The Right Seat: Forward-Facing

19 Sep

After your child has outgrown their rear-facing seat, they should move to a forward-facing seat with a 5 point harness. There are 5 types of car seats that can be used forward-facing (taken from Car Safety Seats: Information for Families 2012)

  • Convertible seats—Seats that “convert” from rear-facing to forward-facing seats. These include 3-in-1 seats.
  • Forward-facing only—Seats can be used forward-facing with a harness for children who weigh up to 40 to 80 pounds (depending on the model). Although manufacturers are not currently making any forward-facing only seats, many remain in use from previous years.
  • Combination seat with harness—Seats can be used forward-facing with a harness for children who weigh up to 40 to 90 pounds (depending on the model) or without the harness as a booster (up to 80–120 pounds, depending on the model).
  • Built-in seats—Some vehicles come with built-in forward-facing seats. Weight and height limits vary. Read your vehicle owner’s manual or contact the manufacturer for details about how to use these seats.
  • Travel vests—Vests can be worn by children between 20 and 168 pounds and can be an option to traditional forward-facing seats. They are useful for when a vehicle has lap-only seat belts in the rear or for children whose weight has exceeded that allowed by car seats. These vests may require use of a top tether.

The child should remain in a forward-facing seat until they reach the limits of their car seat. These limits are either the maximum forward-facing weight or height limit, or when their shoulders are even with the top harness position, or when the tips of their ears are even with the top of the seat shell, whichever comes first. In most cases, the weight limit will be 40, 65, or 85 pounds.

Another important factor is age. A child should be at least 4 years old before moving out of a 5 point harness and into a booster, if not 5 or 6 years old, depending on their maturity level. Once a child can remain properly positioned in a belt positioning booster for the entire ride, then it is time to make the switch. If needed, higher height and weight limit seats should be used until the child is mature enough for a belt positioning booster.

When installing a forward-facing seat, here are some things to consider:

  • Make sure the harness is positioned at or above your child’s shoulders.
  • If you are using a convertible seat for forward-facing, make sure the vehicle belt or LATCH strap is routed through the correct belt path of the seat.  If installing with a seat belt, make sure that the LATCH strap is secured to the car seat so they are not loose to cause injury.  If you are installing with the lower anchors, you may consider buckling the seat belt and locking it before installing the seat so your child will not play with the loose seat belt.
  • Always attach the top tether strap on the car seat to an appropriate anchor point in your vehicle. To find these anchor points, read through your vehicle’s owner’s manual. Tethers give important extra protection by keeping the car seat and the child’s head from moving too far forward in a crash or sudden stop, reducing the child’s forward movement by up to 6 inches (see picture below).  If you do not use the tether, make sure it is secured somewhere

One Response to “The Right Seat: Forward-Facing”


  1. National Child Passenger Safety Week 2012 Wrap Up « My Gems of Parenting - September 22, 2012

    […] The Right Seat: Forward-Facing […]


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