Car Seat Safety

Joanna Sidon CPST

There is, what seems, an endless number of things we as parents need to know about. Topping that list, at least for me, is car seat safety. Which seat? Which stage? Does it fit in my car? How tight should the straps be? Where does the chest clip go? What’s this strap at the back for? What coats are ok to wear? As a new parent in 2014, I did my share of research to get as good of a knowledge as I could on all things car seat related. In March 2018 I took the training course to become a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST), and while I’m still learning new things daily, I hope I’ll be able to pass along some of the invaluable knowledge I’ve gained so far.

10 Car Seat Tips
What stage of car seat should your child be in?

Riding rear facing is the safest option so we want to try to keep our kids in this stage for as long as the seat allows. Generally though, you want to rear face until at least 2 (ideally 3-4), forward face until they’re 5+, and keep them in a booster until they’re 10-12 and are big enough to properly use an adult seatbelt.

Are the straps at the right height?

Depending on whether your child’s seat is forward facing or rear facing you need to make sure the straps are at the right height. For a REAR facing seat the straps should be at or below the shoulders. For a FORWARD facing seat the straps should be at or above the shoulders.

Is the chest clip positioned properly?

Always make sure the top of the chest clip is in-line with the armpits. The chest clip is a pre-collision positioning system, so it’s important to make sure it’s located at armpit level and not at the belly.

Are the harness straps tight?

To get the harness tight, start by pulling all the slack from all areas of the harness, and then tighten the harness using the adjuster strap. You can then test if the harness straps are tight enough by trying to pinch the straps at the collarbone. If you CAN grab any slack between your fingers it’s too loose and you should tighten the harness more.

Is the seat installed tightly?

When your car seat is installed it should move less than 1” side to side at the belt path or front to back. It’s important to consult your car seat manual to ensure you’re using the correct belt path and installing the seat properly.

Make sure you are only use the seat belt OR UAS to install the seat, NOT both.
Can’t find the manual? Contact your car seat manufacturer to get a replacement. (See Helpful Resources below)

Is the tether attached?

All forward facing seats in Canada are required to be tethered to the car using the top tether on the car seat. Check your car manual to find out where your car’s anchors are located. It’s important to make sure you’re only using the proper tether points and not cargo tie downs or other random hooks in the car.
If your car doesn’t have anchors you can consult the car manufacturer to find out if some can be retrofitted.

What coat can my child wear in the car seat?

Canadian Winters are cold and we all want to ensure that our little ones are warm both in and out of the car. The majority of winter coats will not fit properly in car seats and could cause there to be too much space between the child and the harness. There are many options for keeping warm and staying safe in car seats but a few are: wearing the jacket backwards over the harness, car seat ponchos, or loose blankets.

Is your car seat expired?

All car seats in Canada have an expiry date of somewhere between 6-12 years from the date of manufacture, check your car seat manual to find out when your seat expires. Materials degrade over time so it’s very important to discontinue use after the expiry date.

Was the car seat ever in a car involved in a collision?

Even very minor collisions can cause damage to a car seat (even if visually they look fine). Contact your insurance company and the car seat manufacturer to find out if your specific situation requires a new seat.

What extra products can I use with my seat?

The general answer is: if it didn’t come with your seat you shouldn’t use it. Seat protectors, infant mirrors, window shades, and bunting style bags are not recommended to use. These items weren’t crash-tested with your seat and therefore may pose a safety risk for your child. You can contact your car seat manufacturer or refer to your car seat manual to see if any items are specifically permitted.

There are many more items to consider when choosing, installing, or using a car seat; these are just some of the most common questions. There are many resources available to you if you’re looking for more information or need help figuring out the whole seat thing you can check out the SEATS for Kids

Discussion Community on Facebook,and you can check out Joanna's Facebook page

If you would like to ask Joanna questions privately, you can contact her by email. or you can send me an email.

Helpful Resources

Baby Trend: 1-800-328-7363 ( 1-888-427-4829 (
Chicco: 1-800-667-4111 ( 1-866-656-2462 (
Diono: 1-866-954-9786 (
Dorel: 1-800-544-1108 (Safety 1st, Cosco, Eddie Bauer, Maxi-Cosi) ( 1-937-773-3971 (
Graco: 1-800-667-8184 ( Juvenile: 1-877-306-1001 (
Nuna: 1-800-667-8184 (
Peg Perego: 1-800-661-5050 ( 1-855-422-4515 (
Transport Canada: 1-800-333-0371 (

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