Mother and Baby
Mother and Baby

Car Seat FAQs

How do I make an appointment to have my car seat inspected?
Safe Kids Missoula hosts monthly child safety seat clinics. The scheduled events are the only times the certified passenger safety technicians are available to check safety seats for recalls, correct use & installation. Community Medical Center is asking expecting parents to make an appointment at one of these community events prior to delivery.To find a listing of the clinics please visit this link.

How long should a child remain rear-facing?
Rear-Facing IS safest.  It is best to remain rear-facing to the weight and height limits of the carseat.  Some convertible carseats have 30 or 35 pound rear-facing limits.  In all cases, infants should be rear-facing until they are BOTH one year AND twenty pounds at the very minimum.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be kept in rear-facing seats for as long as possible, at least until 2 years of age.

What is the safest carseat?
There is no single safest child safety seat for all children and vehicles.  The safest seat is one that fits your child, fits your vehicle and one you will use correctly each and every time. 

Which harness slots should I use?
Please consult the carseat manual first for specific instructions.  When rear-facing, you should use the harness slot which is at the level of the child's shoulders or slightly below.  When forward-facing, use the slots at the level of the child's shoulders or above. 

What is the safest position for my carseat?
The center of the rear seat is usually safest since it is farthest from a possible side impact, but only if your carseat fits well in that position.  Any position in the rear seat is acceptable unless prohibited by the vehicle or child seat owner's manual.  The seat behind the passenger may be slightly safer than the seat behind the driver, since it allows you to unload the child on the curb side, allows you to see your child more easily from the driver's seat and is very slightly less likely to be hit on that side in a side impact. 

Is my car seat tight enough?
Grab your carseat at the base, where the seatbelt goes.  The base should not move more than an inch (1") side-to-side or front-to-back.  Some movement at the top of the seat is normal, though a tether will reduce this movement in forward-facing car seats.

I can't get it tight enough, what can I do?

  • Make sure you have read the owner's manual thoroughly and are using the correct path for the seatbelt.
  • Check your vehicle's owner's manual for information on the seatbelts.  Yours may have a locking retractor mode.  On some cars, you can pull the seatbelt all the way out and it will lock as it retracts.  You can then put your weight on the carseat as it retracts to take up all the slack.
  • Make sure to put your weight on the seat as you install it.  Rocking back and forth a little may also help.  As you apply weight, pull the slack from the lap portion of the seatbelt.  If possible, brace your back against the roof of the vehicle to add downward force.  In some cases, a second person is helpful to buckle the belt while the first applies force on the carseat.
  • Try a tether for a forward-facing seat, and make it tight.
  • You may need a locking-clip or belt-shortening clip. Please consult the owner's manual for you vehicle and carseat.  Incorrect use of these clips can be very dangerous.
  • Make an appointment at a community child safety seat checkup event.

When should a child be put into a booster?
Many convertible and forward-facing seats have 40 pound weight limits when using the harness.  A convertible or forward-facing seat with a 5-point harness is the safest option for children from 30-40 pounds who are not too tall for their forward-facing carseat.  If a child's shoulders are above the level of the top slots in their regular carseat, or the tops of their ears are above the top of the shell, then they may be able to move to a booster or another forward-facing seat which accommodates taller children.  Usually a child can be moved to a booster when they are too big for a harnessed carseat, and once they are able to sit properly in a seatbelt.  A child should be in some type of booster seat until around 8 years old, unless they are already 4' 9" tall

When can my child be in a regular seatbelt without a booster?
Children are not ready to be in a regular lap/shoulder seatbelt until:

  • They are tall enough so that their legs bend at the knees at the edge of the seat; and
  • They are mature enough to remain seated with their backs flat against the back of the seat and not slouch; and
  • The lap belt sits high on the thighs or low on the hips (NOT on their tummy!); and
  • The shoulder belt crosses the shoulder and chest (NOT on their arms or neck!); and

Each passenger must have their own lap and shoulder belt!  Never allow children to share a seatbelt.

How many years can I use my carseat?
Many manufacturers now put "expiration" dates on their car seats.  Six (6) years is the general recommendation.  Possible degradation of the plastic shell and other parts, the possible loss/breakage of parts, and the fact that older seats will often not meet current government safety standards are the reason for these limitations.

For more information on carseat safety visit: