Diono Cambria and Solana Review

The Diono Cambria is the newest booster seat from Diono. Many CSFTL Littles have been fans of the Diono Monterey for some time now; so we were excited to give the Cambria a try!

Diono Cambria high back mode

Diono Cambria high back mode

CSFTL Quick Stats

  • High-back booster weight range: 40-120 lbs
  • High-back booster height range: 38-63″
  • Backless booster weight range: 40-120 lbs
  • Backless booster height range: 38-63″
  • Highest booster guide position: 20″
  • Expiration: 10 years 

Features

  • Flexible lower anchor connectors
  • Retractable cupholders
  • Recline setting
  • Requires head support at all times

 

High-Back Mode

  • High-back booster weight range: 40-120 lbs
  • High-back booster height range: 38-63″
Diono Cambria high back mode

Diono Cambria high back mode

The Cambria is rated for children 4-12 years old, 40 – 120 lbs, 38 – 63″. CSFTL recommends utilizing a 5 point harness until your child has outgrown it and is at least 5 years old. Read more here about whether a booster seat is the right choice for your Little. The highest belt guide setting on the Cambria measures 20″ tall, making it a great, long-lasting choice. However, this seat requires head support to the top of the child’s ears at all times. Once the child’s ears go over the vehicle support, this seat is outgrown.

To use the Cambria in high-back mode, place on the vehicle seat, thread the shoulder belt through the belt guide and the lap belt under the armrests and buckle. Diono recommends the booster sit flush with the back and bottom of the vehicle seat. The high back has a slight recline setting that can be used by pushing the backrest back until it clicks. The Cambria is equipped with lower anchor connectors that can be used if lower anchors are available in the vehicle. Unlike with harnessed seats, there are no weight limits, so can be used the full weight of the booster. Simply connect the anchors and pull the straps on the front of the seat to tighten them.

 

Backless Mode

  • Backless booster weight range: 40-120 lbs
  • Backless booster height range: 38-63″
Diono Cambria/Solana backless mode

Diono Cambria/Solana backless mode

 

Once the child’s ears are above the top belt guide of the Cambria, they are too tall to use the high back mode. The Cambria’s back can then be removed, and used until the child reaches 120 lbs, 63″ or passes the 5 step test and is ready to ride without a booster. To remove the back, lay the back flat and lift the arms out of the hinges. This installation as well requires support to the top of the child’s ears. The same installation instructions apply to the Cambri in backless mode and the Solana as above. You will use the seat belt and can use the lower anchors if available.

 

Removing the Cambria backrest.

Removing the Cambria backrest.

 

 

The Cambria includes a flexible shoulder belt positioning strap for use in backless mode should the child need it to help properly position the shoulder belt.

 

Fit to Child

5 Year Old, 40 lbs, 40.5″

40.5", 40lb 5 year old in the Diono Cambria

Diono Cambria: 5 years old, 40 lbs and 40.5″

This child is very small for her age, closer to a four-year old by height and weight. She does meet the minimums for using the Cambria, and gets a good belt fit when using the headrest in the bottom setting. The belt sits across her chest and on her lap. The Cambria is very generous with interior room and she’s very little, so it can look like the seat is “swallowing her up” but she said she feels comfortable and is happy to use the seat.  She can buckle herself without much trouble and is able to adjust the belt properly so that it is snug and fits her correctly. When using the seat in backless mode, she does not get a good shoulder belt fit without using the belt adjuster strap. Since the Cambria comes with that strap attached (and hidden under the cover on the bottom) that would definitely be recommended for smaller children. While there is no safety difference between using the back and not using the back as long as the child can get a good fit, I would probably recommend using the back for a younger booster rider, because generally he or she will need that extra support from the sides.

 

6 Year Old, 43 lbs, 47″

6 years old, 43 lbs and 47"

Diono Cambria: 6 years old, 43 lbs and 47″

This child carries most of his height in his legs, and is only on the first headrest setting. The Cambria gives him an excellent seat belt fit: placing the lap belt low on his hips, touching the tops of his thighs and the shoulder belt even across his collarbone and flush with his torso. He is very happy riding in the Cambria, the vertical spacing of the armrests makes it very easy for him to buckle himself, and the generous shoulder belt guide allows the belt to slide freely through as he buckles.

Diono Cambria head support

Diono Cambria head support

The Cambria has ample head and torso support, which makes for a comfortable ride whether he is awake or asleep.

7 Year Old, 48 lbs, 49.5″

7 year old, happily using the Diono Cambria in high back booster mode

Diono Cambria: 7 years old, 48 lbs and 49.5″

 

This child is a taller seven-year old and carries most of his height in his torso. Even so, he is not using the top “click” of the headrest, and would have lots of room to grow using the seat in highback mode. He, too, can easily buckle himself and really loves that he does not have to buckle the seat during drop off at school in the mornings. He has some sensory issues and enclosed spaces make him uncomfortable, but the wide Cambria affords him lots of space and also a good bit of support for when he feels sleepy.  In backless mode, he gets a good fit without the shoulder adjuster strap, but seems to prefer using it. Belt fit can vary in different vehicles, so it is good to know that the shoulder belt adjuster strap has a convenient storage spot, and can be stowed or used easily.

9 Year old, 58 lbs, 52″

Diono Solana: 9 years old, 58 pounds, 52 inches tall

Diono Solana: 9 years old, 58 pounds, 52 inches tall

This model finds the Solana very comfortable.  It offers an excellent belt fit — the shoulder belt hits her right across the middle of her shoulder and the lap belt sits across her upper thighs.  The seat itself is a bit wide so she needs to move the Solana over a bit when to access the buckle stalk when she’s getting into the seat.  She’s a big fan of the cupholders.

Diono Solana: 9 Year Old, 115 lbs, 52"

Diono Cambria/Solana: 9 Year Old, 115 lbs, 52″

9 Year Old, 115 lbs, 52″

This child is right at the limits of using the backless portion of the Cambria.  This is actually the Solana backless booster that is sold separately from the Cambria.  We’ve had a difficult time finding a booster to fit him and the Solana is doing a decent job at it.  It’s nice and wide for his wider hips, but the belt fit tends to fit somewhat low on his thighs.  He likes how deep and wide the seating area is and the cupholders are a bonus.  We also both love the lower anchor connectors so he doesn’t have to buckle it in after every ride.

Diono Solana Cambria fuzzy

Diono Solana fuzzy

 

One thing we’ve noticed after a month or so of use is that the cover tends to come off the front and slide up the booster.  The cover has since started getting ‘fuzzy’ on that corner from the repeated sliding on it.  After contacting Diono, they replaced the entire Solana seat for me.  They stated it wasn’t a safety concern, but was still under warranty.

 

 

 

Unique Features

Diono Cambria lower anchor connectors

Diono Cambria/Solana lower anchor connectors

Lower Anchor Connectors

The Cambria features flexible lower anchor connectors which help secure the booster seat when not in use, and also make it a little more stable for the child to climb in and out and buckle themselves. To extend the strap, push the button just above the front of the strap and pull the connector from the back. Attach each connector to the vehicle’s lower anchors, then pull from the front to tighten. The lower anchor connectors are upside down from the traditional direction that lower anchor connectors typically face. Because the lower anchors are only holding the booster seat and the seat belt is restraining the child, it’s fine to hook them upside down. If use of the lower anchors interferes with buckling the seat belt, do not use them.

 

 

 

Diono Cambria padding/cover

Diono Cambria padding/cover

 

Padding/Cover

The Cambria has EPE foam in the headrest and torso area to aid in side impact protection. There is also a small layer of comfort foam in the seating area to provide a comfortable ride for the child. The cover is easily removable and the manual recommends hand washing and air drying to clean.

The models featured in this review are the Shadow and Sunburst fashion, it is also available in Raspberry and Graphite.

 

 

 

Diono Cambria retractable cup holders

Diono Cambria retractable cup holders

 

Retractable Cup Holders

The Cambria has cup holders on either side, each side has a circular compartment for a cup and a smaller, rectangular component for a snack or other item. They retract nicely into the base when not in use or to save space in the vehicle. The only problem that we have run into is they retract easily, so it can be cumbersome to get buckled if there is a cup in the cup holder and it is bumped in a way that makes the cup holder try to retract.

 

 

 

Diono Cambria manual storage

Diono Cambria manual storage

 

 

Manual Storage

The manual is a bit hidden, it took me some searching to find upon initial receipt of the Cambria. When looking at the back of the backrest, there is a small sleeve on the left side where it tucks away.

 

 

 

 

Diono Solana

Diono Solana

Solana

The Diono Solana is the backless version of the Cambria — it’s sold separately without the back.  It is exactly the same as using the Cambria backless.  So if you are only in need of the backless portion and don’t need the high back option, the Solana is the way to go.  For information on Fit to Child, please the information above on Fit to Child: Backless booster portion.

 

 

 

 

Important Information: Where to find

Diono Cambria Solana Date of manufacture expiration

Diono Cambria/Solana Date of Manufacture and Expiration

 

Expiration: The date of manufacture can be found on the very bottom of the booster and the manual states on page 2 to not use the seat after 10 years.

FAA Approval: As with all booster seats, the Diono Cambria and Solana are not FAA approved due to airplanes only having lap only belts according to the car seat manual.Diono Cambria Solana FAA

Overall Thoughts

The Diono Cambria is a long-lasting booster seat with great ease of use and comfort features. It is a great option for children who have outgrown their 5 point harness and are ready to move into a booster seat. It can be found for under $100 on Amazon.com, making it an excellent value as well.

The Diono Solana is also a great long-lasting backless booster option.  It fits larger children well and is a great option for children not quite ready for the adult belt alone.  It can be found for under $50 on Amazon.com, also making it a great value for a backless booster option.

Diono has been gracious enough to allow two of our readers to win a Diono Cambria for themselves.  CSFTL will be giving away a Diono Cambria to both a United States AND a Canadian reader!!

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 8.10.12 AM

 

When entering using the Rafflecopter widget below, US residents must enter using the 1st ‘page’ of the widget and the Canadian residents must click the button under the photo of the Cambria to be taken to your entry.  Please be sure to enter using the correct entry form.

 

 

Diono provided the Shadow Cambria used in this review, CSFTL was not otherwise compensated and opinions, as always, are all our own.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Car Seat Basics

Whether you’re a brand new parent or have a minivan full of Littles, it can never hurt to review the basics of car seat safety. Take a few moments to check all of these in regards to your child’s car seat – it might just save their life.

 

harness height

Harness should be at or above for forward facing and at or below for rear facing

Are the straps at the correct height?

When using a 5 point harness, the straps should be positioned at or below the child’s shoulders for rear facing; at or above the child’s shoulders for forward facing.

 

 

 

 

 

Chest Clip

Chest clip needs to be positioned over the child’s sternum

 

Is the chest clip positioned properly?

