Installing Child Safety Seats

There are general guidelines that apply to installing all child safety seats and more specific instructions for installing rear-facing or forward-facing seats. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has developed videos that demonstrate how to install different types of child safety seats and how to properly position children in the seats.  To be redirected to those videos, click on this link www.safercar.gov/parents/InstructionalVideos.htm.

General Guidelines

Take all passengers into consideration when deciding the safest seating scenario.

Statistically, the back seat is much safer than the front seat.  NHTSA recommends that all children 12 and under should ride in the back seat.

The center-most seating position, typically the rear middle, is the safest position in the vehicle as long as the child safety seat can be installed properly in that position.

As a rule of thumb, a child safety seat should be secured to the vehicle seat so snuggly that it doesn't move more than one (1) inch back to front or side to side.  To test the installation, place your hands on each side of the seat at the location where the seat belt or lower anchors are routed.  Pull forward and move side to side.

If you want to install your child safety seat with a seat belt, read your vehicle owner's manual to learn how to lock your seat belts for use with a child safety seat.  Some vehicle seat belts require you to pull the shoulder belt webbing completely out and then let it wind back up in order to properly install a CSS.  Some vehicle seat belts require use of supplemental hardReading vehicle instructionsware, such as a locking clip.  Click here to learn more about locking clips.

If you want to install your child safety seat with the LATCH system instead of a seat belt, read your owner's manual to determine where the anchors are located in your vehicle and how long this method can be used.

Installing Rear-Facing Child Safety Seats

1.  NEVER install a rear-facing child safety seat in front of an active airbag

2.  Place the seat in the vehicle facing the rear

3.  If there is a carrying handle, it may be required to be back or in the down position.  Please refer to
     your instruction manual for details.

4. Angle the child safety seat according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Rear-facing child safety  
    seats are installed semi-reclined.  This position helps keep a baby's head back against the
    child safety seat. 

  • Rear-facing only seats usually have a feature that lets you know if the seat is installed at the correct angle.  Some even have a "foot" on the detachable base that can be adjusted so that you can more easily achieve the correct angle. 
  • If allowed  by the child safety seat manufacturer, a tightly rolled towel or portion of a foam pool noodle may be used under a rear-facing child safety seat at the vehicle seat crack to get or maintain a proper angle (never use the towel or pool noodle for a forward-facing child safety seat installation).


5.  Thread the seat belt through the proper seat belt path. Or, if you are using the LATCH system, 
     make sure the LATCH strap is threaded through the proper seat belt path.  Do not use both the
     vehicle seat belt and the LATCH system at the same time.  Choose the system that gives the best
     fit.  Click here to learn more about LATCH.

6.  Buckle the seat belt.  Or, if you are using the LATCH system, hook the connectors on the child
     safety seat to the corresponding vehicle anchors.  Do not use a top tether on a rear-facing seat
     unless the instruction manual allows it.

7.  Place a hand in the child safety seat to compress the vehicle seat cushion

8.  Pull all the slack out of the lap portion of the seat belt or the LATCH strap

9.  If there is still more than one inch movement, your child safety seat may not work in that seating
     position or in that particular vehicle.  There may also be a special fix that a trained child passenger
     safety technician can help you with.  To find a certified child passenger safety technician or child
     safety seat inspection site in Indiana click here.  To find a child safety seat inspection site outside
     Indiana click here.

10.  If you are installing a rear-facing only seat with a detachable base, click the seat into the base
       after the base is installed.

Installing a Forward-Facing Child Safety Seat

Click here to view NHTSA video on installing a forward-facing car seat


1. Place the child safety seat in the vehicle facing the front

2. In general, a forward-facing child safety seat is installed in the upright position.  The upright
    position allows crash forces to be evenly distributed over a child’s body.  However, some seats
    meet testing standards when semi-reclined in a forward-facing position.  You will need to read the
    child safety seat instructions for details.

3. Thread the seat belt through the forward-facing seat belt path.  Or, if you are using the LATCH
    system, make sure the LATCH strap is threaded through the proper seat belt path.  Do not use
    both the vehicle seat belt and the LATCH system at the same time.  Choose the system that gives
    the best fit.  Click here to learn more about LATCH.

4. Buckle the seat belt.  Or, if you are using the LATCH system, hook the connectors on the child 
    safety seat to the corresponding vehicle anchors.

5. Place a hand in the child safety seat to compress the vehicle cushion

6. Pull all the slack out of the lap portion of the seat belt or the LATCH strap

7. Attach the top tether strap to the vehicle top tether anchor

8. If there is still more than one inch movement, your child safety seat may not work in that seating
    position or in that particular vehicle.  There may also be a special fix that a trained child passenger
    safety technician can help you with.  To find a certified child passenger safety technician or child
    safety seat inspection site in Indiana click here.  To find a child safety seat inspection site outside
    Indiana click here.

"Installing" Booster Seats

Unlike child safety seats with harness systems, booster seats are not attached to the vehicle seat.  They help raise a child up so that the vehicle lap/shoulder belt can be properly positioned and protect the child passenger.  Some booster seats can be attached to the vehicle seat with LATCH to keep the booster seat in place.