Car Seats: 5 Mistakes You May be Making

Car Seats 5 Mistakes You May Be Making

As parents, you will go above and beyond to keep your children safe. You make sure your children have the safest products, food, drinks, and accessories on the market. But, have you ever stopped to think, “Yes, I have the safest gadgets – but am I using them correctly?” Daily Mom has put together 5 more mistakes you may be making with your car seat.

We cannot stress enough how important having the correct car seat is — as well as making sure it is installed properly. We know how exciting it is when your children graduate to sitting up by themselves, or using a spoon by themselves for the first time or even climbing up the playground without your help, but please take your time when it comes to car seats. The longer you keep your children rear-facing, the safer they are.

The National Safety Council reported, “According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3 out of 4 parents do not properly use child restraints. Often installation is incorrect or the wrong type of seat is being used for the child’s height, weight or age. For these children, the safety seat may not be protecting them the way it should.”(1)

1. Pick One Way to Install!

Either use the seat belt or LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) to install the car seat. As a parent you think you are providing more safety by using both when installing the car seat – but in reality you aren’t.  The LATCH system was added to vehicles around 12 years ago to make car seat installation much easier on parents, however, it is just as safe as using a seat belt. (2) If both options are available in your car, choose whichever system gives you the most secure installation. There are so many different car seats available today and some will work better with LATCH and others will be more secure with a seat belt.


2. Forward and Rear Facing

The NHTSA says, “Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. It’s the best way to keep him or her safe. Your child should remain in a rear-facing car seat until he or she reaches the top height or weight limit allowed by your car seat’s manufacturer. Once your child outgrows the rear-facing car seat, your child is ready to travel in a forward-facing car seat with a harness.”(3) This means that technically your child can stay rear-facing until he or she is almost 4 years old. BUT, this is all dependent upon your child’s height and your specific car seat manual’s height requirement. Be sure to check your seat’s requirements!


 3. Chest Strap Placement

Some people may think this is common knowledge but a lot of people forget that the chest clip is actually supposed to be at nipple/armpit level.



4. Tightness of Harness

If you can fit more than 2 fingers between the strap and the child when measuring just below the chest clip – it is too loose. Also, take the time to untangle any twists in those straps!  They should be flat and flush against your child.



5. Using Top Tether When Rear-Facing

When a car seat is rear-facing some seats do not allow the use of the top tether. You only use it after you have turned your child to forward-facing unless your seat manufacturer specifically allows it (currently Britax, Diono, some Combi seats, some Peg Perego seats. The top tether (while forward-facing) allows the child to ride out the impact of an accident, if one was to occur. If it is used rear-facing against manufacturer recommendations, it wouldn’t allow the car seat to absorb the impact to its fullest, and it would cause a “snap-back” of the car seat – which is potentially harmful to the child.

After speaking with Trooper First Class Gammon with Georgia State Patrol, who is a child safety seat technician, he said, “It is a common mistake that goes against most manufactures’ recommendations suggestions” when talking about the top tether.  “Misuse of the top tether is one of the top five mistakes I’ve seen in my 10 years of experience.”

[Note: This post has been edited. We apologize for the oversight on tether use. Please follow the current manufacturer’s recommendations when it comes to using the top tether]
It is not recommended to buy used or expired car seats, but if you do buy a used one, check out Parents Central’s used car seat checklist. If you or someone you know can’t afford a car seat, check with your local highway or state patrol. There are programs that not only help people in need, but also teach parents how to install car seats properly. If you live in Georgia check out this website to find assistance near you.

The CDC reported that “car seat use reduces the risk for death to infants (aged <1 year) by 71%; and to toddlers (aged 1–4 years) by 54% in passenger vehicles.(4) Those statistics don’t lie!

Always remember that information is the best weapon to keep your children as safe as humanly possible. Know all the facts so you can make an informed decision about car seats as well as installation and when to forward face. And, make sure you always read your car seat’s manual, as well as check your vehicle owner manual when installing any child safety seat or booster.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” -Benjamin Franklin


Don’t forget to check out 5 Common Car Seat Mistakes.

Photo Credit: Becca P, The Memoirs of Megan


  1. National Safety Council
  2. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  3. Parents Central
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


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Ashley Gammon

Ashley lives just outside of Atlanta, GA with her husband, daughter, and fur babies. She is obsessed with the shows Dancing with the Stars and The Bachelor/Bachelorette. Her favorite thing to do is to take walks at the local park with her daughter and husband and play on the slide with her very energetic toddler. She is a magazine, Amazon, and Target junkie. Ashley is also a big Georgia Tech fan (Go Jackets!) and loves to go to every home football game they have.

Comments (4)

  • Avatar

    Laura L.


    #5 isn’t always correct. We just purchased a new Britax Marathon for our son and it recommended the use of the top tether for rear facing. They call it the “versa-tether” so I’m not sure if it has a different design than other tethers. It is always best to read the manual for your individual seat.


    • Avatar



      You are right! This was an oversight and was caught by some of our team members and readers and has been fixed. Sorry for the confusion.


  • Avatar

    Ashley K


    Actually, the two finger test is outdated as well. The current recommendations are the pinch test, where you pinch the strap above the chest clip to see if there is any slack. Check out the “car seats for the Littles” blog and site; it’s one of the best resources out there. Not affiliated in any way, just have found great information there.


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