The chest clip is designed to keep the straps in position over the torso before a crash happens. It must be placed on child’s sternum, at his nipple or armpit level.

 

 

 

 

 

pinch test

Harness must always pass the pinch test

 

Are the straps tight enough?

Do the pinch test: pinch the straps vertically at the collar bone. If you can grab excess slack between your fingers and pinch it, the straps are too loose.

 

 

 

 

 

belt path

Check for less than 1 inch of movement side to side at the belt path

Is the seat installed tightly?

Your car seat should be installed so that there is less than 1″ movement side to side, and front to back when grasping at the belt path. That means where the seat belt or lower anchor connector strap feeds through the car seat. That is the only place you need to test for movement, not the top of the car seat.

 

 

 

 

 

FF_tether

Tether should be used for all forward facing car seats

Is the tether attached?

When installing a forward facing harnessed car seat, always use a tether if one is available. The tether reduces forward movement for  the child’s head and neck up to 6″ in a crash; so reconfigure seats if necessary so all forward facing kids are in a vehicle seat with a tether anchor.

 

 

 

 

 

4Steps

Is your child in the right stage of seat?

Is your child in the right stage for their age?

Kids should ride rear facing until a minimum of age 2, ideally 3-4 years old; forward facing in a 5 point harness until 5+ years old, and in a booster seat until 10-12 years old.

 

 

 

 

 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

All seats have expiration dates anywhere from 4-12 years after they were manufactured

Have you checked the date?

Car seats expire anywhere from 4-12 years from the time they were manufactured. This time frame varies depending on the manufacturer, but plastics break down over time and an expired car seat may not protect your child adequately in a crash. Read more about car seat expiration here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

954622_640140642773730_6883855107166495865_n

Nothing bulky should go under the harness, even in winter

 

Have you removed coats before buckling?

Bulky coats put extra space between the child and the harness which will compress immediately in a crash and mean more distance the child’s body moves before coming to a stop. Remove coats before buckling up, they can be worn backwards over the harness, or use blankets in the car instead. Read more about safe winter options for the car here. 

 

 

 

 

crash

Many seats should be replaced after a crash, even a minor one

Have you been in a crash?

Chances are, even if the crash was minor, and even if the children were not in the car, the car seat(s) may need replacing. Check your car seat manual to determine the rules for your seat. You can find more information about accidents and replacing your seat(s) here. 

 

 

 

 

 

10408644_628072307313897_431352525940163836_n

Reading the manual for your car seat is a very important step

Have you read the manual?

We know, we know. The manual is long, it’s boring, it’s full of warnings…. but we promise, this manual is one you must read. Your car seat’s manual holds the keys to making sure your child is as safe as they can be in your vehicle. It’s worth the read. If you have misplaced your manual, contact the car seat manufacturer for a replacement right away.

 

 

 

These are just a few important items to note when selecting and installing the correct seat and harnessing your child in that seat. CSFTL always recommends reading the car seat and vehicle manual prior to using any seat, and visiting a CPST in person whenever your child is moving to a new seat, a new vehicle, or the next stage.

Child Passenger Safety Dictionary

 

Whatever the reason for your interest in child passenger safety, there are many terms that you’ve likely never heard before, and will only hear when you’re talking about child passenger safety. Car Seats for the Littles wanted to compile a resource to help understand this secret language. This is definitely not exhaustive, but it is a good start.

Jump to a letter.   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A

AMP-snuzzlerAfter Market Products (AMPs): 

The technical term for these products is “non regulated products”- which means they are not regulated by any Federal Motor Vehicle Safety standard. Non regulated products are anything added to a car seat that did not come with the seat and has thus have not been crash tested with the seat; including head and body supports, harness strap covers, seat covers, toys, and many other items.

Additional information: Non regulated products

 

 

 

 

 

Diono Rainier Angle AdjusterAngle adjuster

This is a product specific to Diono convertible child restraints to position them at a more upright angle for older children and can add up to 4” more room behind the front seats for more front leg room.

Additional information: Diono Rainier Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Automatic Locking Retractor (ALR): A seat belt retractor that locks automatically. Pull out any length of webbing and the retractor will remain in a pre-crash locked mode.

Video courtesy of CPS Board-  Watch on YouTube.

Additional information: Lock it up! How to Lock a Seat Belt for Car Seat Installation

 

 

Boulevard-w-ARBAnti-rebound bar (ARB)

An ARB stabilizes a rear facing child restraint by limiting rotational forces back towards the vehicle seat that is associated with front and rear collisions.

 

 

 

 

 

B

Graco_AffixEmmaBacklessBackless booster

A belt positioning booster seat that does not have a back.

Additional information: Proper Booster Fit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OobrBelt Guide

The portion of a high back booster that the shoulder belt routes through.

Additional Information: Proper Booster Fit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

belt pathBelt Path

The part of a car seat where the seat belt or lower anchor strap routes through to secure the car seat to the vehicle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cambria_6yrBelt Positioning Booster

A child restraint that is used to position the adult seat belt over a child’s body.

Additional Information: Booster Seats: the Science Junkie’s Guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Belt Shortening Clip

A belt shortening clip looks similar to a locking clip, but is significantly heavier. A belt shortening clip can be used when there is a lap belt with a sewn on latch plate that has an emergency locking retractor. The belt shortening clip must be purchased from the vehicle manufacturer, it does not come with the car seat and a locking clip may NOT be used as a substitute.

Additional Information: Lock it up! How to Lock a Seat Belt for Car Seat Installation

 

 

AtonBorrowing

This is a term used to describe the installation of a car seat in a center seating position that does not have dedicated lower anchors, thus, “borrowing” one lower anchor from each outboard seat. Both the car seat manufacturer and vehicle manufacturer need to approve this type of installation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bracingBracing

When a rear facing car seat is putting pressure on the vehicle seat in front of it.  Most vehicle manufacturers and car seat manufacturers do not allow this type of installation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AdvocateCTBritax

Car seat manufacturer: http://www.britaxusa.com/

Customer service contact: 1-888-427-4829

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bubble bumBubble Bum

Booster seat manufacturer: http://www.bubblebum.co/us/

Customer service contact: 1-800-969-6586

Additional Information: CSFTL Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Headwise_buckleBuckle, car seat

The part of a car seat that connects the crotch and hip straps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

buckleBuckle, seat belt

The part of a seat belt that accepts the latchplate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

stalkBuckle Stalk

The webbing portion where the buckle anchors into the vehicle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

C

Car beds

Car Bed

A special needs child restraint for infants with a medical need requiring them to ride in a prone or supine position.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continuous Harness 2Continuous Harness

A harness that is one large loop, allowing all the slack to be pulled out from one strap at a time.

Additional Information: Help! One of my car seat straps is tighter than the other!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chest ClipChest Clip

The chest clip, also called a retainer clip, helps position the harness straps parallel across the child’s chest. It should be placed at the armpit or nipple level.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicco Keyfit 30Chicco

Car seat manufacturer pronounced kee-ko

http://www.chiccousa.com/

Customer service: 1-877-424-4226

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coccoro RFCombi

Car seat manufacturer, pronounced com-bee.

http://www.combiusa.com/

Customer service: 1.800.992.6624

Additional information: CSFTL Coccoro Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Graco Nautilus

Graco Nautilus

Combination Seat

A forward facing only child restraint that can be used as a 5 point harness or a belt positioning booster.

Additional Information: CSFTL Recommended Combination Seats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

School Bus

Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

Compartmentalization

The type of occupant protection utilized in school buses.

Additional information from NHTSA: School Bus Crashworthiness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 with TinyFitConvertible Seat

A child restraint that converts from rear facing to forward facing.

Additional information: CSFTL Recommended Convertible Seats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cybex_FeaturedImageCybex

Car seat manufacturer pronounced sigh-bex

http://www.regallager.com/cybex/

Customer service: 800-593-5522

 

 

 

 

 

 

D

Diono Rainier featured imageDiono

Car seat manufacturer pronounced dee-oh-no

http://us.diono.com/

Customer service: 1.855.GO.DIONO

 

 

 

 

 

 

E

Emergency locking retractor (ELR)

A seat belt retractor that only locks in an emergency.

Video courtesy of CPS Board-  Watch on YouTube.

Additional information: Lock it up! How to Lock a Seat Belt for Car Seat Installation

 

 

 

Cosco Scenera NEXT expirationExpiration date

The date after which a car seat is no longer safe to be used.

Additional Information: Car Seats, Why Do They Expire?

 

 

 

 

 

F

5pt harnessFive point harness

A harness with five attachment points: two at the shoulder, two at the hips, and one between the legs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

577471_10151577995014362_1937491432_nFive step test

The steps to check for a child to ride in a seat belt alone, without a booster.

Additional information: CSFTL 5 Step Test

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advance Air Forward FacingForward Facing

A car seat that faces forward in a vehicle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

H

harnessHarness

The part of a car seat that restrains the child.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

harness adjustHarness Adjuster 

The part that loosens or tightens a car seat harness. May be found on the front or the rear of the car seat.

 

 

 

 

GoandGrowlowestslotsHarness slots

The part of the car seat where the harness feeds through.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

head restraintHead restraint

The portion of a vehicle seat that supports the head in a crash.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diono_LittleTikesEmmaHigh back booster

A child restraint with a back that positions the adult seat belt on a child’s body.

Additional information: Proper Booster Fit; CSFTL Recommended High Back Boosters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L

lower anchor connectorLATCH

Lower Anchors and Tether for CHildren. All passenger vehicles and child seats manufactured after September 1, 2002, are federally mandated to have anchors for attaching the child seat directly to the vehicle rather than securing the child seat with the seat belt.

Additional information: LATCH: What’s the Deal with Weight Limits?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

latchplateLatchplate

The part of the seat belt that connects into the buckle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LockingClipSmooshLocking Clip

An H-shaped metal clip that comes with most car seats to lock a seat belt for car seat installation.

Additional Information: Lock it up! How to Lock a Seat Belt for Car Seat Installation. 

 

 

 

 

 

LockingLatchplateSmooshLocking Latchplate

A latchplate with a locking mechanism designed to lock the seat belt for car seat installation.

Additional Information: Lock it up! How to Lock a Seat Belt for Car Seat Installation. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Argos80LockOffLock off

A clamp on the car seat designed to lock the seat belt for car seat installation.

Additional Information: Lock it up! How to Lock a Seat Belt for Car Seat Installation. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Graco_AffixLowerAnchorLower anchor connector, clip style

The part of a car seat that connects to a vehicle’s lower anchors. This style clips on to the vehicle anchors and are attached to the car seat with a flexible webbing strap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lower AnchorLower anchor connector, push on

The part of a car seat that connects to a vehicle’s lower anchors. This style pushes on to the vehicle anchors and are attached to the car seat with a flexible webbing strap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

rigid foonfLower anchor connector, rigid

The part of a car seat that connects to a vehicle’s lower anchors. This style pushes on to the vehicle anchors and is attached to the car seat with rigid bars, rather than a flexible webbing strap.

