Several times a week I receive the question from a concerned parent, “I can’t tighten my car seat straps. Is my seat defective?” I actually don’t mind receiving this question as it is an indicator that more and more parents are taking car seat safety seriously!
As this is a common problem and the seat is rarely defective I’ve put together a list of common issues and troubleshooting steps:
Check harness for binding
To do this, with the child out of the seat, pull the harness all the way out. Now, with a single slow motion pull the harness tight. It should smoothly tighten all the way, if the harness does not move smoothly then check to see if it was pinched between the vehicle seat and car seat during installation. Check for other items in the harness path that could be restricting movement. If you can not find a resolution, uninstall the car seat and retry this test with the car seat out of the vehicle.
Check harness level
Incorrect harness level, specifically, the harness entry point being too low can make it difficult to tighten. Remember while rear-facing, the harness should always be at or below the child’s shoulder, while forward-facing it should be at or above. Rear-facing is often the problem if the harness height is not adjusted as the child grows. If the harness is an inch or more below the shoulder, it will definitely become more difficult, not to mention being unsafe.
Check harness slots
On some seats the side impact head wings have harness slots and move independently from the back of the seat frame which also has a harness slot. If these two slots are not lined up, then the harness has to make a bend between the two slots causing resistance. The easiest way to check for this is to stick your finger in the harness slot and make sure there are no obstructions.
Pull down on the harness
A lot of seats have a locking mechanism that lifts up when you pull on the harness to tighten. If you pull up, you are pulling against the locking mechanism, but if you pull down or straight out the strap slides easier. Yes, this is almost impossible when a car seat is rear-facing, but hopefully the next to tips will help with those situations.
In some rear-facing installations it is just difficult to get the straps tight because you are pulling up or at an awkward angle. To help, you can reach behind the seat and grab the harness straps and pull them downward to tighten snugly around the child. Then pull the harness at the front of the seat and it will tighten easier.
Ratching to Tighten
On models of car seats such as the Sunshine Kids Radian or old generation Britax there is a locking mechanism that lifts up to tighten, allowing you to use what is called ratching to adjust the straps. Ratching is done by pulling up on the strap against the locking mechanism, then letting it go loose, and repeating these steps. Each time you do this it will cause the strap to tighten about a ¼ inch. This technique is great for the final bit of tightening which is sometimes difficult to accomplish.
Often one of these tips solve the, “I can’t tighten my car seat straps” problem. Hopefully you find these useful. If there’s a technique that you have found works well, I would love to hear about it in the comments as it may help someone else too.
Till next time … Snuggle Dad
Car seat harness tension is especially a big issue during the spring and fall when temperatures vary so much throughout the day. Take today for example. When I dropped my kids off this morning it was cold enough that they had to have coats, hats and mittens, but when I picked them up from school the temperature had swung by over 10 degrees and they didn’t want to wear their coats home. The difference between coat and no coat is drastic. All you have to do is try this simple test. Put your infant or child in their snowsuit and put them in their car seat and adjust the harness. Now take them out of their snowsuit and put them in the seat. The results will be shocking … very loose straps … often you can just lift them out of the seat without even undoing the harness!
So, I guess that begs the question what can we do to help with this problem?
For starters, train yourself to always adjust your child’s harness, even when they get older. When you take the child out of the seat, loosen the harness before taking them out. This will cause you to do a 3 step system to get them back in. You will have to do up the chest clip, do up the crotch buckle, and then tighten the harness.
Another tip is as your child gets older, talk to them about the importance of car seat safety. Teach them where their chest clip should be and how tight their harness should be. My oldest can now put himself in his car seat and one day we were in a hurry so I sent him out to get in the car and get buckled up. When I got in the truck, I just looked back, saw that his harness was done up and started the truck. He yelled “Stop Dad, Stop!” I looked back and asked what was wrong and he told me that his harness was not tight enough! Kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for and having them understand and work with you some day might save a life!
A common question I get is how tight is too tight? Usually the answer is … that is not tight enough and I reach down and tighten the child’s straps. The parent then tells me that their child does not like to have their straps that tight. The best approach to solve this problem is to start them young. From the day you bring your child home from the hospital, make sure their straps are always tight enough! Yes, they may not like it and may cry all the way home. They may cry for the first half dozen car trips, but after a while they get used to it. And when they do, they are safer!
