You can install a car seat with either a vehicle seat belt or LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children), depending on your vehicle and preference. Click here to learn more about LATCH.
To install a car seat with a vehicle seat belt, you need to lock the seat belt so the lap portion of the belt stays a fixed length. If the belt loosens during normal driving, the car seat could move too much during a sudden stop or crash putting your child at risk.
Read your vehicle owner manual to learn how your seat belt locks when installing a car seat. Some seat belts have labels on them to tell you how to lock the belt when installing a car seat. Seat belts lock at either a retractor or latch plate.
The retractor is a mechanism that winds up excess seat belt webbing. It is usually inside the vehicle’s structure and cannot be seen. Most newer vehicles have shoulder/lap belts that lock at the retractor by pulling the shoulder belt webbing completely out to activate the locking mechanism.
The latch plate is the part of the belt that clicks into the buckle. In some vehicles, the latch plate has a bar that keeps the lap portion of the belt from moving through the latch plate.
Some seat belts, especially those manufactured before 1996, require special hardware, such as a locking clip, to lock. Click here to learn more about locking clips.