you can easily handle problems when out on the road. I’ve got my zombie stash put together, so I feel pretty well prepared… just in case.

zombie kit

Here’s a list of what I’ve got in my emergency zombie kit:

  • lots of bottled water
  • two refillable fold-up bottles, similar to these
  • a blanket, just one for us now that it’s spring in Arizona
  • flash light with extra batteries
  • first aid kit
  • small kit with glow sticks, duct tape, and small length of rope
  • an emergency credit card and a little cash
  • emergency triangle signs (like these) and jumper cables
  • trash bags and an extra ziplock bag
  • multi-tool and a vehicle belt cutter/window breaker - though mine is a little different from the one in the link.



Glow sticks are not just fun for your littles, and can be a distraction in case you’re stuck somewhere, but they’re also an important part of your emergency kit. Duct tape can probably fix almost anything, so I like to have it handy.



first aid kit


Buying a ready-made first aid kit can save some time and energy, but putting one together on your own is also fine. Consider including items like an ice pack, tweezers, and a small pair of scissors. Cool bandages are also necessary, as most littles know that a cool bandage definitely works better for boo-boos than a plain one does.  Also consider adding basic medications such as tylenol, ibuprofen and benadryl.  These can be handing in case of a surprise fever or unknown allergic reaction.



Even during the zombie apocalypse, making an effort to stow potential projectiles is an important thing to consider, so if you don’t have a compartment like I do to store a big group of items, consider using a bin or storage item and putting that in a cargo area. You may want to consider items like the vehicle’s cargo net, if available, or a similar system, to help secure your emergency kit. Other options include things like a ratcheting cargo strap, which can be found in the truck cargo/storage section of auto supply stores and home improvement stores.


ratchet strap



During a recent zombie-free trip to Disneyland, we chose to use a ratcheting cargo strap to secure things like luggage and a stroller in the back of our van. It’s the blue strap going across the luggage in the photo. We attached it to two unused tether anchors. This set-up could also be useful when leaving town after a zombie invasion or even evacuating before a hurricane or because of wildfires.



Check out the bin I keep in my trunk for non-zombie related situations. This stays in my vehicle, too, because even every day adventures with our littles sometimes requires emergency backup plans. Inside are several items one may need like extra hats, a towel and change of clothes for the inevitable messes and mishaps, and a “busy bag” with coloring books and small toys.

kit 2




When considering what to do during natural disaster, walking dead invasion, a road trip, or just every day situations, it’s good to remember to have essentials at hand. Even if we never experience an epic breakdown of society because of zombies, or if the risk of being stranded somewhere or dealing with a weather related emergency is slim to none, having an emergency kit in your vehicle can provide peace of mind.  The list I’ve given above is what I personally find necessary, and may be a good starting point for your kit, but always consider the season and climate, as well as your family’s specific needs. There are some very helpful suggestions for preparing for things like natural disasters at FEMA’s ready.gov website. Be sure to check it out for great tips and helpful resources.


Being safe in the vehicle is not just for the Littles, its important for everyone to buckle up and follow best practice on the road.


Read the Car Seat Manual!

Manual copyEverything you purchase comes with a manual, whether it is a lawn mower or a DVD player. When you are preparing for a child, multiply that by a bouncer, a high chair, a stroller and a swing.  Chances are, you read them to know how to put them together and their basic function.





After the initial assembly, the manual is likely to get thrown in the trash or lost in the dark abyss of a junk drawer, never to be seen or heard from again. There are two manuals that should be saved from the dark abyss and should be accessible at your fingertips. Those two vitally important manuals are your car seat manual and your vehicle manual.

When it comes to installing your child’s car seat, these are two very necessary items to ensure that it is done correctly. The top 5 questions that parents ask technicians about any specific seat would be the following:

  1. How do I install it?
  2. What are the limits of the seat?
  3. How do I wash the cover?
  4. When does it expire?
  5. Should I use LATCH or seatbelt?

One thing that is important to remember is that the knowledge of a tech is not a replacement for the information that is given in your manual.  Some technicians may remember the specifics of certain seats and be able to help you with that, however, our main goal is to educate.  We want to educate and empower you to know how to find that information themselves, feel confident in your ability to install a seat properly, and how to choose a seat
that fits your child correctly. All of the questions above can be found easily within the manual that came with your seat.

So lets look at question one.  How do I install it?  Since there are a variety of installation Screen Shot 2014-06-14 at 1.51.34 PMmethods, this will be found in a variety of places throughout the manual, depending on which installation method and position you will be using your seat in.  The picture below was taken from an Evenflo Maestro Manual.  It lists the different types of installations and which pages those installation guides can be found on.

