Instructional Archive

Adjusting a Carseat’s Recline Angle Using Pool Noodles or Rolled Towels

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How to Fix Your Rear-Facing Recline Angle Using Noodles or Rolled Towels

2014-chrysler-town-and-country-rear-interior-view-motor-trendPerhaps you don’t have a vehicle like the one on the left, but vehicle seats like those send shivers up most child passenger safety technicians’ spines. When we see a vehicle seat cushion with a slope that deep, we know we’ll have to even it out when installing a rear-facing carseat.

Rear-facing carseats require adjustment to a particular recline angle – that angle can vary from one carseat to another and is specified by each manufacturer. Most (but not all) infant carseats have a base that has a built-in recline feature so you can adjust the angle in order to achieve the correct recline on any vehicle seat. However, if your carseat doesn’t have a built-in recline feature, or if it isn’t enough to get the seat reclined appropriately – you can usually use a cut foam pool noodle or rolled towel.

graco-snugride-recline-feature-on-base
Convertible carseats all have some way to adjust the angle when the seat is installed rear-facing. Most convertibles on the market today can be installed properly rear-facing without needing anything extra. However, if the recline feature isn’t enough to achieve the necessary angle specified by the manufacturer, you can usually use a cut foam pool noodle or rolled towel to fill the gap and support the carseat at that recline angle. The seat below is the perfect example of a situation where you might need to use a pool noodle or rolled towel.

Tribute reclined line level to ground

Which is better—noodle or towel?

Diono Approves Convertible & Booster Installations with Ford’s Inflatable Seat Belt Technology

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Effective immediately all current models of Diono convertible seats (R100, R120, RadianRXT, Olympia, Pacifica & Rainier) and Diono boosters (Monterey, Cambria, & Solana) can now be used in Ford vehicles that have inflatable seatbelts! This allowance is retroactive to previous Diono and Sunshine Kids Radian and Monterey models.

Currently, inflatable seatbelts are an optional feature in the Ford Explorer, Edge, Flex, Fusion and F-150 as well as in Lincoln’s MKT, MKX and MKZ models. Read more about our experience with inflatable seatbelts in our Ford Explorer Review. This new allowance from Diono does NOT include the inflatable seatbelts found in some Mercedes-Benz vehicles.

Photo Credit: Diono

If you own a Ford or Lincoln vehicle with inflatable seatbelts, or if you are a CPS Technician working in a Ford/Lincoln vehicle that has this technology, please make sure you understand how to lock this particular type of seatbelt before attempting installation of ANY harnessed carseat.

ford-inflatable-seatbelt-upper-elr-retractorThe Ford inflatable seatbelt system uses 2 retractors which is very unusual. One retractor at the top of the shoulder belt, where you normally expect to find a retractor (pic right) and a second retractor (pic below) is near the floor at the end of the lap belt portion of the lap/shoulder belt. When installing ANY approved harnessed seat with these seatbelts you must switch the retractor on the lap belt portion of the seatbelt to locked (ALR) mode. The retractor at the top for the shoulder belt is not “switchable” – it is ELR only, meaning that section of the seatbelt will only lock during a crash or under emergency conditions. ELR retractors don’t do you any good when it comes to a harnessed carseat installation (boosters are a different story) so you MUST lock the lap belt portion of the seatbelt by “switching” the bottom retractor to locked mode. Switching a switchable retractor to locked mode is achieved by pulling the webbing of the seatbelt all the way to the end. When the webbing starts to retracts, you will hear a ratcheting sound and you will notice that the belt webbing goes in but won’t come out in this locked mode. Read the vehicle’s owners manual for clarification and more specific details.

ford-inflatable-seatbelt-switchable-retractor-graphic

If using an inflatable seatbelt to secure a child in a Diono booster seat, you don’t have to worry about any of this. Just route the seatbelt properly and buckle.

Additional information regarding Diono seats and Ford’s inflatable seat belts can be found on the Diono website:  https://us.diono.com/update-on-ford-inflatable-seat-belt-use-with-diono-products

Proper Transport of the Non-Critical Pediatric Patient in an Ambulance (aka how to properly install a carseat on a stretcher/cot)

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On this warm, sunny, spring day – parents were obviously busy doing something other than coming to our check event. That left us techs with a little free time. At one point, some of the fabulous volunteers from the local ambulance corp showed up and the conversation quickly turned to transporting babies and young children in ambulances. I think I shocked a few of the local techs when I admitted that I had never actually installed a carseat on an ambulance cot (What? Something involving carseats that Kecia has never done??? Alert the presses! Lol.) Yes, I understand how it’s supposed to be done. I’ve read the research papers and I’ve seen several presentations on the subject at various CPS conferences over the years but I had never actually done it myself. Well, wouldn’t you know it – a short time later, an ambulance pulls up. Yes, boys and girls – it’s play time! 😀

It was actually a fairly simple install on this nice, new Stryker cot with this particular convertible (original model Cosco Scenera).  For the record, the only type of conventional carseat that should ever be installed on an ambulance stretcher/cot is a convertible. You need to be able to secure the carseat on the cot using two different beltpaths and this is only possible if the carseat has separate beltpaths for the rear-facing and forward-facing positions. Obviously, this setup is only going to work if the child actually fits in the convertible (and that will vary depending on the child and the specific convertible model being used) and if the child can tolerate being transported in the semi-upright position.

