Frequently Asked Questions

CSFTL at your Service, CPS Week 2019

CSFTL at your Service, CPS Week 2019

Our Facebook group is a hopping place!  With over 300,000 members, our admin team works around the clock to answer your questions, provide recommendations, and keep the peace in a swiftly-moving environment. We also receive hundreds of private messages each week, our messages team works tirelessly to respond quickly and accurately.  This article has grown out of our efforts to assist as many caregivers as possible in those forums.

We’re sharing these FAQs with you as the kickoff to our CPS Week 2019 celebration.  Our theme this year is CSFTL at your Service and we’ll be highlighting the way you have helped us grow as an organization!  


General Questions: How do I…

  • Contact the admin team?

Please message us at or email us at [email protected]

  • Find my state’s child passenger safety and car seat laws?

Child passenger safety laws vary from state to state. The legal minimums are nowhere near the best practice principles we teach as Child Passenger Safety Technicians. In short, the ideal is for children to ride rear facing until age 3-4, forward facing with a 5 point harness until age 5-6, in a booster until age 10-12, and in the back seat until age 13.

  • Find a local CPST?

Our tireless team of CSFTL technicians help people online every day, but it is always a good idea to meet with a CSPT in person to check your child’s car seat or booster seat.  While we’re so very proud of the ways we’re able to help caregivers via our unique forum, nothing can replace working with a CPST and learning hands-on how to use your own seats in your own car properly.

Learn how to find a CSPT who is local to you.

  • Dispose of an unusable car seat?

After all the time you’ve spent choosing your child’s car seat, it’s always a sad day when that car seat cannot be used again after a crash.  Sometimes, naughty animals ruin a car seat (cats: we are looking at you!), the seat grows mold in weird places, and the seat must be replaced.  What should you do with this hunk of plastic, fabric, and nylon that once protected your child?

One thing you should NOT do is donate it or sell it. The idea that any type of car seat, even one that’s been in a crash or the victim of kitty urine is not safe or correct. The manufacturers set height and weight limits on their seats, or issue recalls, after spending millions of dollars on testing. If they no longer guarantee a seat will work to save a child’s life, please believe them. No child then deserves to risk their life in that car seat.

  • Store my car seat for use in the future?

There isn’t a single right way to store an unused car seat or booster seat. Different things may work for your particular climate and storage space.  While the elements can have an effect on the condition of your child’s car seat, you don’t need to vacuum seal  the seat or even keep it in a climate controlled storage unit. Though it will eventually expire, it isn’t perishable and it doesn’t require air conditioning.  Beyond that, there are some steps you can take to help make sure your restraint is safe to use later on, check them out in our article.

Car Seat Issues: What do I do if…

  • My cover rips, I wash it improperly, the foam breaks, I left my child’s car seat out in the rain, or something else went wrong?

Please contact the manufacturer directly.  These unique situations require unique answers and we leave those to the manufacturer.

  • I don’t know how to contact the manufacturer?

Do you have a question about your child’s car seat or booster seat? This list contains phone numbers, websites, emails, and contact forms for most car seat manufacturers.  Don’t be shy about calling them — many manufacturers are staffed by CPSTs who are as interested in keeping your child safe as you are.

  • My child’s car seat moves all over when I wiggle it at the top?

“You want less than one inch of movement when you give it a firm handshake at the belt path with your non-dominant hand.”

Our article explains the best way to check for movement once your child’s car seat is installed.

  • I can’t get my vehicle seat belt to lock?

Before installing a car seat, the most important step is to read both the car seat and the vehicle manuals. The vehicle manual includes instructions about the type of seat belts in your vehicle. The car seat manual will tell you what kinds of seat belts the car seat can be used with and if the car seat has any additional locking features of its own.

  • I’d like to modify my child’s car seat with some aftermarket strap covers, an insert, or a forehead strap to keep my child comfortable?

As a general rule, products sold separately from your child restraint should not be used because these products may affect the safety of your restraint in a crash. Even a seemingly minor change to your child’s car seat or booster seat could alter the way is designed and tested to perform in a crash, resulting in serious injury or death.

  • I was in a collision with my child’s car seat or car seat base installed in the vehicle.  Will insurance cover replacing my car seat?

Whether it’s a fender bender or something much more serious, there is a good chance your child’s car seat or booster seats will need to be replaced after a crash.  While some car seats follow NHTSA’s criteria for reuse after a minor crash, and may not need to be replaced after a minor collision, many must be replaced after ANY crash, even if the car seats or booster seats were unoccupied.

Always consult the manual that came with your child’s car seat or booster seat for the crash replacement guidelines. If you’re still uncertain, contact the manufacturer.

Please note: Insurance coverage itself is out of our scope. Please direct all insurance questions to your adjuster or insurance company.

  • I want to install something under my child’s car seat to protect my vehicle seat?

Caregivers often ask us how they can protect their vehicle’s seats when a car seat is installed.  It’s a valid question, especially coming from expectant parents who wonder what the car seat will do to a previously untouched vehicle interior, one that had been devoid of ground goldfish crackers and spilled beverages.

The short answer: At CSFTL, we don’t recommend using any product or item between the vehicle seat and the child restraint because as CPSTs, we often see them misused. Ultimately the decision is up to the parent.