SeatLimitsSecond question up on the block: what are the limits of this seat?  This is generally located in the beginning of the manual with an overview over the entire seat, and then again within the
section for that feature of the seat.
The manual may even include visual pictures of how the seat should fit the child while in the seat.





Question number three brings us to washing, or caring for the seat.  This is a very important topic, because each seat may require different care.

Photo May 28, 10 58 52 AMFor one seat the cover may be machine washable, but another may be spot clean only.





Question four steers us into discussing the expiration on your seat.   Learning that your seat expires may be new information for some parents. However, every seat on the market does expire.  The dates may vary from 5-10 years and some seats that are combination seats might have different expiration dates on the harness and the booster portion.  The date of manufacture will likely not be in your manual, that will be found on your seat, but an explanation of how long the seat is good for will be within the pages of your manual.

Photo May 28, 10 37 46 AMWhen LATCH, or lower anchors and tethers for children was introduced in the early 00′s, it was supposed to make installing child restraints easier, however, that is not always the case.  There are weight limits that go along with the use of lower anchors.  In early 2014, new regulations were introduced limiting the use of lower anchors to 65 pounds when the child’s weight and the car seat’s weight are combined.  All of the changes to LATCH are explained in our LATCH change post, found here.  Photo May 28, 10 51 16 AM


That covers the top five questions that caregivers ask. The manual that comes with your car seat contains much more than that though.  Traveling?  You’ll need to know whether or not you can use your seat on the plane.  That can be found in the manual too!

Photo May 28, 10 39 29 AM

Going out in the cold? The manual addresses that as well. Telling caregivers to forgo the thick and bulky coats is not something that we make up to make life more difficult.
Photo May 28, 10 38 38 AM


Worried that your child doesn’t have head support or covers on the harness straps? Again, telling parents to forgo these items isn’t something technicians say for fun.  These directions come directly from the manufacturers.

Lost a part? The contact information for the maker of the seat is located within the manual as well!

Photo May 28, 10 51 44 AM


Technicians are here to help and to educate parents.  Car seats can be confusing and the manufacturers understand that.  They may even include information about finding a technician near you for assistance!

Photo May 28, 10 52 21 AM


What about your vehicle manual? The one that you got with your new car and has sat in your glove box collecting dust? That can also be full of useful information about installing car seats!

Not sure what to do with your car seat when you don’t have it secured or have a child in it? The manual will tell you.

Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 4.10.46 PM


Not sure how to lock the belt in your car? The manual will address that as well.

Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 4.11.30 PM


Don’t be afraid to employ your most powerful arsenal when installing your child’s seat. The manual is a wonderful thing!  If you find yourself miss your manual, don’t panic!  Most manuals can either be found online or can be obtained by calling the manufacturer.   Once you are in possession of this precious book of information, keep it in a place that is easily accessible, such as your vehicle glove compartment.







Graco 4Ever All-in-One Car Seat Review

When Graco announced their first 4-in-1, I was parts suspicious and parts intrigued.   In general, multi-mode child restraints tend to fall short in at least one mode.  It’s no small task to make a restraint suitable for a 4 lb newborn all the way up through an 80 lb 10 year old.  The expression ‘jack of all trades; master of none’ is apt when it comes to multi-mode seats.   But, when I learned that we would be receiving the 4Ever to review and fit with our safety training dolls, provided by Huggable Images, I resolved to keep an open mind.

CSFTL Quick Stats

Graco 4Ever

Graco 4Ever

  • Rear-facing: 4-40 lbs
  • Forward-facing: 20-65 lbs, <49″
  • Highback Booster: 30-100 lbs, 38-57″
  • Backless Booster: 40-120 lbs, 40-57″
  • 10 year expiration
  • Steel-reinforced frame
  • Lowest harness position: 6″ (with infant insert)
  • Highest harness position: 18″
  • Highest booster position: 19″
  • Two buckle slots, 4.5″ and 6.5″
  • push button lower anchor connectors
  • LATCH in booster mode
  • Hideaway harness for booster mode
  • No rethread harness



Little Assembly Required

Graco 4Ever cupholders

Graco 4Ever cupholders

The seat comes nearly completely assembled and ready to go for a newborn straight out of the box.  The one exception is the cupholders, which come separately, presumably to make a slightly more compact storage situation.   Directions for assembly of the cupholders can be found in the manual.


