Latch system weight limit

LATCH Weight Limits

Posted on May 24, 2013 in Car Seat Safety by Amie What is this about LATCH weight limits?

LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tether for Children.

The intention was great. Make it easier for parents to install car seats correctly. Based on what I’ve seen checking car seats over the years. The intent often got lost (perhaps along with the instructions).

I’ve seen LATCH misused in many ways. One of the most common I’ve seen is using the LATCH system and the vehicle seat belt to install the child restraint. This falls into the tighter is not always better category.

Plus, and more importantly, when you use both you are doubling the webbing which prevents it from stretching during a crash. This stretch takes the crash energy that the webbing is meant to absorb (this you want) and transfers it to the plastic shell of the car seat.

Another fact I’ve seen parents not be aware of is that there are actually weight limits on the LATCH system. For most vehicle manufacturers that lower anchor weight limit is 65 pounds. That 65 pounds is the combined weight of the seat and the child.

So if a seat weighs, as many do, 25 pounds, the weight limit for the child (while using LATCH) is 40 pounds. At which point in time parents are supposed to start using the seat belt system instead of LATCH.

While the weight limits have been in place since the beginning of LATCH, a new federal standard for car seats will take place in 2014. This new standard will require car seats to have yet another label (how many of the labels on your current car seat have you read?).

This new label will inform parents that they need to limit the use of the lower anchors of the LATCH system to a maximum weight for a child. This new standard is actually good news since it will mean, hopefully, more parents are informed of the LATCH weight limits.

Remember seat belts are just as safe (and at higher weights safer) as LATCH. A lot of parents have asked me about this when I moved their incorrectly LATCH installed restraint to a seat belt install. Again the purpose of the LATCH was not to be a better install but to be an easier install.

As for the top tether anchor, nothing will be on the new sticker about those. However, many vehicle manufacturers are still limiting top tether anchor use to the same combined (restraint and child) 65-pound weight (some manufacturers use a lower weight limit) even when the restraint is installed using the vehicle’s seat belt system.

One thing to note here is that the RideSafer® Travel Vests weigh a little more than a pound. So if you were to use the RideSafer 2 the combined 65-pound weight for the top tether anchor would mean a maximum weight of the child of 63 pounds. And we offer a dual tether which will spread the weight across two top anchors.

For further reading you can look at the following articles: Child Safety Seat Latch by USAToday, Weight Limits: The Death of LATCH?

By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and CPS Tech since 2004

Most newer car and car seat models use the LATCH system (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children), but even the most safety-conscious of parents may be misusing the simple car seat installation method. The LATCH system attaches the car seat to the vehicle through anchor points installed in the car and connectors on the car seat, which makes for easy installation and can eliminate potential errors resulting from installing a car seat with a seat belt. However, many parents don’t know that the 65-pound weight limit for using the LATCH system includes the weight of your child as well as the weight of the car seat itself (most average between 20-25 pounds).

We spoke with Sarah Tilton, Consumer Advocacy, Britax Child Safety, Inc., who confirmed LATCH weight limit guidelines for us. “Very often we see a misuse with LATCH systems as families don’t know that they have a total weight capacity,” she told POPSUGAR. “Your car seat plus your child cannot weight more than 65 pounds. There’s a label on the side of every car seat manufactured since 2014 that tells you what that child’s weight capacity is for lower anchors.”

Kate Koch-Sundquist, mom and Parent.co editor, is a self-proclaimed “car-seat safety fanatic,” but even she was unaware of this common and dangerous mistake.

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If there’s one thing I’m crazy about, it’s my kids’ safety. That’s why I was surprised – no, shocked – to discover that a car seat safety rule exists that I didn’t know about. As a result, I was unknowingly putting my son in an unsafe position. . . . At 45 pounds, my 5-year-old is still in a five-point harness car seat, which he will probably be in until he gets his driver’s license. (Is there a rule about driving from a car seat?) Up until today, his car seat was secured using the LATCH system. I had never even noticed the sticker on the side which specifies that the LATCH system is for use up to 40 pounds only. I guess I’m not perfect after all.

If you, too, find you’re making this error — or want to avoid doing so in the future — be sure to check the sticker on your child’s car seat to find the maximum weight limit for installing that car seat with LATCH. Once your child has reached capacity, consult your vehicle owner’s manual and car seat user guide to ensure you’re correctly installing your child’s seat using a seat belt and tether.

Image Source: Britax USA

The Latch system — Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children — was introduced as a safe and easy way to install child-safety seats correctly. Turns out, however, using a seat belt to secure your child’s safety seat is ultimately safer for older kids. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is revising its Latch anchor weight limit guidelines, and the new rules go into effect in February.