 

 

 

 

M

Graco Milestone

Multi-Mode

A child restraint that converts from rear facing, forward facing, and belt positioning booster. Also called 3-in-1, 4-in-1, or all-in-1.

Additional Information: CSFTL Recommended Multi-mode Seats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

N

rethread vs no rethread collageNo re-thread harness

A harness that can be adjusted in height without unhooking the straps from the splitter plate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NoggleNoggle

Flexible tubing that attaches to a vehicle’s air vent and extends heat or air conditioning to the rear seats.

Additional information: CSFTL Noggle Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AMP-snuzzler

Non Regulated Products: 

Sometimes referred to as “aftermarket” products. Non regulated products are anything added to a car seat that did not come with the seat and has thus have not been crash tested with the seat; including head and body supports, harness strap covers, seat covers, toys, and many other items. They are not regulated by any Federal Motor Vehicle Safety standard.

Additional information: Non regulated products

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

O

PerformanceCoupe_overhangOverhang

The amount of a car seat that hangs over the edge of a vehicle seat. Generally acceptable overhang is 20% of the car seat, however this can vary by car seat manufacturer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

overlapping seat beltsOverlapping seat belts

Seat belts that overlap into the next seating position when in use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P

The Pinch Test: if  you can grab the webbing and pinch it between your fingers, the harness is too loose. Fingers should slide right off when properly tightened.

Pinch test

Test to determine if harness straps are tight enough. Pinch the webbing at the child’s collar bone, if excess slack can be gathered between fingertips, the harness is too loose. Fingers should slide right off a properly tightened harness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scenera NoodlePool noodle

Some car seats allow the use of a pool noodle in the seat bight to achieve the correct recline. A tightly rolled towel can often be used for the same function.

Related information: Noodleless Install

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coccoro Puzzle BucklePuzzle buckle

A buckle that has tongues that must be puzzled together and inserted together into the buckle, they cannot be inserted independently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

R

FoonfRear Facing

A car seat that faces the rear of the vehicle.

Additional Information: Why Rear Facing, the Science Junkie’s Guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LIghtNComf_LAInstallRear Facing Only Seat

A child restraint with no forward facing capability, often has a handle and a detachable base and is commonly referred to as an “infant” or “bucket” seat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diono Rainier rear face tetherRear Facing Tether

Using the tether with a rear facing convertible car seat. Only a few car seats allow this practice, and the vehicle manufacturer must allow it as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Graco MySize Recline Handle

Recline Adjuster

Mechanism that adjusts the recline positions of a car seat. May be a handle that allows the seat to slide along a base, a foot that flips forward or rearward, or a physical block or boot that attaches to the seat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Graco MySize Recline Angle Indicator

Recline Indicator

The part of a car seat that indicates at what angle it should be installed. May be in the form of a line, bubble, dial, or other display.

 

 

 

 

 

 

retractorRetractor

The part of a seat belt system that gathers the webbing, typically hidden inside the body panel of the vehicle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 year old small RSTV

Ride Safer Travel Vest

Wearable belt positioning booster manufactured by Safe Traffic Systems.

Additional Information: CSFTL Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

S

seat bightSeat Bight

The “crease” of the vehicle seat where the back meets the bottom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Graco Nautilus splitter plate

Splitter Plate

The metal piece where the harness straps connect to the adjuster strap on the back of a car seat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pipa Stability Leg CollageStability Leg

Also called a load leg or foot prop, this part extends from the front of a rear facing only car seat to the floor and aids in rebound management in a crash.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

T

FF_tetherTether

Part of the LATCH system, the tether connects the upper part of a forward facing car seat to an anchor in the vehicle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tetherTether Anchor

The vehicle anchor for the car seat’s tether strap. May be located in the rear deck, ceiling, cargo area, or seat back, refer to the vehicle owner’s manual for details.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Graco Head Wise Review

Graco has several convertible seats often referred to as “the clones” because of their similarities and many names. This review covers the Head Wise, which features Graco’s Safety Surround protection.

 

Graco Headwise rear facing

Graco Head Wise rear facing

CSFTL Quick Stats:

  • Rear facing weight range: 4-40 lbs
  • Rear facing height range: 1″ from the top of the red handle
  • Forward facing weight range: 20-65 lbs
  • Forward facing height range: 49″
  • Shell height: 28″ (headrest fully extended)
  • Lowest harness position: 7″ (with insert)
  • Highest harness position: 17.5″
  • Expiration: 7 years
  • Lower anchor weight limit: 42 lbs (seats made after 2/2014) or 45 lbs (seats made after 2/2015).

Features:

  • No re-thread harness
  • Infant insert
  • Push button lower anchor connectors
  • Separate lower anchor strap for rear & forward facing
  • Forward facing recline option (for children under 40 lbs)
  • Two crotch buckle positions
  • Integrated cupholder

Installation

Rear Facing

Graco Headwise rear facing

Graco Head Wise rear facing

All of the labels on the Head Wise with rear facing information are blue, which helps greatly in identifying which components can be used rear or forward facing. First, adjust the recline to the rear facing position by squeezing the red handle on the front of the seat and sliding the base until the arrow is pointing at the blue rear facing label. There are dedicated lower anchor connector straps that are pre-threaded in the rear and forward facing belt paths, if installing using lower anchors, simply detach the lower anchor connectors from their storage clips and attach them onto the vehicle lower anchors. The Head Wise can only be installed in dedicated lower anchor positions with standard 11″ spacing, borrowing is not allowed. If installing using the seat belt, there is no need to move the lower anchor connector strap, just thread the seat belt into the rear facing belt path. There is not a lock-off device, so be sure to engage the seat belt’s locking function. The Head Wise features a ball level indicator with two zones: one for babies 0-3 months, and another for children over 3 months. Verify that the seat is correctly reclined, and then tighten the lower anchor connector strap or seat belt. The Head Wise has a nice slit in the cover above the belt path opening for easy access to the lower anchor connector strap or seat belt, which gives a great leverage point for tightening the seat. It is shown here in a 1998 Honda CRV, where it fit nicely behind the passenger seat with room for an adult to sit comfortably in front of it.

Forward Facing

Graco Headwise forward facing

Graco Head Wise forward facing

To contrast the blue rear facing labels, the Head Wise offers forward facing information highlighted in orange. There are two recline positions that can be used when installing forward facing; the more reclined setting can be used for children 20-40 lbs, however the most upright setting must be used for children over 40 lbs. There is a separate lower anchor connector strap for forward facing, so there is no need to move the strap between belt paths when switching to forward facing. If your Head Wise was manufactured after February 2014, it will have a label stating a 42 lb weight limit for lower anchor installation, and after February 2015, that limit increased to 45 lbs. If your Head Wise was manufactured prior to this labeling requirement, you need to check with your vehicle manufacturer to determine the limit for using lower anchors. The Head Wise weighs 20.3 lbs for purposes of calculating lower anchor weight limits, if necessary. Read more about lower anchor weight limits in our article here. Whether installing with lower anchors or seat belt, always use the tether when installing the Head Wise forward facing.

 

Fit to Child

Rear Facing:

Rear facing weight range: 4-40 lbs

Rear facing height range: Head 1″ from the red adjuster handle when the headrest is adjusted to the highest position and straps must be at or below the shoulders.

Graco Headwise- 7 lbs., 17 inches

Graco Head Wise- 7 lbs., 17 inches

Newborn

Fiona is 7 lbs and 17″ and fits nicely in the Head Wise with the infant insert. The Head Wise bottom harness position measures 7″ with the insert, so it is a good fit for the average size newborn but is not likely to fit small newborns or preemies, despite the 4 lb minimum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Graco Headwise- 7 months, 15 lbs., 26 inches

Graco Head Wise- 7 months, 15 lbs., 26 inches

Infant

Our infant is 7 months old, 15 lbs and 26″. She is using the inner crotch buckle position and the second harness position. It’s very easy to get her in and out of the seat, the only difficulty we have had with the Head Wise is that she is about halfway between the second and third settings, so the second setting puts the harness a ways below her shoulders. This sometimes makes it a bit awkward to get the harness around her when getting buckled.

 

 

Graco Headwise- 15 months, 21 lbs., 29 inches

Graco Head Wise- 15 months, 21 lbs., 29 inches

Toddler

At 15 months, 21 lbs and 29″, the Head Wise is still a great fit. She appreciates stashing soft toys in the integrated cup holder, but frequently gets upset because she can’t reach the bottom of the cupholder to retrieve them. Toddler problems!

 

 

 

 

Graco Headwise- 2.5 years, 26 lbs., 36 inches

Graco Head Wise- 2.5 years, 26 lbs., 36 inches

 

Our second toddler is a bit older, 2.5 years old, 26 lbs and 36″. She also has a great fit in the Head Wise and will remain rear facing for a couple more years as she has lots of room to grow.

 

 

 

Graco Headwise- 5.5 years, 42 lbs., 43 inches

Graco Head Wise- 5 years, 42 lbs., 43 inches

Big Kid

Our big kid is 5 years old, 42 lbs and 43″ tall. He is over the rear facing weight limit so he would not ride in the Head Wise, however he is sitting in the seat to demonstrate the fit for older children who may ride rear facing. He is still a long ways away from outgrowing the Head Wise by height, with no stated height limit for rear facing and a 28″ tall shell, almost all children will reach the 40 lb weight limit before ever coming close to outgrowing it by weight. This is great news for parents of tall children! He was able to sit comfortably cross-legged, another great plus!

 

 

Forward Facing:

Forward facing weight range: 20-65 lbs

Forward facing height range: 49″ with 17.5″ top harness position. Straps must be at or above the shoulders and ears must be below the top of the head support.

Graco Headwise- 5.5 years, 41 lbs., 42 inches

Graco Head Wise- 5.5 years, 41 lbs., 42 inches

Big Kid

At 5 years old, 42 lbs and 43″, our big kid has outgrown the Head Wise rear facing but still has plenty of room to ride forward facing. The 17.5″ top harness position and 65 lb weight limit will allow most children to use the Head Wise until they are ready to move into a booster seat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Features

Graco Headwise Safety Surround

Graco Head Wise Safety Surround

Safety Surround

The Safety Surround is the main feature that differentiates the Head Wise from its cousins, the MySize, Size4Me, and Fit4Me. The Safety Surround headrest is a little deeper and incorporates more padding to aid in side impact protection.

 

 

Graco Headwise infant insert

Graco Head Wise infant insert

Infant Insert

The Head Wise has two supports: a body support and a head support. The body support must be used if the child’s shoulders are below the bottom harness position when rear facing. Otherwise, the supports may be used or removed as desired. The Head Wise also includes strap covers that are optional and can be used or removed at any time.

