Monthly Archive:: November 2013

Graco Nautilus with Safety Surround Review: Tried and True

Nautilus with Safety SurroundThe Graco Nautilus with Safety Surround is the latest version in the Nautilus line of combination carseats. Since their debut, they’ve been highly popular carseats for preschoolers through grade-schoolers because of their versatility. Graco calls the Nautilus/Argos line “3-in-1” carseats because they perform three functions: forward-facing harness, high-back booster, and backless booster. Traditionally, 3-in-1 carseats have been rear-facing, forward-facing, then booster carseats, so it’s important to make the distinction that the Nautilus/Argos combination carseats do NOT rear-face.

Weight and Height Limits

  • 20-65 lbs., 27-52” with harness
  • 30-100 lbs., 38-57” without harness, used as a high-back booster
  • 40 to 100 lbs., 40-57” without harness, used as a backless booster

Graco Nautilus with Safety Surround Overview: 

  • Thick (3”!) EPS foam in headrest
  • 3-position front adjust recline
  • Meets Graco’s side impact testing and Europe’s Side Impact testing standard
  • One-hand 5-position adjustable headrest
  • Tall armrests with cup holder and storage cubbies
  • Integrated steel bars reinforce the shell
  • 9-year lifespan
  • MSRP $209.99
  • Fashions include Atlas, Berri, and Lucky
  • IIHS Best Bet when used as a booster in high-back mode

Nautilus 4 slots w pad  Nautilus 4 slots wo pad  Nautilus cubbies  Nautilus back  Nautilus backless  Nautilus wo cover  Nautilus shoulder belt guide

All About Chest Clips: Function, Purpose & Proper Positioning

Chest clips are one of the least understood and most misused features on a carseat. I’m going to attempt to set the record straight on how they function, what purpose they serve and how they’re meant to be positioned.


Proper Positioning:

Chest clips should be positioned anywhere in the mid to upper chest area. Aim for armpit level which is where most carseat instruction manuals tell you to place the chest clip. The truth is that even if it’s a little lower than armpit level – it will still do its job as a pre-crash positioner of the harness straps, as long as the harness straps are snug and routed correctly over the child’s shoulders. A snug and properly routed harness is essential!

 Chest Clip - too low Chest Clip - just right


Comparison of Current Infant Seat Chest Clip Designs:

Top to Bottom: Evenflo, Graco, Chicco, Safety 1st, Cybex

Comparison of chest clip designs


Federal Safety Standards and Chest Clips:

Believe it or not, chest clips are not required on U.S. carseats by FMVSS 213. That’s because they’re really not necessary for crash protection as long as the harness is snug and positioned over the child’s shoulders. Regardless, chest clips are included on all current harnessed seats sold in this country so it’s a component we’ve come to expect. Just keep in mind that it’s possible for a new seat to debut next week or next year that doesn’t come with a chest clip. I actually owned, used and loved an infant seat that didn’t have a chest clip back in 2004.

SIV closeup

My Beloved
Fisher-Price Stay-In-View
Infant Carseat
Oct 2004


Feel the Cybex Love: A Review of the Aton 2

After reading Heather’s full review of the Cybex Aton and Jennie’s follow-up review of the Cybex Aton, you may be left wondering if the seat could possibly get any cooler? Turns out it can. Cybex released the Aton 2 earlier this year and I immediately ordered one for the newest version of my spawn. Aton 2 for Shrimp 2…seems appropriate, no?

Declan before turning into a banshee in the car.

Declan before turning into a banshee in the car.


7lbs, 5oz of pure sleeping bliss.


