Car seat techs are a funny bunch. For fun we do things like check online stores for sales. Once we found a spectacular deal on Graco MyRides for $88 and several hundred of you bought one – score!
So imagine the frenzy that ensued when this showed up:
That’s right. $3.94 for a car seat that is usually in the neighbourhood of $250. It’s not our favourite seat because it’s quite large rear-facing at lower weights, and the booster fit isn’t great — but when used properly it’s just as safe as any other seat.
So one tech, intending to donate them all to a seat giveaway program, ordered a whole bunch.
She was a bit perplexed because the shipping weight on her order confirmation was quite low. She wondered if the order would be canceled due to the obvious error. But who knows. She waited.
And then this showed up at her door.
Obviously 8 car seats would never fit in a box so small. What was inside? Camels. CAMELS! 8 of them.
What’s a gal to do with eight camels? Why — make camel jokes of course!
A quick and dirty run through of how to make sure your boostered kids are as safe as can be! Want to read in more detail? Start here. Do you drive other kids? Send yours with others for a carpool? This might be handy.
Don’t Rush In. Don’t rush to get your child out of a 5-point harness and into a booster seat. It is not a milestone that you want to celebrate early. Prematurely moving to a booster is a very high risk time for injuries. Boosters do much more than just enable a child to see out the window. They reduce fatalities by ensuring proper belt fit, and also reduce injuries for the same reason. Life-altering, debilitating injuries.
Maturity Matters.How’s your child’s impulse control? Do siblings squabble in the back seat? Is your child fidgety or wiggly (who can say no to that?). Once in a booster seat the child becomes responsible for their own safety. They must sit with their bum scooted back. They must not wiggle. They must not lean. They must not mess with the belt. They must remember to do this the entire ride and not get distracted and forget. Even when asleep. And that is really really hard to do until kids are at least 5 or 6, sometimes older. “Forgetting” at a crucial moment could have disastrous consequences.
Think “B” – Boosters are for Bones and not Bellies.Feel for your hip bones (for real, right now); that is where the lap belt should make contact when properly seated in a well-fitting booster seat, and preferably low and under them. If the belt is riding up on the belly you risk something nasty called seat belt syndrome in a crash. The seat belt has nothing hard (hip bones) to contact and instead causes major damage in the abdomen and through to the spinal cord. Not good. Shoulder belt fit matters too – BONES again people. Collarbone to be precise. Not on the neck or face, and not off the shoulder. Centered nicely on the strong parts of the body and touching the chest.
Lap/Shoulder Belts ONLY.Never, ever, ever just a lap belt. If you need to rearrange who sits where to ensure the boostered child gets the lap/shoulder belt please do. Lap belts are handy to install car seats with but they’re nowhere near as safe as a lap/shoulder belt for anyone else to use.
Weight. No Canadian booster seat can be used with a child under 40lbs (18kg for you metric users). Some have a higher minimum weight limit (and a max as high as 120lbs!) Kids must also be consistently 40lbs to safely use a booster. Not 40lbs dressed in heavy boots and all their clothes before using the bathroom and after a big meal. Nope, not enough of a buffer. Ensure that a child is holding that weight before moving to a booster.
Go Shopping Together. With your child and with your car. Try booster seats out to check for good belt fit. Does the booster sit properly in the vehicle? Is the belt able to be buckled properly? If your child leans a bit (not ideal, but we all do it) does the shoulder belt retract back without hanging up and causing slack? Have your child try. Most kids who are ready to ride in a booster are also ready to learn to buckle themselves. How’s the lap belt fit? How’s the shoulder belt fit? If at first you don’t find the perfect combination try and try again. Here are a few we often recommend.
Misc Bits and Features. Your booster seat will come with a manual. Read it. Find out what those miscellaneous bits and pieces are that came with it. Find out how to use any special features on your seat like lower anchors or a belt guide. Find out how to wash the cover. And then store that manual somewhere handy (like the glove box) so you can easily double check if you forget something.
Head Support. This can come in the form of a high back booster (that has the added benefit of often providing superior shoulder belt fit and a place to rest a sleeping head), or a vehicle head restraint (head rest). All boostered kids require head support up to at least the tops of their ears (adults too by the way). Some high back booster seats require a vehicle head restraint in behind them too. How will you know? Read the manual of course!
Belt Routing. Every booster seat comes with this nifty little picture on the side called a belt routing diagram. Study it. Show it to your child. Teach your child proper belt routing, and practice, so that if they ever ride with someone else they will know how and not have to rely on an adult who doesn’t. Tips for carpool drivers/riders here.
Don’t Rush Out. Don’t be in a hurry to move your child out of the booster seat and into the adult seat belt alone. Again a high risk of injury if done prematurely. Teach your child the Five Step Test. Teach them to advocate for their own safety and be able to evaluate if the adult seat belt fits them. Teach them why they might still need one through age 10-11+…that nasty seat belt syndrome again. Most provinces and territories have booster laws that end well before most kids will actually fit the adult seat belt but remember that bare minimum laws are just that. Provincial and territorial laws also require the adult seat belt to fit properly and that part is often glossed over or misunderstood. We advocate for way more than the minimums!
Clek continues to blow us away with exceptionally well-designed and executed products, and the latest addition to their family of funkily-named products (totally a real word) is the “Infant Thingy.”
Not a stand-alone infant seat, the Infant Thingy is an add-on to Clek’s previously reviewed and loved Foonf and Fllo and enables use of either of those seats from birth. Disclaimer #1: I do not have a newborn of my own anymore. Disclaimer #2: I didn’t drive around with a doll pretending to be my newborn while testing the Infant Thingy although the thought did cross my mind. Not creepy at all, right?
Are you reading this in confusion, wondering how on earth a person is supposed to use an infant/child, aka convertible seat, from birth? Don’t you have to use an infant-style seat instead? No my friends, no you do not. Many choose to, and for those really tiny babies who need a low birth weight seat I would continue to suggest that you do to ensure best fit on the tiniest humans, but for the average 5lb+ newborn do consider a Foonf or Fllo plus Infant Thingy right off the bat. This means you probably need some kind of baby wearing plan but that’s not a topic we’ll cover here.
Here’s what you need to properly use an Infant Thingy:
1. An infant, or one on the way, who is between 5-22lbs and 19-33″ tall.
2. A Clek Foonf or Fllo to put said Infant Thingy in.
3. A vehicle in which a Foonf or Fllo properly installs.
4. A strong desire to say fun-sounding words like Foonf, Fllo, and Thingy.
The Infant Thingy comes only in black, but it coordinates nicely with all of the colours I had handy to contrast it with. There are a few solids and prints missing from this spread – see the full range for Fllo and Foonf.
Some important things to note:
2015 models of Foonf and Fllo will ship with an extra set of lower harness slots (6 instead of 5), positioned just at the top edge of the Infant Thingy when installed in the seat (all seats pictured here are older and have only 5). Some seats, produced during the transition phase, might have an extra slot in the shell of the seat but not in the fabric cover. That’s okay, just use the lowest slot apparent in the cover.
2014 and 2013 seats can still be used with the Infant Thingy, it just means the harness will fit the baby a bit differently, and that’s okay too.
The long-standing rule that when rear-facing the harness must come from at or BELOW the child’s shoulders is tossed out the window when using the Infant Thingy for a very small baby. Clek has assured us that it is absolutely fine to use the Infant Thingy even if baby’s shoulders are lower than the lowest harness position on your seat. For real. Once baby’s shoulders do reach that level though we revert back to AT or BELOW for choosing which harness slot to use.
When using the Infant Thingy the manual for it trumps the manual for the seat, such as the instructions for harness position as above. If there is a point of confusion Clek’s fabulous customer service team is always available to answer your questions.
When using any seat it’s extremely important to make sure you’re reclining it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For newborns it’s absolutely critical to make sure you’ve reclined the seat as much as is allowed to protect the baby’s airway. Thankfully both Foonf and Fllo are reasonably compact even when at the most reclined level. The car seat head rest is removed when using the upper head support attachment piece of the Infant Thingy, because that’s what the instructions say to do.
When I first began putting the Infant Thingy into my Foonf (shown in pink in all photos here) I realized that if you don’t read the manual you’re going to probably make some errors. Not that it’s complicated – not at all – but don’t think it’s just some comfy fluff to pad your baby’s derriere. Like all things car seat reading the manual is really important.
You need to put the head support pad on right way up. If you do it upside down it will gape and not sit nicely at all, possibly compromising baby’s airway. Simple to fix though – pop the plastic tabs back through the harness slot and flip it around.
Similarly the routing of the hip strap OVER the hip support flap needs to be done with care, otherwise you’ll get bunching and a poorly fitting harness on baby.
Lastly, if your baby is small enough that you need to remove harness length to ensure proper tightness, route it as shown relative to the splitter plate (on the back of the seat). The extra loop of harness length will slide more easily along the underside of the seat as you tighten it for a small baby. How tight is tight enough? Until it passes the pinch test with no excess slack in the webbing.
It’s very easy to adjust the crotch buckle on Foonf or Fllo to maximize fit on your baby. With use of the Infant Thingy only you may use the longer or shorter crotch buckle length on the inner slot of the car seat. This means you can lengthen or shorten the crotch buckle as needed for a smaller or larger baby. Those of you with 2013 Foonfs can purchase a two-length crotch buckle straight from Clek; everyone else: your seat came with this nifty feature.
Note that when a child is under 22lbs — also the maximum weight limit for use of the Infant Thingy — you MUST use the circular belly pad with Foonf and Fllo. See the two lengths of crotch buckle shown below? Adjust as needed for best fit on your baby. With my newborn doll (fits perfectly into ‘newborn’ sleepers), I had no trouble at all getting the harness tight enough with the harness shortened and crotch buckle in the shorter setting, with room to adjust smaller for an even smaller baby.
When do you remove the head support and put the Foonf or Fllo’s head rest back on? You can’t use both at once, there simply isn’t room. Remove the head support — a cushy pad several inches thick — when the top of your baby’s head reaches the top of the head support.
As baby fills out you may choose to discontinue use of the Infant Thingy before it is outgrown, and provided your child meets the minimums for use in the Foonf or Fllo alone (25″ and 14lbs and able to sit unassisted) that is completely appropriate. There is overlap between minimum use for Foonf and Fllo, and maximum use for the Infant Thingy. This is lovely, because all babies are shaped and proportioned differently.
The smallest baby I know (7 weeks old, 11lbs) fit really nicely in the Infant Thingy + Foonf; with how much more I could have adjusted the harness I have no doubt a much smaller baby would fit easily.
