From the moment you take the car seat out of its box, we encourage you to begin scanning it for helpful information. Some resources you have at your disposal when trying to install a car seat are the car seat manual, the registration card, the manufacturer/model sticker, and the informational and warning stickers found all over the seat itself. Every time a new federal or global car seat standard is issued, the car seat manufacturers must add another sticker, so it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the fine print shouting at you. We want to take a few moments to point some of these out and help guide families to their purposes because knowing where to find the specific information these car seat stickers contains may make the difference in safe installations.
The photo above highlights one specific car seat's manufacturer sticker. These stickers are often located on the sides, backs, and bottoms of car seats, but we've also found them hiding under the fabric of a car seat more than once. If it's not easily accessible or recognizable, try peeling back or removing material around the edges or the seat of the child seat. If you purchased the car seat used or it was given to you by family or friends and it does not include this sticker, please discontinue use. This sticker provides vital information, including the manufacture date and/or expiration date, the Model Number, the Serial Number, and specific model names. This information can be used to find a car seat manual online from the manufacturer's website. It is also required if you call the manufacturer for assistance. *Never peel this sticker off the car seat for any reason!*
This is the car seat registration card. You'll only see it if you purchase the car seat new. It's often the first thing that gets thrown away, but we caution parents to keep them. Fill them out and send in for free. This will allow the car seat manufacturer to notify you directly of recalls that may be necessary for continued use of your car seat. Too many caregivers don't realize that car seat parts, just like vehicle parts, do get recalled. Unless you desire to be actively monitoring your car seat's status with the manufacturer on a regular basis, we highly suggest taking the few minutes to fill this in and mail it back. If you already misplaced it or purchased a used car seat, you may be able to register your car seat online, using the model and serial numbers provided on the manufacturer sticker (as shown in first photo).
In addition to the main manufacturer sticker, there are a number of other important stickers and labels on every car seat. Some information that car seat manufacturers often include on the car seat body include: minimum and maximum weight and height requirements for each direction/usage profile (i.e. rear facing mode vs. forward facing mode vs booster mode); how to install using the carrier without the base (infant car seats); how to test tightness and/or correct angle; an indication if the car seat has been approved for aircraft use as well; indicators for each belt path, if more than one; and various warning labels that are vital. These car seat labels contain a lot of the information that the car seat manual contains, but may be in more digestible form for some types of learners. *Never peel off these stickers for any reason!*
Of course, the ultimate tool parents and caregivers have at their disposal to install and use the car seat safely is that of the car seat manual. This is another resource that gets misplaced or accidentally tossed out. Because we live our lives relatively safely without actually having to read the manuals of the machines we use (be honest-how much of your vehicle's or blender's manuals have you read through?), this may just seem like fluff you can toss into a drawer. However, so many crucial pieces of information and warnings are contained in the manual! Want to know if you can use a towel or pool noodle underneath the car seat to get a better angle? How about guidance on whether to use LATCH or the seat belt for installation? The manual will tell you! If you have yet to read through your car seat's manual or have misplaced it, you can often find these online at your manufacturer's website.
Finally, there are external resources that you may find helpful when trying to install a car seat or properly harness a child. A Child Passenger Safety Technician can come to you, help you interpret the car seat instructions, and ultimately ensure you have a safe installation. You can call the car seat manufacturer directly for quick questions or to troubleshoot a problem you're having. Or, you could seek out respected online resources that may post walk-through videos and tutorials for your car seat. Use caution when taking this step, however, as many people record reviews for products, videos of an unchecked seat being installed incorrectly, etc. We want your child to be as safe as possible when riding in a vehicle, so always approach car seat safety with a mindful eye!