Overall Impression

The people at Graco clearly have listened to feedback about the Smart Seat, their last attempt at a multi-mode restraint, and put a great deal of thought into the design of this seat.   If I had to characterise it, I’d describe it as though a Snugride 30 Classic Connect, Size 4 Me and Argos all came together to make a smooth, sleek, and fabulous baby.

Graco 4Ever manuals

Graco 4Ever manuals

It comes with two separate manuals, in English and Spanish.

Graco 4Ever steel reinforced frame

Graco 4Ever steel reinforced frame

It boasts a ‘steel-reinforced frame’.  While we have no idea if this means it’s actually ‘safer’ we do know the trend in child restraint manufacturing is toward energy flow management, and not just retention in the car.

Graco 4Ever recline positions

Graco 4Ever recline positions

It has multiple recline positions.  The first three are for rear facing mode.   The second three are for forward facing.  Of those, the 4th MUST be used for a forward facing child between 20 and 40 lbs, and the 6th must be used in booster mode.    The recline glide is smooth, and simple to use

Graco 4Ever recline level

Graco 4Ever recline level


There are no restrictions on which of the first three positions must be used during rear facing, but the seat provides a recline angle indicator.  In general, for a newborn, you want the max recline available.    As they get older and develop neck control, you can move up to a more inclined position.

The harness should be positioned at or below the shoulders, and the buckle should be in the position nearest to but not under the child.  Either position may be used for either direction.

Graco 4Ever rear facing room

Graco 4Ever rear facing room

In rear facing mode, it is compact enough that it would work even in a small sedan.  Rear facing size can be problematic with any seat intended to fit a child all the way through seatbelt age;   Graco clearly took this into account, as size was problematic in the Smart Seat too.   As the head restraint extends for taller rear facing toddlers and preschoolers, it maintains its compact shape by going up rather than back.

Graco 4Ever harness rollers

Graco 4Ever harness rollers

The harness mechanism is a smooth pull, and does not require significant strength to tighten.  Graco used their ‘roller bar’ method at the rear of the seat to achieve the smooth pull.

Graco 4Ever lower anchor connector strap bar

Graco 4Ever lower anchor connector strap bar

While this seat has only one lower anchor strap, it has a unique system for moving the strap between belt paths.  I describe the method more thoroughly further down.

The belt paths are color coded and match the relevant pages for color in the manual.

Graco 4Ever underside

Graco 4Ever underside

The bottom of the seat is smooth and solid, designed to minimize the pressure marks that occasionally result on vehicle upholstery from a tightly installed seat.

Graco 4Ever manual storage slot

Graco 4Ever manual storage slot

A handy compartment is placed in the back for manual storage.

At its widest flare, the seat measures 19″.

Rear-facing (4-40 lbs)

The manual contains several references to the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that children under 2 should use a rear facing restraint.    NHSTA recommends that children inclusive 1-3 years continue to use a rear facing restraint as long as they fit by height and weight.   CSFTL echoes this recommendation.   40 lbs is an 80th percentile 4 year old.   This seat has a sufficiently tall rear facing shell that all children regardless of build can get to 40 lbs rear facing.

Graco 4Ever infant insert pad

Graco 4Ever infant insert pad

With the impressive insert (very firm, not plush), the bottom harness position is 6″ from the seatpan, and the buckle has a depth of 4″ from the seatback. The insert itself has a separate head and body support, with an adjustable elastic to attach the head support so that it can be raised as the baby gets taller.  The insert must be used if the baby’s shoulders do not reach the harness position in the lowest head rest position. It may not be used in the forward facing position. The body support may be used without the head rest, but the head rest cannot be used without the body support


Graco rates the seat from 4 lbs but as we all know, that doesn’t necessarily mean much.   I tried Jo in the seat, held my breath and…


Graco 4Ever preemie training doll

Graco 4Ever preemie training doll

Yes indeed, that’s a 4 lb preemie fitting correctly and snugly in the 4Ever, with the harness coming out from just at her shoulders.   Keep in mind that not all preemies are built the same, and just because it fits the Huggable Images preemie does not mean it will be suitable for all preemies.

The newborn, 1 year old and 3 year old all fit well, with plenty of room for legs and comfortable buckling.  The seat pan measures 12.5″ deep

Newborn, 1 year old, 3 year old, rear facing Graco 4Ever

Newborn, 1 year old, 3 year old, rear facing Graco 4Ever





Graco 4Ever rear facing 2 year old

Graco 4Ever rear facing 2 year old

This model is 25 months, 22 lbs and about 33″.    She seemed comfortable and had plenty of leg room. The seat allows for rear facing to within 1″ of the adjuster at the top, which allows for a seated height of 27″.