Update:we found a smaller baby! 6 days old, 7lbs 14oz, and 20.5″ long. Delicious. If you happen to know one even smaller, and the parents are cool with sharing a photo we’d love to add it in for future readers. Please get in touch.
This 6 month old (from our original Foonf review) fits beautifully in the seat (and would in the Fllo as well) at 15lbs and 28″ long. She could use the Infant Thingy as she’s well within the weight and height limits, but doesn’t need it. Your mileage may vary but I likely would not purchase the Infant Thingy for a child of this size.
So, are you sold on the awesomeness that is the Infant Thingy?
cushy pad with the same fabulous Crypton fabric on most Foonf and Fllo seats for easy wiping up of spills (if you are expecting your first and are unfamiliar with the messes that babies can make let me tell you, this is a very nice feature)
excellent harness fit with small babies
overlap between maximum use of Infant Thingy and minimum use without it – customize use to your baby’s shape and needs
fits perfectly in the seats it is designed for – meaning you can truly use the same seat from birth, through extended rear-facing to age 3-4+, all the way to booster readiness, for the vast majority of kids
Would you like to WIN an Infant Thingy?Contest is over – congrats to Julie K.! Thank you to all who entered! You need to already own a Clek Fllo or Foonf, or be in the market to purchase one. Contest open to residents of the US or Canada. See the fine print in the widget below for all of the details. Huge thanks to Clek for giving us a sneak peek at the Infant Thingy, and for providing the one shown in this review. Disclaimer #3: I love this so much I almost want another baby so I can use it. Almost.
We can scarcely believe it – we’re creeping up on 5,000 readers and despite our regional name have become known from coast to coast. Yay us! And yay you for keeping us going!
A milestone like that deserves a contest, but since we like to mix things up and keep it interesting this one is different.
The entry form will move about. We might give a clue for where it is, or you might happen upon it by reading through our website materials: blog posts, lists of favourite seats, FAQs and the like.
Every time it moves you’ll the get opportunity to earn extra entries.
And most importantly – what can you win? Well…that depends on what you need. We don’t want to limit it or cap it, and everyone has different wants and wishes. So dream big! If you are the lucky winner we’ll consult with you and decide what is in stock, readily accessible, and works for your situation (within reason – final decision is up to us as we’ve not yet had luck getting our money tree to grow).
Good luck! And don’t forget to go hunting for the entry form (it will disappear from THIS page after a little bit), and keep watching on Facebook for where to find it next. Contest closes at 11:59pm Pacific on March 31st. We thought that would be amusing to contact the winner on April Fool’s Day.
The only mandatory entry requirement is to leave a blog post comment on THIS POST, but you must use the Rafflecopter to actually submit the entry. But first you have to find it. Check Facebook for a clue about where to look!
Thank you for all the entries! The contest is now closed.
A quick and dirty run through of how to make sure your rear-facers are as safe as can be! Want to read in more detail? Start here, and then more here.
1. Do it as long as you can.Really. Not the minimums. Who wants minimums when it comes to safety? And not just any old easily avoidable dangerous situation – but the most dangerous place your kids are every day…the CAR! The longer you can rear face for (two years, three years, ideally as close to four as you can get) the better, as that’s most protective for the head, neck, and spine.
2. Research what will fityour car, and try before you buy. You can use a rear-facing only infant-style seat from birth (most common for sure) or you can skip straight to the infant/child seat. Pros and cons to both and what you choose will depend on your lifestyle. But go into your purchase eyes open, knowing how the seat will fit your car long term. Imagine having other back seat passengers, such as visiting parents or future babies. Are you or a partner tall? Is your vehicle very small? Do you carpool? Have to reinstall frequently? Consider all of this. Do you make big babies? Having twins? Growth patterns matter, and not all seats start at the same minimum weight, and they certainly don’t all last as long by height, weight, and fit. You want everyone in the vehicle to be safe and comfortable, not eating the dash (and too close to the air bag) for years.
3. Rear-facing seats are outgrown by height OR by weight OR by some fit criteria, usually how much clearance there is above the head – whichever comes first. The seat that’s labelled to 40lbs rear-facing might have a relatively low height limit on it. The seat with the high height limit might have an overall shorter usage if your child has a long torso and a big noggin, maxing out the functional usage time by fit.
4. Use therear-facing belt path with a rear-facing seat. Huh? Infant/child seats (the type that later also install forward-facing) typically have one path to route the seat belt or UAS (LATCH) strap through when used rear-facing, and another totally separate one for forward-facing. Not okay to mix them up. The rear-facing belt path is under the child’s knees, whereas the forward-facing one is behind the lower back. Sometimes they’re hard to see, so poke around and make sure you’re threading the seat belt or UAS strap correctly. Then, make sure you have tightened the belt or strap so that the seat moves 1″ or less at the belt path in any direction. Give it a firm handshake – if it shifts more than that something isn’t right.
5. Leg room. Some seats have more than others, for sure. That is a comfort issue though, and not a safety issue. Legs touching the back seat — or scrunched up cross-legged, dangling over the sides, or sticking up into the air (or, ahem, poking the sister in the face) — is not a safety issue. Most crashes are frontal, where everything movesforward in a crash. This is the most common type of crash, and the most frequently fatal, so that’s the kind we plan for. Legs move too, away from the back seat. At the same time, handily enough, the head, neck, and spine are well-protected because they’re also moving forward, directly into the shell of the car seat. Well done, car seat. Protect that melon.
6. Strap positioning and tightness. When rear facing you want the harness to be coming from AT or BELOW the level of the shoulders. This is so if you’re in a crash the child will be held down in the seat. That tight harness will prevent the child from sliding up the shell of the seat. You want the child to stay in the seat, so the seat and its highly engineered parts can take the brunt of the crash, not your baby. How tight is tight enough? We like to do a pinch test to check, every time, and no bulky clothes.
7. Child preference for forward-facing. This is a reasonable consideration with a 4 year old. Probably also a 3 year old. But small children do not get to make their own safety decisions. Furthermore, if they don’t know any better, how can they prefer to forward-face? We don’t let young children dart into traffic, play with steak knives, or take the family car for a spin just because they want to. All kids go through phases of not wanting to be contained, of not wanting to cooperate (this phase does end some time, right?!), and certainly those phases can be intensely frustrating. But stick it out, as long as you can!
8. Physics yo. There’s parental choice and then there’s physics. You know, force and mass and vectors and stuff? So many things in parenting is choice, with pros and cons to each. But the laws of physics are such that a big wobbly bobble-head perched atop an underdeveloped, weak little neck (it’s like an orange on a toothpick!) is absolutely best protected rear-facing. Having an opinion to the contrary doesn’t make that little body and brain safer in the car, because it’s not substantiated by anything. You can tell yourself that your baby is just as safe forward-facing but that doesn’t make it true.
9. Read the manual. Cover to cover, even if it seems like gibberish. It often does seem like it was written in a language you don’t understand, but there’s a ton of info in there. Even if it doesn’t make any sense it will give you a starting place to ask some questions. Also haul out your vehicle manual and read the child restraint section and the air bag section. Lots of good stuff there too. No matter what you read online, are told at playgroup, or by your doctor, the car seat and vehicle manuals have the final say.
10. Meet witha certified Technician. We’re quite friendly, and we like what we do. Even if you are 100% confident that your car seat is installed and used properly you might learn something. And if it is perfect, you’ll be the golden unicorn in car seat Tech communities, fodder for celebratory stories about The Perfect Check (we have secret meetings and handshakes and stuff – wanna join?).
The LATCH Manual is a comprehensive tome published every two years by Safe Ride News. It covers all things vehicle and child restraint, and while not a substitute for a vehicle manual or child restraint manual, it is an excellent companion and extraordinary resource for Children’s Restraint Systems Technicians everywhere. This year we Canadians organized a bulk order, and with a little international cooperation from our American counterpart Wendy, we then proceeded to distribute them from network to network. Read all about “LATCHY’s” journey.
Scroll down to read a poem (for real – we take this very seriously).
Our very helpful American CPST friend Wendy kindly picked up our manuals for us from Safe Ride News in Edmonds, WA, and then delivered them to the Victoria Clipper ferry terminal.
On the Canadian side of things, in Victoria, BC, the manuals were transferred into Vanessa’s van.
Manuals then traveled north to Duncan for a Car Seat Techs vs the Dodge Grand Caravan Showdown of 2015 (link to that to come!).
This was spotted en route:
Valerie took possession and went further north to Nanaimo. For those following The Incredible Journey of the 2015 LATCH manuals, the 8 Vancouver manuals are toasty warm inside, cuddling in bed with her. Whoever gets the one on the top – that’s her bedtime story.
The Vancouver/Lower Mainland/Fraser Valley manuals hopped on board BC Ferries with Val’s helpful husband and disembarked at Horseshoe Bay, mocking the rest of frozen Canada with pictures of flowers and greenery.
Hand off in Vancouver got the batch of manuals to Elaine for further distribution. Elaine’s garden is NOT buried under 6′ of snow.
Meanwhile back in Nanaimo, Val took LATCHY to Costco for a snack and some light reading. Val, do NOT get gravy on that manual.
Box of manuals en route from Toronto to Oakville, ON. Buckle up for safety!
6 manuals arrive in the frozen wasteland of Barrie, ON for dispersal locally and north. One had a special autograph page. And gravy. See picture with poutine. Included in the box was a special gift – was it for me or the resident 4 year old?
Another special gift. Who KNOWS what will be inside when the box is opened?
A bit of a stroll down memory lane in Alberta, showing LATCHY where things used to be in the car seat world. We’ve come a long way baby!
Another snowy delivery, to London, ON.
Chilling on a nursing pillow. (LATCH Manual….breastfeeding…get it?). And many more special deliveries in London, ON courtesy of Marianne.
Safe arrival (and transport home) into Ottawa.
LATCHY made it to PEI ! This packaging comes with special notes from the west coast.
LATCHY has arrived in Halifax! Hanging out with his older siblings (2013 and 2011 editions). PS – don’t forget to email Darlene.
Passed off from Katherine in Halifax to Kayle for distribution to Antigonish, New Glasgow, and Truro (and massage school!).
This one is bound for Newfoundland. It probably won’t actually travel north of the Arctic circle…but maybe!
LATCHY made it to Windsor, ON…complete with a dog bum photo bomb.
This LATCH Manual now lives in a NICU in the Maritimes.
Alainna from Guelph, ON picked the right mailbox and snapped a quick selfie when she went to pick up from Wendy in Oakville.
It’s really hard what to say is happening in this photo, but that kid has some style.