The longer answer: Some specific car seats permit the use of specific seat protectors. While we don’t recommend using one, we have compiled a chart of manufacturers’ stances on the use of protectors.

  • I need to clean my child’s seat?

We absolutely respect every caregiver’s right to attempt to clean any mess that comes their way.  Sometimes, trashing a car seat isn’t an option and you have to make it work. However, we’ve found a number of scenarios where removing the stain or the smell is nearly impossible, even after following the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter.  Here’s a short and kind of gross list of those bad, bad times for car seats: mold, animal urine or feces (most often, cat), fire, bedbugs, broken glass, skunks, bears, large spider nests, bees, certain parasitic infestations or infections, human waste if it’s too large in volume or has a chance to set into the seat.

Sometimes, the seat’s shell can be saved even if the cover cannot. Manufacturers usually sell replacement covers so you may be able to order one and get some more use out of the car seat.

  • My child’s car seat arrived in a crushed or damaged cardboard box?

Nothing inspires car seat panic like your child’s brand new car seat or booster seat arriving in a torn, dented, or otherwise damaged boxes.   We’ve got great news in this situation — cardboard boxes, even though they seem flimsy, are actually designed to protect the item they contain during the shipping process.  Manufacturers don’t tend to add extra packaging or foam inside the car seat box, and that’s fine. Those boxes do a very good job of protecting that car seat on its first ride to your family because even if a box is torn or dented, the car seat is usually just fine.

  • The harness on my child’s car seat is uneven?

A common car seat concern is what to do when it seems that the child’s car seat harness is tightened properly but the harness is uneven.  In other words, one of the straps is tight but the other is still very loose. Our article explores a few common culprits and ways to troubleshoot them.


Child’s Ages & Stages: How do I…

  • Find reviews of a specific car seat?

We have reviews of many, many, many car seats here on the website.  Please use our search tool to find a review of the specific car seat that interests you.

  • Find the CSFTL recommended car seats list?

We also maintain a list of car seats that we recommend for the United States, Canada, and the UK/Europe.  All car seats that are sold in the United States meet or exceed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 213 (FVMSS213) so our list is just a compilation of the car seats that we find the easiest to install and use properly.

Car seats that are not on our recommended car seats list still meet or exceed that standard and will be safe if installed and used properly.




  • Prevent my child from escaping their car seat?

At some point or another, every Little seems to test the boundaries when it comes to staying in their car seats.  If you’ve got a little escape artist on your hands we’ve got a few tips and tricks that can help keep them safe and secure while they’re on the road.

  • Protect my child’s car seat from potty accidents?

Potty training is not for the faint of heart!  Our article explores some of the best options for keeping car seats clean during these trying times.

  • Know if my child is ready for a booster seat?

We host a wide variety of questions but one that comes up a lot is: when should my child make the switch from a 5 point harness to a belt positioning booster?

While each child and each situation is different, our minimum recommended age for booster seats is 5 years old.

Wondering if your Little is ready to make this switch?  There are a few things to consider in making this move.

  • Know when to turn my child’s car seat from rear facing to forward facing?

If you’re looking for just the facts about rear facing versus forward facing, you’ve come to the right place. There are multiple factors involved in this discussion; the unique physiology of a young toddler combined with the type of force in the most severe crashes adds up to the perfect storm that puts kids at significant risk if they are forward facing too early.

  • Keep my child’s car seat cool?

Hot weather can present a host of challenges when it comes to car seats, including how best to keep your child cool in their car seat.  We have lots of tips to keep your little ones safe AND cool in our article.

  • Keep my child warm while we’re on the road during the cold winter months?

When winter days are headed our way, we get a lot of questions about staying both warm and safe in the vehicle. Wrapping your kiddo in the warmest jacket possible seems the obvious way to stay warm but puffy coats are not the safest option when it comes to car seats and booster seats.  We look at some terrific ways to keep your kiddos both warm and safe.

  • Know when my child can ride without a booster seat to position the vehicle seat belt correctly?

While some state laws include an age to remove children from their car seats or booster seats, all too often we see that caregivers take that as an indication that it’s time to do away with the booster altogether.   How do you know when it’s time?  When your child can pass the Five Step Test, they’re usually around 4 feet, 9 inches tall.

  • Know when my child can ride in the vehicle’s front seat?

When state laws include a final minimum age for car seat or booster seat use, we often find that caregivers assume that minimum age is also the time to move that child to the front vehicle seat.  That seating position is designed around a small adult.  So how do you know when it’s time to let your child who passes the Five Step Test ride in the front seat?

  • Adjust my vehicle seat belt to fit a shorter adult?

Many times, vehicle seat belts do not appear to fit shorter adults correctly. Is this dangerous and what are some solutions to this problem? Our article here explains more.

  • Get three across my vehicle?

Installing three car seats in one row or having three passengers in one row is one of the biggest challenges a growing family can face when it comes to car seats. There isn’t a single solution for every situation, but our article explains some of the basics of the complicated issue of three across.

CPST Resources

Along the way, we’ve built all of these resources for caregivers but we’ve also built a number of resources for CPSTs as well.

Child restraints can certainly be a tangled web, but we are here to help you untangle it. From birth to booster seat, we’re here as a resource to help your child ride safety. 

This article is intended to answer many of the most common questions we see each day. However, if you have not found the answer to your questions here, please do email, private message or post in our group for more help.