Stage 1: rear-facing seats
By law, children must be buckled up in a child car seat made for their height and weight. A rear-facing seat is set at an angle to support your child's neck in a sudden stop or crash.
Before installing the child car seat, read the sections of your vehicle owner's manual and child car seat user manual that describe how to install child car seats. There may be a child car seat clinic in your community that can help you install your child car seat.
On this page
- Checking the fit of the harness
- Installing your rear-facing seat in your vehicle
- Checking to make sure your rear-facing seat is installed correctly
- Buckling up your child
- When to move your child from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat
- Contact Motor Vehicle Safety
Checking the fit of the harness
Adjust the harness straps so they are at or just below your child's shoulders. Some child car seats allow you to adjust the harness height by moving the headrest up or down. You may find this easier to do before you install the child car seat in the vehicle.
As your child grows, check the fit and readjust the harness.
Installing your rear-facing child car seat in your vehicle
Always install the rear-facing car seat in the back seat of your vehicle. All vehicles have air bags in the front dash. These airbags are powerful and can hurt children if they inflate during a crash.
You have two options for securing your child car seat in a vehicle (Note: You cannot use the UAS for infant seats installed without the removable base. See Option 2: seat belt.):
Option 1: universal anchorage system (UAS)
Vehicles made after 2002 are equipped with a UAS and therefore have lower anchor bars.
We recommend that you use these to install your child car seat, if the seat position where you want to install the seat is equipped with lower anchor bars.
Note: You cannot use the UAS for infant seats installed without the removable base. See Option 2: seat belt.
- are only designed for securing child car seats
- are simpler to use than a seat belt
- can help you get a tighter fit that will stay tight
A tight fit helps protect your child by reducing how much the child car seat will move during a sudden stop or crash.
Check your vehicle owner's manual to:
- find these anchors
- learn how to use them
This symbol shows you:
- where to find the UAS lower anchor bars in your vehicle
- They are between the vehicle seat cushion and seatback, close to the seat belt buckle
- Note: many vehicles do not have UAS for the center seat
- where to find the connectors on your child car seat
Check the label on the child car seat to find the correct path for the UAS belt.
If your child car seat has built-in locking clips, follow the instructions on the child car seat for using the clips.
Attach the hooks or connectors to the UAS lower anchor bars. As you push down on the child car seat or on the removable base, tighten the UAS strap.
Option 2: seat belt
Use the seat belt if you cannot use the UAS lower anchorage bars, if you are using your infant car seat without its base or if there are no lower anchorage bars in your vehicle.
Infant seats installed without the removable base must be secured with the seat belt.
A locked seat belt will help keep the child car seat tight after you have installed it.
Your child car seat may have built-in locking clips, follow the instructions on the child car seat for using the locking clips.
Check your vehicle owner's manual to learn how to lock the seat belt.
- Pull the shoulder belt portion out completely, hold onto it before you pass the seat belt through the recommended path. This will lock the belt in most vehicles.
- Check the label on the child car seat for the correct path for the seat belt. Note that convertible child car seats have two paths for the belt – one for rear-facing mode and one for forward-facing mode.
- Insert the tongue into the vehicle seat belt buckle before releasing the seat belt.
- Grab the vehicle seat belt near the buckle and tighten the seat belt by pushing down on the child car seat and pulling up on the shoulder belt.
Check the angle of the child car seat. See the section below to check to make sure your rear-facing seat is installed correctly.
- If your child car seat has a removable base, pushing down on the base with your knee as you tighten the vehicle seat belt or UAS strap will help you get a tighter fit
- Check often as your child grows that the child car seat is still at the recline position recommended by the manufacturer
- Items that didn't come with your child car seat, such as seat protectors or comfort pads, may not be safe to use
Checking to make sure your rear-facing seat is installed correctly
Make sure the rear-facing seat is at the right recline angle for the weight of your child. Look for this information on the child car seat or in the child car seat user's manual. There may be an indicator on your child car seat to help you adjust the angle.
- When checking the angle of the child car seat, park your vehicle on a level surface
- To protect the child's airway, make sure the rear-facing car seat is within the angle range indicated on the child car seat or in the user's manual
- Try to install your child car seat as tightly as possible, to keep your child safer in a sudden stop or crash:
- Grab both sides of the child car seat where the seat belt or UAS belt is threaded through the child car seat or base
- Try to move the child car seat from side-to-side and front to back. It should not move more than 2.5 cm (1 inch).
Buckling up your child
Make sure the harness is snug every time you place your child in the child car seat. This will keep your child as safe as possible during a sudden stop or crash.
Attach the buckle. Give it a tug to make sure it is buckled.
Make sure the harness straps are at or just below your child's shoulders.
Adjust the harness straps until they are snug on your child's shoulders.
To make sure the harness straps are snug on your child's shoulders:
- Slide a finger under the harness at the collar bone and pull gently up/out, the harness should feel snug on your finger; or
- Attempt to pinch the webbing of the harness with the thumb and forefinger. If you are unable to pinch the harness, then it is sufficiently tight.
Attach the chest clip and slide it to your child's armpit level. Give it a tug to make sure it is closed properly.
Make sure to:
- Check that the harness is snug every time you place your child in the child car seat
- This is important when changing clothes for different seasons,
- Be sure to follow the manufacturers’ instructions, and to re-adjust the harness for each use.
- Follow the steps above to make sure the harness is snug.
When to move your child from a rear-facing seat to a forward-facing seat
Rear-facing is the safest position for your child. Even if your provincial or territorial regulations allow you to move to a forward-facing seat, your child should keep using rear-facing seats as long as possible.
When your child outgrows his or her infant seat, moving to a convertible seat will allow your child to stay seated rear-facing longer. It is okay if your child's legs touch the vehicle seat back.
Contact Motor Vehicle Safety
Telephone:1-800-333-0371 (toll-free), 613-998-8616 (Ottawa region)
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- How long are child car seats and booster seats safe?
- Safety recalls, notices and testing for child car seats