Fitting child car seats

Some of the problems that can arise if a child seat is not compatible with your car

Despite being called universal, all child seats won't fit all cars

Despite being called universal, all child seats won't fit all cars

If you are having trouble fitting a child seat properly it could be that you've misread the instructions but it's more likely that the seat you have got isn't compatible with the car. Despite being called universal, all child seats won't fit all cars.

If you are thinking about buying an Isofix seat it's important to check the vehicle handbook before you buy anything. This will tell you the types and size classes of Isofix restraint that are compatible with each seating position in the car.

In fact it's important to check compatibility before buying any type of child seat. Britax is a market leader in this area - you can search their product application list using a service called 'Fitfinder' on the Britax website.

Try before you buy

Ask the retailer's advice. They can demonstrate the seat and show you how to install it in your car

If the retailer can't confirm compatibility or show you how the seat fits in your car then at the very least you should check that you can return the seat if it turns out to be incompatible with your car.

If you're having difficulties finding a seat that fits correctly in your car, then it's best to ask the car manufacturer for advice. A dealer should be able to offer you seats to suit children of all ages that they know are compatible with the car.

Belts too short?

It's quite common with rear-facing seats to find that the car seat belts are not long enough to fit around the restraint. Regulations don't specify a minimum length for adult seat belts and it would take a large adult to use as much belt as one of these seats when fitted.

Try the seat in every seating position to make sure that the seat belts are long enough. Some child seats have an 'alternative belt route' that can be used when the belts are too short for normal installation.

Non-reclining and 'two-way' seats may need longer seat belts than a reclining seat which can be installed in the upright position and then reclined against seat belt tension once fitted.

Sloping seats

If the seat cushions in your car slope a lot and you buy a non-reclining infant carrier the combination of angles can mean that your baby is 'lying' in a near vertical position. Reclining seats can help overcome this.

'Buckle crunch'

If the seat belt buckle lies across the frame of the seat you won't be able to get it tight and there will be a high risk of the buckle breaking or opening in a crash. Only seat belt webbing should be in contact with the frame of the child seat.

An 'alternative belt route' - check the child seat instructions - can help eliminate buckle crunch. Moving the child seat to a different seating position in the car can sometimes help as well.

Poor location of adult belt anchorages

Adult belts are designed to be comfortable for and protect adults rather than for installing child restraints. Sometimes the outer seat belt mounting point (opposite end of the lap-belt to the buckle) is located so far forward that the seat belt webbing can't pull the child seat frame backwards and downwards into the cushion.

This is usually only a problem in the outside seats in the back but can stops you getting the installation tight and allows too much movement in a crash.

(7 June 2012)