Car Seats

How to Install a Car Seat Safely Rear & Forward-Facing(Seatbelt)

Kate Nash

This website is reader-supported. When you click on links, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

If you’re currently in the hospital parking lot or at home desperately concerned and feeling frustrated about how to safely install a car seat for your baby, you’re not alone. Deciding when to use LATCH or a seatbelt when using a safety seat with or without a base can be quite challenging.

We get it, car seat installation can initially be as complex as a Rubik’s cube. But fear not, you’ve stumbled upon the guide that will unravel this puzzle step-by-step. So buckle up and let’s navigate this car seat conundrum together!

As a car seat safety expert, I understand the importance of proper installation to ensure the safety of your child while on the road. To give you an idea of how important child safety restraint (CSR) systems are, I have shared some stats about crashes and their effectiveness.

According to Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention, “The best car seat is one that fits your child’s size and weight, as well as your vehicle.” This means that it’s essential to install the correct car seat for your child’s age and weight and then install it properly.

In this guide, we will discuss how to install two types of car seats; the rear-facing and forward-facing child restraint systems. We will also cover installation methods using both a seatbelt and a base. With this knowledge, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your child’s car seat is installed correctly, ensuring their safety while on the road. So let’s begin

Why Install Child Restraint Systems?

According to a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children aged 3-18. In 2008, 1633 children under the age of 16 lost their lives, and 220,000 were injured as a result of these crashes. Read our guide with infant car seat safety ratings here.

Did you know that, according to the CDC, nearly half (46 percent) of child car seats and booster seats are incorrectly installed? Shockingly, even minor accidents or sudden stops in traffic can result in serious injuries if the seat is not properly secured. It’s crucial to ensure that child car seats are correctly installed to protect our little ones from harm.

Below are the key reasons to install a child restraint system;

Reason #1: It Reduces Fatalities:

The use of a child restraint system is a highly effective measure that reduces the likelihood of crash fatalities by 71% for infants and 54% for toddlers. The effectiveness of the system depends primarily on the type and orientation of the restraint. However, it’s important to note that misuse significantly diminishes the effectiveness of the child restraint system.

Reason #2: It Prevents Serious Injuries:

In case of a car accident, the use of an appropriate child restraint system considerably decreases the risk of serious injury for children. These include traumatic brain injuries, concussions, and organ damage. According to NHTSA, properly installed rear-facing seats are 5 times safer than forward-facing ones.

Which Is the Safest Place to Install a Car Seat?

For optimal safety, car seats should be placed in the area of the vehicle that is farthest from crash force and airbags. According to a 2007 study, the second-row center seat is the safest position for car seats and passengers of all ages. The study found that children aged 0-3 were 43% safer in the center back seat compared to other areas of the car. This statistic highlights the significant importance of choosing the right seating arrangement for maximum protection.

image showing Where to put the baby car seat for maximum baby safety
The back seat of the car is where you place the baby car seat.

Crash force can be reduced by keeping a safe distance from the vehicle’s point of impact, and the center back seat provides this distance. Additionally, placing a car seat in the middle prevents side-impact collisions which can cause severe injuries to children.

Several states now mandate that children under a certain age must ride in the back seat, further emphasizing the importance of this location for car seats. Make sure to check your state’s laws and regulations regarding child passenger safety before installing a car seat.

How to install a baby car seat rear-facing with a seatbelt:

  1. Begin by reading the instruction manual provided by the car seat manufacturer.
  2. Place the car seat in a rear-facing position on the vehicle’s backseat.
  3. Pull the vehicle’s seatbelt across the front of the car seat and buckle it into place.
  4. If your car seat has a built-in lock-off, use it to secure the seatbelt in place.
  5. If your car seat does not have a lock-off, use the vehicle’s seatbelt locking mechanism – consult your vehicle’s manual for instructions.
  6. Once the car seat is secured with the seatbelt, check for any movement – if there is more than an inch of movement, the seat is not installed correctly.
  7. Adjust the recline angle of the car seat according to the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure the baby’s head and neck are properly supported.
  8. Double-check that the car seat is installed tightly by giving it a firm tug at the base.
  9. Secure any loose straps or harnesses and make sure they are snug against the child’s body.
  10. Once everything is properly secured, perform a final check for any movement – if there is none, your baby car seat is now installed correctly.

How to install a baby car seat rear-facing without a seatbelt:

  1. Begin by reading the instruction manual provided by the car seat manufacturer.
  2. Place the car seat in a rear-facing position on the vehicle’s backseat.
  3. Locate the lower anchors in your vehicle – these are typically located between the seats or behind them.
  4. Attach the lower anchor connectors on the car seat to the lower anchors in your vehicle. Make sure they are tightly secured.
  5. Adjust the recline angle of the car seat according to the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure the baby’s head and neck are properly supported.
  6. Give the car seat a firm tug at the base to check for any movement – if there is more than an inch of movement, adjust the installation accordingly.
  7. Secure any loose straps or harnesses and make sure they are snug against the child’s body.
  8. Perform a final check for any movement – if there is none, your baby car seat is now installed correctly in a rear-facing position without using a seatbelt.

