Winter Car Seat Safety: Can Your Child Wear a Coat in the Car?

As a responsible parent, you prioritize your child’s safety above all else. But did you know that coats in car seats could potentially compromise the effectiveness of their car seat? If you’re unaware of this crucial detail, don’t fret. You may also be wondering what’s the next best thing to a winter jacket: a winter car seat cover or a car seat jacket? How do you keep baby warm in the car seat? We’re here to equip you with essential winter car seat safety tips that will not only keep your little one warm but also ensure their safety during chilly rides.

The Great Winter Coats and Car Seats Myth

You might be questioning the real significance of your child’s coat, bulky clothing, or even a Halloween costume when it comes to their car seat harness. You can pull the harness tight enough, right? The truth is, proper car seat safety can be a matter of life and death. Seemingly minor details, such as a winter coat, can have significant consequences.

Imagine yourself on a thrilling roller coaster ride. The safety bar should fit snugly over your legs to keep you secure during the ride. But what if you have a jacket bunched up on your lap? The bar might feel secure over your jacket, but once the ride begins, you’d realize the bar isn’t effectively keeping you in place. Would you feel safe navigating loops and hills, knowing the safety bar isn’t properly secured? The answer is likely no.

Why is it Important?

Every car seat’s harness must be tailored to your child’s size to ensure their safety in any scenario, be it an accident or even a near-miss. For optimal protection, the harness must fit snugly, closely hugging your child’s body. A puffy jacket or thick layers can alter the way the harness fits, necessitating adjustments that accommodate the clothing. However, during sudden stops or crashes, the force exerted on the occupant compresses the coat, rendering the harness looser than intended. Consequently, the car seat’s effectiveness is compromised, endangering your child’s safety. A seemingly minor alteration to you can have a profound impact on your child’s safety and well-being.

Put Your Coat to the Test

Before you make changes to your winter clothing strategy, evaluate whether your child’s coat is compatible with their car seat. Our Winter Coat Test simplifies this process. If the coat passes the test, fantastic! We celebrate with you. But if the coat compromises seat safety, fret not—more solutions are on the way.

5 Steps to Crack the Cold (Clothing) Case: Winter Coat Test

Step 1: Test it Out

Winter Car Seat Safety: Can Your Child Wear a Coat in the Car?

Dress your child in the clothing in question and prepare to buckle them up in the car seat.

Step 2: Get it Tight

Winter Car Seat Safety: Can Your Child Wear a Coat in the Car?

Fasten your child in the car seat, ensuring the harness is snug around the hips, torso, and shoulders. Employ the “pinch test” to determine tightness. If excess harness slack can be pinched near your child’s collarbone, adjust the harness for a tighter fit. Repeat the “pinch test” to confirm proper adjustment.

Step 3: Shake it Off

Winter Car Seat Safety: Can Your Child Wear a Coat in the Car?

Release the chest clip and crotch buckle, allowing your child to exit the harness while wearing their winter clothing. Do not adjust the harness at this point.

Step 4: Buckle Up Again

Winter Car Seat Safety: Can Your Child Wear a Coat in the Car?

Reposition your child in the car seat, buckle them in without altering the harness’s tension. The harness should maintain the same settings as when your child was initially buckled in. Reapply the “pinch test.” Is there excess slack?

Step 5: Fit or Fail

Winter Car Seat Safety: Can Your Child Wear a Coat in the Car?

If the clothing fails the pinch test (excess harness slack can be pinched at the shoulders), it’s not suitable for the car seat.

Is your child’s coat safe for the car?

How to Keep Them Warm and Safe in the Seat

Layer Up

To ensure warmth, layer thin clothing. Combine a well-fitting fleece jacket with a long-sleeved t-shirt. Don’t forget a hat and gloves for older kids.

Can’t Go Under it? Let’s Go Over It!

Once your child is secured, place their coat over them to maintain warmth.

Keep Them Cozy

Opt for a blanket or a car seat poncho during colder months. Simply drape the poncho over the car seat after buckling your child.

Invest in a Car Seat Jacket

Explore brands like Buckle Me Baby Coats (Use code: SAFEINTHESEAT15 for 15% off), One Kid (Use code: 15SAFEINTHESESAT for 15% off the Road Coat) and Tempo Outerwear (Use code: SAFEINTHESEAT10 for $10 off the Duo Jacket). These coats prioritize safety—incorporating thin insulation for warmth without compromising fit. Stick to the correct size, as upsizing could create unwanted space between your child and harness straps.

Go Light

A thin fleece jacket ensures safety and warmth. While many fleece jackets pass the Winter Coat Test, it’s wise to run the test steps before driving.

Car Seat Safe Winter Coats for Toddlers and Babies

Certain car seat-safe coats, even if not explicitly designed for car seats, can be safe options. Thin puffer coats from brands like Primary, North Face, Gap, and Wonder Nation might pass the coat test if properly fitted. We love this one!

Infant Seat Covers

You might be wondering: Are infant car seat covers for winter safe? For infants in car seats, opt for a shower cap-style cover. Avoid covers that go behind the baby or require harness strap or buckle adjustment. Ensure comfort and safety by removing the cover in the car to prevent overheating.

How to Dress Baby in Winter for the Car Seat

Thin fleece layers work well for infants. Layer fleece footie pajamas over a long-sleeved onesie or a well-fitted fleece bunting.


Toddlers can benefit from car seat ponchos, which keep them warm and secure. Simply drape the poncho over your child after buckling them in.

Final Thoughts

Prioritize your child’s safety by adhering to winter car seat clothing guidelines. While the products mentioned are recommendations, remember to conduct the pinch test to ensure safety. Embrace these practices to keep your child both warm and secure throughout the winter months. Check out our free download: Winter Safety: What to Wear for more!

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