Cars.com’s Car Seat Check Report Card

Prior to now, the government didn’t specify a Latch system maximum weight limit that included both the weight of the seat and the weight of the child, and many vehicle and car seat owner’s manuals aren’t specific about the total weight limitations of the system. Recent crash tests, however, provided some alarming results.

During the testing of a 77-pound, 10-year-old test dummy in a 30 mph crash, NHTSA discovered that the Latch anchors became overloaded and did not work properly. As a result, the agency is instituting a 65-pound combined child and car seat weight limit.

The new rule means that child restraint manufacturers have to specify the maximum weight of a child for car seats installed with Latch via a label on each seat; the rule does not dictate that automakers increase the strength of Latch anchors. So what do parents need to do? Most importantly, you need to pay closer attention to the weight of both your seat and your child and know that exceeding this limit could overload the Latch system, and it might not properly restrain a child in a crash.

According to Safe Ride News, a publishing company focused on promoting child safety, a car seat typically weighs 13 to 33 pounds. The problem is, as health and safety agencies recommend kids stay in car seats longer, the seats themselves are growing in size and weight to accommodate older kids. For example, several new booster seats with harnesses can hold a child up to 70 pounds. Once you take the seat’s weight into account (for example, the Britax Pioneer 70 weighs 21 pounds), the total load on the Latch system is now 91 pounds, much higher than the new safety standard.

In my family’s case, I can still use Latch to install my 31-pound daughter’s 13-pound forward-facing convertible because the total comes in at less than the combined 65-pound limit. When the combination is more than that, parents should use a seat belt to install the car seat, but NHTSA cautions that even after the weight limit has been reached, the top tether anchor should still be used. “A significant portion of the harm to children resulting from motor vehicle crashes could be prevented by the tether,” the agency said in a statement.

The good news for parents is that after the mandate goes into effect, it’ll be easier for us to figure out the weight limit. All car seats manufactured after Feb. 27, 2014, will have a label that clearly defines the weight of the car seat and the maximum weight limit for installing that car seat with lower anchors. “The purpose of the label is to reduce consumer confusion about using lower LATCH anchorages, and to ensure that forces generated by the child and in most crash conditions do not exceed the lower anchors’ design limits,” NHTSA said in its ruling.

Setting a clear Latch anchor limit sounds like good news for parents, but some child safety seat experts fear this ruling will only further confuse them. “The vast majority of parents didn’t realize there were limits to the Latch system, and I don’t expect this to change with the new labeling,” said Darren Qunell, a certified child safety seat installation technician from CarSeatBlog.com, a site that tests car seats and blogs about safety issues. Qunell also cautions that the car seat misuse rate is already high, and creating confusion for parents could cause it to go higher.

ShareNews Editor Jennifer Geiger is a reviewer, car-seat technician and mom of three. She wears a lot of hats, many of them while driving a minivan. Email Jennifer

LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren. It’s the next generation of child safety.

It’s a pair of metal anchors located in the seat bight, plus a top tether anchor located somewhere behind the vehicle seat. Combined, these anchors were to make installation of carseats much easier than using seatbelts. With me so far?

Problem is, at least in the USA, we made a lot of concessions to automobile and child restraint manufacturers when the system was implemented. For example, the anchors are often hard to find or access. Also, rigid LATCH isn’t required, as it is with ISOFIX in Europe. Center and third row seating positions may not have anchors at all. High weight limit seats are not considered. This last issue has become a big problem, due to the rapid proliferation in carseats with 5-point harnesses now rated above 40 pounds in the USA and *Canada.

The rules, many of which are unwritten for the typical parent, are so absolutely crazy that certified child passenger safety technicians need a 200-page reference manual to help understand it. The average parent or caregiver? They don’t even know about the rules or manual in the first place! Thus, misuse happens. It’s no wonder that parents who do know about it are so confused, they simply choose not to deal with it.

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up: In 2014, new federal standards, subject to petitions of the final rule, will require carseats to have another label. This label will limit the use of lower anchors to a maximum weight for a child. This child’s weight limit printed on each carseat, plus the weight of the carseat, must be 65 pounds combined, or less. Thus, for any child seat that weighs over 25 pounds, it cannot be used with the lower anchors once the child is above 40 pounds (or less). Clear as mud?