How to install a baby car seat rear-facing with base:

  1. Begin by reading the instruction manual provided by the car seat manufacturer.
  2. Place the car seat base in a rear-facing position on the vehicle’s backseat.
  3. Locate the lower anchors in your vehicle – these are typically located between the seats or behind them.
  4. Attach the lower anchor connectors on the car seat base to the lower anchors in your vehicle. Make sure they are tightly secured.
  5. Adjust the recline angle of the car seat base according to the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure the baby’s head and neck are properly supported.
  6. Give the car seat base a firm tug at the base to check for any movement – if there is more than an inch of movement, adjust the installation accordingly.
  7. Secure any loose straps or harnesses and make sure they are snug against the child’s body.
  8. Perform a final check for any movement – if there is none, your baby car seat is now installed correctly in a rear-facing position with the use of a base.

How to install a baby car seat rear-facing without base:

  1. Follow steps 1-3 from the previous section for installing with a base.
  2. Instead of using the lower anchors, thread the seatbelt through the designated path on the car seat and buckle it.
  3. Pull the seatbelt tight to remove any slack.
  4. Adjust the recline angle of the car seat according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  5. Use your body weight to press down on the car seat while tightening the seatbelt to ensure a secure installation.
  6. Check for any movement – if there is more than an inch of movement, adjust the installation accordingly.
  7. Secure any loose straps or harnesses and make sure they are snug against the child’s body.
  8. Perform a final check for any movement – if there is none, your baby car seat is now installed correctly in a rear-facing position without the use of a base.

How to Install a car seat forward-facing:

You can either use LATCH or seatbelts to install a car seat in your vehicle. Whichever method you prefer, make sure to read the instruction manual of your specific car seat model for detailed instructions and guidelines.

Installing with LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system:

  1. Locate the lower anchors in your vehicle – they are usually found between the vehicle’s backrest and bottom cushion.
  2. Attach the lower anchors from your car seat to the designated lower anchor points in your vehicle.
  3. Once the lower anchors are securely attached, tighten them by pulling on the straps (if applicable) until there is no slack left.
  4. If your car seat comes with a tether strap, attach it to the designated tether anchor point in your vehicle and tighten it.
  5. Check for any movement – if the car seat moves more than an inch in any direction, it is not installed correctly.

Installing with seatbelt:

  1. Place the car seat in a rear-facing position on the vehicle’s backseat.
  2. Pull the vehicle’s seatbelt across the front of the car seat and buckle it into place.
  3. If your car seat has a built-in lock-off, use it to secure the seatbelt in place.
  4. If your car seat does not have a lock-off, use the vehicle’s seatbelt locking mechanism – consult your vehicle’s manual for instructions.
  5. Once the car seat is secured with the seatbelt, check for any movement – if there is more than an inch of movement, the seat is not installed correctly.

How to put the baby car seat in shopping cart

How to install the baby car seat in the shopping cart.
How to install the baby car seat in the shopping cart.

Shopping with your baby can be stressful especially when you have no idea in the best position to place them. Thousands of babies fall off from the shopping cart which leads to minor and major injuries. To prevent this from happening to you, follow the following steps;

  1. Identify a shopping cart that already has a Safe-Dock in the grocery that you are in. The Safe-Docks are not available in all grocery stores but you can use this link http://www.shoppingcartsafety.com/find-safe-dock/ to find out the ones that have them near you.
  2. Put your carrier in the grindle
  3. Buckle up the harness and make sure that is tight to avoid the baby from falling.
  4. Once you have followed all the instructions, you may go ahead and enjoy your shopping.

How to Install the baby car seat with Seatbelt – more details

You may prefer to use the seat belt to install the baby car seat instead of using the Latch system. This is also as safe as you follow the instructions below;

Step 1:

Use the manual of the car seat to find the seat belt path which is a set of holes that are located near the latch connector strap path on the seat.

Step on how to install baby car seat with seat belt - Check this picture to trace the path.
Check this picture to trace the path.

Step 2:

Fix the strap of the seat belt through the appropriate path of the car-seat belt and buckle up the seat belt.

Fix the strap of the seat belt through the appropriate path of the car-seat belt and buckle up the seat belt.

Step 3 :

Pull out the seat belt of the vehicle all the way from the retractor slowly. When it is all the way out, you should hear a click.