We love our LATCH Manuals. Happy Valentine’s Day! What says “I love you” more than a glass of wine, a LATCH Manual, and a partner not asking why you have acquired a new car seat?
Hand off in Kingston, ON. What better place than in the car seat aisle, and at a clinic?
Hand off in the Lower Mainland (BC), and Barrie, ON.
Clearly this LATCHY inhabits Vancouver Island with that attire.
Overlapping seat belts. Sigh. On the way home to Lindsay, ON.
So much snow to negotiate but LATCHY made it home to Berwick, NS.
Trying out baby’s new ride in PEI:
Hand off in BC, and LATCHY’s first road side stop.
This LATCHY is bound for Winnipeg. Better wear a coat.
Some are still in transit…who knows what adventures they’ll have and what they will contribute to seat checks everywhere! THANK YOU to everyone coast to coast who participated in our distribution project!
Poem for the LATCH Manual
Ours manuals have traveled
So far and so wide,
Passed hand to hand,
On quite the ride.
Safe Ride News gave them life
And a bright coat of RED,
Retrieved by friend Wendy,
Who put them to bed.
Loaded up on the Clipper
The border they crossed.
An epic journey ahead
We hoped none would get lost.
Retrieved in Victoria,
Packed up for a drive,
Driven north up to Duncan to
Hand out out six, maybe five
Passed the rest on to Valerie, Kit n’ Caboodle’s shipping queen.
Busted out her tape gun,
In Nanaimo, where it’s green.
The flowers are blooming
On Canada’s west coast
LATCHY posed for a photo
Lack of snow they do boast.
Crossed the Strait then by ferry,
Lower mainland does beckon
Fraser Valley techs are awaiting
Their arrival, we reckon.
Back in Nanaimo
Val wowed and amazed
Tape, boxes, and messages,
Some might think she’s crazed.
UPS and the post office
Young truck driver Mike,
The boxes and envelopes,
Oh yes, we do like.
Our manuals would arrive
By truck and by plane,
Stalking our mailboxes,
In snow and in rain.
Some went to Alberta,
Another to the ‘Peg,
Lots more to Ontario
Where there were many more legs.
To Windsor, and Barrie,
To Guelph and Toronto,
The SEATS crew in Ottawa
Kept lots to hold onto.
Kingston and Muskoka,
London has a great showing!
Sudbury and Brockville,
Even when it’s snowing.
Nova Scotia took hold
Of a big delivery too
Halifax, New Glasgow,
Truro, Antigonish got their due.
Through blizzards and deep freeze,
Onward to St. John,
Driven from Halifax,
For Moncton and Fredericton.
From one island to another
East coast from the west,
PEI might be small
But they represent with the rest.
One lonely LATCHY
Flew all the way to the Rock,
If only they could talk.
Oh WAIT! But they CAN!
The people they’ve met,
The stories they share,
Bring us close, you can bet.
By Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs, on February 5th, 2015
Once again, Shop.ca is having a super deal that a purchase over $250 gets $70 off. We want to take advantage of this with a quick flash contest as a thank you to everyone using our links for their shopping. We will be using random.org instead of rafflecopter for this one. Just fill out the attached form and we will draw at 9pm est on Thursday, February 5th (6pm pst). You can choose any car seat between $250-$300 that shows as in stock and free shipping. If you’d like a more expensive seat, you must be around tonight or tomorrow morning to e.m.t. the extra funds. Please select a seat off one of our “favourites” lists.
One entry per person please! Multiple entries will be disqualified. Open to residents of Canada who are the age of majority in their province who have not won one of our contests in the last year, excluding the admins of VI Car Seat Techs and their immediate families. Void where prohibited by law.
This contest is now closed – thanks to all who entered!
Want to take advantage yourself? Here’s how!
The deal is good for anything, not just car seats, and it’s possible if you go through ebates you will get an additional 20% off as well. If you would like to take advantage of it yourself, go through these steps.
Get a shop.ca account here and we get $25 for our seat donation fund the first time you make a purchase of $75, and you get a bunch of Aeroplan points if your order is over $99, and a big Aeroplan bonus on the first order with your number added to your account. Then close the window without adding anything to your shopping cart.
Sign up for ebates here and they’ll donate $5 to our seat fund; get 20% back–> it comes quarterly via cheque. In the search window look for shop.ca, and click through to it. Sign back in.
Now that you are in shop.ca via the ebates portal find your item(s) and add them to your cart. All car seats and booster seats here (travel systems are categorized differently). Add Aeroplan if you use it to collect points.
Try coupon code RMN70OFF250FEB for $70 off – click on the bolded “here” in the paragraph about not being able to use both, and type it in. Although it says you can’t use both it seems to still work.
It’s also possible that if you are NEW to shop.ca you will be given a promo code for $15-20 off when you activate your account.
By Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs, on December 31st, 2014
How about a quick New Year’s Eve contest as a thank you to everyone for shopping through our links? Thanks to you all, we have managed to take advantage of sales and secure donation seats to help local families in need, and for a booster drive we hope to run in the new year.
Shop.ca is having a super deal that ends tonight where a purchase over $250 gets $70 off. We want to take advantage of this with a quick flash contest as a thank you to everyone using our links for their Christmas shopping. We will be using random.org instead of rafflecopter for this one. Just fill out the attached form and we will draw at 9pm est tonight (6pm pst). You can choose any car seat between $250-$300 that shows as in stock and free shipping. If you’d like a more expensive seat, you must be around at 9pm est to emt the extra funds. Please select a seat off one of our “favourites” lists.
The deal is good for anything, not just car seats, so if you would like to take advantage of it yourself, add your items to your shopping cart, and at checkout use code RMN70OFF250 Bonus? we get $25 into our donation fund if you are new to shop.ca!
One entry per person please! Multiple entries will be disqualified. Open to residents of Canada who are the age of majority in their province who have not won one of our contests in the last year, excluding the admins of VI Car Seat Techs and their families. Void where prohibited by law.
Having loved and recommended the Graco Nautilus for many years for its high harness height and weight and its ability to transform into a high-back and then a backless booster, we were delighted when Graco sent us the newest child/booster seat in their line up: the Argos. The fashion currently available in Canada is Link, available for purchase from Amazon.ca, Babies R Us, and Sears Canada, retailing for $289.99.
The Argos is a forward-facing only seat that later converts to a booster — important to note that it does not rear-face. The Argos’ grey cover is smooth and silky with an added accent of beige polka-dotted trim. It’s comfy and well-padded, more so than an older Nautilus in our collection. The memory foam is sure to make any child’s derriere happy! It comes with harness covers, a crotch buckle cover and an optional body support cushion that must be removed by 35lbs. We did find the crotch buckle cover slightly fussy as it has a minimal amount of velcro on it, and didn’t stay attached as a child was removed. The built in cup holder and cubbies are perfect for snacks and small, soft toys in the car. The smooth bottom of the seat plays nicely with upholstery, leather included.
The no-rethread harness is the most significant difference from the Nautilus, and what we are most excited about! From high to low in seconds – voila!
Height & Weight Limits:
Harness mode: 22-65lbs, 27-49”, 1 year of age, capable of sitting up alone.
High-back booster: 40-100lbs, 40-57”, age 4-10
Backless booster: 40-120lbs, 40-57”, age 4-10
Seat Dimensions and Measurements:
Highest Harness slot: 18.5”
Lowest Harness slot: 14”
Top Height of Booster Shoulder Belt Guide: 20”
Crotch strap slots (2): 6”(inner) and 7”(outer)
Internal seat depth: 13.5”
Internal Side to Side seat width: 12”
Back of seat height to top of handle: 34”
Widest point across: 20”
Useful life (expiry): ten years
No-rethread harness (adjust harness height on the fly with a handle to squeeze and pull – great for use with multiple kids!)
Harness covers to avoid irritation at the neck
Comfy and padded
Butter-smooth harness adjuster
Cup holders (be careful of projectiles though – aim for soft things!)
Hidden cubby that kids love
UAS and/or tether may be used in high back booster mode (to prevent the seat from being a projectile when unoccupied; if not available in your seating location just re-buckle it instead)
Comparison to Nautilus:
Comparing a new seat to a familiar stand-by seems to be our m.o. so here is the obligatory side by side with the Nauti (Nautilus is pink and brown, Argos is black and tan):
While the Graco Argos is approved for use with a child of 1 year old and 22lbs we recommend keeping a child rear facing to the limits of their seat – as long as possible really, and the longer the better. The Argos is an excellent choice for children who are ready to forward face but don’t have the maturity to move to a booster seat full time. As you can see the fit is acceptable on this 16 month old child, but this photo was for demonstration purposes only and she will ride rear facing for years to come (by the look on her face we think she agrees…mom, what the heck?!).
This child is 4 years old and fit very well in the Argos. She loved the fabric and was especially enamoured by the cubby holes in the sides where she could stash her soft treasures (a perpetual favourite of children everywhere!). She said the seat was comfortable and she has lots of room left to grow in it.
The Argos still had another harness height to go with this 6.5 year old model. She now rides in a dedicated booster but thought the seat was comfortable and soft. She would most likely fit beyond age seven. A Nautilus was her primary seat for some time and she found the head rest comfortable for daily use; the Argos’s head rest is comparable and may, like the Nautilus, cause “head slump” for some when sleeping. The likelihood of this is very much child-dependent, and may or may not be a deal breaker for you. Child/booster seats are naturally quite upright compared to rear-facing seats — another reason to keep kids rear facing as long as possible. By the time they are an appropriate age to ride in the Argos most can learn to sleep with their head to the side.
At 7 ½ years old, this child rides full time in a booster now, but she agreed to try out the Argos in harnessed mode. She fit with plenty of room to grow, as this is only the second-to-last setting. However, while she is average height at 49” (and at the standing height limit for harness mode), she does have a shorter-than-average torso, so this is not typical. That said, the Argos definitely has a nice, long-lasting harness that should get most kids to a good booster age.
Installation of the Argos is a breeze with UAS or the seat belt. The UAS connectors are a basic hook style and easily connected in Laura’s Honda Odyssey and Hyundai Santa Fe. We do wish for the price they would have included some type of premium UAS connectors. However, UAS can only be used in this seat to a child weight of 42lbs, unless your vehicle places a lower child weight limit on use of lower anchors. Chances are excellent that a seat belt installation will be necessary sooner rather than later anyway.
The Argos has three recline settings although the increments are small and don’t recline the seat a whole lot. It can help align the angle of the seat to the vehicle seat though for easier installation and it is worth experimenting with when installing.
