11 car seat dos and don'ts

Prevent common car seat buying, installation and usage mistakes with this simple list of dos and don'ts.

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Photo: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

1. DO take your car (and its manual) with you when buying a car seat, and try installing a demo seat to make sure it fits.

2. DO ensure there’s a National Safety Mark on the seat, which tells you it complies with Canadian standards.

3. DON’T cross-border shop for a car seat. Laws and safety standards are different in Canada and the US, and the use of car seats bought outside the country is prohibited in Canada.

4. DO think twice about a second-hand seat—it may have been in a car crash, or it could be expired or about to expire. Almost all car seat makers require you to replace your car seat or booster seat after any crash—even minor fender-benders.

5. DO register your seat with the manufacturer right after you purchase it so they can let you know about any recalls or issues.

6. DO find a local certified car seat technician, car seat clinic or St. John Ambulance location and have your installation technique checked out. You have to be able to install your seats correctly every time, so learn from an expert.

7. DO make sure anyone who transports your kids follows the same safety rules—including grandma and grandpa.

8. DO use a thin receiving blanket, dish towel or brand-specific protective mat under your seat base if you’re worried about damaging your car’s upholstery.

9. DON’T use anything slippery, stiff or tacky, such as a plastic bag or shelf liner, between your car seat and vehicle seat—it could interfere with proper installation.

10. DON’T throw straps in the washing machine—it can weaken the material. Always check your manual for cleaning instructions. And if the straps are really gross, find out if you can order replacements from the manufacturer.

11. DO use your manual after dismantling the seat for cleaning (or any other reason) to make sure it’s put back together properly.

A version of this article appeared in our April 2016 issue, titled “7 car seat mistakes you’re probably making”, pg. 62.

Read more:
7 car seat mistakes you’re probably making
Car seat cheat sheet: Rear-facing seats
Car seat cheat sheet: Forward-facing seats

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