Choosing the Correct Car Seat
Choosing the correct car seat can often be very confusing as not only have you to ensure the correct size car seat for your child but that the car seat that you choose is also a correct fit for your car. Selecting a car seat that scores highly in the many test reports available is all very well but selecting a car seat that fits your car properly is probably the more important feature for your childs safety.
If you are in any doubt about which car seat is the correct fit for your car consult the car seat manufacturers web site as many of the leading manufacturers such as Britax, Maxicosi and Renoluxwill have a Fit Finder guide detailing which of their car seats are most suitable for your model of car.
All child restraints sold in the UK must conform to the United Nations ECE Regulation R44.03 or later version of the standard and must be clearly marked.
- Choosing a car seat that is suitable for your childs weight and height.
- Group 0+ Infant Carriers
- Group 0: for babies upto 10 kgs (22 lbs) approximately from birth to 6-9 months.
- Group 0+: for babies upto 13 kg (29lbs) approximately from birth to 12-15 months.
Group 0+ Infant Carriers
This group of car seat can be used in the front or rear of the car but CANNOT be used in the front passenger seat if there is a passenger airbag. It is safer to put them in the rear. Rearward-facing seats provide greater protection for the baby’s head, neck and spine than forward-facing seats.
Babies should be in a rearward facing car seat and should not be placed in a forward-facing seat until they weigh at least 9 kgs and can sit up unaided. Babies should be kept in a rearward-facing seat for as long as possible. Once your child is above the maximum weight for a rearward-facing seat or the top of their head is above the top of the seat they should be moved into a forward-facing seat. It is not important if their knees are bent in the seat, provided they are still within the seat’s weight range.
Convenience factor with this stage of car seat is that most models will have a carry handle enabling you to easily remove and carry the baby without removing them from the car seat especially handy if the baby is asleep and may also fit onto corresponding pushchair converting it to a travel system.
Group 0+ and 1 Car Seats
Suitable for Babies upto 18kg, Birth to 4 years approximately.
Ideal car seats if you do not have to constantly remove them from car to car or car to home. They are a much larger seat designed to protect your baby from newborn to 4 years approximately. The car seat is used rearward facing when using for a baby up to 9kgs. The car seat can be used forward facing once the baby has reached 9 to 13kg weight. Baby does not have to be forward facing until they are 13 kgs. It is important to check that this style of child car seat is compatible with your vehicle when fitted forward AND rearward facing. You must never leave baby asleep unattended in any car.
Forward-facing child seat
Group 1: for children weighing 9-18 kgs (20-40 lbs) approximately from 9 months – 4 years.
Once a child has outgrown a rearwards facing seat, the best option is to use a Group 1 seat with an integral harness, the large area of the harness helps to reduce the risk of injury if there is a crash. The bottom attachment between the legs will also prevent the child from sliding under, and out of the harness. They can be used in the front or rear of the car but it is safer to put them in the rear especially if there is a passenger airbag in the front. Once again it is safest to keep children in this type of car seat until they have outgrown it.
Only move your child to a booster seat once they have exceeded the maximum weight for the child seat or the top of their head is higher than the top of the seat. If you intend to use this car seat between two cars please ensure that the model of car seat purchased is suitable for both cars. It maybe simpler to purchase two seats each one fitting the car perfectly rather than buying one seat which may not fit either car perfectly as great care is needed to follow the seat belt routings and tighten well. They can also be car specific for correct fitting and not every child seat fits every car.
With this in mind it maybe worth checking out ISOFIX fitting car seats. This is a system that is intended to make fitting child seats quick and simple. All new cars are manufactured with ISOFIX points built into them allowing ISOFIX child seats to be simply plugged into the ISOFIX points in the car. This is a very useful development as many people find it difficult to fit child seats correctly and many surveys have found that a high proportion of the child seats are not fitted securely enough. Most child seats are currently designed to be fitted by using a car’s adult lap and diagonal seat belt (or sometimes, just a lap belt). However car seats, seat belts and their anchorages vary dramatically between different models of cars. Car seats have different shapes, some seat belts are much shorter than others, the position of the anchor points differs so some are further forward or have shorter stalks than others. All these factors make it virtually impossible to make a child car seat that fits all cars and sometimes tricky to fit a child car seat correctly.
ISOFIX car seats are designed to solve all these problems. The ultimate aim is that any ISOFIX child car seat you buy will fit your car simply by plugging it into the ISOFIX points. The other benefit of ISOFIX is that it will create a rigid link between the child seat and the car to provide extra solidity. It is important to make sure that any ISOFIX seats that you use in the vehicle are approved for it. It is not yet the case that any ISOFIX seat will fit in every car with ISOFIX points. To fit an ISOFIX seat into some cars you may either to use a top tether kit or an ISOFIX car seat that has a drop down leg to stabilise the car seat to the car floor. Please ensure your car is suitable for whichever seat you choose by consulting the relevant manufacturers web site.
Group 2 Child Car Seats: for children weighing 15-25kgs (33-55lbs) from 4 to 10 years approximately.
If your child is over the 25kgs weight but is below 135cm in height it is recommended that the child remain in the seat. The majority of Stage 2 seats have a height adjustable back to allow you to gradually change the height of the back as your child grows; this also changes the height and angle of the seat belt, keeping it constantly in the optimum safest position. These seats do not have to be fitted to each car and will generally fit all vehicles without too many problems – sports car owners with bucket seats will need to choose a seat with a small base.
Group 1 & 2 Child Car Seats:
Suitable for children weighing 9-36kgs (20-80lbs) from 9 months to 12 years approximately or up to 135cms.
There is now a greater choice of car seats in this range than ever before. The car seat will include a child harness to be used up to 15-18kgs then the harness can be removed and the child seat can then use the adult car seat belt with most of these seats having an adjuster or seat belt guide so that the belt does not rub on the childs neck. The back rest of these seats will be height adjustable with some even having width adjustment as well.
Group 3 Child Car Seats:
Usually Suitable for children of 22kgs (48lbs) or 6 years upwards.
This child seat raises the height of the child so they can use the adult seat belt in the correct position.
No child seat is escape proof as harness systems are not designed to be completely child proof in order to comply with the legal requirements of ECE R44. The harness must be fastened and adjusted correctly with children encouraged to sit within the car seats harness.
If child seat has been involved in an accident or sustained any damage whatsoever it must be replaced immediately. Any damage to the car seat is not always visible such as the harness which is designed to stretch helping to prevent damage to the childs internal organs. This can only happen once with any further impact leaving the harness with no more stretch thus risking injury to the child.
This is why you should never use a second hand car seat.
If you allow your child to eat and drink in the car seat please ensure that you keep the buckle of the childs car seat clean as any food or drink that finds its way in may prevent the buckle and harness from working properly.