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5 Common Car Seat Installation Mistakes to Avoid

As an expectant parent, you’re likely a delightful mix of unbridled joy and complete exhaustion. We get it. Your baby's car seat is just one of the many brightly patterned puzzles you will face. But, car seat installation is not something to do while tuning in to your favorite podcast. It’s one of many big tasks to tackle before your baby’s due date, and arguably one of the most important.

So, to make baby prep a little bit easier here are five car seat installation mistakes you can avoid. You've got this!

Mistake #1: After-market products

Making car seats is a precise science. Any material or add-on product not made by the manufacturer can potentially interfere with its function. Even a blanket between your child and their car seat may inhibit its effectiveness. In the event of an accident, the car seat’s warranty or applicable guarantee may be void if after-market products are in use. So, those strap covers might be adorable but are not worth the risk. For more information about after-market products to avoid and suggested alternatives check out this article from the experts at Car Seats for the Littles.

Mistake #2: Forgetting the car seat base

There’s a reason your child’s car seat came with a base, it keeps it in place! It takes a little extra time, but follow the manufacturer’s instructions to install the base. Even if you’ve installed a car seat before don’t assume you know how to install a new one. Car seats are always changing. To make life a little easier, some manufacturers have YouTube channels with video tutorials on how to install your base. 

A person holding a car seat with a baby in it in the backseat of a vehicle.


If you have two vehicles it may be a good idea to buy an extra base. Most manufacturers sell their car seat bases separately so you can easily use your car seat in all your vehicles. 

Some parents worry the base and car seat won't fit in their vehicle. If you find yourself in this situation, search for the car seats designed for smaller cars. You can also check the manufacturer's website before buying your child’s car seat to see if it will fit in your vehicle.

Mistake #3: Passing up a free car seat safety check

Who doesn't love freebies? Most communities offer free car seat safety inspections from trained technicians. These are usually put on by local hospitals or fire departments. A technician will examine how you installed your car seat. Some may even help you practice buckling the harness. If you’re not sure your community has one, call your local hospital maternity ward and they will likely be able to point you in the right direction.

Mistake #4: Ignoring your car seat's expiration date

Just like that huge carton of kale in the back of your refrigerator that you swore you were going to eat, car seats have expiration dates. Check the manufacturer’s manual or website to learn where the expiration date is printed on the seat.

Car seats are designed to last for a certain amount of time. As you use it, the materials begin to degrade because of its exposure to the elements – sun, heat, freezing temperatures, etc. This wears down the materials which can make it less effective. This is why most safety organizations advise against buying a used car seat. It’s also advised to never buy one that was in a car accident, or is missing an expiration date.

Mistake #5: Hastily buckling your kiddo in their car seat

Seat belts seem easy enough, but a baby’s car seat harness is much more complex. Read the manufacturer’s instructions to learn the right way to secure their harness. There are several different harnessing systems used in child car seats so make sure you know how yours works.

You’ll want to make sure their harness straps are flat against them and properly tightened. Also, it’s advised to avoid clothing your child in bulky coats when in their car seat. It can create slack between your child and the restraints. Instead, buckle them in without their coat and then cover them with their coat or a blanket.

It may take some extra time but ensuring your child is properly buckled in their car seat and that the car seat is correctly installed can save lives. When in doubt, look for information and answers from the manufacturer.


A person holding the buckle and straps of a car seat with a baby in it.
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*Products referenced may not be approved/available in all states. Limitations and conditions may apply. Premium will be based on benefits chosen and policy rates available at time of application.

Disclaimer: This article is not expert advice. The analysis of coverage is in general terms and is superseded in all respects by the Insuring Agreements, Endorsements, Exclusions, Terms and Conditions of the Policy. Some of the coverage mentioned in this material may not be applicable in all states or may have to be modified to conform to applicable state law. Some coverages may have been eliminated or modified since the publishing of this material. Discounts may not be available in all states. Limitations and conditions may apply. Premiums will be based on benefits chosen. Please check with your local Independent Auto-Owners Insurance Agent for details."

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