First we reclined the carseat into the position meant for a rear-facing installation. Then they showed me how to raise the head of the cot until we had it flush against the back of the convertible. Next we routed the straps nearest the rear-facing beltpath through that beltpath and routed the straps nearest the forward-facing beltpath through that beltpath. They helped me tighten everything up and Voila! Then we strapped in our “non-critical pediatric patient” for good measure (and for the photo op)! Finally, the guys showed me how to load this particular stretcher into the ambulance and secure it. I have to say, I was really impressed with this particular Stryker Powered Ambulance Cot. The hydraulic system was sweeet!

     

On this particular day, this exercise was all about learning something new in a relaxed and friendly environment. However, in reality, pediatric transport in an ambulance can range from “as safe as possible under difficult circumstances” to “downright scary for no good reason”. Why does it vary so much? Because currently there are no federal guidelines for  pediatric transport in an ambulance. Therefore,  EMS services are free to transport patients in any way they deem appropriate. Personally, I wouldn’t allow my kids to be transported to the hospital in an ambulance unless they really needed to be attended to by a medic on the way there. Unconscious? Not breathing? Massive head trauma? Get him into the ambulance fast and I’m not going to care or worry about how he’s restrained. Broken foot? Get in the car and I’m driving you to the hospital myself.

For more information on the subject see “Crash Protection for Children in Ambulances”: http://www.carseat.org/Resources/Bull_Ambulance.pdf

What Is An All-in-One / 3-in-1 / 4-in-1 Carseat?

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Graco 4Ever - StudioAll-in-One. 4-in-1. 3-in-1. Does it all. Last carseat you’ll ever need.

These promises sound exciting, don’t they? After all, you’ve probably shelled out over $100, maybe even close to $300 for a rear-facing only infant seat that only fit your child for about a year and now you have to buy another carseat already. Your kid keeps growing, wouldn’t it be nice to buy only one more carseat and be done with it all? Perhaps.

We need to get some basic terms out of the way since I’ll be addressing them frequently in this article. There are two types of carseats we’ll be discussing: convertible and combination. A convertible carseat is one that rear-faces or forward-faces, so it’s appropriate for newborns through preschoolers generally. A combination carseat is a forward-facing only carseat with a harness that can be removed to become a belt-positioning booster. Sometimes combo seats are called harnessed boosters. It’s all marketing, but the official class of seat is combination.

Let’s discuss what an all-in-one / 3-in-1 / 4-in-1 carseat is. These days it can be a convertible carseat or a combination carseat. An all-in-one carseat is one that “does it all.” This convertible carseat will go from infant to booster: rear-facing, forward-facing, and high-back booster. A 3-in-1 carseat does the same: rear-facing, forward-facing, and high-back booster. But a 3-in-1 carseat can also be a combination seat: forward-facing-only harness, high-back booster, and backless booster. Oh. That’s getting complicated. What about the 4-in-1 carseat? Well, that is a convertible carseat: rear-facing, forward-facing, high-back booster, AND backless booster.

What does one of these seats NOT do? It does NOT have a harness weight limit of 100 or 120 lbs. That’s a very common misconception. The carseat manufacturers are doing a much better job of labeling the boxes for their separate modes, but as you look at the pictures below, I think you’ll see why it’s easy to see why the harness might go to a super high weight limit. It doesn’t.

So we have the convertible vs. combination terminology out of the way and we know what an all-in-one vs. a 4-in-1 carseat is (er, basically the same thing, right?). Now let’s have some practice looking at these seats and their boxes so you know in the store *before* you buy if the carseat is appropriate for your 9 month old (of course, you could always consult our Recommended Carseats List and know which seats are appropriate right now and find one that will work for you!).

Questions to Ask Before You Shop

Does it have a rear-facing belt path? (Only if you are shopping for a rear-facing seat obviously.)

How long do I reasonably expect my child to use this seat?

Do I really want a carseat that I will be using for over 6 years? (Because really, what other piece of baby gear gets used for that long, let alone a safety device?)

All-in-One

The Evenflo Symphony LX is an all-in-one seat. It says so on the labels and on the box. Check out the label: 5-110 lbs. That’s misleading, because it makes you think the harness will take your child from 5-110 lbs., right? Wrong. It’s 5-40 lbs. rear-facing, 22-65 lbs. forward-facing, and 40-110 lbs. as a belt-positioning booster. There is a rear-facing belt path opening under where the child’s legs would sit, so you know it’s a convertible carseat. You could use this carseat from your child’s birth, provided he’s big enough.

Symphony LX box front Symphony LX box side

3-in-1