Did you know that you don’t have to get children’s carseats professionally installed?
Old school carseats - not the newer, ISOFIX seats which simply lock straight into the back seat of the car. The ones that are a complicated maze of straps and clips, and seem impossible to install yourself unless you have a deep knowledge of mechanics and like to get intimate with seat belts.
When you first have a baby, the hospital tells you to book in with an accredited carseat installer (the hospital I went to had an installer permanently down in the carpark), to ensure your baby would be safe. Of course, if you have a new car and new ISOFIX seats (which were legalised in Australia in late 2014), you'll have missed all this hoo-hah, and just plugged in your childseat into the back seat - a much easier process.
With 88% of infant car seats apparently incorrectly installed, you think getting them professionally fitted is the way forward. You take every new carseat to an accredited installer to make sure your child is as safe as possible. It must be a legal thing, you think.
Only it’s not. The government encourages you to use “Authorised Child Restraint Fitting Stations” - which in itself makes you think that getting them fitted by a professional is a must. The authorised stations even give you a certificate. Charges range from $40 to $70 for them to fit a child seat in your car.
But you can do it yourself. You will not get fined if your car seat isn’t installed professionally - it’s not a legal requirement. Because it’s simple and anyone can do it.
I learnt how, and if I can do it without even breaking a fingernail, you can too. Trust me, I’m the least handy person I know.
So here goes, the foolproof guide to installing a child’s car seat.
1. Place the seat where you want to fit it - left or right side of the car. Make sure the strap at the back is long enough to go over the back of the seat, loosen if not. Lift the headrest out so that the child seat sits flush against the back of the car seat.
2. Open the boot and find the “tether” loop which is a metal hook somewhere down the centre of the back of the car seat. Pull the long seatbelt-style strap from the child seat, over the back of the car seat, and click it into the tether loop. You’ll hear a satisfying click sound, which means that it’s in.
3. Tighten the strap until you’re happy with it, but not too tight - in some cars, the child seat will actually lift up off the backseat if you pull it too tight.
4. Into the backseat now. You want to pull the seat belt (the car’s actual seat belt), through the back of the child seat. This means threading it through one side of the childseat, reaching in with your hand from the other side, grabbing the seat belt and pulling it through. Then click the seat belt in normally as you would.
5. Now you need to get rid of the slack of the seat belt, and make it as tight as possible. Pull the seat belt down, pull it across through the back of the childseat (where the seat belt clicks in) and then again back through the child seat on the other side (where the car door is). Do this until there is no more slack in the seat belt and you have a loop of seat belt left near the door. Now clip in your safety clip (the clip comes with the seat, if you don’t have one they’re around $10-$11 at your local baby seat place). Clip it around the seat belt so it holds most of the slack you have just pulled out.
You’re done. It takes about four minutes in total. And is really not worth the $50 I’ve been charged numerous times to get it fitted professionally. You’ve got this.