I’m a firm believer in learning something from a well-trained, accredited source. There are people out there that spend their livelihood bothering to learn things, to exchange this empowerment for money. There are other ways to educate yourself, but I find this a crucial early step in the process.
We don’t bat an eyelid at seeking advice on a pain we’re feeling. Nor do we have any qualms in calling a plumber to fix a leak. When there is something that needs doing, calling an expert isn’t an issue.
But, for some bizarre reason, I’ve noticed on multiple occasions that people fail to do this when it comes to the installation of a baby seat into their car. I cannot recall the numerous times I’ve checked people’s seats, through association or general nosiness, and noticed they’re grossly slack and therefore incorrectly fitted.
I’m not an expert, nor will I tell you how it’s done. I can give you suggestions based on what a professional has told me, but that's no substitute.
Let me make this clear: if you’re reading this and find yourself guilty, I’d like you to figure out a way, in the current climate, that you can have a professional visit you to reinstall it, and show you how it’s done. If you’re doing it wrong, learn how to do it properly.
As an alternative, if a physical visit is not possible due to the current situation, at least investigate whether a licensed installer is comfortable walking you through it via video call.
It’s not all the fault of the owner. Some seats have some glaring concerns with regard to their safety check devices. For example, the ISOFIX seat I use, has little plastic tabs that change from red to green once correct tension has been applied.
To quote the manual, “The two tension indicators must show 'green' indicating minimum tension has been applied.”
It’s pretty easy to achieve the green indicator by lightly reefing on the parts of the belt that tension it up. However, after doing this, you’re still presented with huge, dangerous amounts of slack.
The warning after reads “Always remove slack from ISOFLEX Straps. A loose installation is dangerous”. The subjectiveness of this comment means it’ll fall on the deaf ears of a newbie.
How on earth is the reader able to determine whether the slack they have left is satisfactory? There are no movement measures mentioned, I.E, ‘less than four centimetres of free-play’, anywhere in the manual.
It gets worse with the instructions relating to the top tether install. “Tighten adjustable top tether strap by pulling adjustment strap to remove slack as shown below, but do not overtighten causing the restraint base to lift off the vehicle seat.”
Again, it’s very easy to over-tighten until it lifts off the seat, which then requires you to back it off a bit. However, once backed off, it’ll likely need a re-tension again, which is the part that more often than not doesn’t occur. Once again, it introduces unrequired slack in the tether.
After browsing the manufacturer’s website, I noticed a post on their blog. “You should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to fasten straps, making sure the car seat is secured tightly to your vehicle with no more than a couple of centimetres' movement from back-to-front or side-to-side.”
Ironically, the above statement contains more sound information than in their own manufacturer instructions. Simply putting that in their manual could’ve saved a lot of heartache for some.
Regardless, a small trick is to apply lots of pressure to the seat, both downward into the squab and forward into the seat back. I find sitting on the seat, or pressing into it with my shoulder or hand, is a good way to reduce the resistance met by the seat’s foam when tensioning the straps.
Depending on the padding of the seat found in your car, there could be a need for huge amounts of pressure to get things free from slack and movement.
Another point to note is that sometimes the ISOFIX points of a car can be located quite close together. This means when you latch onto them using the ISOFIX clips on the baby seat itself, the seat cannot gain adequate tension, thanks to its plastic base fouling on the ISOFIX clips; due to their close proximity to one other.
A trick here is to push the baby seat clips aside to provide clearance for the plastic base, once latched onto the car’s ISOFIX points, then tension, to avoid futile attempts at squashing a plastic base into plastic clips (it doesn’t work very well).
As mentioned above, there should be little to no movement in the seat.
Having installed seats into many, many cars, on a weekly basis, I find there’s little tricks and adjustments with particular seat brands, or with particular cars, which can make for a difference from a slightly dangerous install to a super safe one.
Hence why I’ll reiterate my above comments to round things out – I urge you to speak to a professional, ensure you’ve read the manual before they arrive, and ask as many questions as you can think of. Even take the lead and do a run-through install with them, whilst they're around.
There is no such thing as a stupid suggestion or question in this field. Your own knowledge on the topic could be the separating factor between life and death.