 

 

Graco Headwise no rethread harness

Graco Head Wise no rethread harness

No Re-thread Harness

To adjust the harness height, squeeze the red handle at the top of the seat and pull up or down to the necessary position. This moves the headrest and the straps at the same time, so the proper position for the headrest is wherever it falls with the straps correctly positioned: at or below the child’s shoulders for rear facing; at or above the child’s shoulders for forward facing. Some parents have experienced difficulty tightening the harness straps, the Head Wise does have Graco’s roller system on the back of the harness slots, which aids in smooth adjustment.

 

Graco Headwise lower anchor connectors

Graco Head Wise lower anchor connectors

Push Button Lower Anchor Connectors on Separate Straps

The Head Wise has two lower anchor connector straps that are affixed to their proper belt paths. This helps eliminate the chance for misuse by removing the need to move the strap between belt paths or potential for use of the incorrect belt path. The push button lower anchor connectors make attachment and removal of the connectors onto the vehicle lower anchors simple.

 

 

 

 

Graco Headwise crotch buckle positions

Graco Head Wise crotch buckle positions

Two Crotch Buckle Positions

The Head Wise has two crotch buckle positions, measuring 3.5″ and 55″ deep with a 3.5″ strap length. The only requirement is that the position that is closest but not under the child be used. This allows for flexibility for the caregiver to use the most comfortable position for the child whether the seat is rear or forward facing. To switch between positions, slide the retainer up through the slot and then insert it into the desired slot.

 

 

Graco Headwise recline positions

Graco Head Wise recline positions

Three Recline Positions

The Head Wise has three recline positions, position 1 must be used for rear facing, positions 2 and 3 are for forward facing, however children over 40 lbs must use position 3.

 

 

Graco Headwise manual storage and important stickers

Graco Head Wise manual storage and important stickers

Label Locations

The date of manufacture information and aircraft approval information can be found on the back side of the seat, with the date of manufacture on the right inner side and the FAA approval on the left inner side. There is also a spot for storage of the manual and a locking clip at the bottom of this area.

 

 

 

Overall Thoughts

HeadwiseThe Head Wise fits a range of children and will last a long time before it is outgrown. At roughly $199 MSRP, the Target exclusive Head Wise is an excellent value. It is easy to install, has a number of convenience features and for those reasons we can strongly recommend the Graco Head Wise as a great option for many Littles.

LATCH: What’s the Deal with Weight Limits?

lower anchor connector

Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren

LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) was phased in between 1999-2002 with the goal of giving parents a standard, foolproof method of installing their children’s seats.   However, the advent of larger seats, and older children being restrained in those seats, has led to a concern that never occurred to the experts of 20 years ago; how much weight can those anchors actually bear in a crash?

LATCH includes lower anchors (the metal bar in the crevice, or bight, of the vehicle seat) and a tether (the hook above or behind the seating position to which the tether strap attaches). Passenger vehicles made after September 2002 are required to have two sets of LATCH and one additional tether.

What you might not know about LATCH is that it has a weight limit. A decade ago, most car seats had a 40 lb weight limit on the harness and the seat itself only weighed around 10 lbs. In contrast, today’s seats weigh 25 lbs or more and harness to 65 lbs or beyond. Child passenger safety technology is ever-evolving, and the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards must evolve as well to make sure the installation methods can support heavier seats that are capable of harnessing larger children.

Here are the recent developments:

  • NHTSA is using a 77 lb, 10-year-old dummy to crash test car seats with 65-80 lb weight limits and a 62 lb, 6-year-old dummy to crash test car seats with 50-65 lb weight limits.
  • If the weight of the dummy plus the weight of the child restraint exceed 65 lbs, the car seat will not be tested using the lower anchors.
  • All car seats manufactured after February 2014 will have a label that clearly defines the maximum weight limit for installing that car seat with lower anchors. That maximum weight limit will be 65 lbs when the car seat weight and the child’s weight are combined.
  • Shortly before the February 2014 final rule went into effect, NHTSA added a few additional stipulations to the requirements for this labeling. Namely, allowing for the child restraint to round the maximum weight limit to the nearest number ending in 0 or 5. All car seats made after February 2015 are required to be in compliance with this final version of the labeling requirements.

What about the tether? 

Tether anchor

Tether anchor

Using a tether has significant benefit for reducing a child’s head excursion and potential for injury in a crash. The specific labeling requirements set forth by NHTSA only extend to the lower anchors, not the tether. Many vehicles allow the tether to be used up to the weight limit specified by the car seat when the seat is installed with the seat belt, however, it’s important that you read both your car seat manual and your vehicle manual. Of course, we always recommend visiting a CPST to evaluate your individual situation.

What about booster seats?

Many belt positioning booster seats now come with lower anchor connectors, and several combination seats allow lower anchors, or the tether, or both,  to be used when the seat is in booster mode. This is purely a convenience feature that keeps the booster from flying into other occupants if the vehicle is in a crash when the child is not in the seat. The seat belt does the heavy-duty work of restraining the child.  Lower anchors only hold in the weight of the booster alone, so weight limits don’t apply.

What’s the bottom line? How do I find out the limit for my car and my car seats?

Safety 1st Advance EX Air + label

Lower anchor weight limit label

First, check your car seat manual and labeling. If your car seat was made around February 2014 or later, it will have a sticker that clearly defines which installation method you may use depending on the weight of your child. It’s also important to note that if your car seat was made around February 2015 or later, it may state a different limit than the same car seat made a year earlier.

If your car seat was made before February 2014, you may not have this label and things are a bit more complicated. Most vehicle manufacturers state a limit of 65 lbs when the car seat and the child’s weight are combined, some simply defer to the car seat manufacturer’s instructions, and some specify a 48 lb limit based solely on the child’s weight. CPSTs have a 200+ page manual detailing what each of the vehicle and car seat manufacturers say, and it’s not easy to consolidate that information into an easy answer. How can you find out? There are several options:

2015 LATCH Manual

2015 LATCH Manual by Safe Ride News

  • Contact a CPST in your area. We recommend visiting a local CPST whenever you get a new car seat, a new car, or your child is moving up to the next stage. They’ll be able to help you determine the correct installation method for your children, vehicle, and car seats.
  • You can always ask our team for help by visiting our Facebook Group, messaging our Facebook page, or sending us an email.
  • Contact your car seat manufacturer via phone or email; they can always help with questions related to their specific seats.
  • Still confused? Install your child’s seat using the seat belt. Check your vehicle manual and car seat manual for instructions on how to use the seat belt system.

Are you a CPST in need of the wonderful wealth of information contained in the LATCH Manual? It’s complied and sold by the amazing team at Safe Ride News, and you can find the order form here. We recommend every child passenger safety advocate have at least one…. each for your car,  your living room, your bedroom, your office, and an extra just in case your toddler decides to color all the pages in a nice shade of blue.

Britax Advocate ClickTight Review

AdvocateCT_rearfacing

Britax Advocate ClickTight rear facing

In 2013, Britax shook things up with the introduction of ClickTight technology on the Frontier combination car seat. This technology has made installation simple, to say the least, and we hoped and waited for Britax to add ClickTight to their convertible car seat line. The wait is over — the ClickTight convertible seats: Britax Advocate ClickTight, Boulevard ClickTight and Marathon ClickTight seats are here to stay!

 

 

 

 

 

Britax Advocate ClickTight forward facing

Britax Advocate ClickTight forward facing

CSFTL Quick Stats: Rear facing weight range:  5-40 lbs

  • Rear facing height range: child’s head 1″ from the top of the fully extended head restraint
  • Forward facing weight range: 20-65 lbs
  • Forward facing height range: up to 49″
  • Shell height: 29″
  • Lowest harness position: 7.5″ with newborn insert
  • Highest harness position: 18.65″ per Britax (we measured slightly higher once installed)
  • Expiration: 10 years
  • Lower anchor weight limit: 30 lbs rear facing, 35 lbs forward facing

Features:

  • ClickTight Installation
  • Two position adjustable crotch strap
  • Seven recline settings for rear and forward facing
  • No re-thread harness
  • Allows use of the tether rear facing

 

 

 Installation

AdvocateCT_clicktight

Opening the ClickTight panel to install the Britax Advocate ClickTight

Installing the Advocate ClickTight is unlike any convertible car seat you’ve ever installed. In fact, forget everything you know about car seat installation. As the name states, the biggest feature of the Advocate ClickTight is the ClickTight installation. Just open the ClickTight, thread the seat belt through the appropriate belt path, and close the ClickTight. There are a few other steps, but it’s basically as simple as that.

Seat Belt

AdvocateCT_beltpath

Britax Advocate ClickTight Seat Belt Installation

To open the ClickTight, push with one finger on the dimple of the ClickTight dial. The dial will flip-up and can be rotated 90 degrees, which will open the ClickTight. The belt paths, as well as everything else on the seat, are clearly marked with blue for rear facing and green for forward facing. Thread the seat belt through the appropriate belt path and buckle it; and this is the part where you need to forget everything you know about installing a car seat. Don’t pull the seat belt tight as you would with most car seats, because the ClickTight is going to do the tightening for you. Remove the excess slack, close the ClickTight, and in most cases you’ll have a secure installation with less than 1″ movement at the belt path. The ClickTight functions as a lockoff, so there is no need to engage the seat belt’s locking retractor if using a typical lap/shoulder belt with a sliding latchplate and switchable retractor.

 

Advocate CT installed with a lap-only seat belt.

Britax Advocate ClickTight installed with a lap-only seat belt.

If you are installing in a vehicle with a lap-only belt or a lap/shoulder belt with sewn on latchplates, it is important to make sure the seat belt is locked according to the vehicle manufacturer’s instructions.

Not sure how your seat belts lock? Learn more in our article: Lock It Up.

Lower Anchors

Advocate ClickTight installed with lower anchors.

Britax Advocate ClickTight installed with lower anchors.

The Advocate ClickTight is equipped with lower anchors, which are stored in a compartment in the lower bottom portion of the seat. Because the seat belt installation is so simple, Britax has chosen to use j-hook style connectors rather than the premium push button connectors you may be used to with other Britax seats. To use the lower anchors, remove the strap from the storage compartment and thread through the appropriate belt path after opening the Click Tight. Attach the lower anchors to the lower anchor connectors in the vehicle, remove excess slack, and close the ClickTight. It is important to note that the Advocate ClickTight only allows for lower anchor installation in seating positions with standard 11″ lower anchor spacing, and that the child must weigh less than 30 lbs rear facing or 35 lbs forward facing to install using lower anchors.

 

 

 

 

Tether

Advocate CT using the tether while rear facing.

Advocate CT using the tether while rear facing.

