One of the most important things you can do for your child’s safety is properly installing their car seat. The right car seat for your child installed the correct way in your vehicle can be the thing that saves your child’s life or prevents serious injury in a crash! The sad part is, 59% of car seats are not used or installed correctly, leaving our precious cargo totally vulnerable. 

One of the common mistakes we see when doing car seat consultations as CPSTs (child passenger safety technicians) is a lack of or incorrect use of the top tether on front-facing car seats. (In fact, 64% of parents use this wrong!) It’s an essential safety feature of your front-facing car seat, and shouldn’t be forgotten or mishandled, so we’re using this post to teach all about what the top tether is and how to use it!

This is what you need to know:

What Is A Top Tether?

A top tether is an essential installation strap that keeps the top half of a front-facing car seat secured in the event of a crash. It consists of an adjustable strap and hook that connects to an anchor embedded in your vehicle seat.

How to Install Top Tether

Importance Of A Car Seat Tether

The top tether is important because, without it, the momentum of a collision could throw the top of a car seat in front-facing mode forward by 4-6 inches more than it would with the top tether. This whips your child forward and increases their risk of head and neck injuries. The top tether keeps your seat secure from every angle, preventing dangerous movement in a crash. Consequently, it acts as a crucial safeguard, enhancing the overall safety and stability of the car seat.

How To Use Top Tether Car Seat

Step 1: Determine which vehicle seats are eligible. 

Before you install your front-facing car seat, you need to determine what seats in your car can accommodate a front-facing seat. That’s right, not every seat will do! Cars manufactured after September 1st, 2002 are required to have LATCH systems in the vehicle. LATCH refers to the anchors embedded into the vehicle frame specifically for safe car seat installation. 

Though every vehicle must have the LATCH system, not every seat in the car is required to have the top tether. So, consult the owner’s manual for your vehicle to locate all the seats eligible for holding a front-facing car seat. When it comes to choosing a seat for your car seat, safety comes first, convenience comes second. 

Step 2: Check the headrests. 

Next, you need to check your vehicle headrests. Ideally, headrests should be removable for the best front-facing car seat installation. However, in certain vehicles, particularly those with an older model year, forward-tilting and fixed headrests are present. This can make the installation of some car seats difficult or even impossible. Ensure that your headrests can be adjusted or removed to confirm compatibility.

Step 3: Attach the seat belt belt and tighten it. 

Now, attach the seat belt belt to the car seat as specified in your manual. Thread it through the belt path, buckle it up, and tighten it until it’s as snug as possible. Verify that the seat belt is free from twists and securely locked in place. Always consult the car seat owner’s manual for more detailed instructions! 

Step 4: Route the top tether.

Now, onto the top tether! Check your vehicle owner’s manual for how to route the top tether and route it as specified.

Step 5: Connect the top tether hook to the anchor. 

Next, connect the top tether hook to the anchor. The anchor is located generally on the back of the seat, but consult your manual to know for sure. Ensure there’s no twist in the strap after you hook it. 

Step 6: Tighten the top tether strap. 

Tighten the strap as much as you can.

Step 7: Check for movement and readjust.

Finally, use your dominant hand to wiggle the seat and ensure there’s not too much movement where the seat belt is attached to the car seat. The car seat should not move more than one inch from side to side or front to back.

Step 8: Furthermore, be sure to check for other common installation mistakes and fit issues.

Once you’re finished, check for common installation mistakes and fix any issues you may see. You can also get your car seat checked with one of our car seat consultations or by someone near you! That way, you know for sure your child is safe in their seat!

Where To Attach Top Tether Car Seats

The top tether anchors are usually in predictable spots, but not always! Read your owner’s manual to find out where they are in your vehicle. Don’t guess! Sometimes other vehicle hooks can be easy to mistake for top tether anchors. Here are some common places you’ll find anchors for the top tether: 

  • Backside of the rear seats 
  • Floor behind the rear seats
  • Rear deck behind the back seat
  • Ceiling
  • Top of the seat (often in pickups) 
Recommended Car Seats
Recommended Car Seats

The top tether is an essential part of the installation process for a front-facing seat!

Top tether is an important safety feature on all front-facing harnessed car seats (even convertible ones!). Make sure you use it in the installation process to keep your child safe in the seat. Moreover, the top tether serves as an indispensable component, reinforcing the overall security measures for your child during travel. For more car seat safety education and advice, head to the blog! We have all the info you need to have confidence in your installation and everyday use of your seat. You’ve got this, mama!

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