Ask an Expert: Winter Coats and Car Seats

baby in rear-facing car seat with coat

Do you have questions about the best way to keep your kids safe? Our “Ask an Expert” column is the place to get answers directly from experienced professionals, who have dedicated their lives to educating parents and protecting kids. If you have a question about safety at home, on the road, or during sports and play, please email Gary Karton

Q. “Is it safe for my child to wear a winter coat in her car seat?” - Jacki, Gaithersburg, MD

This is a question that comes up every winter. The short answer is yes, it can be safe but only with the proper precautions.

You see, wearing coats, heavy sweaters or fleeces, for that matter, can prevent a snug and very important fit of the harness, which has to be tight at the shoulders and hips every time. You might think your child is securely snug in the car seat when in fact the harness is not tight enough because there is so much air in the coat or clothing.

Here’s a solution that could work. First, adjust the harness while your child’s coat is off. This video will show you how to do the pinch test to make sure the harness is snug enough. Unbuckle the harness, put the coat back on and then rebuckle. The harness may be tight, but it will fit properly.

Of course, there may be different options depending on your specific situation or car seat, so check with your manufacturer if you have questions. For more details, videos and information on how to properly use your car seat, you can also use our Ultimate Car Seat Guide.

And remember, the safest ride for a child is to use a car seat correctly, all year long!

Meet the Expert

Lorrie Walker is the training manager and technical advisor for Safe Kids Worldwide. With more than 30 years of experience, Lorrie Walker is one of the country’s most respected authorities in child passenger safety.