How Tight Should My Car Seat Installation Be?

How Tight Should My Car Seat Installation Be?

How Tight Should My Car Seat Installation Be?

How can you tell if your child’s car seat is installed tightly enough? How much should it move? Can you install it too tightly? Let’s talk about it!

A correctly installed car seat (or base) doesn’t move more than 1 inch front to back or side to side. But we don’t test the tightness just anywhere on the car seat! We only test at the belt path. The belt path is where the car seat is secured to the vehicle by either the lower anchor (LATCH) strap or the vehicle seat belt. 

A car seat is like a tree - the belt path is like the roots of the tree and the top of the car seat is like the branches. The branches move, but they are firmly anchored to the ground by the roots. The car seat is anchored to the vehicle at the belt path. As long as it’s tight there, it will perform as intended in a crash!

To test for a tight installation, we do The Handshake Test:

    1. Put your hand on the car seat or base at the belt path 

    2. Give the car seat a firm handshake front to back and side to side

    3. If the car seat moves less than 1 inch, it is installed tightly

    4. If the car seat moves more than 1 inch, it must be installed more tightly

Never use tools or put your full weight in the car seat to get it tighter. If your car seat has a lock-off, you shouldn’t need superhuman strength to close it! A too-tight installation can make it hard to uninstall the car seat or cause a lock-off panel to pop open. Get the tightest installation you can with reasonable effort.