Adding to the confusion, these new federal requirements do not directly affect top tether anchors, the other component of LATCH. Nonetheless, many automobile manufacturers are still currently limiting top tether anchor use to the same combined 65-pound weight, even when a seatbelt is used for installation. A few still limit use to a 40- or 48-pound child weight. That means that if you own any of these automobile makes (and you may need that 200-page manual to know which ones!), you should no longer use the top tether above this limit. Still following me?

Of course, it is the tall and heavy kids that need top tethers the most in order to reduce head excursion, the source of severe head injury risk! So, this is a major conflict in what we know about crash dynamics and something that could put older kids at risk. All this leads to the following questions:

Q: Weight limits, really? Is LATCH so unsafe that it has such low weight limits? Is it even safe near the limits?

A: Fair points. I’ve seen no data indicating that overloaded anchors are resulting in severe injuries. If they do become unsafe at some weight, it’s not clear what weight that is or if the known benefits outweigh unknown risks. Low limits may indeed cause parents to question the integrity of the system. Lacking any public data, these limits may seem arbitrary. Regardless, parents should follow the ratings on the labels of their carseat and in their owners manuals, if any. This often leads to confusion when published limits can’t be found or if they conflict with each other. Unfortunately, CarseatBlog is placed in a position where this is the best answer we can give to parents.

For certified technicians, if both manuals are not in agreement for a higher weight limit, or when no guidance is provided, the standardized training curriculum says you should advise parents to discontinue use of lower anchors and/or tether use for a child heavier than 40 pounds. (R10/10. Ch. 6, Page 82)

Q: If I keep my kid rear-facing to 2 years and beyond, is it even worthwhile to use LATCH forward-facing for the limited time they will remain under the LATCH weight limit?

A: Probably not. If you transition a child to a forward-facing seat after 2-years of age as recommended, a seatbelt installation is probably the best choice now, unless you cannot get a secure fitment for some reason. The lower anchors are a suitable backup method for forward-facing seats used below the anchor limits. Unless, of course, you’re installing in a center seating position, where you need that 200-page manual to know if you can even use lower anchors there!

Q: I know I can use a seatbelt instead of lower anchors, but I’ve been told top tethers are a vital safety feature. Are top tethers no longer safe, either? If not, what is the alternative?

A: There is no conventional alternative to a top-tether for use with a 5-point internal harness. Personally, I would not want my own 7-year-old son, who is nearly 60 pounds, to ride in a 5-point harness without a top tether. Unfortunately, as a certified technician, I cannot advise other parents to use a top tether beyond any published or default weight limits. There are always exceptions, but it appears we are being forced to recommend that most children above 4-years and 40 pounds, who cannot use a forward-facing internal 5-point harness along with the top tether for any reason, probably should be transitioned to belt-positioning boosters using a 3-point lap/shoulder belt.

Low top-tether limits effectively contradict the AAP guidelines for toddlers and preschoolers that recommends, “All children 2 years or older, or those younger than 2 years who have outgrown the rear-facing weight or height limit for their car seat, should use a Forward-Facing Car Seat with a harness for as long as possible, up to the highest weight or height allowed their car seat’s manufacturer.” That’s a big rock and a very hard place that parents and technicians have been put between!

Q: What good will LATCH be, anyway?

A: Lower anchors remain a good option for most infant and rear-facing seats. They are also popular for securing some belt-positioning boosters into vehicles, since boosters do not have the same LATCH weight limits as 5-point harnesses. That is because it is the seatbelt that restrains the booster child directly, rather than the internal harness.

Q: Aren’t all the companies who invested a lot of R&D into rigid LATCH and other cool LATCH systems going to be burned by this? If LATCH is not very useful for forward-facing seats with a harness, why require LATCH at all?

A: Good questions! I suspect there won’t be much LATCH innovation in the future, with the possible exception of rear-facing only seats. And, yes, it would be simpler for everyone if LATCH was required just on rear-facing only seats, given the 2014 labeling. This would also save cost and weight on forward-facing seats, where LATCH will now have limited benefit. It would be simplest for parents to to know that LATCH could be used to the maximum weight rating of any carseat. Actually, parents wouldn’t even have to know this, because it would be common sense.

This was the promise of LATCH a decade ago:

Today, we have insanity. The system implemented over a decade ago in order to make carseat installations much easier has actually become far more complex than using a seatbelt. The lack of cooperation and action among manufacturers, regulators and major organizations has left us with such a mess that it’s not even clear why we really need LATCH at all. Personally, I was a big supporter of LATCH when it was introduced over a decade ago, after my first child was born. Hopefully, it can live up to its promise in another decade. For now, perhaps the best guidance on the topic is this: Use a seatbelt!