The tether can be used both rear and forward facing, and you can find the tether neatly stored in a panel on the back of the seat. When rear facing, the tether can be attached using the enclosed tether connector strap attached to a fixed location that is bolted to the floor. It is important to note that this strap is different from previous generation “d-ring” tether connector straps, the ClickTight connector strap has a webbing loop on either end, as opposed to the metal ring users of previous generation Britax seats may be familiar with.   Also important to note is that some vehicles may prohibit the use of a tether connector strap in this method, so it is important to consult your vehicle owner’s manual prior to use of the tether while rear facing. A second option for rear facing is to attach the tether to the anchor typically used for forward facing, which means the tether strap will run around the child seat and may make it difficult for loading and unloading the child. If the tether anchor is too short to reach the anchor or the provided rear facing tether connector webbing, Britax can provided an extension.  It is important to note that the tether extenders for forward and rear facing are different, so you must specific which direction you intend to face the seat when you call to request the extender.  Britax recommends, but does not require, use of the tether while rear facing.   An anti-rebound bar is predicted to be available for purchase 1st quarter 2015, which can be used in place of rear facing tethering.

 

 

Advocate CT forward facing tether.

Advocate CT forward facing tether.

Forward facing, the tether should be used at all times and must be attached to a tether anchor that is approved by the vehicle manufacturer. If your vehicle has tether anchors located on the ceiling or floor of your vehicle, you may find the Advocate ClickTight tether strap to be too short to reach your vehicle’s tether anchor. If that is the case, contact Britax and they can provide an extension so that you may utilize the tether anchor. My Honda CRV has ceiling mounted tether anchors, and the tether strap attached with room to spare.

 

 

 

 

 

Recline

AdvocateCT_recline

Britax Advocate ClickTight Recline Level Indicator

The Advocate ClickTight features seven recline positions. To adjust the recline, squeeze the handle located at the bottom front portion of the seat. The Advocate ClickTight can be in any of the recline positions provided the indicator reflects the appropriate position for the age and direction of the child. The rear facing zone is clearly labeled in blue, keeping with the blue labels for all the rear facing components of the seat. The light blue zone is required for infants without sufficient head and neck control, while the darker blue can be used for older infants and toddlers that can safely sit more upright. The green zone represents the allowable recline settings for forward facing, any of which can be used if the indicator rests in the green and the Advocate ClickTight does not overhang the vehicle seat more than 3″. I was able to install the Advocate ClickTight forward facing in three of the more upright recline settings without exceeding the overhang requirements and while keeping the indicator in the green zone. This provided a nice recline, which may be particularly useful for children with special needs that require them to sit at a more reclined angle. I would love for there to be an additional indicator that shows which of the seven recline positions the seat is in, as I found it a little difficult to tell whether I had gone one click or several clicks when adjusting the recline. If necessary, a pool noodle or tightly rolled towel may be added to further adjust the recline of the Advocate ClickTight, but with 7 adjustable positions and a generous range of allowable angles, there are very few scenarios in which it would be necessary.

 

Fit to Child

Rear Facing

Advocate ClickTight fully extended

Advocate ClickTight fully extended

The Advocate ClickTight is rated for children from 5-40 lbs, and does not state a standing height limit for rear facing. Unlike previous Britax convertible car seats that only allowed rear facing until 1″ from the top of the shell of the car seat, the Advocate ClickTight has a reinforced head restraint which allows for rear facing until the child’s head is 1″ from the top of the fully extended head restraint. Fully extended, the head restraint of the Advocate ClickTight measures 29″, making it competitive with the tallest rear facing convertible seats currently available. Most children will reach the 40 lb weight limit before ever reaching the maximum height capacity of the Advocate ClickTight rear facing.

With the lowest harness position measuring 7.5″, and the fully extended head restraint measuring 29″, the Advocate ClickTight has the potential to fit a large range of children.

 

 

AdvocateCT_preemie

Britax Advocate ClickTight Preemie Fit

Preemie:

Huggable Images doll Jo is 4 lbs, 17″. She is below the 5 lb weight limit of the Advocate ClickTight, but I wanted to try her in the seat to get an idea of whether or not a 5-6 lb newborn would truly fit in the seat. I was able to get the straps nice and snug, and even had several clicks to go before the harness was at its tightest. Unfortunately, the harness straps were well above her shoulders so she would not be able to ride in this seat. Small or premature newborns that are longer in the torso may fit appropriately, but if you are expecting multiples or a premature birth, it would be a safe bet to have a rear facing only seat available to use from birth.

 

 

 

 

 

AdvocateCT_newborn

Britax Advocate ClickTight Newborn Fit

Newborn:

Huggable Images doll Fiona is 7 lbs, 17″ and she fit beautifully in the Advocate ClickTight. The straps were just a bit below her shoulders and easily passed the pinch test. The Advocate ClickTight’s seven recline positions came in handy here, I placed it in the most reclined position and it was well reclined enough for a newborn.

The impact absorbing chest pads are a little bit bulky for Fiona, so I removed them along with the comfort pads and found it much easier to tighten the harness on her small body. She is using the infant insert, which can be used or removed at any time provided the child fits correctly in the seat with or without it.

 

 

 

 

AdvocateCT_toddler

Britax Advocate ClickTight Toddler Fit

Toddler:

Grace is 21 months, 23 lbs and 31″. She fits great in the Advocate CT, there is plenty of leg room and she will be able to ride rear facing for years to come.

 

 

 

 

 

AdvocateCT_sleepingI find it very easy to get her in and out of the seat, and I love the multiple recline options that allow her to be comfortable enough to doze off in the car, yet upright enough to see out the window and fit easily behind the driver’s seat. I have moved the crotch buckle to the outer position for her, as I found the inner position to be uncomfortably digging into her thighs.

 

 

 

 

 

AdvocateCT_RF4y

Britax Advocate ClickTight Big Kid Fit

AdvocateCT_RF4yo

Britax Advocate ClickTight has plenty of legroom for rear facing big kids

Big Kid:

Lillian just turned 4 and is 30 lbs and 39″. She loved the Limelight pattern on our Advocate ClickTight, and had plenty of room to grow rear facing, both in height and weight. The main downside for her is the length of the crotch buckle, which is rather short and can make it uncomfortable for the child while getting buckled. The Advocate ClickTight doesn’t offer quite as much leg room as some other seats, but still offered plenty of space for her to easily climb in and out of the seat and ride quite comfortably.

 

 

Forward Facing

Forward facing, the Advocate ClickTight is rated from 20-65 lbs and up to 49″. We at CSFTL commend Britax for recommending several times in the manual that children ride rear facing until a minimum of two years old, ideally until they have reached the maximum rear facing weight or height capacity of the seat before riding forward facing.

Installation of the Advocate ClickTight forward facing is nearly the same as it is rear facing. Open the ClickTight, thread the seat belt through the forward facing slots, close the ClickTight, and then attach the tether.

 

AdvocateCT_6yearold

Britax Advocate ClickTight Big Kid Fit

Big Kid: 6 Years Old

Sam is 6 years old, 43 lbs and 47″ and has lots of room to grow in the Advocate ClickTight. Initially, I had him sit in the seat and was concerned because the harness barely had enough slack to get around his body. I was able to buckle him in but there was no growing room to be had.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Britax Advocate CT has lots of growing room for this 6 year old model

The Britax Advocate CT has lots of growing room for this 6-year-old model

Upon further investigation into the manual, I found information that the harness can be lengthened several inches to accommodate older  children. Once I made that adjustment, there was plenty of room for him, and he has several inches of growing room before he will have outgrown the Advocate ClickTight.

 

 

 

 

 

AdvocateCT_outgrownFF

This 7 year old model has outgrown the Britax Boulevard ClickTight

Big Kid: 7 Years Old

Zeke is 7 years old, 53 lbs and 51″. As you can see, he has outgrown the Boulevard ClickTight he is sitting in, which features the same limits as the Advocate ClickTight.

This label clearly marks the maximum seated height limit.

This label clearly marks the maximum seated height limit.

I wanted to try a child at the upper end of the limits for this seat, while he is within the 65 lb weight limit, he has exceeded the 49″ height limit and his shoulders are higher than the “maximum seated height” label in the shoulder area of the seat, though the harness straps are right at his shoulders. Zeke is also physically too large for the harness to be buckled. Even after extending the harness straps, they were not long enough to be fastened.

 

 

 

 

 

AdvocateCT_harness

Adjusting the harness length on the Britax Advocate ClickTight

To adjust the harness strap length, open the ClickTight and you will find that the hip portion of the harness is wrapped around the anchor. To lengthen the harness, detach the strap, and slip the sewn on end over the anchor. You can find full instructions from Britax here.  When the ClickTight convertible seats initially became available, some parents found that this portion of the harness was not fully attached from the factory. It is important, with any seat, to check that all components are functioning correctly before use. You can read more about that issue and how to check in our article here. 

 

 

Features

AdvocateCT_clicknsafeClick & Safe Snug Harness Indicator
The Click & Safe is designed to give an audible “click” when the harness is snug enough on the child’s body. It definitely clicks, but not always when the harness is tight enough. The clicking mechanism is located behind the child’s shoulders, so it’s very easy for it to think there is enough tension if the caregiver hasn’t made sure to remove all the slack from the hip & torso area prior to pulling the tightening strap. It’s a great helper, but it’s still important to make sure all slack is removed from all areas of the harness before travel, don’t just rely on the click.

 

AdvocateCT_norethread
No Rethread Harness
To adjust the harness, simply squeeze the red handle and pull the head restraint up or down to the desired position. Position the harness straps at or below the child’s shoulders for rear facing; at or above for forward facing.

 

AdvocateCT_comfort
Comfort Pillow
The comfort pillow goes underneath the child’s bottom and helps provide a secure fit for newborns and small infants. Britax directs the caregiver to remove the comfort pillow  after the child can sit comfortably in the child seat without additional support.
AdvocateCT_hugs
Impact Absorbing Chest Pads
The impact absorbing chest pads are highly recommended for forward facing, but can be removed when rear facing to ensure a snug fit on infants and smaller children. To remove the impact absorbing chest pads, the harness must be detached from the splitter plate on the back of the seat. Most of the back of the seat is enclosed, and I found it rather difficult to thread and rethread the harness.
AdvocateCT_cbuckle
Adjustable EZ Buckle
The EZ Buckle pad keeps the buckle in the forward position when unbuckled, making it easy to load the child without having to dig the buckle out from underneath them. The buckle has two positions, measuring 5″ and 7″ deep , with the strap measuring 3″ in length. Whichever slot is closest to, but not under the child, may be used for rear facing. Forward facing, Britax requires use of the outer slot. To switch between positions, open the ClickTight, rotate the buckle strap and slide it into the next position.
Advocate_SafeCell
SafeCell Complete Side Impact Protection MAX
If you’re familiar with previous generation Britax car seats, you are probably familiar with this feature under the name SICT, or Side Impact Cushion Technology. Britax has changed the name, and also slightly changed the design of the external cushions, designed to divert energy away from the child in a crash. They are sleeker and less obtrusive than previous models, while still providing the same crash protection to the child.
AdvocateCT_manualstorage
Storage Spots
We love it when a manufacturer thinks about the little things – like where can you stow the instruction manual for easy reference whenever a question comes up? The Advocate ClickTight has a handy little storage pocket underneath the cover for convenient storage and quick access to any question that comes your way. We also love the tidy storage spots for the lower anchors and tether, shown earlier in our review.
Cover Removal and Cleaning
The cover has four separate pieces. The manual directs that it should be hand washed and line dried, not machine washed or dried. Removal of the cover is a little bit time-consuming but not overly difficult. You do not have to disconnect the harness in order to remove it. One note that we found, after handwashing the cover, it retained quite a bit of water and had to air dry for a couple of days before it was ready to be used again.

