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Graco SnugRide SnugLock 35 DLX Review

Graco has taken their ultra-popular, easy-to-use SnugRide carseats and improved upon the installation process by introducing a new base that has a swing-arm to clamp down on the seat belt for an installation that takes seconds. Even the most intimidated caregiver will feel brave with their carseating skills after a few minutes with the SnugLock. Graco also introduces a new SafetyCore™ crash force absorption zone on the base. There are other cool new user features on the carrier, but you have to read the review to find out what they are. Let’s get started with the basics.

Weight and Height Limits:

Rear-facing 4-35 lbs. AND 32” or less AND child’s head is 1” below top of seat

SnugRide SnugLock Overview:

  • 1-hand adjustable handle
  • Silent Shade™ generously-sized canopy
  • EPS energy-absorbing foam
  • SafetyCore™ impact absorption zone
  • InRight™ deluxe push-on LATCH
  • Euro-routing allowed for baseless installs
  • Ergonomic handle to make carrying comfortable
  • Removable head and body pillows
  • Bubble recline indicator on DLX base with recline positions for 2 age ranges
  • Made in China
  • Two SnugLock base models available at 2 price points: Regular (MSRP $59.99) and DLX (MSRP $89.99)

SnugLock Bases

The model I have for review comes with the Deluxe SnugLock base. Other SnugRide SnugLock models come with the less-expensive regular SnugLock base. These bases are interchangeable, so if you want to buy extra bases for other vehicles you can choose either style.

SnugLock DLX Base

Regular SnugLock Base

SnugRide SnugLock Measurements

Harness slots: 6 ½“, 8 ½“, 10 ½“, 12 ½“
External widest point: 17 ¾”
Width of deluxe base at belt path: 14 ¾”
Width of deluxe base at widest point: 15”
Width of regular base at belt path: 14″
Width of regular base at widest point: 14″
Internal shell height: 20”
Crotch strap depth: 4”, 5 ½”
Seat depth: 11”
Carrier weight: 8.4 lbs.

Don’t forget about our comparison database!

There are multiple versions of the SnugRide SnugLock, including different types of carriers and bases. Don’t fret—we have a chart!

Installation

Everything about the SnugLock base is easy: from adjusting the recline, to opening the LATCH strap storage door, to opening and closing the SnugLock arm. We’ve seen a lot of new technology emerge in the last few years aiding parents and caregivers in installing their carseats and the SnugLock base design is innovative and keeps Graco at the forefront of infant seat design.

  

Installation Tips

  • Use either LATCH or the seatbelt but not both. Both methods of installation are easy and both require the belt (seatbelt or latch belt) to be routed under the SnugLock arm. If you are installing with seatbelt be aware that the SnugLock arm also acts as a lockoff, which means that you DON’T need to lock the seatbelt at the retractor by pulling the shoulder belt all the way out. By not switching the seatbelt to locked mode, you won’t have any tipping problems from the shoulder belt pulling up on the retractor side.
    • Seatbelt install may be slightly easier because it’s faster and easier to adjust the slack in the belt
    • If you have a booster rider sitting next to the infant seat, consider using LATCH so it won’t accidentally be unbuckled (consult your vehicle owner’s manual for LATCH seating positions)
  • The regular (non-DLX model) SnugLock base has a molded channel within the beltpath with no belt guides to hold the seat belt/LATCH belt in place. If your seat belt geometry is such that it doesn’t lay perfectly across the molded channel, it will position itself over the protruding edge of the channel and be crimped when the SnugLock arm is closed. Whether or not this damages your seatbelt is not for me to decide. This happened in 2 of my vehicles, but it fit wonderfully in my third.

 

  • If you’re trying to decide between the regular SnugLock base and the deluxe base, the deluxe base provides a couple of extra inches of legroom by having the carrier sit farther back from the vehicle seat back. On the flip side, if you have a small back seat where space is premium, you may be better off with the regular, less expensive, SnugLock base.
  • Use the recline foot to get the *best* recline for your newborn. Don’t settle for being in the zone; increase the recline until you’re right on the edge of being too reclined. Once it’s installed tightly, the base will flatten a bit bringing it back into the proper recline range.

 

  • If you’ve got a deeply scooped vehicle seat and the built-in recline foot isn’t enough, it’s OK to use pool noodles or tightly rolled towels. Put the recline foot all the way back in before using the noodles/towels.
  • The carrier can be installed with Euro beltpath routing if you’re traveling without the base in a vehicle that has a lap/shoulder seatbelt.

 

*You’ll notice that in the above pictures where the carrier is installed Euro-style without the base, the shoulder belt rests down low against the vehicle seat with some slack in it, and naturally wants to slide under the corner of the carrier. This happens in vehicles where the buckle is flush with the vehicle seat, as in the pictures above, and in vehicles where the buckle stalks are longer as well. I discussed the issue with a Graco engineer who was going to discuss it with the engineering department.

