Read the Car Seat Manual!

(Last Updated On: August 30, 2017)
Read your car seat manual!

Read your car seat manual!

Everything from lawn mowers to DVD players comes with a manual. When you are preparing for a child, multiply that by a bouncer, a high chair, a stroller and a swing.  Chances are, you read the manual when you first buy the product, so you can assemble and use them.

After the initial assembly, the manual is likely to get thrown in the recycling 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 that fate: to safely install and use your child’s car seat, your car seat manual and your vehicle manual should both be at your fingertips.

Car Seat Questions: The Top Five

Important questions that parents ask technicians include the following:

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

These are great questions, and we love to help caregivers with them. But a CPST is not a replacement for the information in your manual.  Technicians may remember the specifics of certain seats, however, our main goal is to educate and empower you to know how to find that information yourself. We want parents to feel confident in their ability to choose a seat that fits their child correctly, install that seat properly, and use it correctly every time. The answers to all of these common questions are in the manual that came with your seat.

Car seat manual Table of Contents

Car seat manual table of contents: many options for installation!

Let’s look at question one.  How do I install it?  Since there are a variety of installation methods, this answer 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.

Car seat manuals will always have the weight, height, and age guidelines for the seat

Car seat manuals will always have the weight, height, and age limits for the seat

Second question: what are the limits of this seat?  This is generally located in the beginning of the manual with an overview about the entire seat, and then again within the
section for that feature of the seat.
The manual may even include diagrams or pictures of how the seat should fit the child.

Question number three concerns washing, or caring for the seat.  This is a very important topic, as I’ve not yet met a child who didn’t make a mess at some point, but each seat may require different care.

For some seats the cover is machine washable; other seats require you to spot clean only. This will be outlined in your manual, often in the final pages.

Question four is a common issue for families who have been using a seat for some time. Learning that your seat expires may be surprising, but every seat on the market expires and that information is critical.  Expiration dates are vastly different for different seats: currently seats expire between 5 and 10 years and some seats have different expiration dates on the harness and the booster portion.  The date of manufacture will likely be found on your seat itself, but an explanation of how long the seat is good for will be within the pages of your manual. In other words, you’re going to need that manual for a long time: keep it in a safe place!

Car seat manual has information on the lower anchor limits as well

Car seat manual has information on the lower anchor limits as well

Look for warnings about lower anchors in the car seat manual

Look for warnings about lower anchors in the car seat manual

When LATCH was introduced in the early 00’s, it was supposed to make installing child restraints easier, however, that is not always the case. Lower anchors have weight limits, meaning for older children LATCH is not an option.  These limits can be confusing (and you can read more about those limits here) but your manual will have the information for your specific seat. 

The manual that comes with your car seat contains much more!  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!

Look in the car seat manual for FAA approval and installation instructions for airplanes

Look in the car seat manual for FAA approval and installation instructions for airplanes

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 made up here at CSFTL just to make life more difficult!

Car seat manuals include information on bulky clothing and harnesses

Car seat manuals include information on bulky clothing

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 straight from the manufacturers.

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

Car seat manuals include warnings and contact information in case of lost or broken pieces

Car seat manuals include warnings and contact information in case of lost or broken pieces

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!

Car seat manuals can help you find a local CPST

Car seat manuals can help you find a local CPST

The Vehicle Manual: Not Just for the Glove Box!

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

Not sure how to lock the belt in your car? Your car’s manual will address that.

Lock your seat belt per your vehicle manual

Lock your seat belt per your vehicle manual

Wondering where those tether anchors are for your forward facing seats? Your vehicle’s manual has that information, too!

Your vehicle's manual will show you where to find your tether anchors

Your vehicle’s manual will show you where to find your tether anchors

Your Manual Is A Wonderful Thing!

Don’t be afraid to employ your most powerful arsenal when installing your child’s seat. If you find yourself missing 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.