Did you know? If you own a select Chrylser vehicle or other vehicles with a 65-pound combined limit, you must discontinue rear-facing use of LATCH around 32 pounds for the Graco Smart Seat or about 29 pounds for the Clek Foonf. By 2014, that means many kids will never be able to use the great rigid LATCH system on the Foonf, because they will be above the mandated weight limit once they turn forward facing after 2-years old. 🙁

*Please note that top tether use is required in Canada, as they have different requirements than in the USA.

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A few of you had emailed me asking about the new 2014 LATCH rules that further complicated the confusing waters of car seat installation. Crap. Okay, so off I went to a trade show to talk to a bunch of car techs to have them explain it to me.

When I awoke from my boredom induced coma I decided that it really wasn’t safe for me to tackle this one so I emailed Claire. She’s much better at taking complicated stuff and distilling it down, plus, Britax had this new ClickTight car seat that looked like it could skip all this confusion, so I wanted her to try one out too. Thankfully she agreed and figured out what they whole LATCH thing means (I made the chart look nice). I actually understand it now….sort of.

– Amy

A few months ago we wrote this handy post about common car seat mistakes. But there was something sorta confusing that we left out of that post: when installing your car seat, should you use the LATCH system or the seat belt?

First off, you might be wondering what the hell the LATCH system is. LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children and it’s those round metal brackets you can find wedged in the seats of most cars made after about 2003.

See? These are the lower anchors of the LATCH system. Ignore the nasty seats in my minivan

Historically the seat belt alone was used to attach a car seat to a car, but people often found getting super tight installation with a seat belt really challenging. The LATCH system was invented to create an easier way for parents to secure the car seat. Rather than snaking the seat belt through the seat and cursing a lot, your car seat comes with these lower anchor connectors that basically click into the lower anchors (above). Then you tighten it up and that sucker is attached to your car. (If you’re a visual learner like me, check out this video so you can see an example of one type of LATCH install.)

When my husband and I installed our first car seat we thought the LATCH system was the bees knees. So much easier and way more convenient than using the old seat belt! We continued to use it for rear-facing and eventually our forward-facing car seat installs.

But then in 2014 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was all like, WHOA NELLY! They figured out that, because new car seats are now much heavier than ten years prior, these little metal anchors might not be strong enough to hold a heavy car seat and a child to the frame of a car in a crash. As in, they might just break off and send the car seat flying. Fuck. NHTSA released new guidelines saying that LATCH is fine to use when your kiddo is little but when the car seat weight and child’s weight are combined, the maximum weight limit for the LATCH system is 65 pounds.

Ok, great, that’s all well and good. But how the hell are you supposed to know exactly when to stop using LATCH and switch over to using the seat belt?

First off, you need to know how much your kid weighs. Duh.

Secondly, if your car seat was made in the last 2 years then you car seat manufacturer did the math for you based on the weight of the seat you bought. There should be a clear label on the side of your seat showing you your install options for your specific seat based on your chid’s weight.

EXAMPLE label from my car seat. Please check weight limit for your own model

If your seat does not have this label on it then it gets a bit more complicated. My advice is to either make an appointment to go see a Child Passenger Safety Technician or call the manufacturer of the car seat and ask them about the weight limit for LATCH and your specific model. Or, you can just install the car seat with the seat belt and skip using the LATCH altogether.

Thirdly, just to get your ducks in a row, you need to check your vehicle’s manual because sometimes a specific vehicle has a lower weight limit than 65 pounds. If that’s the case for your vehicle, call the car seat manufacturer or go see a Child Passenger Safety Technician and explain your vehicle’s LATCH weight limit and they can help you figure out your own install guidelines. Or again, just skip the LATCH and install your seat with the seat belt.

Other notes about LATCH:

Don’t use LATCH and the seat belt together! You can read about that here. The short answer is that manufacturers don’t crash test with both, so just stick with the instructions given in your car seat’s manual, which typically say use one or the other, not both.

Also, I didn’t mention the tether part of the LATCH system. Most convertible car seats come with a strap on the top that you can tether to the frame of the car for added spine/brain safety in a crash. You’ve gotta check your car seat’s manual but typically you can and should use this tether if you’re using LATCH or your seat belt to install the car seat because it reduces how much the top of the seat ‘flings’ in a crash. So using the tether can really reduce spine and brain injuries in a major crash.

Here’s a handy dandy graphic that explains all of this!

Here’s some real talk: I suck at installing car seats with the seat belt. I am a moderately intelligent person. I have read the car seat manuals. I understand HOW to do it. But I always felt like my installation was too loose, no matter how many times I climbed into that tiny seat and tried to tighten that damn seat belt.