Center LATCH installations with Non-Standard Spacing:
Graco allows LATCH installation in the center seating position if the vehicle manufacturer allows it and the LATCH anchor bars are spaced at least 11” apart.

Inflatable Seat Belts
Graco has determined that the SnugRide SnugLock cannot be installed with inflatable seat belts found in some Ford, Lincoln, and Mercedes vehicles, and in some airplane seat belts. Install the base using the LATCH strap instead.

However, Graco DOES allow the carrier only to be installed without the base using Ford Motor Company inflatable seat belts. Follow your instruction manual and do not thread the shoulder belt through the belt path.

  

Fit to Child

There’s a body pillow and head pillow with the DLX model. The body pillow is optional, but must be removed when the child reaches 12 lbs. The head pillow can stay in as long as it’s threaded through the harness slots above the harness (so remove it when the harness is moved to the upper slots). The head pillow that came with my seat seems stiff and arches out, which makes me think that a newborn with a light noggin may go chin-to-chest (that’s what we techs say when we see a newborn with her head falling straight down, which is potentially deadly). Until I can see a noob in the seat, I’ll withhold judgment, but I will say that it concerns me enough to make a notation about it and it should be watched. If you determine that the head pillow is indeed pushing your newborn’s head forward, take it out. It’s not required.

Fit with the 4 lbs. Huggable Images preemie doll was good.

Our 13 month old model still has about 2” growing room above his head before outgrowing the carrier by height. At 21 lbs. and 29”, he still has a long way to go before hitting the maximum limits of 35 lbs. and 32”.

 

There are 2 sets of loops on the harness ends on the back of the SnugRide SnugLock. The upper loops are used to shorten the harness for smaller babies.

  • Use the upper loops when the harness is in the bottom 2 sets of slots
  • Use the bottom loops when the harness is in the upper 2 sets of slots

 

Cover/Maintenance/Ease of Use

The cover can be thrown in the washing machine on gentle cycle. Hang to dry.

The 1-hand top adjustable handle is available on the DLX model and the Platinum models only (Platinum and Platinum XT are found at BRU and BuyBuyBaby, respectively). Whether you need this feature is one thing, but it is mighty handy not to have to grab both sides of the carrier handle to adjust the handle up or down.

FAA-Approval/Lifespan/Crash Guidelines

The SR SnugLock carrier is FAA-approved, but the base is not. If you want to take the base with you on your trip and you’re flying there, it’s best to pack it in a suitcase or take it as a carryon and store it in the overhead bin.

This carseat has a lifespan of 7 years from the date of manufacture. It must be replaced after any crash, including a minor one.

Stroller and Base Compatibility

The SnugRide SnugLock is compatible with any Graco ClickConnect stroller or base. SnugLock is the technology on particular ClickConnect bases to aid in installation of those bases.

 

Advantages

  • SnugLock . . . SnugLock . . . SnugLock
  • 1-hand adjustable handle
  • Silent Shade™ generously-sized canopy
  • Deluxe push-on LATCH connectors
  • Euro-routing for baseless installs
  • Bubble recline indicator with recline positions for 2 age ranges
  • Deluxe base provides more legroom for older babies
  • Machine washable cover

Disadvantages

  • Canopy is designed to be quiet, but this model has crinkly fabric along grab edges so it may still disturb sensitive infants
  • Regular (non-DLX) SnugLock base may possibly damage your seatbelt if the belt doesn’t align properly in the channel on the base and stay in that zone when you close the arm. Pay close attention to the little bumps positioned at the bottle of the belt guide on the regular SnugLock base version. You don’t want the seatbelt to slide down over those protrusions when you are closing the lock arm. We recommend using LATCH, when possible, since we didn’t run into this problem when installing with the LATCH strap. The DLX base version doesn’t have these protrusions so it’s only an issue on the less expensive regular SnugLock base.

Conclusion

There are many different versions of SnugRide SnugLock so check out our chart above to make sure you understand which model you are buying and how it differs from the other SnugRide SnugLock models available. The higher-priced SnugLock models are likely to come with the DLX base that we prefer but the lower-priced SnugLock models offer a better value and still get the job done nicely. We recommend installing the regular SnugLock base with lower LATCH connectors to avoid the potential issue with the seatbelt getting crimped in cases where it doesn’t stay above the protrusions. We didn’t run into that issue with the LATCH strap in any of the vehicles we tried which is good news. If you know ahead of time that you will be installing the seat in an older vehicle that doesn’t have LATCH, or in the center seating position of a vehicle which doesn’t allow “borrowing” of the lower LATCH anchors, you might be better off with the Deluxe SnugLock base.

Thank you to Graco for providing the Graco SnugRide SnugLock DLX used for this review. No other compensation was provided. All opinions expressed are those of CarseatBlog.