 

Britax Advocate ClickTight Date of Manufacture label
Looking for a label?
You won’t find the label containing the date of manufacture and serial number in its usual spot by the left shoulder, if you’re familiar with Britax restraints. The Advocate ClickTight has hidden this important label underneath the cover near where the child’s knees would be bent if in the seat, a bit of a throwback for those of us who have been car seating for a little while now and shall remain nameless. The great thing about this label though? Add ten years to the date, and that is the Advocate ClickTight expiration. With generous limits AND expiration, this is a seat that can get almost every kid well through birth to the age when they’re ready to move to a belt positioning booster seat.

FAA Apprvoval
The FAA Approval information is written in red letters in the label at the base of the seat. It’s right below the recline indicator.
Note: if you’re flying with the Britax Advocate ClickTight, Boulevard ClickTight, or the Marathon ClickTight and using the Gogo Kidz Travelmate, you’ll need to order a longer strap for the Travelmate.

 

ClickTight Family

The model used in this review is the Advocate ClickTight, with a brief cameo from the Boulevard ClickTight. You can find the ClickTight technology on the Marathon, Boulevard, and Advocate ClickTight models. The Boulevard and Advocate ClickTight share the same specifications, the Boulevard is simply lacking the external side impact protection cushions. The Marathon ClickTight features the ClickTight technology, but has a somewhat lower height capacity: 16.95″ seated height versus 18.65″ seated height of the Boulevard ClickTight and Advocate ClickTight and lacks the reinforced True Side Impact Protection head restraint that the Boulevard and Advocate ClickTight feature.

 

Overall Thoughts

AdvocateClickTight_stockThe Britax Advocate ClickTight is simple to install, long-lasting, and easy to use. The few minor drawbacks we found were the high price, heavy weight, and tendency for the parent to try to over tighten the seat belt unnecessarily with the ClickTight. The ClickTight family will be a great addition to many back seats, and we hope it keeps kids rear facing longer, and helps more caregivers install their seats correctly with ease. You can find the  Advocate ClickTight on Amazon.com,

Want to win an Advocate ClickTight for your Little? Britax has generously offered to provide one Advocate ClickTight for CSFTL readers, enter using the Rafflecopter widget below! Contest is open to residents of the US only, ages 18 & up. a Rafflecopter giveaway

2014 Year in Review

So, we’ve had a bit of a banner year, both for CSFTL and the Child Passenger Safety world in general.    The team left 2013 still finding its footing, moving from a loose structure  to a formal and incorporated one, with bylaws and an elected board of directors, and a carefully chosen mission statement.    We finished the year with an even more expanded structure, more employees and a 501(c)(3) status from the IRS.  And we have none other to thank for it than our dear readers and followers, whose support has made it possible and moreover, worthwhile.

And somehow, in the middle of all this paperwork minutiae,  the world of child passenger safety pitched plenty of car seat curve balls our way.  Some of them, we’ve batted more gracefully than others!

Baby Trendz Fastback 3-in-1, recall, Amsafe buckle

Bucklepocalypse 2014. Send chocolate.

 

2014 opened with one of our least favorite things: a widespread recall. Bucklepocalypse 2014 took over the media for weeks, even months, affecting millions of Graco, Evenflo, and Baby Trend car seats. Our team worked overtime to help keep parents & caregivers informed, reminding them not to panic. If you haven’t gotten around to replacing an affected buckle yet, its easy to do so via Graco, Evenflo, or Baby Trend.

 

Thank science THAT is over. I would like to wish for no major car seat recalls in 2015, please.

Label on a seat made after 2-17-2014

New labeling, yay!

Early 2014 brought some changes to car seat labeling. All seats manufactured after February 27, 2014 now feature a label indicating their lower anchor weight limit. Hooray! No more consulting the LATCH Manual and trying to count 65-27 on my fingers! Now the car seat simply says to use a seat belt installation if the child weighs over a certain amount, AND NHTSA has allowed the car seat manufacturers to round the number, so they will all be multiples of 5. We appreciate this nod toward simplicity.

 

 

Graco 4Ever multi mode car seat

Graco 4Ever multi mode car seat

In June, we welcomed a brand new seat to the market, the Graco 4Ever. We were skeptical, to say the least. One seat, 4Ever? #yeahright. We’ve seen it before, and it’s never awe-inspiring. All in one seats are traditionally hard to install, or they never really last as long as the box says they will, or they just plain don’t work in one or more of their functions.

Not the 4Ever though. First, we found out it would fit a preemie. Then, that it would last rear facing well past 3 for the average kid. And then? The top harness slots are tall enough to accommodate well through kindergarten. But wait, there’s more! The booster fit is great, it has a 10 year expiration, and to switch between modes the harness just tucks into these neat little holes. AND you don’t need a Ford Excursion in order to fit it in your backseat. We thought we were being punked. Surely there had to be a catch…. but there really isn’t. We take our hats off to you, Graco. The market has been waiting and you not only did it, you knocked it out of the park.

In case the 4Ever wasn’t enough of a car seat milestone, Graco wasn’t finished yet. They gave us another Milestone (see what we did there!), which we loved almost as much as the 4Ever. With the ability to fit from newborn to around age 7-8, it gave us another Graco milestone to be excited about for 2014.

 

Ryan

Two years old, you heard it here first!

Summer 2014 was full of travel for the CSFTL Team. Unfortunately, our destinations did not include tropical beaches with umbrella drinks. A close second, however, they included many car seats. In August, we attended Kidz in Motion and we made a new friend: Ryan Hawker, of Dorel Juvenile Group. Ryan told us about a few new & improved seats we could look forward to from Cosco; the Scenera Next and the Apt 50. We were excited about these updated seats, but we were blown away by what Ryan had to tell us next. The Big News from KIM 2014 was that Scenera Next and the Apt 50 will feature labeling that sets a two-year minimum in order to use the seat forward facing. This is HUGE news for child passenger safety. It’s a struggle to explain to parents why their children need to be rear facing as long as possible when their car seat label tells them the seat can be used forward facing when the child is a year old and weighs 20 lbs. Dorel is setting the bar high for other manufacturers to take notice, and we hope the trend spreads.

Even more exciting was YOUR reaction to this news. We couldn’t have predicted the overwhelmingly positive response we received on Facebook. Ryan became a little bit of an internet superstar that day!

September brought us to the ABC Kids Expo in Las Vegas. We saw many, many car seats and walked many, many steps. There were many highlights: on day one we saw the Clek Infant Thingy and got our first look at the Clek Fllo. We saw many lovely new fabrics and were thrilled to discover the triumphant return of the Diono Monterey booster to the market. On day two we met the fabulous Graco team. One of the best things about ABC was the opportunity to meet face to face with so many great individuals who we have worked with extensively via email and telephone. We’ve always known that behind the doors of the car seat manufacturers’ headquarters there are dedicated individuals focusing day in and day out on the products that keep our kids safe in the backseat. However, meeting those individuals in person who share our same passions was quite a rewarding experience. ABC Day three reunited us with Ryan Hawker, with whom we shared many more high fives regarding their two-year forward facing minimums.

In October, we were privileged to be invited to participate in a two day technician advisory panel at Newell Rubbermaid headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. Newell Rubbermaid is the parent company for Graco Children’s Products, and this advisory panel was all about what Graco can do to make their seats even better from a CPST’s perspective. You didn’t hear much about this from us because the panel involved a lot of top secret info, for which our lips are sealed. It was an amazing experience that showed just how committed Graco is to making products that keep kids as safe as possible and are easy for caregivers to use correctly.

Advocate ClickTight fully extended

Advocate ClickTight fully extended

In November, this beauty arrived at my doorstep. The Britax Advocate ClickTight is another of our favorite things for 2014. In 2013, Britax made car seat installation simple with the Frontier 90 combination car seat. We have patiently waited and hoped that they would bring it to their line of convertible car seats. They not only did it, they also increased the height allowances both rear and forward facing. It practically installs itself, and fits big kids rear AND forward facing? What more could we possibly ask for? Look for our full review next week!

 

 

 

 

Ryan from Safety 1st and Jennifer hanging out at the Scenera NEXT launch party!

Ryan from Safety 1st and Jennifer hanging out at the Scenera NEXT launch party!

 

In December, a little email popped up in my inbox. An email from Ryan Hawker, asking if we thought it would be a nice idea for them to increase the rear facing weight limit on the Safety 1st Advance Air  to 50 lbs and 52″ without increasing the price tag. WELL OF COURSE YES! HOW QUICKLY CAN YOU DO THAT, RYAN? *ahem* OK, once the CSFTL team collected ourselves enough to reply with less caps lock, we realized Ryan wanted to hear from you, too.

So, we asked you. And boy, oh boy did you reply. If we thought the summer’s news about a two-year minimum for forward facing shook up our Facebook page, we had another thing coming. The response was absolutely unbelievable. The longer we can keep kids rear facing, the safer they are. And the more accessible we can make that to parents, the better.

A few weeks later, we visited Dorel Juvenile Group headquarters to celebrate the launch of the Scenera Next  and we were ecstatic to hear that after the overwhelmingly positive response, the Advance Air is getting a new label in April 2015, one that reflects a rear facing weight limit of 50 lbs, but the price tag? It stays the same, WELL under $200.

We saw some pretty amazing new technology in 2014, and some long-awaited advances in industry standards. A common theme for us was amazing news delivered by none other than Ryan Hawker, and we felt like he deserved a little recognition for playing such a vital part in our favorite moments in child passenger safety this year. Thank you, Ryan!

R.Hawker

We can’t wait to see what 2015 holds in store for child passenger safety, and we can’t wait to share it with you. Happy New Year !

RECARO Performance Coupe Review

Fans of RECARO child seats have long-awaited a rear facing only car seat to join their Performance line up of convertible, combination, and booster seats. Wait no longer, because the Performance Coupe is here.

