Parenting Doesn’t Come with a Manual, but Car Seats DO

I am in total awe of the overwhelming support and encouragement from my previous blog post. I’m hopeful that when parents see it, minds are opened, and better decisions are made. Like so many of you say, “When we know better, we do better.”

Like I said before, and many others have said, parents make mistakes every day. We have to hope for a little grace to make up for our short comings. Parenting doesn’t have a how-to. Lucky for us, car seats do come with a how-to!

I wasn’t alone in thinking my one-year old was AS safe front facing, so I’m going to go out on a limb here and cautiously assume I’m not the only 22 year old mom who thought warning stickers and manuals are there to protect companies from being sued.

Window screens tell you not to let kids lean on them because toddlers have fallen out. Cribs tell you to have a certain size mattress because babies have suffocated. Swings tell you to use child restraints because children have gotten hurt without them. Toys come with “small pieces” warnings because babies have choked.

Car seats come with manuals so that WHEN accidents happen, children don’t have to get hurt or lose their lives.

I’m going to stand up on a soap box here and tell you, if you’re reading this, you’re trying to do better. That’s wonderful, but I’m not your car seat manufacturer. I’m not a car seat technician (yet, but maybe soon). I’m a mom who used the internet to learn and I’m passing down what I’ve learned onto you.

However, go above and beyond.

Get up now, and go find your manual.

In your manual you’re going to find things that surprise you. I did!

We own two Clek Foonfs, and I love them. I’m not getting paid to say that. These car seats rock my world. They’re space ships. 45-pound-each crash cages. I trust them to save my children’s lives.

Right on the first page they included a checklist for me. The next page is a table of contents. I can find any and all information I need to know about properly using, cleaning, and traveling with my car seat. On the very back, they have a phone number listed. So in the instance that I have a question that their manual doesn’t answer, I can Call THEM. They know their seats better than anyone else. Utilize that.


This blog post is a quick list of things that are commonly unknown about car seats. In the instance that you don’t have your manual with you, because in today’s modern world you could be reading this anywhere. (Hopefully not while you’re driving. Or while your kids are playing). Maybe you’re in line at the bank and holding your three year old’s hand and you see something you’ve installed incorrectly or been doing wrong all along. This list is for you.

It’s not your car seat bible. That’s what your manuals for, okay? So read it.

  • Rear Facing is recommended by American Academy of Pediatrics until at least age TWO, or until they have MAXIMIZED their seat’s rear facing requirements. Here
    • In Sweden, which has very low child-passenger injury and death rates, children often ride rear-facing up to 4 years of age.Here
  • Children should be in a FIVE POINT HARNESS until at least age FIVE, but in reality, most kids aren’t ready for a booster until ages 6-7! Here
  • American Academy of Pediatrics also advises that most children will need to ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until they have reached 4 feet 9 inches tall and are between 8 and 12 years of age. Here
  • All children aged 12 and under should ride properly buckled in the BACK SEAT. Airbags can kill young children riding in the front seat. Never place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat or in front of an airbag. Here (EDIT: Emily in the comment below has brought to my attention that if the air bag is disabled, there are circumstances that the front seat is still an appropriate location.)

Above are my laws for my car. I’m the grumpy car seat lady. Know better, do better.

For rear-facing infant carriers remember to lower the carrying handle to its resting position, unless your seat specifically states it can remain up. Leaving the handle up can interfere with the function of rear facing seats and/or shatter into the child’s seat. Check your manual. Here — thanks Sandy And here


  • Rear Facing shoulder straps should be at or below the child’s shoulder. Forward Facing shoulder straps should be at or above. (DOUBLE CHECK THIS INFORMATION WITH YOUR MANUAL).
  • Crotch buckles should be at or behind the child’s crotch. I use cloth diapers, which means added bulk. To satisfy my concern, I place my child in the seat diaperless and adjust the buckle accordingly.
  • Car seat straps should never be submerged in liquid. Never use abrasive or harsh chemicals when cleaning your straps. These weaken your seat’s integrity.  — No Really. READ YOUR MANUAL
    • “Surface wash straps with a damp cloth and mild detergent” — Clek Manual, page 95

If you didn’t know and you made this mistake, PLEASE contact your car seat manufacturer. Chances are, they’ll send you a replacement hassle free!

  • If your straps show wear from age, CONTACT YOUR MANUFACTURER. They usually replace them free-of-charge (with the exception of seats not registered with their company and EXPIRED seats)

You read that last one right.

  • YOUR CAR SEAT HAS AN EXPIRATION DATE. Most car seats expire in 6 years. The only way to know for sure is to FIND THE STICKER. If your seat doesn’t have a sticker, you don’t know the model number, and you’re not the first owner, TIME TO REPLACE IT!

Not the first owner? Do you KNOW your car seat’s history?

