One of the biggest struggles we face as CPSTs is working with car seats that can be challenging to install correctly. So when a simple installation method comes along, we tend to get pretty excited.
Would it be weird if I told you I was giddy when the Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 Platinum arrived on my doorstep? I’d first seen it at the ABC Kids Expo last fall; after that introduction, I was eager to spend some quality time with the seat.
CSFTL Quick Stats
- Weight range: 4-35 pounds
- Height range: 32 inches or less
- Lowest harness position: 5 inches
- Expiration: 7 years
- Handle position: Any locked position
- SnugLock lockoff on base — allows for a simple installation!
- No rethread harness
- One hand adjust handle
- Infant insert for smaller infants (Can be used until the child weighs 11 pounds)
- Adjustable recline foot
- Push button lower anchor connectors
- Multi age level indicator
- Weight (carrier only): 10.2 pounds
- Shell height: 19.5 inches
- Width at widest point: 17.5 inches
- Seat pan depth: 11.5 inches
- Two position adjustable crotch strap: 5.5 and 7 inches
Unique/Rather Amazing Features
The SnugRide 35’s base is what makes it kind of amazing. Sure, the carrier portion of the seat is well-featured but the SnugLock base is the star of the show. The lockoff device is as wide as the base; it’s the easiest lockoff to use that I’ve ever met. And you could say that I really get around when it comes to these things.
We first met the SnugLock during last year’s ABC Kids Expo. We were suitably impressed with how easy the demo model was to use and eager to see how the production model would work.
Carrier Handle Position and Adjustment
The carrier’s handle has a magical button that adjusts the handle position with the push of ONE AND ONLY ONE button. If you’ve ever tried to adjust the handle on the fly, you know the joy that this feature brings.
There are a couple of caveats to this feature. First, the handle stops in position 2 in order to keep the child’s weight balanced properly. I thought that my particular seat was broken until I *cough cough* read the manual like I should have done before starting to work with the seat. The manual explains this stop quite clearly. The manual also states that the handle must be in the upright position when carrying the seat around.
I found one other challenge with the handle — it wouldn’t go up or down if the canopy was in the way. The canopy had to be either all the way down or fully extended in order for the handle to move past it.
When the headrest is extended the way it would be as the child grows, the canopy is pretty much always in the way. This is pretty typical when it comes to rear facing only car seats with extendable headrests since the only place for them to extend is beyond the seat’s shell, but it’s still frustrating.
With the Base
The SnugLock Arm is essentially a large, easy to use, lockoff device. It can be used with either the vehicle seat belt or lower anchors (not both, never both!). The signage attached to the seat claims that it’s a 3 step install:
1. Open SnugLock
2. Remove slack from the vehicle seat belt
3. Close SnugLock
While it’s not quite that simple — making sure that the vehicle seat belt lay flat across the belt path was critical– installing the SnugLock base is simple enough that my 7 year old and 10 year old daughters were able to install the base with only the most minimal instruction. The tension of the SnugLock device is just light enough that my youngest daughter was able to operate it properly, yet it works so well that it provides a solid install with minimal effort.
I work with a caregiver who has rheumatoid arthritis. During our seat checks, this disability translates to me doing a lot of the actual installing while explaining the installation process. We review the manual as we go.
She came to mind the instant that I saw the SnugLock base. Could this finally be the seat that she could install?
YES. Yes it, is! She was able to release the SnugLock arm, thread the vehicle belt through the belt path, remove the slack from the vehicle belt, then close the SnugLock arm for a secure install. We both whooped and squealed when she was done.
The SnugLock base is a terrific option for caregivers with any kind of mobility impairment or struggles with dexterity.
Unlike other car seats from different popular brands that feature a somewhat similar type of lockoff device, the SnugLock works just as well when installed with lower anchors. The manual states to remove all slack from the lower anchor webbing but I found that removing too much slack made it impossible to close the SnugLock arm. In my vehicle, the correct amount was about an inch of slack in the webbing.
Release the Hounds!
The SnugLock isn’t the only type of amazing lockoff device on the market, they’re available on a few other car seats as well. Most of those other seats require the vehicle seat belt or lower anchors to be released before releasing the lockoff device. But not the SnugLock, which features a lovely release handle that’s tensioned so nicely that my 10 year old budding CPST was able to release the lockoff with ease. If the tension was different, we’d worry about the SnugLock arm flying up and smacking any one in its path, but the SnugLock by no means packs destructive force.
The harness adjusts via a headrest adjustment lever on the back of the carrier portion of the seat. This lever moves the headrest and the harness up or down at the same time. While this adjuster is functional, I struggled with having it mounted on the back of the carrier. The manual is clear — the child must not be in the carrier while adjusting the harness. A front-mounted adjuster would likely be easier to use.
The base features a 2 level recline indicator. The shorter line is for younger babies without head control — 0+ months, and a longer line for children who are at least 3 months old.
To adjust the recline base and install at the correct angle, release the handle at the front of the base. A recline foot will extend.
My 2016 VW GTI has a pretty serious slope to the vehicle seat. Even with that slope, the recline foot was large enough that I could install the SnugRide SnugLock at the correct angle. The manual allows for a rolled towel placed under the base — closest to the vehicle seat back — to recline the base even more if needed.
Fit to Child
Our preemie Huggable Images doll weighs 4 pounds and is 17 inches long. With the no rethread harness on the lowest setting, the SnugRide SnugLock fit her well.
The manual states that the bottom portion of the flap behind the child’s rear end can be folded back for a better fit. So we tried that, too. This change didn’t make for a significant change to the fit but it does seem slightly better with the flap folded this way.
The infant insert can be used until the child weighs 11 pounds. It’s rather fuzzy on one side, that’s the side that’s supposed to be touching the child.
Our newborn Huggable Images doll weighs 7 pounds and is 17 inches long. With the no rethread harness on the lowest setting and with the infant insert in, the SnugRide SnugLock fit her well.
While loading her into the seat, the harness stuck just a bit. I found that pulling the slack up from around her hips, and then adjusting the harness took care of the issue.
10 Weeks Old
The newest model in the CSFTL family is 10 weeks old here. He weighs 12 pounds and is 22 inches long. He fit well in the seat and had plenty of growing room!
3.5 Months Old
Our slightly older model is 3.5 months old, weighs 19 pounds, and is 24 inches long. He also has lots of room to grow in this seat.
Important Information: Where to Find
FAA Approval like all rear facing only car seats, the base is not approved for use on aircraft but the carrier portion of the seat is approved.
The label on the base clearly states that the base is not approved for use on aircraft. The FAA approval label for the carrier portion of the seat is located on the back of the seat.
Manual Storage The manual stores in a little spot at the back of the base. The location of this spot means that the manual remains accessible even when the seat is installed.
Date of Manufacture Label The date of manufacture label is on the back of the seat’s shell, under the child’s left shoulder. There’s a separate label on the base, which can be different from the date listed on the carrier portion of the seat.
In a market where more features tend to equate with a significantly higher price point, the SnugRide SnugLock 35 brings a lot to the table. The easy installation of the base is sure to keep misuse to a minimum — something that makes our hearts swell. The carrier portion of the seat is well-featured and also filled with ease of use features. Families who need to move their child’s car seat base around on a regular basis or families who want the security of a solid install every time would be well suited to select this seat.