Everything from lawn mowers to DVD players include 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 properly.
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.
Top Car Seat Questions
Important questions that parents ask technicians include the following:
- How do I install my child’s car seat?
- What are the height and weight limits of the car seat?
- How do I wash the cover?
- When does the car seat expire?
- Should I use LATCH or the vehicle seat belt?
The Vehicle Manual: Not Just for the Glove Box!
The vehicle manual contains information about all kinds of things, including about installing car seats! Answers to common questions can be found in the child restraint section of your vehicle’s manual.
Not sure how to lock the vehicle seat belt in your car? Your car’s manual will address that.
Wondering where those tether anchors are for your forward facing car seats? Your vehicle’s manual has that information, too!
Top Vehicle Questions
Here’s a short summary of the vehicle-related questions we see the most:
- Where are the lower anchors?
- Where are the top tether anchors?
- Can I “borrow” the lower anchors from the outboard seating positions and use lower anchors in the middle? (spoiler: the vehicle manual and the car seat manual have to agree, this is somewhat rare so chances are, center installation=using a vehicle 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 manuals.Technicians may remember the specifics of certain car seats and certain vehicles, 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.
Question one: How do I install the car seat? 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.
Height and Weight Limits
Question two: what are the height and weight limits of this car seat? This information 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. There are also labels on the seat itself with this information.The manual may even include diagrams or pictures of how the seat should fit the child.
Washing the Cover
Question three: how do I wash the car seat’s cover? This is a very important topic — we’ve not yet met a child who didn’t make a mess at some point, but each seat may require different care.
For some car 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.
Pro tip: while the manual describes the basics of cleaning a car seat cover, it may not always provide explicit instructions about removing and replacing the cover. We suggest taking a video while disassembling your car seat so it’s easy to remember where everything goes once it’s clean again!
Car Seats Expire
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, most seats expire between 6 and 10 years after the date of manufacture. Some car 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!
Lower Anchor Weight Limits
When the LATCH system 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 that using LATCH isn’t always an option, especially for older, heavier children (a vehicle seat belt is always an option, those are designed to hold adults so they can always hold a car seat!).
Lower anchor weight limits can be confusing (and you can read more about those limits here) but your car seat’s 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!
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!
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 manufacturer is located within the manual as well.
Technicians are here to help and to educate caregivers. Car seats can be confusing and the manufacturers understand that. They may even include information about finding a technician near you for assistance.
Your Manual Is A Wonderful Thing
Don’t be afraid to employ your most powerful arsenal when installing your child’s car seat — the manual. 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.