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Buyer's Guide to Car Seats

Buyer's Guide to Car Seats
New parents looking for a child car seat are often very confused about what they should look for and what they should or shouldn't do.

What car seats are currently available?

There are four groups of child seats in all, divided into certain bodyweight classes. The infant carrier is always installed rear-facing and is generally suitable for babies up to 13kg (weight group 0+). Infants are very safely accommodated in these and the seat should therefore not be changed until your child's head is close to protruding from the shell. Children weighing between 9 and 18kg (appoximately up to 5 years) come within the next weight range, Group 1.

Groups 2 and 3 are for children from 15kg to 36kg. It is essential to keep strictly to the instructions for the weight, size and age. We suggest parents use their baby carrier for as long as possible; infants should not be put into a front-facing seat too soon.

Which seat in the car is safest for my baby?

The safest place for your child is on the back seats. It is best to choose the rear left side or rear centre seat as the child then always enters and leaves the car on the side nearest the pavement. For cars with airbags, it is essential to follow the recommendations and instructions given by the car manufacturer.

What should you consider before buying a car seat?

You should check test results when buying a child seat and it is essential to try the seat out in your car because not all child sets fit equally well in all vehicles. It is important to check that the belt in the vehicle is long enough, and that the harness straps are as snug as possible on your baby's shoulders - so it's advisable not to dress your baby in heavy outerwear in the car. It is worth getting specialist advice, as errors in installing and using these seats have a negative impact on safety. It is vital that the fitting instructions are adhered to.

Common faults are:

loose installation in the car
the child harnesses are not fastened
the belt does not route across the child's shoulders.

Can I use a second-hand seat?

It is advisable not to use a second-hand car seat, unless you are absolutely certain of its history. You must ensure it is undamaged and has not been involved in an accident. Any second-hand car seat should also match up to the current test standard. As a precaution, child seats should be replaced after about six years.

Can I use a car seat in a vehicle with an airbag?

Rear-facing seats must not be installed on the passenger seat in cars with an active passenger seat airbag. Otherwise a triggered airbag could shoot straight into the child seat shell, exerting considerable pressure. If the car is equipped with side airbags, then care must be taken that the child doesn't fall sideways onto the operative area of the airbag.

Does a child seat have to be replaced afer an accident?

Yes! It is always advised that the seat should be replaced after an accident.

Halfords are one of the retailers in the UK offering good advice and a good selection of seats.

June 2013

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