Enter the newest in car seat seat belt installation technology: The ClickTight system from Britax. I swear when I installed this car seat for the first time I almost wept with gratitude and relief. The one shown here is the Advocate.

To install it you turn this little knob and pop open the base of the seat. Then you thread the seat belt over the exposed base of the seat like this:

So it looks like this:

Then you just lower the seat base down again until it clicks into place.

DONE. It essentially takes the guess work out of the seat belt installation. I know it’s tight enough and it takes less than a minute to install it. And you don’t even have to climb in the seat or anything. Love!

My kiddo loves it, too! Goofball.

Good luck with those car seat installations, folks! Buckle up!

Britax supplied us with a ClickTight car seat but my only compensation was not having to read car seat safety regulations anymore. Thanks again, Claire.

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The Car Seat Lady

LATCH Weight Limits: The Whole Story

What is LATCH?

LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren. The lower anchors are a way of connecting the car seat to the vehicle that does not use the vehicle’s seat belts. The tether is an additional strap that secures the top of the car seat to the frame of the vehicle.

Rigid LATCH: Clek Foonf with rigid lower anchors (circled in blue)

IS LATCH SAFER THAN THE SEAT BELT?

NO!** Seat belts have always been a very safe and effective way to secure a car seat… the problem is that getting a secure installation with a seat belt is often confusing and challenging. LATCH was invented in an attempt to decrease the misuse rate for car seats by giving parents an easier way to secure the child’s car seat to the vehicle. Unfortunately, LATCH did not reduce the misuse rate for car seats; the misuse rate continues to be approximately 90%.

WELL… MAYBE THERE IS ONE TYPE OF LATCH THAT IS SAFER.

**There is one subset of LATCH, found on a few car seats in the US, but widely across Europe, that just may be safer than not only other types of LATCH, but also the seat belt. “Rigid LATCH” is when the lower anchor connectors are rigidly connected to the steel frame of the child’s car seat; this is in contrast to “flexible LATCH” where the lower anchor connectors are sewn on to a flexible strap that you must tighten. Rigid LATCH, by directly securing the steel frame of the child’s car seat to the steel frame of the car, virtually eliminates the side-to-side motion of the car seat in a side-impact. As such, rigid LATCH can better contain the child’s body within the shell of the seat and decreases the chance of the child’s body hitting a hard structure in the vehicle, since the child’s seat can not move as much laterally as it can with flexible LATCH or the seat belt.

Vehicle Seat with close-up of Lower Anchor and symbol on plastic dot

WHAT ARE THE LOWER ANCHORS?

Lower anchors are a pair of metal bars in the vehicle’s seat crack. The anchors, while typically hidden from view, are often marked off by small tag or plastic dot on the vehicle’s seat back.

WHAT ARE THE LOWER ANCHOR CONNECTORS?

Lower anchor connectors can be found on all rear-facing seats, forward-facing seats, and some boosters. They usually are typically a hook or “stapler” at the end of a strap. The lower anchor connectors secure to the lower anchors in the vehicle’s seat crack.

DO I USE THE SEAT BELT AND THE LOWER ANCHORS AT THE SAME TIME?

NO (usually). The lower anchors are typically used INSTEAD OF the vehicle’s seat belt.

There are a few exceptions. The most common exception is with booster seats that offer LATCH, where the lower anchors will secure the booster to the vehicle, and then the vehicle’s seat belt goes across the child’s body to secure the child.

For 5-point harness car seats, there are only 2 seats that currently allow you to use the lower anchors AND seat belt. 1. The Clek Foonf (a convertible seat) when used FORWARD-facing uses the rigid lower anchor connectors AND the vehicle’s seat belt (and the tether too) – which effectively negates the entire issue discussed below of the lower anchors having weight limits. 2. The Nuna Pipa infant seat also allows the use of the rigid lower anchor connectors AND the vehicle’s seat belt.

CAN I USE THE SEAT BELT AND THE LOWER ANCHORS AT THE SAME TIME?

Unless you have a Nuna Pipa base or a forward-facing Clek Foonf, NO you can not use both. Trust that the car seat manufacturer knows their seat best. Unless they tell you to use both, they don’t want you to use both.

Identical seats with identical dummies except farther seat is NOT using the tether, closer seat is. Tether decreases forward head movement by 6 inches!!!

WHAT IS A TETHER?