The beauty of the Argos over the Nautilus is the no-rethread harness. It has 5 harness heights, the same as the harness slots of the Nautilus. We found it very easy to adjust the harness height of the seat while it was installed. It would be ideal for a situation where you had multiple children using a seat. You simply push in the red adjuster button on the top of the seat while pulling up. It is also handy for those sneaky growth spurts that children seem to have. Just loosen the harness a bit and pull up the adjuster to the next slot. No uninstalling and reinstalling to change harness heights. One of the nicest things about the seat is how smoothly the harness adjusts. It is easy and you could probably over tighten the harness without difficulty.
Changing from harness to high-back booster seat was much easier than anticipated. The manual had very clear, concise instructions and took less than five minutes. The harness and the crotch buckle must be removed. The manual clearly states that while in booster mode the whole bottom of the seat must be on the vehicle seat (i.e. no overhang permitted) so definitely try this before committing to the Argos if you have a shallow back seat and intend to use it in booster mode eventually. Some truck models with extended cabs come to mind. The seat must sit flush to the vehicle seat so if you have fixed forward-leaning head restraints it may not work in booster mode. We always recommend you try a seat before you buy if possible.
Like the Nautilus, the Argos can be used with UAS and/or tether while in high back booster mode. This is a convenience feature so don’t stress if your seating location does not have lower anchors – simply have your child re-buckle the booster when it’s unoccupied to prevent it from being a projectile. Also make sure that use of lower anchors does not interfere with adjacent seat belts, and that the vehicle’s lower anchors and seat belt align side to side.
The fit of the seat belt in booster mode can be hit or miss, but as far as the booster fit of child/boosters go it’s a decent bet. While it was acceptable for the 6.5 year old model shown here it might vary widely for children who are closer to the minimums for booster use. The fit will very much depend on the geometry of your particular car and seat belt and the size and shape of your child, as is the case with every booster seat. We want to see the lap belt down and low and touching the thighs, and not riding up on the belly.
Removing the back for use as a backless booster also was easy and quick. The belt fit of the 9 year old model below was quite good although it wasn’t a lightweight option compared to many backless booster options. While moving it from car to car isn’t a hard thing by any means it would be a heavy option for a child to tote around for carpooling or a play date. It does come with an optional seat belt clip to use to position the shoulder belt if needed to improve the fit.
The Graco Argos is an excellent addition to Canada’s options for child/booster seats. Its ease of installation and use make it one of our favourite seats to recommend. Its ease of adjusting the harness height is simple and would please many parents and caregivers. The harness is smooth and doesn’t twist easily. The fit and finish of the seat is very polished. It gets the majority of kids to a safe booster age and then converts to a high-back and then backless booster. The fit of the booster can be hit or miss with regards to the vehicle and child’s statistics. Hopefully in the future we will see some varied cover choices. Bottom line: two thumbs up. A great bonus of a no-rethread harness to a seat we have loved for a long time.
Huge thanks to Graco Canada for providing this seat for review – all opinions are our own. EXTRA huge thanks because they’re giving another one away to one of YOU! Yay! This contest is now closed! Congratulations to our winner.
While researching another project recently I came across a scattering of occupant safety milestones, and decided to dig up some more. While by no means a comprehensive history the progression is interesting!
First crash test dummy created "Sierra Sam" to test ejector seats for the US Air Force
Seat belts were optional on Fords
Volvo makes lap/shoulder belts standard equipment in their cars
First car seat invented by Leonard Rivkin of Denver Colorado
First crash test dummy for automotive use
First car seats developed on a large scale for child occupant protection
World's first seat belt law for front seat occupants enacted in Australia
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) adopted first federal standard for child seating systems FMVSS 213; requirements did not include crash testing.
Volvo makes lap/shoulder belts in the rear standard equipment
Clek Fllo — the so-called ‘lite’ version of the previously reviewed (and loved!) Clek Foonf — is a star in its own right, a much appreciated addition to Clek’s already impressive line up of seats, and absolutely earns its place on our list of favourite seats. We are thrilled to put it through the paces and test it out. Thank you Clek for providing us with a seat to review.
Clek has trimmed several pounds off Fllo, coming in 10lbs lighter in rear-facing mode and 8lbs lighter in forward-facing mode, due to a change in the base of the seat. For someone switching between vehicles frequently, your back will surely notice. For those keeping their seat in one spot, a minor detail. Foonf comes with an anti-rebound bar plus a detachable wedge-shaped base; Fllo with an anti-rebound bar plus integrated ‘flip foot’ that swings and locks into place for different modes of use. This chart nicely compares the two seats.
We are so pleased to see that Canadian Tire carries Fllo in Drift (the only non-Crypton fabric available), making it easily accessible to so many parents coast to coast. Fllo can also be found in various cover options at Amazon.ca, Shop.ca, Babies R Us, at boutique stores, or directly from Clek for $369-$450 depending on the cover.
The lesser weight of the seat also comes from a change in the energy-management system integral to Fllo. Foonf features REACT (Rigid-LATCH Energy Absorbing Crumple Technology), an energy-absorbing honeycomb structure much like a crumple zone on a car. REACT relies in large part on the use of the rigid LATCH for maximum benefit. Lacking the rigid LATCH (rigid UAS) of Foonf, Fllo features instead EACT (Energy Absorbing Crumple Technology) to deliver the crumple-zone technology without the need of rigid LATCH. Rigid LATCH accounts in part for the extra weight and cost of the Foonf, but isn’t always usable by a parent based on a variety of factors. Fllo offers a very attractive alternative!
Based on the Foonf, the seating area and fit-to-child remains the same. Either seat will accommodate your child interchangeably as the internal seating area is identical. As with any seat, however, the way in which it installs in a vehicle can cause you to effectively lose or gain harness height in a way that is often described as magical. Furthermore, kids come in different shapes and proportions. It is important to try a real child in a seat and not rely just on a tape measure to determine fit. Fllo is an extremely good gamble though, for kids within the stated fit range.
14-40lbs and able to sit upright alone
We are especially excited to see how fit on the lower end of the range will be affected by the soon-to-be-released ‘infant thingy’ that will be compatible with existing Foonf and Fllo seats, and enable proper fit and safe use by babies from birth (5lbs+). Woohoo! Knocked that one out of the park Clek, if the production units are as good as the prototype looks. Not quite exciting enough to want another baby to test it out with…but almost. Update:Infant Thingy is now available…and it’s awesome.
Fllo scores high marks for aesthetics, and the new fabric on this seat is called Thunder — and it’s beautiful! “Thunder” is grey on a black frame (also available on a white frame for Foonf and called “Cloud”), and has a look like a linen suit but feels more like thick k-way (pretty sure I just dated myself there with that reference). Very sleek and classy looking, and will coordinate nicely in grey or black interiors. Easy to clean up as well as it is a Crypton fabric. Four year old girl child cried that it wasn’t pink, but sometimes mom or dad gets to pick.
For those familiar with Foonf a few other tidbits that are different:
Fllo has one manual recline position in each mode – accomplished by swinging the flip foot and then locking it into place. How it then sits in the vehicle will depend largely on the contours and compressibility of the vehicle seat, as well as your installation technique. Perfect your ability to shimmy it around how you want it, and install it tightly in place with 1” or less of movement in any direction at the belt path and you can sweet talk it into installing just about any way you want it. There are two level lines that must be followed when rear facing, one for infants under 14-22lbs, and one for children 22-40lbs. If you are unable to shimmy the seat as reclined as you want it to be, it is permissible to use a rolled towel at the seat bight to make the seat more reclined. Pool noodles won’t work properly with the shape of the foot, so Clek allows a rolled towel only. Clek has clarified that provided the child has adequate head control and is comfortable, the seat may be installed anywhere in between the two recline lines at any weight.
First editions of Foonf came with a single length crotch buckle, but later versions came standard with a dual-length strap, as does Fllo. It’s an ingenious design and greatly improves fit for bigger kids both rear and forward facing. Note that the longer crotch buckle position can not be used in the inner slot, but as that position is for smaller kids anyway, it should not be a problem.
So how do these physical differences reflect fit to vehicle? Here are my results, but your mileage may vary. We’ll talk about why as we go.
In the following photos Fllo is in Thunder (grey) and Foonf is in Flamingo (pink).
This vehicle is a 2003 Honda Civic – fairly small, and decently representative of compact vehicles. Fllo sits a tad lower than does Foonf, when rear facing at the more upright angle. This may be beneficial if you have limited clearance to load a child in through. Installed at this angle there is still adequate room for an average to short driver.
I was able to shimmy the Foonf to be more upright than shown, and gain a bit more front-to-back space by doing so (only appropriate if the child can tolerate the more upright angle based on age/head control), but that ran the fully extended head rest into the curving head liner of the car — not something I’m okay with, and potentially an issue if you have side air bags in that location (read your vehicle manual to know). If you are seat shopping make sure to try a seat in all of the configurations and positions you may one day use it in.
I tried installing Fllo to the more reclined angle suitable for infants 22lbs and under — and my long-legged self could comfortably sit in the passenger seat:
Centre installs are often a great solution when extra front seat room is needed, as the shape of Fllo cooperates quite nicely with the contours of the front seats, nestling right in between without making firm contact. Here it is with the front seats all the way back – tall drivers take note!
The shape of Fllo’s head rest will potentially gain you extra front-to-back space, depending on how it meshes with the head restraints of your vehicle. Here in this 2012 Focus hatchback I would not be able to drive comfortably with the seat behind the driver (it’s a tight squeeze with most rear-facing seats), but installed centre – ample room.
When rear-facing it is a requirement that ALL of the base be supported by the vehicle seat with no overhang. This overhang as shown (left) would not be permitted. If you have shallow vehicle seats (extended cab trucks, for example), you must be aware of this requirement. However, install technique may be able to overcome this barrier. With a bit of effort I was able to turn the incompatible install on the left into a wonderful fit on the right.
Fit in this 2012 Ford F-150 Super Cab (extended-cab version – wide but not deep) was extremely tight behind the passenger. It seemed like it was practically made for the centre position though, even at the more reclined angle.
Fllo comes with premium push-on connectors for use with lower anchors (UAS)…
…and an easy to use open rear-facing belt path for use with the seat belt: remove the seat cushion to reveal it. Fllo has lock-offs (blue) for use with a lap/shoulder belt, and Clek allows the use of either or neither (if your belt locks at the retractor). This flexibility is wonderful depending on your needs.
Forward-facing fit is similarly excellent, with potentially a slight bit more natural recline than Foonf due to the shape of Fllo’s base. Fllo also sits a tad lower than Foonf. Four year old girl child was so pleased that she could reach the ceiling handle while riding in her Fllo for this test! The shape of Fllo’s head rest works very well with vehicle head restraints that jut forward.
