Child car seats: How to fit a child car seat How to fit child car seats properly

Which? child car seat safety campaign logo

This video shows out top tips to fitting a child car seat so it keeps your child safe - read on to find out more. 

If you are a Which? member and want to see full test crash test and ease of use assessment results for over 100 child car seats, visit our car seat reviews

Not a member yet? Sign up to Which? for just £1 and see full Which? test results and crash videos for Britax,  Bebe Confort, Chicco, Concord, Cybex, Jane, Kiddy, Maxi Cosi, and Recaro seats plus many more.

 

Please enable JavaScript to access this content.

In your car with the child car seat

Check the seat belt in your car is long enough to secure the child car seat, and make sure you can feed the seat belt through the slits in the child car seat without obstructions.

It should be easy to adjust and secure the child car seat's harness, and the child car seat should leave enough space for your child to stretch their legs.

The child car seat should have minimal forward or sideways movement. When you open the buckle of the adult belt, the car seat should spring upward slightly.

Only the seat belt webbing should touch the child car seat's frame, not the buckle. Otherwise pressure on the buckle could make it fail, meaning your child won’t be securely restrained in an emergency situation. Check the child car seat’s fitting booklet for more information.

Disable the airbag before fitting a rearfacing seat

If the airbag goes off, the force could kill your child.

Never fit a in front of an active airbag. If it goes off, the force could kill your child. Carry child car seats in the back of the car if you can.

Finally, don’t place anything beneath the child car seat to protect the car's seats (a blanket, for example).

Child car seats: expert help

Installing a child car seat for the first time is rarely straightforward and it seems even trickier once you get home. We visited Bromley, in Kent, where child car seat education road safety officer, Val Fuller, demonstrated how the council’s child car seat centre advises parents and retailers.

Val said: ‘It’s important to make sure every seat is correctly installed. There should be no movement. The advice we offer to parents in the child car seat centre and our Transport for London-funded training scheme for retailers are aimed at improving safety for all children travelling in the area.’

When we’ve looked at retailer advice in the past, we’ve found it is a bit of a lottery, whether you get good advice on child car seats or not. We sat in on a training session at retailer Baby Baby, in West Wickham. It was training staff to a basic level of level of competence to advise about weight groups, moving baby from one stage to the next, airbags, harness adjustment, Isofix and the law. Most child car seat retailers in Bromley display certificates, so you can ask for the qualified person in each store.

Bromley welcomes all parents. But if you don’t live nearby, contact your own local authority. Most offer advice, either from road safety officers or suitably trained traffic police officers.

To improve the chances of all children in crashes, we’d like to see child car seat schemes like Bromley’s rolled out across the country.

Not all carry cots are certified for use in cars

It must be certified to ECE R44.04

Should I stop using a child car seat that did badly in the Which? tests?

No – any approved child car seat is better than using the adult seat belts. And, by law, all children under 135cm must use a suitable restraint.

Although the Which? child car seat tests examine what can happen in very severe accidents, these are quite rare.

Can I use a carrycot instead of a child car seat?

A carrycot is an easy and flexible way of transporting your baby, as it can be used as part of a pram or on its own at home.

We've tested a few models in previous years, but for many, we wouldn't hold out much hope for a baby in a severe car crash like the ones we simulate in our testing. However, in recent years some makers have responded to our calls to provide carrycots designed specifically to be used in cars and our test results show some success in this area. Check out our results to see which seats offer the best protection in crashes.

If you're using a carrycot, make sure it is approved to ECE 44.03 or 04, and even if it isn't one we've tested, it's better than nothing at all, but switch to a Best Buy child car seat as soon as you can.

Buying a seat now? Download and print off our free handy checklist, to help you get the best out of your purchase.

Choosing a child car seat? Already a member? To see full test crash test and ease of use assessment results for over 100 child car seats, click here.

Not a member yet? Sign up to Which? for just £1 and see full Which? test results and crash videos for Britax,  Bebe Confort, Chicco, Concord, Cybex, Jane, Kiddy, Maxi Cosi, and Recaro seats plus many more.