A tether is the most important part of EVERY forward facing car seat. Tethers (also called top tethers) are a way of connecting the top of the child’s car seat to the vehicle. It’s a two-part system: there needs to be a tether anchor in the vehicle and a tether strap on the child’s car seat. Tethers are never used by themselves; they are always used in addition to the lower anchors or the vehicle’s seat belt. Tether straps can be found on the top of every forward-facing car seat—and some booster seats too. While all convertible seats have tether straps (because convertibles can be used forward facing), onlya few allow the tether to be used when the seat is rear-facing.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A TETHER?

Tethers decrease how far the child’s head moves forward in a crash by 6-8 inches. Tethers are tremendously important in keeping your child’s brain and spinal cord safer. Tethers spread the stress of the crash onto a larger area of the car seat, rather than concentrating the stress along the belt path. With some car seats, tethers allow the sides of the car seat to cocoon the child, rather than with untethered seats where the sides flail out.

WHICH CHILD SEATS HAVE LOWER ANCHORS? WHICH HAVE TETHERS?

CAR SEAT TYPE LOWER ANCHORS? TOP TETHER?
REAR-facing-only CARRIER NO

(exception: when carrier is sold withOUT base)

NO
REAR-facing-only BASE YES NO
REAR-facing CONVERTIBLE YES YES

(a few allow the use of the tether when seat is rear-facing)

FORWARD-facing with 5-Point Harness YES YES
BOOSTER with a HIGH back MAYBE

(some allow use of lower anchors in booster mode)

MAYBE

(some allow use of tether in booster mode)

BOOSTER with NO back MAYBE

(some allow use of lower anchors in booster mode)

NO

LOWER ANCHOR WEIGHT LIMITS

WHY DO LOWER ANCHORS HAVE WEIGHT LIMITS?

There is concern that the lower anchors in the vehicle may not be strong enough to hold heavier kids in heavier seats in some crashes. In a crash, it is the combined weight of the child + car seat that pulls on and stresses the lower anchors. When LATCH was first conceived, there was no such thing as a 5-point harness for a child over 40 pounds and most car seats weighed well under 20 pounds. Today, car seats typically accommodate heavier kids with some 5 point harnesses fitting kids up to 90 pounds. In addition, the car seats are heavier too; many weigh 20-25 pounds, and one weighs 36 pounds!

HAVE THERE BEEN ANY CRASHES WHERE THE LOWER ANCHORS FAILED OR BROKEN?

Three in the crash test lab, but none in real world crashes.

If a lower anchor were to break in a crash, it is most likely to occur with a heavier child in a heavier car seat in a higher speed crash as this scenario puts the most stress on the lower anchors. If the lower anchors do have a maximum weight that they can withstand, we will see this problem manifested in real world crashes only when there are more children using heavier car seats to higher weights. HOWEVER, right now it is purely conjecture that the lower anchors have a maximum weight that they can withstand… as they have never broken in a real world crash that we are aware of.

Here are details on the failures in the crash test lab:

  • Failure #1:
    • Testing done by Transport Canada using a 2007 Nissan Versa
    • MISUSE testing – as car seat was installed with LATCH in center seat, but center was NOT a designated LATCH position (only the 2 side seats were designated LATCH positions)
    • 10y/o dummy (78 pounds) + Britax Regent (25 pounds) = 103 pounds total
    • Notably, the tether strap slipped into the vertical split between the seat backs, causing an abrupt shift of the forces
    • Importantly: child dummy remained in his car seat and the injury measures were not serious
  • Failure #2:
    • Testing done by Transport Canada using a 2010 Kia Forte
    • Car seat installed on the side using LATCH (lower anchors + top tether)
    • MISUSE: Apex 65 harness weight limit is 65 pounds, but dummy weighed 78 pounds
    • 10y/o dummy (78 pounds) + Cosco Apex 65 (13 pounds) = 91 pounds total
    • 35 mph frontal crash test, peak vehicle acceleration was 46 G.
    • The total maximum anchorage loads measured in this test was 20,395 N.
    • During the test, the inboard anchor, which was held in place by two bolts, pulled through the sheet metal resulting in a failure at the attachment point.
  • Failure #3:
    • Testing done by NHTSA using a Kia Forte buck and a front loaded sled pulse at NHTSA’s Vehicle Research and Test Center
    • 6y/o dummy (66lbs) + Cosco Apex 65 (13 pounds) = 79lbs combined
    • Car seat installed on the side
      • First test: installed with LATCH (lower anchors + top tether)
        • Some deformation of the sheet metal with some forward pull of the lower anchors but not a complete failure of the anchorw. The total anchor loads (lower anchors+tether) was measured to be 17,330 N and the total load on the lower anchors (inboard+outboard) was 11,666 N
      • Second test: installed with just the lower anchors (no top tether)
        • Complete failure of the lower anchor hardware. The entire bolt and nut assembly pulled through the sheet metal. The total measured force on the lower anchors in this test was 14,922 N, which is 30 percent higher than the total lower anchor load in the earlier test with the tether attached.
        • Note: this seat did not require the use of the tether

WHAT ARE THE LOWER ANCHOR WEIGHT LIMITS?