I dazzled myself with my contortionist abilities to take this picture (in a Civic!) but it nicely demonstrates the front profile of the two seats. Foonf (pink) sits up a bit higher than Fllo (grey). This could be advantageous, or not, depending on your vehicle and your preference.
Other fabulous forward-facing features (yeah, alliteration!) include easy-to-use lock-offs (in red on left), a top tether locking mechanism that is smooth and easy to adjust, and a nice high belt path (on right) to avoid interference with long buckle stalks. My inner car seat geek swooned a little when I saw the genius bit of engineering that was!
Two other attractive features Fllo has to offer is its narrowness, at 16.9” at the widest point, and the anti-rebound bar for use while rear-facing.
The slim profile of Fllo is no guarantee it will fit in any given location, but chances are excellent that it will. If you are fitting three children across, or need two side by side, give Fllo a chance to impress.
Here it is with room to spare on the ‘40’ part of a 60/40 split of this truck:
The anti-rebound bar is required for use rear-facing, and inserts easily into the base. Excellent instructions in the manual walk you through this process. Store the ARB for use while forward facing. What’s the point of an ARB, you wonder? Why bother with another part to keep track of? It can make it easier to achieve a rear-facing install, it limits post-crash movement toward the back of the vehicle (rebound), and can offer improved stability in a side-impact. This is a feature we’re seeing more and more on rear-facing seats lately.
Fit to child in Fllo is super:
For all but the tallest or long-torsoed of kids it is reasonable to expect to get to a safe, mature booster age in Fllo.
This child (requiring a bribe to a) sit in the seat for a photo, and b) produce a tiny smile) is at almost age 7, 50lbs, and slightly over the standing height of 49”, still able to just fit by harness height (the top harness position must be at or above a forward-facing child’s shoulders). She does not ride in Fllo because it is outgrown, but it’s a nice indicator that kids with her torso height still fit.
This child fit in Foonf a year ago, and the minimums of 14lbs and sitting unassisted are very reasonable minimums. Ignoring them would be unwise, potentially compromising a younger baby’s airway. As mentioned above, stay tuned for the ‘infant-thingy’ to enable use by younger babies. Have we mentioned how excited we are to see this development?
This child is quite close to the rear-facing limits at 37lbs and about 41” tall, but at age 4 she is a great indicator of who this seat is made to fit. TONS of leg room make for a super comfy ride for her. Fllo is an absolutely wonderful contender for those who want to rear face well beyond the legal bare minimums and kudos to Clek for not only actively promoting that practice, but making it easy to do.
Fllo is..fabulous. Sleek appearance, excellent fit to vehicle, superb longevity both rear and forward facing, LOTS of leg room,
Fllo’s head rest makes a nice place to rest a sleeping head.
butter-smooth harness adjuster, easy-to-follow labelling and manual, and some lovely ease-of-use features as described above.
Potential cons, compared to every other seat on the market?
Colour or fabric preference – maybe you just aren’t a fan of the feel of the various fabrics available;
High profile – maybe you prefer something with lower sides, or you have limited roof clearance in your vehicle to load a child;
Frequent use by more than one child – the need to swap out parts, and rethread the harness is going to be cumbersome if you use the seat for multiple kids or in both rear- and forward-facing modes on a regular basis.
So you’re sold on all the features that Clek brings to the table, but can’t decide between Foonf and Fllo. Why might you choose
Fllo over Foonf?
Perhaps if you are moving it often – the lighter weight of Fllo will be noticeable.
Perhaps if you are after the energy management system of REACT but can’t make use of the rigid UAS connectors in your vehicle in the position you want to install the seat in – capitalize on the technology with EACT of Fllo.
Perhaps Fllo simply fits better in your vehicle – that one’s a no-brainer!
Thank you to Clek for providing a Fllo in Thunder to review – but all opinions are our own.
This giveaway is now over – congrats to the lucky winner!
And now we share the love with you! Clek will provide one (1) Fllo in a solid colour of your choice (pending stock availability) to one lucky reader in Canada. Contest closes 11:59pm Pacific 30-Oct-2014. See the fine print in the Rafflecopter widget to enter, and for all terms and conditions. Good luck!
Child Passenger Safety Week is September 14-20 and we’re giving a way a seat of your choice, up to a $350 value at Shop.ca! What better way to celebrate…but you’re going to have to work for extra entries.
Check back often for the option to up your chances of winning – we’ll post additional questions to the Rafflecopter entry widget (below) at random times between now and contest close. Happy hunting, and good luck!
We are frequently asked about the angles at which a rear-facing seat may be installed. We tend to recommend seats more often that permit a range of angles, and how a particular seat fits in any given vehicle depends very much on that range. Except it isn’t always a number….confused yet? Using as little math as possible we hope this article will better explain why install angles matter to your child’s comfort and safety, and can gain or lose you front seat leg room in the process. Read on!
We are guilty ourselves of using the numbers 30* and 45* when that isn’t always accurate or useful, particularly when seats are shaped so differently, vehicle seat geometry and upholstery cushioning can affect things, the measurement location isn’t always mentioned, and considering the installation technique of the installer. Where did those numbers come from?
45* is approximately how much a newborn needs to recline (lay back) in order to protect the airway, when measured from vertical. A giant head plus a weak and floppy little neck can easily mean a compromised airway if a newborn is too upright in his or her seat. Imagine folding a straw in half: that’s about what’s going on when a newborn’s head flops and can not be picked back up. It is very important to maintain the most reclined angle permitted in whatever seat the newborn is in. That being said please do not immediately bust out a measuring device like an angle app (although we use one in this post to explain some things later), a protractor, or anything else. Your seat came with the best measuring device of all – the built-in angle indicator right on your seat! If a newborn’s head still flops forward when the seat is at the most reclined angle consider removing any head padding/insert (if permitted), or perhaps that the seat is not a good fit for the shape of the child. In that instance we would recommend a different seat, or if that is not possible, to have an adult sit in the back with the newborn to monitor head position, and limit travel until the baby has the needed head control to tolerate the position.
Manufacturers are free to put any single or range of angles on their seat, provided the seat passes testing within that range. Some manufacturers specify a very particular range based on weight of the child, some allow an open range based on preference of the child/parent, and some specify a single recline angle. The critical limit that can not be exceeded during testing is that the seat must not recline past 70* (measured from vertical) during the crash sequence. Therefore, a manufacturer will determine for their own seat what is the maximum recline angle for installation, and if the seat must start more upright for heavier kids in order to remain within that limit (as heavier kids would rotate more in a crash than lighter kids). Exceeding that limit risks greater chance of injury to the child as the seat over-rotates and begins to perform not as intended. The flip side is installing a seat more upright than is allowed, which runs the risk of the seat rebounding more than was intended, and again risks greater chance of injury to the child.
Here are a few types of angle indicators as seen on various seats: lines on a sticker, lines embossed on the plastic, gravity dials, bubble levels, rolling balls, or none at all. Do you recognize any?
Manufacturers are not required to have angle indicators on their seats, but if one is present (and most seats do have them) then they must be followed. Engineers don’t sit around designing parts on car seats just for fun, so if there’s a very deliberate instruction for how to recline a seat…respect the design process and follow the indicator for maximum safety!
In addition to a manual reclining mechanism via a flip foot or lever, SOME seats permit the use of a single pool noodle (firm foam cylinder), a trio of noodles (3 maximum), or a tightly rolled towel at the seat bight to prop up the front edge of the car seat and make it more reclined. Whether you need this or not will depend on your car seat, your installation technique, the squish and textile of your upholstery (leather tends to require a noodle more than fabric does), the age/weight of your child, and how sloped your vehicle seats are to begin with. How do you know if you need one at all, or if one is permitted? Read your manual of course! This is just one example and does not apply to every seat. If noodles or towels are permitted your manual will say so.
But how, you ask? Do you struggle to achieve the correct recline angle? Perhaps the following will help. If the angle indicator on your seat relies on gravity to work make sure you are parked on flat ground.
Left to right, top to bottom: Front edge of car seat wedged against squishy upholstery – no prop required to achieve desired recline; single piece of small diameter red pool noodle props up front edge of car seat; single piece of large diameter blue pool noodle props up front edge of car seat; tightly rolled small towel props up front edge of car seat; tightly rolled large towel props up front edge of car seat; three small yellow noodles taped together to form a stable trio props up front edge of car seat.
In addition to using noodles or towels you can also vary the final angle by where you compress when installing.
To make a seat more upright compress at the child’s foot area. To make it more reclined compress at the bum area.
Let’s back up a minute: WHY do we tend to prefer seats that allow a range of allowable angles? Seats that permit a more upright installation with older children who can tolerate it (i.e. have the appropriate head and neck control) tend to take up less space front-to-back than those requiring a single line level to ground installation.
For example here is a Graco MyRide, one of our favourite go-to infant/child seats for smaller vehicles. Fully reclined for a newborn there isn’t much clearance between it and the front seat slid all the way back.
Install it as upright as permitted, however, and inches are gained. In a small car this can mean the difference between front passenger comfort and eating the dash.
Changing the install angle according to the indicator of course changes the angle at which a child will be positioned in the seat. Remember how we said earlier we don’t really use measuring tools? You don’t need to – it is completely irrelevant what any measured angle is on a seat if you are following your seat’s angle indicator. However, for illustration purposes here’s what we got, the caveat being again that it DOES NOT MATTER what the level app says, and it can be varied several degrees quite easily depending on how or where the level was compressed.
Infant seats often, but not always, have a built-in mechanism for adjusting the recline angle, in the form of a recline foot. Your manual will have instructions for how to extend or retract it as needed. If you need more recline than can be achieved using only the built-in recline foot you must consult your manual to determine if you may add a noodle or towel in addition to the recline foot, or if you must tuck the foot away and use only towels or noodles. Sometimes the angle indicator on an infant seat is on the carrier, and other times on the base. Remember for newborns: recline as MUCH AS POSSIBLE while remaining within the allowable range. It is often a case of trial and error to get it just right. Remember to park on flat ground if your particular indicator relies on gravity; lines level to ground could be done anywhere so long as the line remains parallel to the ground.
And now, a close up look at the props used in this post: various types of pool noodles, and tightly rolled and taped towels.
Don’t tape the towel until you’ve figured out how big you need it to be. Sometimes you need a thin towel…sometimes a thicker one. Vary how you fold it. Double them up. Make sure they’re narrow enough to not interfere with the lower anchors or buckling of the seat belt, as appropriate (about 10″ wide is usually perfect).
