Right Fit Basic Tip #1
About the Harness
A properly-fitted 5-point harness gives the best possible protection for your child.
A 5-point harness has straps that go over both shoulders and both hips and then buckles at the crotch. The car seat label will tell you the weight and height range of the harness. Check regularly to make sure your child hasn’t outgrown it.
A seat belt is also a type of harness and is used on older children in booster seats. Every passenger in a moving vehicle must use some form of harness for protection in case of a crash.
Right Fit Basic Tip #2
Use the Correct Harness Slots
As your child grows, the proper placement of the shoulder straps changes. On rear-facing car seats, the shoulder straps should come through the car seat slots at or just BELOW your child’s shoulders. On forward-facing seats, the shoulder straps should be at or just ABOVE the shoulders.
Right Fit Basic Tip #3
Use The CORRECT HARNESS AND BELT PLACEMENT
Car Seat: Use a 5-point harness for your child for as long as your child meets the weight or height limits of the car seat. A 5-point harness provides more protection than a seat belt used with a booster seat or a seat belt alone. Make sure that the harness fits snugly around your child’s hips and shoulders. We will show you how to do the Pinch Test in Tip #4.
Booster Seat: After your child has outgrown the car seat harness, move to a booster seat. Use the car’s lap and shoulder seat belt with a booster seat as shown in the video above. The shoulder strap should fit across the chest and on the shoulder, not across the face or neck. The lap belt should lie on the top of the legs or low on the hips, not across the stomach. Follow the seat belt guides on the booster seat. If your child moves the shoulder belt behind her back and under her arm, it means that the seat belt and booster seat aren’t fitting properly. If your child cannot use the booster seat just as the manufacturer requires, return to the car seat with a harness instead.
Seat Belt Alone: Do the Seat Belt Fit Test in every car your child uses. Use the seat belt alone when your child has outgrown the booster seat and passes the Seat Belt Fit Test. Place the seat belt over the shoulder and low on the hips. If your child cannot fit properly and safely with just a seat belt, use the booster seat instead.
Right Fit Basic Tip #4
Do the Pinch Test
Do the Pinch Test to make sure the harness is snug enough.
After you buckle and tighten the harness, pinch the harness at the shoulder. If the harness is snug, your fingers will slide off the webbing. If the harness is loose, you will be able to pinch the webbing between your fingers. A loose harness is a common mistake and is not safe. Keep tightening the harness until it passes the Pinch Test.
Right Fit Basic Tip #5
Winter Coat In The Car
Wearing bulky clothes or winter coats can prevent a snug fit of the harness. You might think your child is securely snug in the seat when in fact the harness is not tight because there is so much air in the jacket. Adjust the harness while your child’s coat is off, then put the coat back on and rebuckle. The harness may be tight, but it will fit properly.
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Want tips for the kids in your care?
Check out car seat safety tips for your child.
Looking for more information?
- Return home, find FAQs, or check the Glossary.
- Find a car seat installation event near you.
- Find your state law.