How to Use the Car Seat Harness Correctly

How to Use the Car Seat Harness Correctly

Dallas Robinson

Did you know that one of the most common car seat-related mistakes parents make involves incorrect use of the harness? The following information will explain how to use your car seat harness correctly.


1. Inspect and Evaluate

The first step is selecting the right car seat, followed by proper installation inside a vehicle. If you are unsure whether this has been done correctly or not, have your work checked by a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician. These are essentially car seat experts who have passed a 40-hour course devised by NHTSA, the National CPS Board, and Safe Kids Worldwide. They understand the fundamentals of car seat installation, including placement within different types of vehicles as well as different harnessing approaches. In order to keep their certification, child passenger safety technicians must continue taking courses, demonstrate involvement in helping new trainees, and have their work reviewed by an instructor every two years.


2. The Seat Itself

The most commonly used car seat has a 5-point harness, meaning the harness touches the strongest points on the body: the shoulders, hips, and crotch. Before doing anything further, take note of the direction the child is facing. If they are in a rear-facing seat, make sure the harness is directly at or just below their shoulders. Conversely, if the seat faces forward make sure that the straps are right on or just above the shoulders. You will also want to check and see whether any of the straps have any kinks in them and be sure to straighten them out if they do. Additionally, ensure that the straps are stranded through the cover and shell of the car seat.


3. Make Sure the Straps are Snug

After completing the above steps, pull the harness over and buckle it. After, carefully pull the straps and make sure they are reasonably snug. One way to test this is by performing a “pinch test”. Simply press tightly in a horizontal direction and if you can’t pinch the straps together you’re in business.


4. The Perils of a Loose Harness

Despite thinking you’ve done everything correctly, it is important to keep in mind that mistakes are prevalent. One of the most common is not tightening the strap enough. Many opt to leave the harness loose out of fear of causing discomfort. Just keep in mind that there should not be any slack. Instead, aim for a tight straight line. Additionally, take care that the harness isn’t pressing against the flesh in a painful manner. All of this is particularly important because loose straps mean that the child is not adequately secured, which could result in severe injury in the event of a crash.


5. Placement of the Center Chest Clip

Another all-too-common mistake involves the placement of the center chest clip, which should be at armpit level. This is particularly imperative because the clip is designed to break if there is a crash. While it seems trivial, if the straps are too loose the child’s shoulders will not be secure enough, while tight straps could choke them.


6. Positioning the Straps If the seat you are using faces the rear of the vehicle make sure that the straps are routed through the slot parallel to or just below the shoulders. If the strap is above the shoulders at all, it should be promptly repositioned before the vehicle is on the road. In the event of a forward crash, the child seat will likely fall towards the floor of the vehicle. If it is a high speed crash, the child will be thrown towards the top of the seat. If the straps are not close enough to the shoulder the child could slide further up and stop erratically, or fly out of the seat entirely. Conversely, if the seat you are using is forward facing, make sure that the straps pass through the seat either at or just above the shoulder. Consider the way an adult wears a seatbelt: it should be positioned just above the shoulder so one can fall into it in the event of a forward-facing crash.


While the harness is a crucial part of keeping a child safe during a crash, it is by no means the only pertinent safety risk. Check out this blog post for a comprehensive list of common car seat safety questions.