How to fold (old, stained, ratty rag!) towels 101: fold in half, then in half or thirds, tightly roll, and tape. Voila!
Do you prefer to see these tips in action? A short video demonstrating the various techniques discussed above.
By Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs, on January 31st, 2014
This contest is now closed. Thanks to all who entered! Winner(s) to be announced soon.
It’s Story Time at Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs…and we’re feeling generous
Thanks to many of you doing your online shopping via Amazon.ca, shop.ca, and via ebates.ca we have amassed a small nest egg with which to buy you…something. What better way to brighten up this long and frosty winter than with a story!
Submit via a paragraph, a photo, or a video. Tell us a car seat related story about something you need, something you want, some problem we’ve helped you solve, something that’s just fun and car-seat related, something inspiring you learned from us or another tech, nominate a friend who could use a little help to keep his or her kids safe in the car and what you’d pick for them. Tell us anything you’d like to share! Please keep in mind your photo, video, or paragraph could be shared with our readers (whether they win or not), so keep personal privacy in mind, and ensure you have the right to share a photo or video of any children pictured. Please include a line with any video or picture of children shared that you are the legal guardian/parent of the child and/or have permission from the legal guardian/parent, and that you give Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs permission to share the picture or video. (If you are not the legal guardian/parent and ultimately win, we will need permission directly from the parent as well.)
We’ll whittle the entries down to our top favourites and then let our readers narrow it down further. The final winner is up to us though! But bonus – a random winner will also get to choose one of several smaller prizes, to be determined based on need and location.
The ultimate first prize winner will get to choose a seat or seats as needed, from a retailer of our choice and eligible for free shipping, to a maximum value of our choosing. The seat must be a good fit for the child and vehicle at the time of the contest close following best practice guidelines. (ie. We won’t be buying a forward-facing seat for a one year old or a booster for a three year old!) We may, at our discretion, choose one or more honorary mentions to win further prizes or our choosing.
To enter your story:
Post a photo or video to a file sharing site like flickr, photobucket, youtube, etc. Provide the URL of the photo or video in the Rafflecopter box below where it asks for it.
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One entry per household please.
The random winner will be chosen via the Rafflecopter below. One entry for submitting an entry for the first place prize, plus additional entries for liking our page, sharing content, tweeting about us, etc. Please note, you will receive 10 bonus entries if you refer a currently-certified CPSAC tech to our find-a-tech map on the Canadian Car Seat Network page. It must be a tech that is not currently listed. The tech must fill out the form located above the map, and then you can enter their name in the appropriate place below.
Open to residents of Canada 19 and over except where prohibited by law, and excludes the three admins of VI Car Seat Techs and their immediate household family members, and anyone who has won a prize from us in the past six months. Only one entry per household please.
Traveling with little ones can be stressful but with a little planning can go without major interruptions. Living so far from my family is tough. The deal with my husband when we moved to Vancouver Island just over three years ago was that I could go home to see them in Ontario at least once a year. When Thea was born in August I knew I would want to take her home to see my parents, siblings and extended family. Being a child passenger safety advocate means I want my children protected on the airplane as well as in the car. I waited patiently for a seat sale and bought us both seats. Eight years ago I had traveled with my oldest daughter as a lap baby and not only was it frustrating but it didn’t seem right that I sat in my seat with a lap belt holding me in while baby was just free in my arms. I’ve flown enough to know that turbulence and rough landings can sometimes happen, and have since learned about the risks of flying with a lap baby.
My decision to bring Thea’s infant seat on board was an easy one. I have a large stroller I can pop my seat into but decided, per Air Canada’s preference for umbrella strollers, to just attach my infant seat to my lightweight travel stroller. I used a long bungee cord and it fit snugly and perfectly. I mostly baby-wear so I toted my carry-on in the stroller set up and put baby into the carrier. I also printed out a copy of Air Canada’s car seat policy and made sure I chose a window seat for the car seat (see WestJet’s policy here). You must not block the exit of passengers in an emergency so a window seat is required in this case.
We had two flights to make to get from Victoria to Toronto and the first was a small Dash 8 aircraft. On all flights I was able to pre-board. The infant seat buckled in securely and I had to move it quite close to the window as the belt was very short. It only took a minute to get the seat ready to go. Thea doesn’t particularly like being in her infant seat but she did really well and seemed to like the noisy engine of the Dash 8. The flight attendant was helpful and offered to buckle the seat but I didn’t require her assistance. The next flight from Vancouver to Toronto was uneventful too. It was a 3-and-3 seat configuration. The infant seat was next to the window and I was in the middle seat. The seat belt stitching was a little thick and I had to tilt the seat to get it in the infant seat’s belt guides. I kept her in for take off and landing with a few walks about for nap time and diaper changes. I was super happy to have her seat as the flight was pretty turbulent and holding her would have been a challenge. It also afforded me some down time to watch a movie and eat when she slept. But really, safety was my first concern. I am not willing to check her seat and risk it being damaged or lost.
We used the seat baseless in my parents vehicle and it installed easily. After a quick six day visit we were on our way back to Vancouver Island. The flights back were also uneventful, and the flight staff easygoing and helpful. I do not think I would have managed quite so easily if I had not purchased Thea her own seat.
We advocate for bringing restraints on board the air craft to best protect traveling children, other people on the plane (an unrestrained child could become a projectile), and the integrity and history of the restraint itself, as does Transport Canada, the US’s NTSB, and other child passenger safety advocates. There are various options for how to fly with kids – read more here.
Do you travel with more than one child? Are your kids in infant/child seats, or child/booster seats, or just boosters? Some photos below to give you ideas of how to make it work even if you’re traveling as the only adult.
Some high back boosters will disassemble so the high back portion can be packed, well-padded, in a suitcase and checked; inspect it carefully for damage upon arrival. A child old enough to be in a booster can very probably manage to carry their backless booster in a tote bag and stow it in the overhead bin on the plane. A booster can not be used on the aircraft as it requires a lap/shoulder belt, which of course a plane does not have.
Traveling solo? It can be done. Car seat attached to rolling cart for smaller child, larger child (if large enough!) can sit directly on the plane seat with the belt. Rolling suit case, comfortable baby carrier…voila! Car seat for older child was waiting at the destination.
Two kids in seats? Nest them like this.
Or nest them like this!
So long as your luggage cart can handle the weight you can turn your car seat+cart combo into a stroller. Kids usually think this is a pretty spectacular way to ride.
Just like buying a new car seat, buying a new vehicle can be very overwhelming. It’s hard to sift through all the information out there and to decide what should be a priority for your family. While shopping many people consider paint colour, fuel mileage, safety ratings, and built-in entertainment and navigation systems, but surprisingly few seem to consider functional seating capacity. If your family does or will include children it’s important to think long term about how the vehicle will accommodate car and booster seats as your children grow. There are a startling number of factors to consider from this perspective.
We have included a photo gallery to illustrate some of the more challenging vehicle design features that may impede a successful car or booster seat install, but first some details. But don’t be alarmed! Chances are you will find something that works with a particular vehicle, but your options might be limited. Consider each feature carefully and decide what matters overall to you. Would you like help narrowing down the options? The knowledgeable folks at car-seat.org (from whom we’ve learned, and continue to learn a great deal), particularly in the Car and Vehicle sub-forum, can probably save you time and aggravation if you post the particulars of your situation.
How many people do you regularly transport? Do you often have family visit and/or transport friends? How old are the people you transport most often?
How long do you expect to own this vehicle? How old will your children be at that time and what type of seats would they be in (rear-facing, forward-facing, booster)? Do you plan on having more children in the future?
Tether anchors: How many forward-facing children do you have or expect to have at one time? If the vehicle is older than 2002, has it been retrofitted with anchors if possible? If not, is the retrofit part still available or easy to find? If it’s a 3-row vehicle be aware that many have only one tether anchor in the 3rd row, and sometimes none at all. With few exceptions vehicles that come factory-equipped with tether anchors can not have additional ones added. Do not use a “universal” unregulated/untested tether anchor or get into “do it yourself” mode when it comes to this critical safety element. Contact a tech for a list of vehicles with more than three factory-equipped tether anchors if you anticipate needing the flexibility that multiple tether anchors offers.
Ford’s new inflatable belt
Seat Belts: The type of seat belt present (lap belt or lap/shoulder belt), their locations, the length of the buckle stalk, whether the buckle is fixed and forward-leaning, whether the buckle sits forward of the bight (seat crease), and how the belt itself locks can all influence how and whether a car seat or booster seat can be installed in that location. Some types of belts are straight out incompatible with car and booster seats, and other new types, such as Ford’s inflatable belts, may not yet be fully tested or approved with some models of car or booster seats.
Headrests: More accurately called ‘head restraints’ they serve an important function in protecting an adult’s head and neck against whiplash-type injuries. They are sometimes required to support a high back booster seat, always required for use with a backless booster seat, and often interfere with the installation of a forward-facing car seat. Whether head restraints are adjustable, removable, or fixed and forward-leaning can very much affect what car or booster seats can be used there.
Safety: When shopping for a new or used vehicle it’s worth the time to investigate any available information on safety ratings, such as those published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. If purchasing an older vehicle investigate whether the seat belts are in good working order, or have ever been replaced (recommended after a vehicle is around 20-25 years old), and that existing safety features are undamaged and accounted for, such as airbags and tether anchors.
Seating Capacity: Many vehicles advertise themselves — or consumers assume — that seven seat belts means the ability to simultaneously transport seven people. While that is possible given the absolute right combination of people it’s not usually as easy as it looks. The same goes for many five-seaters that can’t actually seat five at the same time. The Car Seat Lady made a handy pictorial showing three types of seating configuration to watch for in a back seat. Essentially you want to avoid having seating positions cross over one another, or the middle be too narrow to accept a car or booster seat. Take careful note of any restrictions in three-row vehicles. Sometimes it’s not permitted to install any seat in the 3rd row if it’s especially small or what’s considered ‘stadium seating.’ Get that car dealer to dig out the manual for you to read carefully!
Taking a seat along for a test drive…it’s so CLEAN!
Try before you buy: Already own seats, and you’re convinced you want to continue using them? Take them with you and try them out. Install with UAS and then re-install with seat belt as eventually you’re going to max out the weight limit of the anchors and need to install with the belt. Not fond of your seats? Research before hand what would be suitable for the vehicle you’re considering, whether you’re willing to budget that into your purchase price, and whether they will properly fit your child.