For all car seats made on or after February 27, 2014 the government has imposed maximum weight limits on the lower anchors. The limit depends on when your car seat was made.

For car seats made AFTER February 28, 2014:

Your car seat will state – both on a sticker on the car seat as well as in the instruction manual – the maximum child’s weight for using the lower anchors. If your seat goes rear-facing and forward-facing, be aware that the child weight limits in many cases are different for rear-facing and forward-facing.

For rear-facing car seats, the government allows a maximum combined weight of child + car seat of 65 pounds to use the lower anchors. For forward-facing car seats, the government allows a maximum combined weight of child + car seat of 69 pounds to use the lower anchors. The higher limit for forward-facing is given with the assumption that the forward-facing seat will use a tether in addition… which decreases the stress on the lower anchors in a crash.

However, car seat manufacturers do not have to allow up to this maximum. For example, Britax has chosen to make 40 pounds the maximum child’s weight for using the lower anchors for ALL of their seats (except the infant seats because these don’t go to 40 pounds anyway). So, while the Britax Advocate G4 weighs about 19 pounds, and the government would allow the lower anchors to be used up until a child’s weight of 50 pounds (69-19=50), Britax is only allowing up to a child’s weight of 40 pounds.

Conclusion: You must follow the instructions given by the car seat manufacturer.

For car seats made BEFORE February 28, 2014:

First, follow the instruction manual to your child’s car seat. Most car seats will tell you the maximum child’s weight for using the lower anchors.

If the car seat’s lower anchor weight maximum is higher than you were expecting (or are higher than on the same seat made after Feb 27, 2014), please understand that the new limits are NOT retroactive. However, if you would rather take the more conservative route and follow the new limits even on an older seat, you can do so at any time – as seat belts are a very safe and very effective way of securing a car seat to the vehicle.

Also, check to see what your vehicle manufacturer has to say. Some will give a weight limit, others won’t. This table is the most up to date information from the vehicle manufacturers regarding their current lower anchor weight limits. The information in the table is taken from the LATCH Manual by SafeRideNews and in some instances the information in the LATCH manual is the ONLY published, vehicle manufacturer-approved source of the information.

If the car seat does NOT state a maximum, then do the following:

  1. Call the car seat manufacturer and ask them what they advise. If the manufacturer is still making this seat after Feb 27, 2014 you can simply find out what the maximum weight limit being used for the newer seats is and follow this.
  2. OR: Check this chart to see how much the car seat weighs – and do some math. For rear-facing, 65 – car seat’s weight is the maximum child’s weight for using the lower anchors. And for forward-facing, it is the same equation but with 69 pounds.

Second, check the owner’s manual to your vehicle to see if they state a maximum child’s weight for using the lower anchors.

DO THE LOWER ANCHOR WEIGHT LIMITS APPLY TO BOOSTERS ALSO?

Short answer: NO.

First, lets define “booster”; a booster is a seat the child sits on and the child uses the vehicle’s seat belt across them. If the child is using a 5-point harness that comes from their seat, then they are NOT using a booster, and are instead using a car seat. This confuses many parents as there are lots of seats that start out as 5 point harness car seats and can then turn into boosters.

Some booster seats now come with lower anchors. There is NO WEIGHT LIMIT to the lower anchors for booster seats because the booster is not the restraint and does not take the force of a crash. This is in contrast kids sitting in a car seat with a 5 point harness where the car seat DOES take the force of the crash and pulls on the lower anchors.

MY CHILD EXCEEDS THE WEIGHT LIMIT OF THE LOWER ANCHORS… NOW WHAT?

DO I HAVE TO BUY A NEW SEAT?

NO! So long as the child is still within the weight and height limits for the 5-point harness, you can continue to use the car seat but must install it using the vehicle’s seat belt instead of the lower anchors. You should continue to use the tether on every forward facing car seat as it significantly reduces the chance of brain and spinal cord injuries.

DOES THIS MEAN MY CHILD HAS TO GO INTO A BOOSTER NOW?