So before I get into my thoughts on the seat, let me briefly review the differences in the Aton and Aton 2. The Aton 2 is essentially the same seat as the Aton, except there is a load leg attached to the base now, and the LSP (Linear Side-Impact Protection) system has been added to the handle on the Aton 2 carrier.  The load leg is popular in European seats, and reduces downward rotation in a collision, subsequently reducing rebound as well. The LSP system is a small plastic “wing” on the handle of the carrier that you flip out when you put the carrier in the vehicle in either outboard position and it significantly reduces side impact forces on the child.

cybex aton2 baseSpecs and Features for Cybex Aton & Cybex Aton 2:

  • Rated from 4-32 lbs; up to 30″ tall
  • Base with unique tensioning system
  • 3 sets of harness slots: 7″, 9″, and 10.5″
  • Integrated canopy
  • Carrier weight: 9lbs
  • European belt path installation when used without base

Honoring All Who Served


CarseatBlog would like to thank all of our veterans who have served our country as well as all active military personnel who are still serving all over the world.  We appreciate the sacrifices they have made for all of us. We also tip our hat to the families of those who are serving and who have served. We know many of our readers are military families and we acknowledge the unique challenges that come with that territory. As far as we’re concerned, you deserve thanks and praise for all you do too!

IIHS Check Fit Booster Ratings and the Britax Frontier 90

Considering buying a Britax Frontier 90 or Pinnacle 90 Harness-2-Booster seat?  Maybe you already bought one, based on our reviews or because they appeared on our recommended seats list?  Perhaps you have recently seen or heard that the IIHS did not give your carseat a “Best Best” or “Good Bet” rating and you are now wondering if it is safe to use?  Don’t Panic!  “Check Fit” does NOT mean “Unsafe”!

So what does a “Check Fit” rating from the IIHS mean?  Quite simply, it means you have to check how well the booster fits your own child, in your own vehicle.  Install the booster in your vehicle, buckle and route the seat belt, all according to the instructions in the owner’s manual.  Ideally, the lap belt should be fairly flat on the upper thigh, not up on the tummy.  The shoulder belt should be centered on the shoulder; it should not be falling off the shoulder or rest on the child’s neck.  What if it doesn’t fit well?  Keep using it for now to keep your child safe and read on for some suggestions to improve the safety for your child!  For more on booster fit, please see CarseatBlog’s coverage of the 2013 IIHS Booster Ratings.

The first important thing to note is that the new 2013 IIHS Booster Ratings are not results of dynamic crash tests.  Second, they do not consider ease-of-use or additional safety features at all.  The evaluations are only measurements of seatbelt fit to an average 4 to 8 year-old child using these seats in booster mode in a few vehicle seating scenarios.  Finally, these ratings DO NOT apply at all if you are using these or any other combination booster seat in the 5-point harness mode.  In regard to harness use, CarseatBlog agrees with the American Academy of Pediatrics, “All children whose weight or height is above the forward-facing limit for their [5-point harness] Child Safety Seat should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle lap-and-shoulder seat belt fits properly, typically when they have reached 4 feet 9 inches in height and are between 8 and 12 years of age. There is a safety advantage for young children to remain in Child Safety Seats with a harness for as long as possible before transitioning to booster seats.”

How does the IIHS know if a booster will fit your child and vehicle?  Good question!  They evaluate booster fit on a standard dummy, representative of a typical 6-year old child, measured in four scenarios that mimic real vehicle use.   What if your child is a different size than the dummy or you have a vehicle that varies significantly from any of their test scenarios?  That could mean the booster fits somewhat better or worse than the rating suggests, but overall the ratings should still provide meaningful comparisons.  CarseatBlog recommends that parents consult the IIHS Booster Ratings, as they are a great place to start and generally reflect a range of children and vehicles.  We do caution that their evaluations do not always apply directly to every possible combination of child and vehicle.  That means that a model that earned a “Best Bet” may not fit ideally with your child and vehicle.  Similarly, a model that earned a “Check Fit” rating may provide a good fit for your child, in your particular vehicle.

So, a lower rating does not necessarily mean your child is less safe, unless you check yourself and find the belt fit to be marginal or poor in booster mode, of course.  For example, I found the seatbelt fit of a Britax Frontier 90 (“Check Fit” rating) in booster mode to be very reasonable on my 8-year old child in a couple of popular vehicles, a Toyota Highlander and Prius.


As mentioned in the video, it is worthwhile to note that the Britax Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 have among the highest seated torso height limits for the 5-point harness system of any combination harness/booster carseat.  That means most kids can use the harness until they are 8 years old or possibly even older.  That is a very safe option if you did happen to find that the seatbelt did not fit your child well in booster mode, especially on younger or less mature children who may benefit most from the extra points of restraint in a 5-point harness system.