Trucks: Trucks that do not have full-size cabs pose particular challenges due to their shallow back seats, access to tether anchors, and (in)ability to switch off the air bag in the front seat. Extended cab trucks with flip down back seats are especially challenging; due to their depth and non-compressible materials very little will install there, and some manufacturers may prohibit installing a seat there. No car or booster seat may be installed on a sideways facing ‘jump’ seat, nor a rear-facing vehicle seat.
Interior Quirks and Geometry: Every vehicle interior is different but potential barriers to successful seat installation include the following. Illustrated where possible with a typical example. Thank you to all of the people who provided photos for this article.
Forward of the bight seat belts. This particular seat happens to work with this style of belt, but most will do as illustrated in the next set of photos.
Installation appears solid at first…
…but easily shifts like this. Not acceptable of course. Forward-facing installations with a forward-of-the-bight (FOTB) belt are not usually better as they tend to slide forward more than is allowable.
Overlapping lower anchors (UAS). The set in yellow is for the centre seating position; the set in blue is for the outboard seating position. Only one set can be used at a time and you must use the set indicated for each spot, not one from each.
Raised bight.Most vehicles have a crack or a gap at the location marked ‘seat turn/crease’ in this picture. A raised bight means the crack or gap is above that spot, and this can complicate some rear-facing installs. The lower anchors aren’t necessarily always as pictured here – they may be at the lower turn/crease, set into the bight, or recessed elsewhere.
Overlapping seat belts. These two seating positions cannot be used at the same time for anyone or any car seat due to the overlapping anchor points. What appears to be a popular five-passenger vehicle (Toyota Rav-4) is what a fellow tech referred to as a “four passenger vehicle with an extra seat belt for decoration.”
Off-set lower anchors. The position of the lower anchors on this van bench seat takes up two seating positions when in use.
Hard plastic at the seat bight. Many seats won’t install well against copious hard plastic at the seat bight. Most prevalent on SUVs and wagons where there is a 60/40 split. The hinge at the split and on each outer edge usually makes for a hard time with rear-facing seats.
Flip-down centre consoles or arm rests can be problematic for a rear-facing car seat install. If the pivot point of the console is too high compared to the edge of the car seat it won’t be held tightly in place and the risk is that it will impact a child’s face in a crash. A few vehicles have a mechanism to hold the console in place in just this situation, so read your vehicle manual carefully to see if this ‘fix’ applies to you.
Extremely narrow centre seats with closely spaced seat belt anchors. Who or what would fit there? Not much. The spacing there is about 11″.
Fixed, forward-leaning buckle stalks. The angle of the webbing is all wrong for a forward-facing car seat install. Attempts to pull on it to tighten usually result in something like this – jammed, bunched, and not at all tight.
Difficult to access tether anchors, usually in trucks. Acrobatics are sometimes required to balance a seat while routing the tether to awkward and hard to access anchor points.
Shallow back seats in extended cab trucks, or flip-down seats in trucks. Seat depth is often not sufficient to properly support a car seat, and hard plastic means the surface is not compressible. Usually some compression or give in the upholstery is needed to achieve a good installation.
Pronounced side bolsters, most often found in cars, can significantly reduce usable side-to-side space by forcing the car or booster seat to shift toward the centre.
Long buckle stalks. The sneaky thing about long buckle stalks is that they don’t always seem long until you try to install a car seat or use them with a booster seat. Sigh. For a harnessed seat it is permissible to twist the female end up to three full turns (no half turns), and often this is enough to shorten the whole unit and get the buckle lowered and out of the belt path. Once in a while the buckle stalk is SO long it will go right into the belt path. This is okay so long as the whole thing is in there and not teetering on the edge. It is not permissible to twist a buckle stalk when used with a booster seat.
Fixed forward-leaning head rests (head restraints). Because this head restraint is not adjustable or removable it causes problems with forward-facing car seats and booster seats. The gap it creates between the seat back and booster makes this particular booster incompatible in this seating position.
Phewf, that might be it. Or at least that’s all we have pictures of. Did we miss something that causes you grief in your own vehicle? Tell us about it! So go forth and car shop – but look at the vehicle’s features with real, functional seating capacity in mind, armed with all of these helpful hints!
By Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs, on September 28th, 2013
Our giveaway is over – congratulations to the winner, and thank you to all who entered. Stay tuned for more coming soon!
THANK YOU! Help us celebrate our 2nd birthday as Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs with our very first seat giveaway contest! And exciting news to add — our giveaway is co-sponsored by car-seat.org! Knowledgeable, helpful, and friendly since 2001, we have learned much from the community there and are so thrilled with their support.
Thank you to all of the parents and caregivers who have been with us from the beginning, and welcome to those who have just joined us. Thank you to all the amazing techs who have inspired us!
Enter to win a car or booster seat of your choice from Amazon.ca up to a value of $200. Seat must show as in stock and available for free shipping within Canada from Amazon, be from one of our favourites lists (of infant seats, infant/child seats, child/booster seats, or dedicated boosters), and ideally used according to best practice. If you are the lucky winner but your seat of choice exceeds $200 don’t despair – we’ll work something out!
Laura, Lindsay and Jen have put hours and hours into our Facebook page, website, and YouTube channel, developing resources and answering questions. With eight daughters between us we are busy – but this is our passion. We love it, and we know we are making a difference. So help us reach more people by sharing our resources and earning extra entries in the process!
Please see the Terms and Conditions at the bottom of the Rafflecopter link for the rules and the fine print.
Laura, Lindsay & Jen – cold and bedraggled after a long, wet car seat clinic!
We developed this decision making tool (scroll down – the link is at the bottom!) with the help of a wonderful a tech in the BC Interior, after she experienced frustration and anxiety while wondering if her child would be safely seated in someone else’s vehicle for a school field trip. We did some research and discovered there’s a wide range of policies regarding school transportation in BC and beyond, leaving kids potentially unsafe and parent drivers and school boards in a risky position from a liability perspective.
This tool is a yes/no decision-making tree and can be used for field trips where there are parent drivers, carpool situations, or any transportation scenario. It’s quick and to the point, and easy to follow. It focuses primarily on school-aged kids but doesn’t break down how to determine if a child ought to be rear- or forward-facing in a harness — that’s just too much to cover with this one simple tool. Page 2 of the Tree shows examples of good and poor belt fit — thank you to M. Robertson for the artwork.
Please share and reproduce it. Please ask questions if you have a particular transportation scenario that is challenging — maybe we can find a seating solution you haven’t considered. It’s very difficult to cover every possibility in a chart like this but DOES address booster or belt very well, from a best practice perspective.
Hopefully no one was seriously hurt. Document everything, and take photos if possible. Call the police if necessary. If a child needs medical assistance sometimes the first responders will keep them in their car seats for transport – they’ll cut the seat right out of the vehicle as the seat itself acts like a backboard of sorts. And then…
Styrofoam dented from impact with child’s head. Photo Credit: CPST Megan Robertson
Can I keep using my seat after a crash?
The short answer is, probably not. The forces in even a minor crash can compromise the plastic and/or webbing on a seat, even if you can’t see any damage. There is no way to re-certify a seat after a crash, and no one in Canada is trained or certified by any organization to check and approve crashed seats for re-use, despite claims to the contrary that we sometimes see online. Transport Canada’s policy is for seats to be replaced after any crash.
If you are unsure whether your seat is safe for re-use, check the car seat manual or call the manufacturer. The majority of manufacturers say you must replace your seat after any crash, even a minor one, and even if the seat is not occupied. Even unoccupied, the seat has still been subjected to forces along the belt path and (in the event of a forward-facing seat) top tether.
There are a very few seats that may be safe to reuse after a minor crash, as defined by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), which is a US organization. Check your car seat manual to find out if yours is one of them. Your manual, if applicable, will state a list similar to this if the seat does not require replacement after a minor crash.
These seats were not cut or moved after this crash; this is how much the belts stretched.
The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site;
The vehicle door nearest the safety seat was undamaged;
There were no injuries to any of the vehicle occupants (this includes neck or back pain);
The air bags (if present) did not deploy; AND
There is no visible damage to the safety seat
Since you’re not advised to use the seat again even once how do you get home from a crash scene? If possible have someone bring a seat to you — a new one purchased en route, or maybe a parent friend has a similarly sized child and can deliver you home in their seat. Send one parent via taxi to a store to pick one up, or home to get a spare from your other vehicle or basement. Do what you can as ideally no child will ever ride in that crashed seat again.
One of the most common questions we get when it comes to crashes, is whether a particular crash “counts”. Questions like “I backed into a post in the parking lot” or “I bounced off the snow bank and there’s a tiny dent in the bumper.” Unfortunately, this isn’t a judgment call we as techs can or should make. If there is any doubt as to whether the crash warrants replacing the seats, you should call the car seat manufacturer themselves and talk to them. Note that Transport Canada itself states that child restraints should be replaced after any crash, no matter how minor, and does not follow the US NHTSA guidelines.
If the vehicle damage is being covered by insurance, the car seats may be too. If you’re in BC then ICBC should replace them, but policies on private insurance companies or in other provinces may differ. Some insurance companies are notoriously difficult to deal with when trying to have car seats replaced, even if the policy does cover them. Often being firm, pointing out both the Transport Canada recommendations as well as the recommendations in the car seat manuals, and remaining insistent is all it takes. Remember that even an unoccupied seat needs to be replaced. If you continue to have difficulty with your insurance company please be in touch with us and we’ll see if we have any ideas specific to your situation.
Seats were moved by first responders to access injured passengers in the 3rd row.
Don’t let the company pay you a prorated amount based on the age of the car seat (you still have to pay the full replacement value). Generally they will want a receipt for the old seat and a receipt for the new one, and will give you an amount for the lesser of the two values. Depending on your adjuster, they may insist you purchase the exact same seat. If you don’t have your old receipt, usually sending them a listing of the car seat online will be enough.
If the vehicle is not covered under insurance, it should fall to the person who is at fault to cover the cost of replacing the car seats. In the event of a severe crash, the car seat manufacturer themselves may replace the seat for you in exchange for the crashed one. They often find it useful to examine seats involved in “real world” crashes to aid in the research, development and design of future restraints.
Dismantled seats after a crash. Credit: CPST Megan Robertson
First responder photo
As for what to do with the old seat, you can keep the cover off the seat if you want, for use or for sale for another identical seat, but everything else including the harness should be destroyed or recycled. Sometimes a local car seat technician might like the seat to use for training purposes, and we have exemptions to use seats for this purpose from Health Canada. Some areas have recycling depots that will take old car seats. Otherwise, it will need to be thrown out. Cut the straps and padding, write “Crashed, do not use” on the shell, even take a hammer or a saw to it, and bag it up so it isn’t obvious what it is. Do not under any circumstances sell or pass on a seat that has been in a crash, however minor. This is also one reason it is not recommended to buy a used seat unless you trust the seller with your child’s life, as damage from a crash is not always obvious and you don’t know if the seller has been in a crash and chose not to count it as such.