Pull out the seat belt of the vehicle when installing car seat with seatbelt

Step 4 :

While listening to a feel of a ratcheting motion, feed seat belt back to the retractor. If you encounter a problem, kindly consult the manual.

ensure it is tightly fiting

Step 5:

Pull up the seat belt up to the furthest it can go until it is tight enough. In case of a crash, the seat will remain intact just as a Latch connector does.

pull up the seatbelt - guide to safety car seat installation

Step 6:

In the case of a forward-facing car seat, never forget to connect the tether strap to the car’s top tether anchor. This helps to lessen cases of injuries to your baby during a crash.

When you face a challenge during installation, please check the manual for instructions.

How to Install baby car seat without base

Bases are usually for convenience but not necessarily for safety purposes. You may have to install the baby car seat when you are traveling, in someone else’s car or an uber. Below are the steps to follow in such a scenario;

  • Place the baby car seat rear-facing, on the seat of the vehicle.
  • Now pull out the seat belt and thread the lap section using the lap belt guides.
  • Put the shoulder belt portion through and ensure that it lies flat. In case your car seat has a European belt path, pull it by behind and secure it.
  • Buckle the safety belt
  • Activate the locking mechanism by pulling down on the shoulder belt.
  • To make sure that your installation is tight, push on the car seat and pull on the safety belt.
  • Always double-check to make sure that the installation is level

How to Install Britax Car Seat

Whether it is Britax B Safe, B-Safe 35, B-safe ultra or Endeavor Car seat, the installation steps are;

  • Place the base on the car seat
  • Pull the base up and down until the red marker is visible between the two lines on the recline indicators
  • Firmly pull to remove lower connectors from the storage in the base
  • After pulling the lower connectors to lengthen, pull them to the car seat anchors until a click is heard
  • Tighten the straps by making sure that they are flat to the base
  • Ensure that the recline angle is correct
  • Place the baby car seat on the base and push until a click is heard.

How to Install a newborn baby in the car seat

  • The baby may be upset and probably even cry when you are buckling them up but that should not be a cause of alarm. Just stay calm and ensure that the are safely strapped.
  • Make sure that it is the right fit especially on the shoulders and legs.
  • Ensure that the straps are at or below the baby’s shoulders and the strap fits in well between the legs.
  • Always make sure that the head is in a safe position.
  • Recline the car seat appropriately
  • After strapping in, swaddle the baby
  • You may set up some entertainment for the baby to keep them engaged

How to Install the Baby Trend car seat back together

Putting back the baby trend car seat back together can be really hectic but here are some steps that you can follow;

Step 1:

First, return the smaller cover piece on both edges until it fits.

Step 2:

Return the larger cover piece on both sides by fixing the straps through the holes on the cover seat.

Step 3:

Switch the car seat to the backside and make sure that the red dial is all the way up by twisting it until the bolt is at the top.

Step 4:

From the front, fit in the strap through to the hole and make sure that the strap is not twisted. Get a butter knife or something that can pull up the strap from the backside.

Step 5:

Once you have both straps on the backside, pull them up and then fix them onto the c-ring with gaps on both sides.

Step 6:

Flip the car seat to the front side and you can now adjust the headrest height by spinning the red dial. You then fix the seat cover appropriately on the outer side.

This video explains the process step by step

How to put the car seat in baby trend jogging stroller

Placing the car seat in the baby trend jogging stroller is not a complicated process when you are aware of how to go about it.

Always ensure that the straps are well fixed and the car seat is stable on the stroller. Below is a video that sheds more light on how to go about it;

How to put the baby in Uppababy and Mesa car seat

To ensure that the baby is well-fitted in the Uppababy Mesa seat, follow the following steps;

  • Unlock the straps and adjust the headrest height of the seat cover.
  • Place your baby on the car seat and fit in the straps of the car seat through the shoulders and laps.
  • Pull the straps until they are tight enough for the baby’s safety and do a pinch task
  • The harness must be at or below the baby’s shoulders
  • Position the chest clip at armpit level

How to put the baby in the car seat during winter

The winter season can be quite hectic because you need to keep your baby warm as well as ensure that their safety. These are some of the steps to follow when putting the baby in the car seat;

  • Keep the car seat at room temperature to reduce the loss of the body heat of the baby in the car.
  • You will need an early start when heading out because you have a lot to assemble and the baby may not cooperate as usual.
  • Dress your baby in thin layers and include hats, mittens, socks, and booties.
  • Ensure you tighten the straps of the car seat harness and do a pinch task
  • Use a blanket or a coat over the straps after buckling the baby up
  • ONLY use a car seat cover if it does not have a layer under the baby
  • Any item that did not come with the car seat may not be well tested hence may be a danger to your baby
  • Pack an emergency bag for your car for safety purposes