Harnesses should fit snugly to provide the best protection. What is snug? There are 2 tests. The first is a pinch test. Buckle up baby and tighten the harness. Pinch a harness strap north to south, near the shoulder. If you can pinch it, the harness isn't tight enough. The second test is a finger test. You should be able to fit only one finger (women: index finger, men: pinky finger) under the strap at the shoulder.
The chest clip, the plastic piece on the harness above the buckle, provides pre-crash positioning for the harness. It keeps the harness in the proper location on the shoulders for maximum protection. It must be positioned at armpit level to provide this protection.
No, take the coat off! A fluffy winter coat will introduce slack into the harness in a crash, which could lead to ejection for the child. The fluff in the coat will compress greatly, creating "dead space." There are many polar fleece coats on the market now that are thin enough to use under a harness, yet can keep a child very warm. Also, consider putting the child into the car seat, then putting the coat on backwards after she's buckled in. Always keep extra heavy blankets in the car for everyone.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently revised its advice to parents regarding replacement of child safety seats that have been involved in a crash.
This policy change was made to ensure that parents and/or caregivers continue to correctly restrain their child following a minor crash and reduce the financial burden of unnecessary child safety seat replacement.
NHTSA also recognizes that minor crashes are unlikely to affect child seat performance. A study published by the Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals examined results of nearly 450 sled tests of child safety seats that were performed at approximately 10 mph. Visual seat inspection and x-ray analysis revealed no damage. (For information see www.carsp.ca/publications/newsletter/sn_0001.pdf).
A crash is considered to be minor - and the child seat involved in it is safe for reuse - if it meets ALL of the following criteria:
Crashes that meet all of the above criteria are much less severe than the dynamic test used in compliance tests of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards No. 213 "Child Restraint Systems" and are highly unlikely to affect future child safety seat performance.
Therefore, parents and caregivers can be confident that child restraints involved in these minor crashes will continue to provide a high level of protection.
It is recommended that car seats older than 5 or 6 years be replaced. Car seats 10 years or older should never be used. Why? Older seats tend to have a lot of recalls on them of which you may not be aware. Replacement parts may be unavailable. Plastic and other parts of the seat wear down and may break, especially in extreme climates. Some of this wear may not be noticeable to you. Also, technology has greatly improved the safety of newer seats and will continue to do so.
Sun shades that stick to the window with suction cups can become projectiles in a crash. They are not recommended, especially the roller shade type. Tinting your windows may be the best solution, but it can cost more than you're willing to spend. There are companies that make a vinyl tint cling that adheres to a window using static cling or you can check in the automotive section of a department store.
Take your car seat instruction manual, your vehicle instruction manual and your child. Not every tech is familiar with every car seat and vehicle, so it's wise to have manuals available. Also, we like to see how your child fits in the seat and how you buckle him/her into it. Our job is to educate you on how to use the seat properly and it's much easier to do that when the child is present.