RECARO Performance Coupe

RECARO Performance Coupe

CSFTL Quick Stats:

Weight range: 4-35 lbs

Height range: up to 32″

Shell height: 21″

Lowest harness position: 6.5″

Expiration: 6 years

Handle position: Rebound position required in vehicle

 

Features:

2 Position adjustable crotch strap: 3″, 5.5″

Adjustable recline foot with Quick Flip

Euro belt routing

No re-thread harness with five harness positions

Push button lower anchor connectors

Safety Stripe System

 

Installation

With the Base

RECARO Performance Coupe seat belt installation

RECARO Performance Coupe seat belt installation

The Performance Coupe base allows for installation using either lower anchors or seat belt. The lower anchor connectors are premium, push-button style with a single tail to pull the strap tight. There is a tidy little storage slot for the connectors when they are not in use. Unlike many premium rear facing only seats, the Performance Coupe does not have a seat belt lockoff. This is a disadvantage for many families who may want to install their newborn’s seat in the middle of their vehicle, where many vehicles do not have lower anchors.

 

RECARO Performance Coupe overhang of the base

RECARO Performance Coupe overhang of the base

 

 

The Performance Coupe base is not a small one – measuring at 20.5″ long. This may cause the seat to be incompatible in vehicles with shallow vehicle seats if too much of the base hangs over the edge. The manual doesn’t specifically address overhang, but upon my inquiry, RECARO has stated to follow the industry standard of no more than 20% of the car seat base overhanging the vehicle seat.

 

 

 

RECARO Performance Coupe recline of the base

RECARO Performance Coupe recline of the base

 

 

The recline indicator is a bubble that must fall in between two black lines for a successful installation. The Performance Coupe has a vast array of recline adjustments, making it a snap to achieve the correct recline in just about any vehicle. There is a knob on top of the base, referred to as the “micro adjuster knob” which extends and retracts the foot with a twist of the knob. If that isn’t enough, the quick flip foot extends the recline foot even further.

 

 

 

 

Without the Base

Performance Coupe baseless with standard routing

RECARO Performance Coupe baseless with standard routing

The Performance Coupe can be installed without the base, and offers two methods for installation: standard belt routing and European belt routing. The manual recommends using the European belt routing if possible, however I found two things difficult. First, the carrier is large and my seat belt was only just barely long enough to successfully route the shoulder belt around the carrier, a problem I have not experienced with other Euro-routed seats installed in this vehicle. Second, the shoulder belt has to be routed underneath the release handle to unlock the carrier from the base. In order to do this, one must route the seat belt around the head of the car seat, lift up that release handle in order to slide the shoulder belt underneath it, all while using every inch of seat belt available and trying to keep the seat at the correct angle. It was cumbersome to say the least, and I could’ve used another set of hands.

RECARO Performance Coupe baseless installation with European routing

RECARO Performance Coupe baseless installation with European routing

 

 

Using the Carrier

RECARO Performance Coupe rebound position is required at all times

RECARO Performance Coupe rebound position is required at all times

The Performance Coupe has four handle positions and requires that the forward rebound position be used at all times during travel. The carrier snaps easily into the  base, and removes by pulling a handle at the head of the seat.

The no re-thread harness has five positions which adjust using a squeeze-handle on the back of the seat. The crotch buckle  has two positions that can be adjusted by threading the retainer through the slot on the bottom of the carrier. The manual does not state a specification on when to change the buckle position.

The carrier does sit a little ways back in the base, which is great for leg room for an older infant, but contributes to the large amount of front to back space that is required to use this seat correctly.

 

Fit to Child

The Performance Coupe states it can  be used from 4-35 lbs, up to 32″ as long as the straps are at or below the child’s shoulders and the child has at least 1″ of shell above their head. There are two newborn inserts: a body insert and a head insert. The manual says they can be used from 4-12 lbs and can be removed earlier if desired, as long as the child fits correctly.

RECARO Performance Coupe- 4 lbs, 17 inches

RECARO Performance Coupe- 4 lbs, 17 inches

Preemie

With a substantial newborn body insert and bottom harness slots measuring a respectable 6.5″ with that insert, I had high hopes for the Huggable Images Preemie doll to fit in the Performance Coupe. The 17″, 4 lb doll, sadly, did not fit properly. The straps were right at her shoulders, but the harness left far too much slack around her small body.

RECARO Performance Coupe- 7 lbs, 17 inches

RECARO Performance Coupe- 7 lbs, 17 inches

Newborn

The Huggable Images Newborn doll fit perfectly in the Performance Coupe. He measures 17″, 7 lbs and had a nice, snug fit using both newborn inserts, the lowest harness position and inner buckle slot with the straps snug enough to pass the pinch test.

 

Toddler

RECARO Performance Coupe- 21 months, 22 lbs., 31 inches

RECARO Performance Coupe- 21 months, 22 lbs., 31 inches

Grace is near the upper limits of the Performance Coupe. She is 21 months old, weighs 22 lbs and is 31″ tall. she is well under the weight limit, but just slightly under the 32″ height limit. She fit with just over 1″ from her head to the top of the shell, but her shoulders were very cramped in the seat. Grace is small for her age, but I appreciated that the Performance Coupe offers a long life span for those who prefer the convenience of an infant seat for as long as possible.

 

 Features

RECARO Performance Coupe without the cover showing the safety stripe on the harness

RECARO Performance Coupe without the cover showing the safety stripe on the harness

The Performance Coupe carries over the Safety Stripe and Hero harness system from the rest of its Performance line. The Safety Stripe system features stitching on the side of the harness straps to make it easily visible for the caregiver if the straps have become twisted. The Hero harness pads are somewhat fixed into the back of the seat and also help keep the straps free of twists while providing comfort around the child’s neck. One downfall I noticed with the Hero straps is that with an older child, they sit so far back in the seat that they don’t really protect the child’s neck from the edges of the straps, which may not  be comfortable. It was also a little difficult to make sure the Hero pad stayed in the proper position when moving between harness positions.

The main cover can be easily removed without un-threading any of the harness, but must be hand washed if soiled. The harness must be un-threaded to remove the Hero harness cover portion. Under the cover, the Performance Coupe is fully lined with EPS foam. around the head and torso area and features memory foam in the seating area. It comes in several bright colors and neutral options as well.

 

 

Overall Thoughts

Performance CoupeThe Performance Coupe has a suggested retail price of $269.99, placing it in line with other premium rear facing only car seats. It packs a lot of features, but a few disappointments as well with its lack of a seat belt lockoff and not providing a secure fit for a premature child. The large footprint of the seat also may not fit in many small vehicles correctly. The wide variety of recline adjustments and clear labeling on the base made for an easy installation, and the generous weight and height capacity make it a long-lasting option. If the Performance Coupe might be right for your Little, you can find it on Amazon.com.

No compensation was provided for this review, opinions, as always, are all our own!

Car Seat Sales

Updated 2/16/2015

Looking for a great deal on a new car seat? If you’re still trying to make a decision, start with our recommended seats list. If you’ve already narrowed it down, one of these sale prices might save you a little bit of cash! Please note: This is page is updated once a week, we apologize if the seat has changed price since it was originally posted.

Rear Facing Only Seats

Light n Comfy Elite Blox 59.49
Graco Click connect 30 Nyssa 99.99
Britax B-Safe Infant Car Seat, Black 112.99
Graco Click Connect 35 LX Car Seat, Rittenhouse 119.99
Graco SnugRide 30 Classic Connect Car Seat, Dragonfly 84.99

Convertible Seat Deals

Maxi Cosi Pria 70 Convertible Car Seat, Dress Blue 199.99
Maxi Cosi Pria 70 Convertible Car Seat, Mineral Grey 199.99
Maxi Cosi Pria 70 Convertible Car Seat, Steel Grey 199.99
Maxi Cosi Pria 70 Convertible Car Seat, Sweet Cerise 199.99
Maxi Cosi Pria 70 Convertible Car Seat, Total Black 199.99
Graco Size4Me 65 Convertible Car Seat, Pierce 144.49
Britax Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat, Twilight 247.49
Britax Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat, Verve 247.49
Britax Marathon ClickTight Convertible Car Seat, Vibe 252.60
Britax Boulevard ClickTight Convertible Car Seat, Metro 277.49
Britax Advocate G4 Convertible, Broadway 255.98
Britax Advocate G4.1 Convertible Broadway 284.99
Britax Advocate G4.1 Convertible Silver diamonds 290.85
Britax Marathon ClickTight Convertible Cowmooflage, 249.97
Clek Fllo 2015 Convertible Seat, Drift 335.26
Britax Advocate ClickTight Convertible Car Seat, Circa 314.99
Britax Boulevard ClickTight Convertible Car Seat, Circa 277.49
Britax Pavilion G4 Convertible Car Seat, Onyx 237.98
Clek Foonf 2014 Convertible Car Seat, Green/White Dragonfly 359.99
Graco My Ride 65 LX Convertible Car Seat, Rane 97.74

MultiMode Seat Deals

Diono Pacifica Convertible Plus Booster Seat with Body Pillow, 255.99
Diono Rainier Convertible plus Booster with Adjustable Head Support, 269.99
Diono Rainier Convertible Plus Booster with Adjustable Head Support, Graphite 287.99
Diono Olympia Convertible Plus Booster Car Seat, Graphite 223.99
Diono Olympia Convertible Plus Booster Car Seat, Shadow
223.99

Harnessed Boosters and Dedicated Boosters

Britax Frontier G1.1 ClickTight Harness-2-Booster Car Seat, Congo 247.49
Britax Frontier G1.1 Clicktight Harness-2-Booster Car Seat, Kaleidoscope 267.16
Britax Pinnacle G1.1 ClickTight Harness-2-Booster Car Seat, Circa 289.26
Britax Pinnacle G1.1 ClickTight Harness-2-Booster Car Seat, Manhattan 289.81
Graco Nautilus 3-in-1 Car Seat, Ellis 119.99
Graco Affix Youth Booster Seat with Latch System, Atomic 56.99
Graco Backless TurboBooster Car Seat, Galaxy 19.99
Graco Highback Turbobooster Car Seat with Safety Surround, Pearson 47.41
Britax Parkway SGL G1.1 Belt-Positioning Booster, Cub Pink 122.69
Britax Parkway SGL G1.1 Belt-Positioning Booster, Spade 119.99
Britax Parkway SGL G1.1 Belt-Positioning Booster, Phantom 119.99
Diono Cambria Highback Booster Car Seat, Raspberry 79.99
Evenflo Big Kid High Back SI Car Seat Booster, Alexa 42.19
Graco Backless Turbobooster Car Seat, Go Green 21.27

Canadian Car Seat Sales:

None at this time, but we’ll keep watching!!!

Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 Review

The Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 is an update to the well-loved Pria 70 convertible car seat. The Pria 85 takes many cues from its European counterpart, incorporating plush fabrics and little details like the no re-thread harness, easy to remove cover , and harness holders to make buckling the child easier.