Very minor injuries occurred in this crash thanks to properly installed seats. Credit: Rachel
If insurance is covering the cost, they will normally want proof that the seat has been destroyed and will not be reused. Often the body shops or mechanic shops fixing the cars are able to do this and will destroy and dispose of the seat for you. Some insurance companies may collect the seats themselves.
Remember also to contact your vehicle manufacturer about whether your seat belts should be replaced (if seats were installed with seat belt), and/or whether the lower anchors or top tether are still safe to use (if seats were installed with UAS).
Harper, aged 2.5, rides rear facing and scowls as her mom fusses with her seat.
VANCOUVER ISLAND — More than 98.8% of car seats are installed or used incorrectly.
At least that’s the statistic observed by Jen Shapka, a technician/instructor with the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada. Shapka co-founded Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs almost two years ago after moving to Vancouver Island with a military spouse.
“I’d recently been certified as a car seat technician in Ontario and saw the immediate difference it could make to a child’s safety,” said Shapka. “When I arrived in the Comox Valley, I hunted around and couldn’t find any organizations making a real difference for kids in vehicles so I found some like-minded women on the Island and Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs was born.”
As the great demand for car seat help grew, traffic picked up quickly on the Facebook page the women started, and the resulting website they developed. Momentum picked up. Jen became an Instructor with the Child Passenger Safety Association of Canada (CPSAC) and the Island now boasts 52 trained and certified car seat technicians. Some, like the busy techs who volunteer at free clinics organized up and down Vancouver Island, do it because it’s a passion. Others help parents and families through their work places. Every single one has made a difference reducing the primary accidental cause of death of children in Canada.
Shapka herself has personally checked 437 car seats on Vancouver Island in her two years posted here, and only five of them didn’t require correction of misuse.
“Studies indicate that children traveling in an appropriate, properly used restraint can reduce the likelihood of death by 70% and injury by 67%,” said Shapka. “There’s really no reason not to ensure your kids are riding safely.”
Indeed, Stats Canada says that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of accidental death for children under the age of 14. In 2010 61 children under the age of 14 were killed in motor vehicle crashes, 501 were seriously injured, and 9342 others suffered minor to moderate injuries.
Shapka is once again preparing to pack up and move her family across the country this summer – her seventh move in 11 years. She’s extremely proud of the fantastic network of technicians she’s helped to train and mentor, including another instructor who will continue to teach and certify new technicians. There is also a loyal following of hundreds, if not thousands of parents who reach out and ask for the help they were previously unable to find before Vancouver Island Car Seat Technicians came to be.
“There is a troubling trend of bad advice out there,” Shapka said. “I’ve personally corrected errors made by technicians with out-dated or incomplete information. We formed Vancouver Island Car Seat Technicians to buck that trend and be a reliable source of information.”
Technicians certified by CPSAC receive a national certification and ongoing re-certification. They remain current on new laws, recalls, and other safety concerns. The Vancouver Island Car Seat Techs also maintain an active communication amongst each other and reach out for assistance from other techs when needed.
What is this top tether we speak of? Why is it so very important for forward-facing kids? And yes, you MUST use it for every forward-facing harnessed seat in Canada, no exceptions.
The top tether is a strap at the top/head area of harnessed seats in the forward-facing orientation. A small handful of seats can be tethered rear-facing, and we discuss that in detail here.
If you have a forward-facing harnessed child please read this article – correctly attaching your top tether strap is one of the very best things you can do to protect your child from head and neck injuries.
All harnessed seats that can be installed forward facing come with a top tether strap, and have for quite some time. If your seat does not have a tether strap it’s either way expired, or has been modified and had the tether removed. If the latter is the case please follow up with the seat manufacturer for advice.
What’s the point of the tether? Simply put it prevents your child’s head from slamming into whatever is in front of it. Officially it’s to meet head excursion requirements. The Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standards — the ‘Standards’ from Transport Canada — state that the forward head movement cannot exceed 28.4″ (720mm), measured from a point on the test bench that is behind the child’s head (the truly curious can scroll down to figure 6 for a schematic of the test bench).
This video demonstrates the difference in head movement between a tethered seat (in the foreground) and an untethered seat (in the background). The seats were otherwise correctly installed and the dummies correctly harnessed. Without that top tether holding the top of the car seat back the whole restraint pivots at the belt path and flings the dummy forward. Massive head injuries can result.
So hopefully now you’re sold on the extreme importance of properly tethering a seat. Remember that in a real vehicle it isn’t vast empty space in front of the child — there’s a vehicle seat, maybe even including an after-market DVD player — and that is what your child’s head and face will contact in a crash. And now on to the ‘how to’ part of this article.
First off – this is a tether anchor hook. It is the exact same type of hook on every single non-expired forward-facing car seat in Canada. The thin bit of metal is flexible and the thicker bit is sturdy metal that is rigorously tested to withstand the crash forces put on it in a collision. It’s connected to webbing that is also tested, just like seat belt webbing and the webbing on the harness, to hold up and perform as designed.
There will be an adjuster mechanism of some sort on the tether strap, that fixes and locks the length of the tether strap. It might look like one of these two common styles, or resemble something else, but its function is to keep the tether at a certain length while the car seat is installed.
Where the tether strap attaches to the car seat shell may vary as well. Some seats have a single strap with a single attachment point; others have various V-shaped designs. It’s important to make sure the tether strap is not twisted along its length.
So now that we’ve got that covered…where do we hook the tether to?
Do you drive a car model year 2000 or newer, or a van, light truck, or SUV model year 2001 or newer? Good news – you already have at least three tether anchor points factory installed in your vehicle. You might have more. The odd vehicle allows you to add more than you got off of the assembly line but they’re the exception. Generally speaking, after those dates, what it came with is what you get. That also means you can only install a forward facing car seat in a seating position with a tether anchor, so if you want the flexibility to put a forward-facing child anywhere you want to, it’s a feature to pay special attention to when shopping for a vehicle with three rows. Tether anchors are often scarce in the 3rd row.
Unless the vehicle manufacturer specifically says so, you can’t use the tether anchor from the adjacent seating position, you can’t use one tether anchor for two tether hooks, and you can’t use cargo hooks instead of tether anchors.
You definitely can’t attach your tether anchors to random places in the back of your vehicle and call it good. For real. Take home message here? You absolutely must read your vehicle manual to know where the tether anchors are and what they look like, and use the designated anchor for the seating position you’re installing in.
Where ARE these mysterious tether anchors?
On newer vehicles they may be marked with this symbol – those ones are easy!
They take a variety of other forms as well, and some are pictured here:
Routing loops and tether anchors on the back wall of a truck.
The location varies widely as well, and may not be the same for every seating position in one vehicle. Consult your vehicle manual, and look under captain’s chairs, on the floor, on the seat back, on the rear sill of a sedan, on the back sill of the 3rd row of a van/SUV, and on the ceiling. Often hatchbacks will have the centre anchor on the ceiling with the two outer anchors on the seat back or floor. Don’t guess – if in doubt ask the vehicle manufacturer!
Sometimes the location and look of tether anchors can be confusing. This photo gallery has a number of oddities, and tips for connecting the hook. If you’re having trouble see if your vehicle is on the list.
Remember that part about reading your vehicle manual? A handful of vehicles (mostly some Fords and some Mazdas) specifically instruct you to give your tether strap a half-twist and connect the hook in what is considered ‘upside down.’ Ordinarily we connect the hook with the strong thick part on the top and the thin flexible part facing the floor, with a flat strap with no twists. If your vehicle manual directs you to do otherwise, do what they say. They’re the ones who have tested that anchor point and know how it will hold in a crash.
Retrofitting an older vehicle:
Now how about those of you with older vehicles? Good news for you too, but a bit more work and research required. As of model year 1989 it became mandatory for vehicle manufacturers to provide pre-drilled holes which could accommodate a tether bolt, and with a few exceptions most vehicles can be retrofitted. You will need to inquire with the parts department of your vehicle manufacturer to find out where those points are, how many you can get, how much the part costs, and how much to install it. Some dealers will still do one for free but most won’t anymore. Sometimes you can order the parts and install it yourself with a torque wrench (the bolt needs to be tightened a specific amount). Unfortunately we are hearing more and more stories about the parts no longer being available, or an exorbitant amount to install it, putting parents in a very tough position about how to safely transport their children. Please don’t buy the $7 aftermarket part available at some auto stores. It’s not crash tested to withstand the extreme forces on it in a collision, and even if it appears to fit the threading and bolt size may not be compatible. Be in touch with us via our Facebook page and we’ll see what we can do to problem solve for you. We do have some reference material that could point you in the right direction.
When do you connect the tether? You can route the tether strap any time, but you generally don’t tighten it until the very end of your installation. Alternately you can flip the tether strap over into the seating area of the car seat so you don’t lose it behind the seat while installing (because we’ve never done that…). Pay attention in your vehicle manual to how you route relative to the head rest. Some go under, some go over. Some allow you or require you to remove the head rest altogether, and some insist it stays on. Good old vehicle manual…good thing you’ve read it!
Sometimes tether anchors are located in such a spot that it requires acrobatics and creativity to install the seat. This is a 2000 Chevy Avalanche. To access the anchor you have to flip the seat bottom forward, and tilt the vehicle seat back…and then dangle the car seat in the air while routing the strap down and behind, put the seat back and seat bottom into place, and then install. If you’re putting two forward-facing seats side by side on that part of the bench then two have to dangle in the air at once. I very much wish that vehicle manufacturers were on the same page as car seat manufacturers to make it easier for parents to install properly.
This video walks you through a forward-facing installation with the seat belt, ending with the top tether connection. If you’re a visual learner take a peek! Installing with UAS? Watch this one instead.
What if your seat is installed rear-facing – then what do you do with the tether? In a crash it could become a wicked projectile so you don’t want it flopping around freely. There is usually a spot to clip or stow the tether – once again, that trusty manual will come in handy.
Non-use and misuse of the top tether anchor is one of the most frequent things we correct at seat checks. Please take the time to double check your tethering set up, and if in doubt, ask us for help. You can meet with a tech privately, or post a question on our Facebook page.
And that concludes your crash course in top tethering. We always appreciate comments and feedback.
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The information presented here is up-to-date to the best of our knowledge as of the time it was published, but is subject to change at any time.