Everything you purchase comes with a manual, whether it is a lawn mower or a DVD player. When you are preparing for a child, multiply that by a bouncer, a high chair, a stroller and a swing. Chances are, you read them to know how to put them together and their basic function.
After the initial assembly, the manual is likely to get thrown in the trash or lost in the dark abyss of a junk drawer, never to be seen or heard from again. There are two manuals that should be saved from the dark abyss and should be accessible at your fingertips. Those two vitally important manuals are your car seat manual and your vehicle manual.
When it comes to installing your child’s car seat, these are two very necessary items to ensure that it is done correctly. The top 5 questions that parents ask technicians about any specific seat would be the following:
- How do I install it?
- What are the limits of the seat?
- How do I wash the cover?
- When does it expire?
- Should I use LATCH or seat belt?
One thing that is important to remember is that the knowledge of a tech is not a replacement for the information that is given in your manual. Some technicians may remember the specifics of certain seats and be able to help you with that, however, our main goal is to educate. We want to educate and empower you to know how to find that information themselves, feel confident in your ability to install a seat properly, and how to choose a seat
that fits your child correctly. All of the questions above can be found easily within the manual that came with your seat.
So lets look at question one. How do I install it? Since there are a variety of installation methods, this will be found in a variety of places throughout the manual, depending on which installation method and position you will be using your seat in. The picture below was taken from an Evenflo Maestro Manual. It lists the different types of installations and which pages those installation guides can be found on.
Second question up on the block: what are the limits of this seat? This is generally located in the beginning of the manual with an overview over the entire seat, and then again within the
section for that feature of the seat.
The manual may even include visual pictures of how the seat should fit the child while in the seat.
Question number three brings us to washing, or caring for the seat. This is a very important topic, because each seat may require different care.
For one seat the cover may be machine washable, but another may be spot clean only.
Question four steers us into discussing the expiration on your seat. Learning that your seat expires may be new information for some parents. However, every seat on the market does expire. The dates may vary from 5-10 years and some seats that are combination seats might have different expiration dates on the harness and the booster portion. The date of manufacture will likely not be in your manual, that will be found on your seat, but an explanation of how long the seat is good for will be within the pages of your manual.
When LATCH, or lower anchors and tethers for children was introduced in the early 00’s, it was supposed to make installing child restraints easier, however, that is not always the case. There are weight limits that go along with the use of lower anchors. In early 2014, new regulations were introduced limiting the use of lower anchors to 65 pounds when the child’s weight and the car seat’s weight are combined. All of the changes to LATCH are explained in our LATCH change post, found here.
That covers the top five questions that caregivers ask. The manual that comes with your car seat contains much more than that though. Traveling? You’ll need to know whether or not you can use your seat on the plane. That can be found in the manual too!
Going out in the cold? The manual addresses that as well. Telling caregivers to forgo the thick and bulky coats is not something that we make up to make life more difficult.
Worried that your child doesn’t have head support or covers on the harness straps? Again, telling parents to forgo these items isn’t something technicians say for fun. These directions come directly from the manufacturers.
Lost a part? The contact information for the maker of the seat is located within the manual as well!
Technicians are here to help and to educate parents. Car seats can be confusing and the manufacturers understand that. They may even include information about finding a technician near you for assistance!
What about your vehicle manual? The one that you got with your new car and has sat in your glove box collecting dust? That can also be full of useful information about installing car seats!
Not sure what to do with your car seat when you don’t have it secured or have a child in it? The manual will tell you.
Not sure how to lock the belt in your car? The manual will address that as well.
Don’t be afraid to employ your most powerful arsenal when installing your child’s seat. The manual is a wonderful thing! If you find yourself miss your manual, don’t panic! Most manuals can either be found online or can be obtained by calling the manufacturer. Once you are in possession of this precious book of information, keep it in a place that is easily accessible, such as your vehicle glove compartment.