As a Child Restraint Technician, I have helped to install many car seats. There are many reasons why a car seat would be deemed “incorrect”, but here are the 5 most common things I have seen:
  1. Incorrect seat for size of the child
  2. Seats not installed tight enough
  3. Harness straps too loose on child and/or in the wrong position
  4. Chest clip in the wrong position
  5. Tether strap not used correctly/not tight enough

Everyone including parents, grandparents, relatives or friends, who drives with a child passenger is required to ensure the child is properly secured in the appropriate child car seat or booster seat based on his/her height and weight.

What are the child car seat and booster seat requirements?
Each province has it’s own legislation that sets the age, height and weight for each car seat stage. To see a chart of the limits, click HERE.

1. Incorrect seat for the size of the child
When choosing a seat, look for high height and weight limits which would allow you to use the seat in the rear-facing position for as long as possible.

Children, especially infants, should remain in rear-facing car seats for as long as possible. It is recommend to use a rear-facing car seat even when their child exceeds the standard 22 pounds (10kg) limit that is found in some provinces.

A child should not be moved to the forward-facing position until they have exceeded the maximum height and weight of the rear-facing seat. Some provinces have a minimum age requirement, but many children at the age of 1 year old, are not physically developed enough to sustain the impact of a collision.

Once in a forward-facing seat, a child should use the seat with the harness straps until they have exceeded the maximum height and weight for that position.

Once a child as exceeded the maximum height and weight for a forward-facing seat with a harness, and they are over 40lbs and over 40” tall, they can move to a booster seat. The laws states that children under the age of eight (in most provinces), who weigh 18 kg or more but less than 36 kg (40-80 lbs.), and who stand less than 145 cm (57 ins. or 4 ft. 9 ins.) must travel in a booster seat that meets the CMVSS.

When can a child start using a seatbelt alone?

As a guide, a seat belt may only be used if a child passes the “5 Step Test”

  • able to sit with legs bent comfortably over the vehicle seat
  • with his or her back fully against the back of the vehicle seat
  • the shoulder belt must lie flat across the child’s shoulder and chest, and should not cross over the child’s neck.
  • the lap portion of the belt should be positioned low over the hips, not the abdomen
  • And stay like this for the whole trip!

Road trip tips 1

The laws in some provinces state that a child can start using a seatbelt alone once any one of the following criteria is met: eight years old, weighs 36 kg (80 lbs.), or is 145 cm (57 ins. or 4 ft. 9 ins.) tall.

2. Seats not installed tight enough
One of the first things I do when a parent has asked to have their seat checked, is shake the seat. The seat should not move more than one inch side-to-side at the belt path.The belt path is where the vehicle’s seat belt or the UAS (Universal Anchorage System) belt passes through the car seat.

To get a seat tight enough, the adult that is installing the seat much put their body weight in the seat while tightening the seat belt or UAS.

3. Harness straps are in the wrong position and/or are too loose on child
The harness is what is keeping your child secure in their seat. The harness does not retract and tighten in a collision like a regular car seat belt does so it must be as snug as possible to minimize the movement of the child in the seat.

When rear-facing, the harness slots need be be at or below the child’s shoulders. When forward-facing, the harness slots need to be at or above the child’s shoulders.

Once the harness is in the proper position and the child is in the seat, the harness should be tight enough that the harness cannot be pinched.

4. Chest clip in the wrong position
The chest clip keeps the harness on the child’s shoulders. If the harness slips off, there is an increase risk of the child being ejected from the car seat. The chest clip should be at the same height as the child’s armpits. Most chest clips have a graphic on them to remind the parent to move it to the correct position.

5. Tether strap not used correctly/not tight enough
The tether strap is required by for use with all forward-facing car seats. Your vehicles owners manual will show you where to secure the tether strap properly in your vehicle. The tether needs to be tight that you can strum it like a guitar string.

Since over 80% of all car seats are used and/or installed incorrectly, it is very important that parents ensure that their seat is installed properly.

The Ministry of Transportation has some great tips for installing car seats at each stage:
Stage 1: Rear-Facing Seats
Stage 2: Forward-Facing Seat
Stage 3: Booster Seats
Stage 4: Seat Belts

It is recommended that you learn how to properly install your child’s car seat. Child Restraint Technicians have been trained to teach you how your car seat works, how to use it properly and how to properly install it in your vehicle.

The Ministry of Transport has compiled a list of car seat clinic resources —
Child Car Seat Clinics in Canada


wendyWendy is a Mom, wife and Certified Car Seat Technician (since 2008) who has a passion for child safety. You can read all about her adventures as a Mom of two at www.mapsgirl.ca.