Graco 4Ever extended rear facing capacity

Graco 4Ever extended rear facing capacity

The model here exceeds the weight limit of the seat for rear facing by 6 lbs.  He is merely modeling it to show the rear facing capacity.  He is 47″ tall.

Graco 4Ever rear facing 3 year old

Graco 4Ever rear facing 3 year old

Installation itself was fairly straightforward.   Lower anchor connectors come out of the box set for rear facing installation.   Secure the lower anchor connectors to the vehicle, and tighten to less than 1″ of movement.   I did note that the lower anchor connector strap was unusually short.  I suspect Graco was trying to decrease the happenstance of installing a seat with the strap through the wrong belt path, but that’s only conjecture on my part.

Graco 4Ever seatbelt install access slot

Graco 4Ever seatbelt install access slot

For seatbelt installation, the connectors stow to bars forward of the belt path, and the seatbelt is placed through the rear facing belt path.  The belt path is an open design, which allows easy threading, no scraped knuckles, and quick access for tightening the shoulder belt. Here you can see the access slot in the seat pad.

Here I compare it with the Graco My Size, which is known for being compact.  The vehicle is a 2013 Grand Caravan.   At the most reclined angle, the 4Ever garners about 3″ of space to the front seats (moved all the way back), relative to the My Size’s 1″ of space.

Graco 4Ever rear facing room comparison with Graco My Size

Graco 4Ever rear facing room comparison with Graco My Size

Fully extended, the 4Ever continues to allow about 1.5″ of space.   I was unable to completely extend the My Size head rest at the fully reclined angle.  It struck the head restraint of the front passenger seat.

Forward-facing:  (20-65 lbs, <49″, >1 year)

The seat can be used forward facing with the five point harness for a child who is at least 1 year of age (CSFTL recommends rear facing to the maximum allowed by the child restraint ), between 20 and 65 lbs, and under 49″ tall.   The topmost harness position measures at 18″ with the seat pad compressed.

The seat must be used in the 4th, 5th, or 6th recline positions when forward facing.  If the occupant is under 40 lbs, it must be in the 4th position.

The harness should be positioned at or above the shoulders and the buckle should be in the position nearest to but not under the child.

The seat comes with the lower anchor connectors set in the rear facing position.   To move them to the forward facing belt path, loosen the harness and extend the head restraint, unsnap the cover, expose the seat, and slide the lower anchor connectors along the interior bar into the forward facing position.

Graco 4Ever converting lower anchor connector strap to forward facing mode

Graco 4Ever converting lower anchor connector strap to forward facing mode










This seat may only be installed with lower anchors for children weighing under 42 lbs.  If you max out the rear facing capacity, to save yourself a hassle, simply go straight to a seatbelt and tether installation when moving to forward facing.  If you have one of those mini 35 lb six year olds, though, lower anchors are an available option.

Graco 4Ever lower anchor 42 lb limit; always use the tether

Graco 4Ever lower anchor 42 lb limit; always use the tether

Regardless of how the seat is installed, always use the tether, located at the top of the seat.

Below is the 3 year old safety training doll, installed at the required recline for an under 40 lb child.  As you can see, it’s quite reclined, and a bit awkward appearing.

Graco 4Ever forward facing install for child under 40 lbs

Graco 4Ever forward facing install for child under 40 lbs

However, the Grand Caravan has very sloped seats; in vehicles with more level seats, the restraint may install more easily at the 4th recline level.

Graco 4Ever forward facing harness 6 year old

Graco 4Ever forward facing harness 6 year old

To install the seat forward facing for a child weighing between 20 and 65 lbs, using the seatbelt, store the lower anchor connectors in the provided bars for the forward facing position and insert the seatbelt through the belt path.  Always use the tether.
Children from 40-65 lbs may be in recline positions 4-6.   The seat fit the six year old safety training doll with about a half inch of growing room in the torso.  The live model is 6 years, 10 months, about 46 lbs and 47″.    He fit at the tallest harness position of 18″.



Graco 4Ever secured tether

Graco 4Ever secured tether

We mentioned the tether, right?  Always use it!   Graco clearly states a 42 lb limit for the lower anchors in the manual, but requires the tether be used with either installation.   There is no option for installing the 4Ever without it.







High-Back Booster: (30-100 lbs, 38-57″, >3 years of age)

NHTSA recommends that children ages 1-3 continue to rear face as long as they fit by height and weight, and then use a forward facing 5 point harness.   Children from 4-7 should continue to use their 5 point harness as long as they fit by height and weight, and then move to a belt positioning booster.   3 year olds do not ever belong in high back boosters.  We encourage Graco to update this misguided low-end minimum on a seat that can certainly accommodate older children in the harness.

