How to choose and fit a toddler car seat
We’ve teamed up with the experts at Joie to look at how you decide which is the right seat, and even more importantly, how you should fit them.
Alternatively, you can start off with a rear-facing seat when your child is very young – which we recommend doing for as long as possible – and then switch to a front-facing seat once the child is heavier.
A Group 1 seat will take a child of between nine and 18kg (about nine months to four years), while a Group 1, 2 and 3 seat can be adjusted as your child grows. You start off using either an integral harness or a safety shield system, and then a combination seat that also covers groups 2 and 3 will use the car’s seat belts to secure the child.
As a guide, you should only be able to fit a couple of fingers between your baby’s chest and the straps. And, remember to adjust the straps every trip, as the clothes your baby wears will affect how tightly the belts fit. The best routine to get into is to lengthen the harness as you get your baby out, so that it’s ready to suit whatever clothing little one is wearing when you return to the car.
It’s best to fit any child seat in the rear seat, preferably in the centre. And, most importantly, only use the front seat if the passenger airbag is not active.
If you’re doing that, use your own body weight to push down on the seat as you fit it, to ensure a good fit; make sure the belts aren’t twisted; if there’s a locking mechanism, make sure it’s locked; and, check the buckle doesn’t end up bent over the car seat. In cars with longer buckles, this can lead to what is known as buckle crunch, and they can break open in an accident.
The advantage of Isofix is that the seat is secured to mounts fixed directly to the car’s body; and, not only are they easier to fit, most such seats also have an indicator that will turn from red to green to show when the seat is fitted properly.
Finally, if you have a top tether, make sure it’s only ever fitted to the proper fitting; and, if the seat has an extending leg, check if your car has an under-floor compartment. If it does, check with the car manufacturer whether it’s safe to use to support the leg.