To reinforce these habits, it is important to understand why harness tension is important. Simply put, space = force. Try a little experiment. Put the palm of your hand half an inch from the wall. Now slam you hand into the wall. Now put your hand 1.5 inches from the wall and slam your hand into the wall. Do you see the difference in how hard your hand hit the wall? Space = Force. In a car seat, the space between a child and the straps works the same way. The greater the space, the more distance the child travels before they hit the strap, meaning they hit that strap with more force! And don’t be fooled, fluffy jackets equal space even if the straps look tight!
Another common question I receive is “How do I know if the strap is tight enough?” A lot of people tell you that you should only be able to put 2 finger between a child’s body and the harness strap. Well, this does work, but everyone has different sized fingers and which way do you put them, flat, up? The test that I like to use is to pinch the strap. On the outside of the strap with your fingers pinching vertically you try to pinch the strap. If the strap is loose you will be able to pinch it. If the strap is tight you will not.
Some other helpful hints for getting your child’s harness tight:
- Always make sure they are sitting back in the seat, not slouched forward
- Always pull the straps above the crotch buckle to tighten at the hips. You will be surprised how loose this can stay when you tighten by just pulling the strap.
- If you live in colder climates, try to buy a good quality snow suit. Better quality snow suits have better insulation and are not as thick. You can also use items like the Car Seat Poncho to reduce the layers between the straps and your child.
- Never wear snow pants in a car seat, they just add too much bulk.
Part two of this blog will be coming soon and will address the question, “I can’t tighten my car seat straps. Is there something wrong with my car seat?” I get this question weekly and my next blog will give you some trouble shooting steps to help with this problem.
Till next time … Snuggle Dad
Let me introduce myself .. I’m Ben and my wife Tanya (Snuggle Mom) and I are the owners of Snuggle Bugz. I’ve been meaning to start contributing to our blog for a while, so here we go. Are you ready for the adventure?
My biggest passion at Snuggle Bugz is car seat safety; in fact I’m often referred to as a little Car Seat Crazy! I figured what better topic to write about in my first blog than to tell you about my introduction to car seats. When we had our first child Sammy Bear, we were like most first time parents in that we really didn’t know a thing about car seats and regulations. In fact, the first car seat we purchased, a Peg Perego infant seat, was purchased because we decided on a Peg Perego stroller. Our second seat was purchased from a major retailer based on the referral of a teenage sales clerk. The conversation went something like this.
Snuggle Dad: “Hi, we would like to buy a car seat because our little one is outgrowing his seat.”
Salesperson: “Great, this is our best seller, most people buy it”
Snuggle Dad: “Is there a reason most people buy this one?”
Salesperson: “I’m not sure, customers say it lasts really long and is a good price.”
Snuggle Dad: “What is the difference between it and this seat over here?”
Salesperson: Started looking at the information on the seat tags, then said “Honestly sir, I’m not too sure, but most people buy this one.”
Snuggle Dad: “Ok, I’ll take it.”
Writing this exchange today makes me almost sick. It is wrong in so many ways. As it turns out, our Sammy Bear didn’t need a new seat because he hadn’t outgrown his old one. (common misunderstanding) We did not educate ourselves and knew nothing about what we were buying. Looking back, I would never buy the seat we did or recommend it to anyone. The list of ways this was wrong goes on and on … however it pretty much boils down to the fact that as parents we did not understand the importance of car seats or take the time to educate ourselves before making a purchase. Unfortunately, based on the number of people that tell me “I would never buy that seat again”, I believe many car seats are purchased this exact same way today.
My desire for this blog is to fill it with useful information that parents can use to educate themselves on baby products. Given that car seats and child safety really are my passion you will probably find me mostly writing on these topics. I tell customers almost every day “A car seat is the only product you buy your child that can actually save their life. It is not a decision to be made lightly. You need to educate yourself and ensure that you are making the best decision you can for your child!”
So at times, forgive me, I may come across like that crazy car seat guy. But always remember, even if you disagree with me, my heart is in the right place and maybe together we can continue to educate people on child safety. I honestly believe that no parent intentionally does something to put their child in harms way …
Till next time … Snuggle Dad
PS – Please leave me a comment and tell about your first car seat experience!
