Fitting Child seats

All you need to know about fitting your child car seat.

Where should I fit the child car seat?

Ideally, fit your child’s car seat in the back seat. This means that they are away from airbags and the dashboard. If you must place the child car seat in the front, make sure that it is suitable for the child’s weight and height.

Do not use a rearward-facing child car seat in the front seat where there is an active airbag. Chose the biggest and strongest child to go in the front.

How do I fit the child car seat?

You should always choose a retailer who can fit child car seats for you, and who can show you how to fit it correctly yourself. You should also make sure you get the instruction manual with your car seat on how to fit it safely in your car. The RSA has also published a helpful new DVD which gives examples of how to fit some child car seats. You can order your free copy here

How do I know if the child car seat is fitted correctly?

Once you have followed the instructions on how to fit the child car seat, it is easy to test if it is fitted correctly. The child car seat should sit firmly on the back seat with no forward or sideways movement when tested. You can simply push the seat to test this, or you can fasten the harness straps and pull it from the centre as if to exert a similar force a child would in the event of heavy braking. If you are in any doubt, you should visit the Road Safety Authority Child Car Seat Checking Service – Check it Fits

What is ‘Buckle Crunch’?

Car seats that use the adult seatbelt to secure the seat should not have the seatbelt buckle sitting on the child car seat. ‘Buckle Crunch’ is where the buckle of the seatbelt is resting on the frame of the car seat. The movement of the car while travelling could cause the buckle to open. Also, on impact, the buckle could be broken causing the child car seat to become loose or detached in the car, giving little or no protection to the child in the seat. The webbing of the seatbelt is much stronger and it should hold the seat in place. The photo below shows how to recognise Buckle Crunch.

Before you fit a child car seat, remember:

  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. If you have lost your manual, you should get a replacement from the retailer or manufacturer.
  • The seatbelt must pass through all the required seatbelt-routing guides (red or blue) according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Remember, some guides are only intended to be used on one side or the other, depending on what side of the car the seat is being fitted on.

Helpful tips for fitting child car seats

  • First, you should kneel into the seat exerting your full weight. Then, tighten the seatbelt as much as you can to remove all the slack. This ensures that the seat is fitted as tightly as possible.
  • Hand pressure is not enough when you are securing the child car seat with the seatbelt.

  • It is safer to fit a child car seat in the back. If fitting a child car seat into the front seat, roll the seat itself back as far as it can go away from dashboard.
  • If you take the child seat out of the car, make sure you fit it properly every time you put it back in.
  • If your car seat stays in the car permanently, you should still check it regularly to make sure it is securely held and there is no slack in the seatbelt.
  • Never adjust or modify the seat or seatbelt. A child seat should be suitable for the child and be compatible with the car. Therefore, modifications (changes) to either should not be necessary.
  • Get a child car seat expert to fit the child car seat or check it for you if you are in any doubt.
  • The safety belt buckle should not rest on the frame of the child seat causing Buckle Crunch.

What are the common fitting errors?

To be effective, child restraint systems (seats, cushions and so on) must be fitted and used correctly. Surveys have consistently shown that a high proportion of child restraints are incorrectly fitted, usually for one or more of these reasons which are easy to watch out for:

  • Safety belt has too much slack in it causing the fitting to be very loose.
  • Safety belt not routed through child seat correctly.
  • Buckle resting against the frame of the child car seat, causing ‘Buckle Crunch’ which may cause the buckle to open.
  • Handle on baby seat not positioned properly.
  • The child seat is too big or too small for the child.
  • Child seat not compatible with the car.
  • Child seat has exceeded the manufacturer’s recommended guideline for duration of use and is in bad condition.

How do I secure my child into a car seat?

Your child should use the child seat for every single journey – no matter how short.
  • Take time to get the child comfortably strapped in.
  • Make sure the seat’s harness or seatbelt is correctly adjusted for your child.
  • The harness or seatbelt should be quite tight.
  • If a harness is being used in rearward-facing seats, it should be tight enough so that only two fingers can fit between the top of the child’s shoulders and the harness but your fingers should be unable to rotate (turn) in that position.

    If a harness is being used in forward-facing seats, it should be tight enough so that only two fingers can fit between your child’s breastbone and the harness, but your fingers should be unable to rotate in that position.

    • Clothing can affect how snugly the harness fits, so you should use blankets instead of bulky jackets in the winter. This makes sure that the harness is making contact with your child’s body and you should check this before every journey.

    • If you are using a booster seat or cushion, the adult seatbelt restrains both the child and the seat or cushion. Where the seat has routing guides, these should be used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
    • Never tuck the seatbelt under the child’s arm or behind their back.
    • Some children go through a phase of slipping out of the harness or releasing the buckle. You should make sure that the harness is adjusted correctly and that your child is comfortable.