Pria 85 Rear FacingCSFTL Quick Stats:

  • Rear facing weight range: 14-40 lbs
  • Rear facing height range: 40″ or less
  • Forward facing weight range: 22-85 lbs
  • Forward facing height range: 29-52″
  • Shell height: 26″ (headrest fully extended)
  • Lowest harness position: 9″
  • Highest harness position: 17″
  • Expiration: 10 years
  • Lower anchor weight limit: 40 lbs

 Features:

  • 3 position crotch strap
  • 3 recline settings
  • Push button lower anchor connectors
  • No re-thread harness with 9 positions
  • Easy remove cover

 

Rear Facing

Pria 85 RF angle 2The Pria 85 requires a little bit of extra attention to detail when it comes to installation. The first essential step to installing any car seat is, of course, to read the manual. It’s especially important with the Pria 85 to ensure that none of the details have been overlooked. The Pria 85 features three recline settings: either position 2 or 3 can be used while rear facing, so long as the single level line is level to the ground after installation. The recline foot is clearly labeled, making it easy to tell which recline setting you have selected. In my vehicle, the more upright recline position 2 put the indicator nicely level with the ground.

Pria 85 Belt GuidesNext, thread the seat belt or lower anchor strap through the belt path. There are guides on both sides of the rear facing belt path, the lower anchor strap or lap belt of the seat belt must be threaded in those guides on both sides. The edges of the guides are a little bit sharp, and I was very careful about threading the seat belt through. If the seat belt were resting on the edge of the guide while pulling tight, it could result in damage to the seat belt.

Pria RF LineThe cover easily pulls up to access the belt path, but I found myself wishing for a couple of slots in the cover to be able to access the belt path without partially removing the cover around the path. It was painless to get a secure installation with either lower anchors or seat belt in each of the vehicles I tried. The Pria has a single line that must be level to the ground for rear facing, I found it to be a nice angle for the my rear facing toddler, and it fit comfortably behind the driver’s seat in my Honda CRV with plenty of room for the average adult to drive comfortably.

Fit to Child

The Pria allows rear facing from 14-40 lbs, up to 40″, as long as the child’s head does not exceed the top of the fully extended headrest (which measures 26″ in height). With a 14 lb starting weight and 9″ bottom harness position, this seat is designed for infants who are ready to transition out of their rear facing only car seat and are around 6 months old. There are three crotch buckle settings at 4″, 5″ and 6″ deep; Maxi-Cosi permits use of the inner and middle position when rear facing and recommends using the setting that provides a snug fit for the child.

Rear facing, the Pria 85 is limited to when the child is 40 lbs, 40″, or their head reaches the top of the fully extended headrest. This stated height limit is unfortunate, as CSFTL recommends rear facing until 3-4 years old and some taller kids may hit 40″ before then.

Pria_Anders

Anders – 8 months, 20 lbs, 27″

 

Anders is 8 months, 20 lbs and 27″ and is just moving into the Pria 85 from his rear facing only seat. The straps are just below his shoulders on the lowest setting and he is using the inner crotch buckle position. The strap covers are fairly large and a bit bulky on him so he is using the Pria 85 without the harness covers, which are easily removable with velcro along the sides.

 

Pria 85 RF 1 year old

Grace – 19 months, 22 lbs, 31″

 

Grace is 19 months and fairly small for her age, at 22 lbs and 31″ she is on the second headrest position. The Pria 85 gave her tons of leg room rear facing and gave a comfortable fit with the crotch buckle on the innermost setting. I did find the harness rather difficult to tighten. The Pria 85 does not have a continuous harness, like many of its Dorel Juvenile Group cousins, but the tightening strap requires a firm tug to pull snug and careful attention to ensure the straps are not twisted. I employed the method of pulling the slack through the shell from the back of the seat, and then pulling the front adjusting strap to tighten.

 

Pria_85_RF_3yo

Maverick – 3 years, 30 lbs, 36″

 

Maverick is 3.25 years old, weighs 30 lbs and is 36″ tall. He was very comfortable riding in the Pria 85 rear facing and his mom knows that he still is safest rear facing and loves that the Pria gives him plenty of room to grow.

 

 

 

 

Forward Facing

Installation of the Pria 85 was just as easy as rear facing, but did, again, require some attention to detail. There are several methods for forward facing installation, and all have specific rules that depend on the child’s weight:

  • Pria 85 FF upright v recline

    Left: Recline position 1. Right: Recline position 2

     

  • If the child is between 22-40 lbs, 29-43″, install the Pria 85 in recline position 2 using either LATCH or seat belt with tether.
  • If the child is between 40-85 lbs, 43-52″, install the Pria 85 in recline position 1 using the seat belt with tether.

This requirement could prove problematic – there is no overlap in the weight and height requirements for using position 1 versus position 2, so if a child is in the weight range for position 1 but the height range for position 2, the manual is unclear which position should be used for that child.

Installation in both recline positions was simple; there are no belt guides for the forward facing belt path and the cover easily unsnaps in the back to allow access to the belt path to achieve a tight installation without a lot of effort.

I appreciated Maxi-Cosi’s advisement to always use the tether when the Pria 85 is installed in the forward facing position to greatly improve the performance of the child restraint in a crash.

 

Fit to Child

Pria 85 Forward FacingThe Pria allows forward facing from 22-85 lbs and up to 52″, as long as the child fits with the harness at or above the shoulders and the midpoint of the head below the top of the fully extended headrest. The top harness position measures 17″, which unfortunately means the vast majority of children are going to outgrow the Pria 85 with their shoulders exceeding the top harness position long before ever reaching the height or weight maximum. Maxi-Cosi boasts that the Pria 85 is the only convertible car seat rated up to 85 lbs, and while that may be true, there just aren’t many children of that size that will truly be able to use the seat.

Maxi-Cosi permits use of any of the three crotch buckle slots when forward facing, and recommends using the position that will provide a snug fit for the child.

Pria 85 Harness Covers

Top: standard harness covers. Bottom: grippy covers required for over 65 lbs with no tether available.

 

The Pria comes with two sets of harness covers, one for comfort, and a second that is a requirement if the child is over 65 lbs and there is not a tether anchor available. The second, larger pair look the same upon initial inspection, but have a thick, grippy material on the back. They are stored in a storage pocket on the outside of the cover, where the manual may also be stored.

 

 

 

 

 

Pria forward facing 6 year oldPria 85 AsleepSam is 6 years old, tall and skinny for his age at 43 lbs and 47″. He is on the second to the top harness position on the Pria 85 and on the 3rd crotch buckle setting. He found the Pria 85 to be very comfortable; he is quite leggy and appreciated the leg support, cupholder and soft fabrics. On his second ride in the seat, he actually fell asleep which is rather uncommon for him.

Sam’s only complaint with the Pria 85 was that the buckle is very difficult to open. He regularly buckles and unbuckles himself in his other seats, but he couldn’t do the Pria. The strap material is also rather thin and tended to twist, he had a tough time getting in and out without twisting the straps. With two kids, it’s a real time saver to have my oldest buckle himself so it was frustrating for both of us that he needed my assistance each time we got in and out of the car. Similar to Grace, I had a difficult time tightening the harness the first time I adjusted it for him as well.

 

 

Pria_85_FF

 

Kenzie is 5.5 and tall for her age – 48.5″ and weighs 53 lbs. Despite being well within the stated limits of the Pria 85, she outgrew the seat some time ago. Her shoulders are above the top harness position, and the harness was only just long enough to get her buckled in, it was not comfortable for her at all.

 

Pria_8yo

 

I also tested our Huggable Images doll, Thomas, is 8 years old, 80 lbs and 57″. He is well over the stated 52″ height limit for the Pria 85 forward facing, but at 80 lbs he is within the weight limit. I tried him in the seat to see if the straps were long enough to fit around his body, and they weren’t even close. Unfortunately, neither the length nor height of the straps were built to accommodate a child at the upper ranges Maxi-Cosi has placed on the Pria 85.

 

 

Features

Maxi-Cosi came up with a lot of fun details in the design of the Pria 85, here are a few:

Pria_norethreadNo Re-thread Harness

The Pria 85 no re-thread harness features 9 positions, which makes it easy to get a proper fit on just about any sized child. For rear facing, position the straps at or below the shoulders; for forward facing, position the straps at or above the shoulders. The headrest design places the headwings right around the child’s head without squashing their shoulders or awkward positioning like some other seats tend to do. To adjust the harness, squeeze the handle in the headrest and pull up or down. I found the adjustment a little sticky the first few times, but it did get easier as I moved it several times. The very top position was the most difficult to get the headrest to, I had to pull on the headrest as well as the adjuster on the back to get it all the way up.

 

Pria 85 cover removedEasy Remove Cover

Let’s face it: kids are gross. No matter how clean you try to keep your car, they will always find a way to make a mess. Whether it’s *ahem* organic fluids, goldfish crackers, apple juice, or some mystery substance that only a toddler can conjure, the bottom line is that you will have to wash the cover at some point. The Pria 85 features an easy remove cover that comes off without having to uninstall the seat or undo the harness. I was a little bit skeptical upon first reading about this feature, so I decided to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised when it was just as easy as promised. It only took a few minutes and undoing a few snaps to completely remove the cover without uninstalling the seat. Plus, there aren’t any of those pesky little elastics with corresponding posts to find that secure the cover, it simply slips around the edges and then has a few snaps on the inner portion that keep it secured. I even washed the cover after a few weeks of use, and found the cleaning instructions in the manual easy to follow, and that the material washed nicely.

 

Pria 85Comfy Fabrics

The gray material of the Pria 85 looks and feels just like a comfy pair of sweatpants. It contrasts with sleek, navy fabric and the result is a handsome seat that combines comfort and style. Sam told me several times that his favorite thing about the Pria 85 is the soft fabric.

The seat featured in this review is Brilliant Blue; with a couple cameos from a Devoted Black model. The Pria 85 is also available in Passionate Pink.

 

Pria 85 Harness HoldersHarness Holders

Having to dig harness straps out from underneath a wiggly kid is, simply, the worst. The Pria 85 has these handy little clips on the side of the seat to hold the straps out-of-the-way. My kids have ridden in several other seats that have this feature and to be honest, I’ve never actually used it with any regularity. I always find that getting the straps into the little holders is more cumbersome than digging them out from under the child is to begin with. The Pria 85 changed that for me, however. The harness holders are in the perfect position to easily tuck the straps in

Overall Thoughts

mx-518_1zThe Pria 85 carries a lot of nice features and will last the average child a long time. I appreciated the plush fabrics, comfortable fit, and easy remove cover. I would love to see the rear facing height limit extended, and the forward facing limits set to a range more likely to be achieved by the size constraints of the seat. With a suggested retail of $299.99, the Pria 85 won’t fit all budgets, but the ease of use features make it a nice choice for many families. Would you like to win a Pria 85 for your Little? Maxi-Cosi would like to give one away to one of our readers, enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. You can also find the Maxi-Cosi Pria 85 on Amazon.com.

Maxi-Cosi generously provided the Brilliant Blue seat used in this review, however, we were not otherwise compensated and opinions, as always, are all our own.

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