NO! Your child can continue to use a seat with a 5 point harness so long as they are within the weight and height limits for the 5 point harness on that seat… just make sure you install the car seat using the vehicle’s seat belt (and the tether), not the lower anchors.

DO TETHER ANCHORS HAVE WEIGHT LIMITS TOO?

Some vehicle manufacturers are stating weight limits on their tether anchors. As a pediatrician, this deeply troubles me as I try to practice evidence-based medicine. Limiting the use of tethers exposes the child to proven risks in the hopes of preventing what remains only a theoretical risk (i.e., the tether breaking). Even if the worst case scenario should happen and the tether should fail in a crash, it is likely to break towards the end of the crash—after it has helped manage a lot of the energy of the crash—and would likely still offer significant benefit to the child. A potential risk to the tether breaking in a crash is that the metal hook at the end of the tether strap could fly and hit the child; however, without the tether, the child stands a significantly increased risk of hitting his head on hard structures like the window, door frame, or the back of the front seat.

Note: Recaro is the only manufacturer to specifically state that they want you to stop using the tether after a certain weight; on their ProSport, they do not allow the use of the tether when the child weighs more than 52 pounds. In discussions with the company, there was no scientific reason given for this limit. Ironically, most car seat manufacturers REQUIRE the use of the tether as children get heavier.

WHAT ARE THE CHILD CAR SEAT MANUFACTURERS DOING IN LIGHT OF THE LOWER ANCHOR WEIGHT LIMITS?

A few child car seat manufacturers are getting more innovative with the design of their seats to make it easier for parents to install for heavier kids.

For example:

When using the Clek Foonf forward-facing, you can use the lower anchors to the full maximum of the seat (a child’s weight of 65 pounds) despite the fact that the car seat itself weighs 32 pounds. How is this possible? Clek did extensive testing to show that on their seat using the rigid lower anchors + vehicle’s seat belt + tether is very safe when the seat is used forward facing. The seat belt is the “back-up plan” so that should the lower anchors not be strong enough, the seat belt will hold. The Foonf’s crumple zone technology (REACT system) requires the use of the lower anchors so installing the seat with just the seat belt + tether forward facing would mean missing out on this great feature of this seat.

Britax’s Frontier 90 & Pinnacle 90 feature their “click tight” technology which makes for one of the easiest seat belt installations ever… meaning that you won’t even miss using LATCH as the seat belt installation is as easy as can be. Remember to still use the tether at all times!

WHAT ABOUT THE SUNSHINE KIDS / DIONO CAR SEATS WITH SUPERLATCH?

It depends on whom you ask. But first, an explanation of superLATCH. superLATCH is a stronger lower anchor connector – as it has 4 metal “teeth” instead of the typical single metal “tooth”. This picture here shows a regular lower anchor connector on the left and a superLATCH connector on the right. superLATCH has nothing to do with the lower anchor in the vehicle – it is simply a stronger means of connecting the car seat to the lower anchor in the vehicle.

If you believe that the lower anchors in the vehicle are strong enough to hold any weight of child + car seat, then you would side with Sunshine Kids / Diono on this issue and feel comfortable using their seats with the lower anchors + tether to the maximum weight allowed for the 5 point harness (65 or 80 pounds depending on which particular seat you have). If, however, you believe that the lower anchors in the vehicle may not be strong enough to hold any weight of child + car seat, then you would choose to ignore the issue of superLATCH and would stick to the 65 or 69 pound combined weight.

All Diono seats made after Feb 28, 2014, even those with superLATCH, must comply with the new government regulations. As such, the lower anchor weight limit is a child’s weight of 35 pounds for rear-facing and 40 pounds for forward-facing on the Diono Radian seats.

Note: superLATCH – namely Sunshine Kids/Diono’s permission to use the lower anchors beyond the vehicle’s stated lower anchor weight limit – ONLY applies to vehicles model year 2006 and newer. For vehicles 2005 and older, you must consult the vehicle manual for the lower anchor weight limit.

DO SEAT BELTS HAVE WEIGHT LIMITS?

NO! Seat belts are tested to withstand at least 6,000 pounds of force – and can hold even very large adults.

CAN I USE THE LOWER ANCHORS + VEHICLE’S SEAT BELT?

Unless the child’s car seat specifically allows this (currently, the Nuna Pipa base and the Clek Foonf when used forward-facing are the only seats to allow this) you do NOT want to do this as even though it may seem like a good idea, it turns your child into a guinea pig. If it turns out to not work well in a real crash your child will suffer the consequences. Trust the manufacturer that they know their seat better than you do – if they don’t tell you to do something, don’t do it. Children don’t deserve to be guinea pigs.