When to Switch from Forward-Facing to a Booster Seat
It’s time to switch your child into a booster seat when they reach the height and/or weight limits of their forward-facing seat. Today’s forward-facing seats can usually accommodate children from 25-65 pounds, depending on the seat. Some manufacturers will specify height limits for their seats but in general, your child’s ears shouldn’t be above the top of her seat. Your child’s shoulders should also be at or below the top harness position. Once she exceeds the weight limit, the tops of her ears are above the top of the seat, or her shoulders are above the top shoulder harness position it’s time to transition her to a booster seat.
Installing a Forward-Facing Seat
CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF 13 SHOULD RIDE IN THE BACK SEAT
Tether vs. No Tether
Buckling in Your Little Buckeye
A retainer clip, or “chest clip,” is buckled at the child’s armpit level to keep the straps properly positioned over her shoulders. Without a chest clip the straps could slide off of your child’s shoulders and she could be ejected from her seat in the event of a collision. When positioned properly at armpit level the chest clip is over your child’s sternum, the strongest part of her torso.
The height of the shoulder harness is important in forward-facing car seats. Your seat probably has several different slots which you can route the shoulder harness through, or it has a no-rethread harness which can be adjusted by sliding the harness or headrest up or down. If you have a car seat that has different slots, route the straps through the slot that is at or above the level of your child’s shoulders. If your car seat had a no-rethread harness, adjust the height of the straps so they’re at or above your child’s shoulders. Do not use a position which sits below your child’s shoulders for forward-facing mode. In the event of a collision your child’s body will move forward into the harness straps. Having the shoulder straps below your child’s shoulders would allow for her body to move further during a collision due to extra length being present in the harness straps. More movement = more opportunities for injury.
Still have questions about installing your seat?
Choosing a Seat
“Forward-facing only” car seats are somewhat rare, but occasionally you can find them on the market, typically for special needs situations. These car seats can be used only in the forward-facing direction with the 5-point harness, and cannot be converted into a belt-positioning booster. Many forward-facing seats are rated well beyond the typical—some can be used up to 65 or even 80 pounds or beyond. If you want to get many years of use out of your forward-facing only car seat, choose one with a higher height/weight limit.