Basic When to Change Tip #1
Basic When to Change Tip #2
Rear-Facing Until 2
Children should ride in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 2 years old. This may require you to switch from a rear-facing-only car seat to a bigger rear-facing convertible car seat that can hold a larger child. Once they outgrow their rear-facing car seat at age 2 or more, the next step is a forward-facing car seat with a 5-point harness and top tether.
Here’s why you want to keep your child rear-facing for as long as possible: If you are in a frontal collision, the most common type of crash, the rear-facing car seat allows the child’s head, neck and spine to move evenly into the seat, not away from it.
Basic When to Change Tip #3
Once children are at least 2, and have outgrown any type of rear-facing car seat, they should ride in a forward-facing car seat in a 5-point harness until they reach the highest weight or height allowed in the seat.
You may need to switch from using lower attachments to a seat belt if your child reaches the lower attachment weight limit found on the car seat labels. In this situation, you will continue to use the top tether. The seat belt has no weight limit.
Some children may need a car seat with a higher weight or height harness limit before moving to a booster seat.
Once they outgrow their forward-facing car seat, the next step is a booster seat used with the vehicle lap and shoulder seat belt.
How do you know your child is ready for a booster seat? See the next tip.
Basic When to Change Tip #4
Moving to Booster Seat
Many parents struggle with the timing of moving to a booster seat. It is common to get pressure from the child, car pools or relatives.
We understand, but really, it is safest to delay moving from a forward-facing car seat to a booster seat until your child reaches the highest weight or height limit of your current car seat. When you keep your child forward-facing in a harness, there is more protection than using a booster seat with lap and shoulder belt or a seat belt alone.
Is your child ready to stay in a seat without a harness? If moved too soon, do not be surprised to see them climbing out of their seat and moving freely in the back seat.
Basic When to Change Tip #5
What to do with your old car seat
When your child has outgrown a car seat, you can give it to someone you know if it hasn’t been in a crash and it has all the original parts, labels and instructions. Let them know the history and age.
Remember, car seats expire. You can find the expiration date on your car seat. It may be on a label or imprinted on the plastic.
When throwing away an expired or unsafe car seat, take it apart and put the pieces in separate dark trash bags so the seat cannot be found and reused.