I LOVE the Bob Strollers. I have had my Bob Revolution for a couple years now and have loved it since the day I brought it home. I was heading to the cottage, and I couldn’t imagine taking any other stroller to cottage country’s rocky roads. I would settle the kiddos into the stroller (back in the day when there were just two Snuggle Kidz) and go for long walks, although I do clearly remember telling myself that I HAD to have the Bob so I could jog for the week. Well, out of pure laziness I didn’t actually go jogging…. but we did have many berry finding, turtle gazing, rock skipping adventures while on our lazy walks.
I was reminded today when our family decided to go to the Maple Syrup Festival , how much I truly enjoy pushing this stroller. As I saw many people struggling to get through the muck pushing their strollers, I moved through the entire area, mud, slush and snow with ease. I was also able to fit through the doorways to the pancake house, which answers the regular question I get, on if it actually fits through doors. Yes it does!
But… the most exciting part of this post is that Bob has released a new stroller this year. Well, not a new stroller but they have taken their current series of strollers and improved on them incredibly!! All the little things that I thought,” this stroller is great, but wouldn’t it be better if……. “
- They have created a much improved car seat adaptor (old one was a 30 step process to build!)
- They have added significant padding, along the back, in the seat, and even along where your child’s calves touch
- They have also added a board that gives increased support in the back of the seat.
All of this while keeping their already top features, huge canopy, great suspension, swivel front wheel that can be put into a locked position, and so on.
So, if you are looking for a great stroller, whether you are looking for jogging or just one of the best all terrain strollers, you will not be disappointed with the Bob series.
Affordable, fun and some of my favourites. As I have been hanging out with the kiddos this week I have noticed a couple items that we use on a regular basis that I absolutely love and couldn’t live without!! So, I thought why not share them with you, along with giving you the opportunity to win a prize package with a sample of each! Yahooo, a simple and easy way to win!
Beaba Soft Cups
There came a point at our supper table that I thought I might just as well spill everyone’s milk for them so we could just get that over with and move on with the meal. I honestly remember before the Beaba cups countless glasses of spilled milk each meal… and voila, in walks the Beaba cup. Small enough that the perfect amount of milk is poured and designed with a square base that pretty much eliminates spilling!
We use the Lunch Punch characters on a daily basis, not because the kiddos won’t eat the crust…(although that’s another great use for them) but because who wouldn’t want to eat a sandwich in the shape of a butterfly. They are the perfect size they cut away minimal bread leaving very little waste. All three of the Snuggle Kidz have their favourite shapes and enjoy picking out what they will use each day. We use these for pizza, sandwiches and toast, although I am sure there are many more creative uses for the Lunch Punch characters…. maybe we should try pancakes next.
Every night, our older children take water to bed with them. I can’t say this is always a good idea as “pee breaks” become a great excuse to get out of bed frequently. But our Klean Kanteens are a staple that keeps their water nice and cold through out the night, doesn’t leak, and lets them have a quick sip and go back to sleep. In all honesty, we take these everywhere with us, from swimming lessons and dance class, to long car trips, you will always find us with our Kleen Kanteen.
Buncha Farmers Stain Remover
All Natural, all amazing! The Buncha Farmers Stain Remover removes the toughest stains that I would have given up on in the past. A couple days ago, poor sweet Baby V was playing, when she fell and her tooth cut through her lip.. I know a collective squirm.. as we all know how sad this is when it happens to our little ones. Needless to say there was blood all over her shirt. We cuddled for a bit, threw her clothes in the laundry and I returned to take care of Baby V, promptly forgetting all about the stained shirt. Three days later I return to the shirt (I should be embarrassed to admit how long it took me to get back to the laundry, but I will forever blame our crazy schedule)… and I tackled it with the Stain Remover, and all the stains disappeared. Works on grass, grease, blood, red wine, ink, berry… and so on and so on! This is a pure miracle worker on our stains.
I would love for one lucky reader to win a package with all of the items mentioned!! All you need to do is write a comment below letting our readers know what some of your favourite affordable items are!! Each person who comments will have their name entered into a draw. This contest will close at midnight on Friday March 18, the winner will be announced on our Facebook Page on March the 19th. Good Luck! (We will allow for one entry per person)
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