3 car seat installation mistakes you need to avoid

New and seasoned parents might think they know how to properly install a car seat, but the CDC estimates that 46% of car and booster seats are being “misused” in ways that reduce these safety devices’ effectiveness.

Lauren Fix – a sector analyst and industry expert at The Car Coach & Car Smarts Brands, told Fox News there are three mistakes parents commonly make when they’re installing car seats.

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“The most common mistake [made during] car seat installation is not using the latch system and using a seat belt, which is less safe,” she said.

New and seasoned parents might think they know how to properly install a car seat, but the CDC estimates that 46% of car and booster seats are being "misused" in ways that reduce these safety devices’ effectiveness.

New and seasoned parents might think they know how to properly install a car seat, but the CDC estimates that 46% of car and booster seats are being “misused” in ways that reduce these safety devices’ effectiveness. (iStock)

Latch systems are explicitly designed to hold car seats flush to vehicle seat cushions, which comes in handy if a short stop or collision does occur.

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Some parents try to preserve their seat cushions or aid their car seat angling by adding a blanket or towel under the safety device, but experts say this method should be avoided. 

“The car seat should never have anything underneath it other than the seat itself,” Fix said. “Putting a blanket or towel under the car seat which doesn’t allow the seat to function properly.”

Adding a buffer between a seat cushion and a car seat can not only fool the human eye into believing that the device has been tightened enough, but it can also loosen a latch over time or cause a malfunction – a of which can have devastating consequences in the event of a crash.

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Lauren Fix, a sector analyst and industry expert at The Car Coach & Car Smarts Brands, says parents should opt to use car seats with latch systems and avoid putting a buffer under the seat.

Lauren Fix, a sector analyst and industry expert at The Car Coach & Car Smarts Brands, says parents should opt to use car seats with latch systems and avoid putting a buffer under the seat. (iStock)

Using “expired” car seats is the third mistake parents often make. In recent years, car seat manufacturers have been assigning best by dates that range between six and eight years, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

While not every parent might be happy to hear the short lifespan car seats have, these guidelines are put in place as a means to inform consumers about its optimum use timeframe and get a handle on quality control.

“Using old car seats is dangerous,” Fix said. “Your precious cargo needs the latest safety features.”

Car seats "expire" after six or eight years after the manufacture date, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Car seats “expire” after six or eight years after the manufacture date, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (iStock)

She went on to note that car seat manufacturers regularly update belts, harnesses and steel reinforcements in addition to side impact protection.

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“There are always improvements like in the auto industry,” Fix said.

To remedy the financial burden of car seat upgrades if your family is still in the growing stage, retailers and community groups host car seat trade-in events throughout the country.

If your car seat manufacture’s installation manual isn’t as helpful as you hoped, government programs and law enforcement agencies frequently arrange events where parents can connect with car seat technicians. 

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The nonprofit organization Safe Kids Worldwide offers car seat installation resources online, where parents can find walk-through guides or an in-person or virtual car seat installation class.

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