  • Only buy car seat’s from trusted a friend or family member. Car seats are designed for ONE IMPACT ONLY. If you are the original owner and you’ve been in an accident, Replace it! If you get in an accident, my prayer is that you most certainly never do, but if it happens, your insurance company *should* reimburse you up to the value. This depends on your insurance policy.
  • IF YOU HAVE CHECKED YOUR CAR SEAT TO AN AIRLINE WITHOUT THE PROPER PACKING FROM A MANUFACTURER, YOU DON’T KNOW ITS HISTORY. — Have you seen airlines load cargo? This one is the reason we replaced our infant seat… << I MADE THIS MISTAKE.


  • “Unless you have a Nuna Pipa base or a Forward Facing Clek Foonf, (do not use anchors and belts together).” Here
  • Anchors have a WEIGHT LIMIT.  “If child weighs more than 40 lbs, this seat must be used with a lap belt,” Clek Manual, Page 1!

Emily has also brought to my attention that your vehicle has its own weight limits for latches. Read your car manual.


    • to test this, put your child in their seat wearing the coat, buckle them, pull tight, unbuckle, remove the coat, and try again! WAY too much excess!

We’re going to finish with the checklist:

  • Your car seat straps should NEVER be twisted. They can’t be tightened enough.
  • Pinch the strap at the shoulder, if there’s no excess, the seat is tight enough. Here
  • Check your manual’s requirements for the head rest!!
  • NEVER use after market products. They haven’t been tested with your seat in a crash.
  • If your seat wiggles less than an inch side to side, it’s good to go! Here

I basically just summarized my manual. MY manual. Not your’s. So in case you didn’t catch the hint, READ YOUR MANUAL. 

Keep your manual in your glove compartment (cleks have a spot in the car seat!) It’s as important as your title, registration, and insurance.

Contact Manufacturers. Call Highway Patrol in your state. Contact a local car seat technician.

I’m more than happy to make edits. PLEASE correct me KINDLY. Add additional information in the comments.

In closing, Please find a location to recycle your car seat (expired, prior accident, unknown history)!

Here< For Clek Users


13 thoughts on “Parenting Doesn’t Come with a Manual, but Car Seats DO

  1. There’s some interesting information about latches actually. No, never use them together, but the upper-weight limit is not a cut and dry thing. Some cars/vans have lower weight limits, some have higher. Some car seats allow longer latch use, up to 60+lbs if I remember right. And some cars and vans have higher weight limits. Now, the problem is that people often don’t read their car manuals which talk about the latch, and they think that latch weight limits would be regulated, but it’s not. So, they set the limit at 40, kind of the low end. Why do I mention this? Because some parents HAVE read their manuals and know the seat will go higher and know that the van will hold higher, so don’t freak if we use the latch. I know my van goes to 60 and the seat goes to 60.

    Another thing, it’s perfectly fine to put a child in the front seat IF the airbags have been disabled. Countries that allow front seat riders have a higher survival rate because the front seat has some of the best crumple zones in the car. The only danger is that airbag. So they generalize it for the stupid.

  2. Remember to lower the carrying handle to its resting position. Leaving the handle up interferes with the function rear facing seats have of contracting into the seat to form a protective cocoon.

    1. Our baby trend from a few years ago required it, which i didn’t know. We only replaced it because of impact. I probably would have used it incorrectly for more children to come (but maybe not since a friend made me research). I included information above, but I will link this article as well.

  3. Keep up the good work, mommies. If you aren’t afraid to ask questions and do the “homework,” your children will most likely follow in your footsteps and do the same as they grow up. Knowledge is a wonderful thing.

    Candace, great post, as always. On this issue, I actually did it right. At least, that’s how I remember it. 😉 Except, at that time information was not so readily available, especially the winter coat thing. Good thing I didn’t loosen his straps to accomodate his coat.

    And, when he was older, he knew the car rule about seatbelts, and even made sure his friends wore them. One girl we knew didn’t have to wear a seatbelt if she was in her mom’s back seat. Sebastian told her “My mom doesn’t move the van until everyone has their seatbelt on. Correctly.” That meant shoulder and lap belt properly placed and buckled.

    My point is, kids are precious cargo. You are right to want to help your fellow mommies keep theirs as safe as you keep yours, and I am proud of you for not being afraid to do so.

  4. One thing I po5cked up is infant bucket seats have a height AND weight limit and most kids meet the height limit well before the weight. My graco maxes out at 30 lbs OR 30 inches whichever comes first. I have had family members with the same seat tell me “its 30 lbs before you have to change to a convertible seat” or “you don’t have to change to a convertible seat until they are a year old or 30 whichever comes last.” Well my 5 month old is 25 lbs and i bought a convertible seat yesterday she will be in it as soon is I think she is confident enough sitting to sit in a grocery cart or her stroller w/o the bucket seat. I eont take chances with my kid so I read the manual and error on the side of caution

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