One of my jobs is to read car seat owner’s manuals.  All child passenger safety technicians should crack open a manual at some point; in fact, they should look at a manual every time they install a car seat.  No one’s that good, lol.  Car seat manufacturers issue revisions and updates to manuals on a regular basis.  Sometimes a manual is revised because information changes; other times it’s updated because two different sized fonts were used in the production.  You won’t know this unless you compare manuals and it’s tedious, tedious work.  Snoooooze.

Anyway, one of the things I love about this job is that I get to read every manual that’s published (or not-you’d be amazed at how good of a sleuth I’ve become ;) ).  I figure I’ve read so many manuals that I can form some opinions on them about which are good and which are downright well, difficult to read, like it was written in Chinese and went through a bad translation into Engrish (OK, I admit they aren’t that bad, but when you’re not trained to read a manual like we are, they can be tough to comprehend!).

I’m going to focus on the outstanding manuals.  These are the ones that surprised me with their advice, great drawings or pictures, color coding, or other useful feature.  The emphasis used is theirs :) .

The Orbit Toddler Car Seat manual is color-coded, as is the car seat itself, in sections based on topic.  The information is laid out thoughtfully and logically.  Plus, get this advice: “all children under 1 year of age MUST stay Rear-Facing” and “NOTE: Safety technicians recommend keeping your child in a Rear-Facing position for as long as possible.”  Way cool for our crunchy dudes and dudettes out of NorCal!

The Sunshine Kids Monterey manual says, “Children who weigh 40 lbs (18kg) or less are best protected in a 5-point harness restraint.  Sunshine Kids Juvenile products* recommends that children remain in a 5-point harness restraint until reaching the maximum weight or height allowed.”  I’m not fond of the way the rest of the manual is laid out-in fact, it’s one of my least favorites-but that advice is great.

For the techie in us, Mia Moda has a great drawing of a regular LATCH clip connector attaching to a lower LATCH anchor in its Viva instruction manual.  That’s something you just can’t capture with a camera.

The First Years Via I440 infant seat manual says, “STOP USING THIS INFANT SEAT AND THROW IT AWAY after the date on the back of the seat.  THROW IT AWAY in a dark trash bag…..Do Not sell to a thrift or consignment shops or at flea markets.”  Wow.  Just wow!

Pictures are nice too.  Once you get past the irresistably cute kids they have on the covers, Britax includes pictures in their manuals.  The Frontier manual is especially full of detailed photos.

There are more and more manuals I could talk about, of course, but these are the few that stick out in my memory.  Car seat manuals are getting better, that’s for sure.  They’re being written more often by techs and advocates who are familiar with how to communicate with parents, which is one reason why they are improving.  The best manuals explain in simple English how to use and install the car seat and provide good drawings or pictures to back up the words for the visual learners.  It’s pretty simple, actually.