Toddlers should remain rear facing for as long as possible. It’s time to turn kids around when they reach the height or weight limits of their seat. At this point, they’re ready for a forward-facing seat with a harness, which will see them through their preschool years.
According to Transport Canada guidelines, forward-facing seats are installed with a tether strap attached to an anchor point that’s approved by the car manufacturer, and a universal anchorage system (UAS) belt or seat belt (and locking clip, if necessary, according to car manufacturer’s guidelines). The seat-belt method must be used once the combined weight of your child and the seat exceed 65 lb. (30 kg). Buckle him into the harness the same way as in the rear-facing seat, with the chest clip at armpit height and no excess webbing at the collarbone, straps positioned at or just above the shoulders. Make sure the back of the seat extends up past his ears.
Again, don’t rush. Kids must stay in this style of seat until they’re at least 40 lb. (18 kg), but many seats accommodate kids up to 65 lb. (30 kg). Use this seat until he reaches the height or weight limit, but delay the move to a booster until he’s developmentally ready.
Installation 101 There’s more than one safe way to install a car seat. You can use the universal anchorage system (UAS), if your car has it, or a seat belt (with the addition of a locking clip if your belts don’t have a locking feature). Consult your car’s manual and the child-seat user manual to figure out which method is best. The ideal spot for a child seat is in the middle of the back seat. Once you have positioned the seat, place your knee in the middle of the seat and use your body weight to fully tighten the straps. When you’re finished, it shouldn’t budge more than an inch in any direction at the belt path.
Crash test According to Transport Canada, your child’s car seat should be replaced if it is in a vehicle that has been in a collision—it’s even an insurance requirement for some companies.
FYI Accessories that didn’t come with your seat (such as liners, trays and comfort strap covers) might not be safe to use. Check with the car seat manufacturer first.
A version of this article appeared in our August 2014 issue with the headline “Car seat cheat sheet,” p. 24-5.