Once the child outgrows the harness, the height capacity of the shoulder belt adjuster (19″) should give the child another year or so in the high back booster.   Graco devised a nifty system for harness storage in booster mode.  The harness is never removed from the seat.  Instead, it is tucked away in a little door behind the seat pad, guaranteeing that you don’t accidentally lose it.    Extend the head restraint, expose the seatback, and open the door.

Graco 4Ever storing harness for booster conversion

Graco 4Ever storing harness for booster conversion

Buckle the retainer clip together but leave the buckle tongues unbuckled.   Secure the harness pads, retainer clip and buckle tongues in the compartment behind the door and shut it.   Store the buckle itself in the compartment provided in the seat bottom.  The base must be set in the 6th recline mode for booster use.

Graco permits use of lower anchors and tether when using the seat in booster mode.  As always, if you choose not to use this feature, be sure to buckle the booster in when not occupied, to prevent it from moving unhindered through the cabin in an accident.

Graco 4Ever high back booster mode 6 year old

Graco 4Ever high back booster mode 6 year old

The booster mode fit both our 6 year old safety training doll, and our 6 year old not-doll well.  The lap belt lies low on the lap, where it belongs, the belt moves freely through the shoulder guide and rests comfortably and correctly across the chest.
It should be noted that just because the seat claims a 57″ maximum in high back mode does not mean a child of that height will fit that way.  Featured here are our 57″ safety training doll and a real live 8 year old of about 53″ and 65 lbs.   You can see that their shoulders far exceed the top booster position.

Graco 4Ever outgrown high back booster 8 year olds

Graco 4Ever outgrown high back booster 8 year olds






Backless Booster: (40-120 lbs, 40-57″, >4 years of age)

In addition to continuing to use a harness to its capacity, CSFTL recommends backless boosters for older children who have outgrown their high backs, and do not need the support of a back to remind them to sit correctly, even when sleeping.     Of course, you must have vehicle head support to use a backless booster.

Graco 4Ever converting to backless booster mode

Graco 4Ever converting to backless booster mode

To change the seat from high back booster mode to backless, detach the harness from the splitter plate behind the seat.   Expose the seat under the pad, locate the two red tabs, rotate them upward, and then push them in together.   Then simply lift the entire back off the bottom, harness and all, move the red tabs to their original position, and replace the seat pad.  The splitter plate can be stored, and the pad now has two additional elastic tabs to secure it to the base.  Tuck the remaining end behind the seat when in use.

The interior of the seat sports a 15″ seat pan.  It has 14″ of interior hip room.

Graco 4Ever backless booster mode 6 year old

Graco 4Ever backless booster mode 6 year old

The backless booster has no LATCH option, so remember to buckle it in when not in use.     For younger children, use the provided belt guide to correctly place the shoulder belt.  For older children, the shoulder belt will likely fall in place on its own.



Graco 4Ever; too tall at 4'10"

Graco 4Ever; too tall at 4’10″

The final model is 4’10″, 80 lbs, and almost 10 years old.  Despite his size, he still needs a booster to correctly fit the belt in this car.   While he exceeds the stated height limit, we tried him in it to see what would happen.  You’ll notice that the shoulder belt is nearly slipping off his shoulder, and he complained that his head was near hitting the ceiling.   A child of this size would be better suited to a lower profile seat.





Final Thoughts:

CSFTL can give this seat a hearty and non-conditional thumbs up.   It is easy to use, well designed, solid in feel, designed to be compatible in many vehicles, and will truly span a significant age rage, from preemie on up.

I will offer the caution that unless you have a giant, off the charts child (like my 9 year old above), this cannot be the only seat you’ll need. Children generally need boosters until they are around 4’9″-5′, the size of a 10-12 year old.   As the seat expires in 10 years, it will expire before most children are ready to ride in a seatbelt alone.

At 299.99, this is not a budget purchase.  However, if you divide the cost over 10 years, and you reasonably could use the seat over a 10 year period, you’re looking at a cost of 2.50 a month, which might make it seem a little more palatable.   If you’re a family on a budget and simply cannot afford to spend quite that much at one time, this may not be the restraint for you.

For a family who needs to transport different sized children, (for example, those who provide foster care, or child-minder services), this seat could cover all potential possibilities.   For a family who wants to not think about car seats again for the next 10 years?   This absolutely could fill that need.

Graco graciously provided this restraint to Car Seats for the Littles for a full review, but opinions, as always, are entirely our own.