Car Seats

Your child needs a car seat to keep him safe while travelling because:

  • He has weak back and neck muscles and needs extra support
  • His bones and spine are still growing and need to be protected in a collision

Car seats and the law

In Ontario, children weighing less than 18 kg (40 pounds) must use a car seat while travelling in a vehicle.

  • If your child weighs less than 9 kg (20 pounds), they must use a rear-facing car seat while travelling in a vehicle
  • If your child weighs more than 9 kg (20 pounds), they can use a forward-facing car seat while travelling in a vehicle

Drivers are responsible for following the law.  If they do not, they can be given a fine and two demerit points.

When can children stop using a car seat?

Keep your child in their car seat until they reach the maximum height or weight limit. Some forward-facing car seats allow children to use them until they are 29 kg (65 pounds).  The law in Ontario says children must be in a car seat until they weigh at least 18 kg (40 lbs).  

Canadian safety standards

All car seats used in Canada must have a Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, or CMVSS, label. This tells you that your car seat meets current Canadian safety rules. It is illegal to import or use a car seat that does not meet Canadian standards.

Rear-facing car seats are for children between 1.8 and 20 kg (4 to 45 pounds). Check each car seat for specific weight and height limits.

A child under two years old should sit in a rear-facing car seat because:

  • his neck and muscles are not strong
  • his head is large and heavy
  • it will keep his head from flopping forward
  • during a crash the impact is spread across the back of the seat

Children under the age of two years are 75% safer in a rear-facing car seat.

Choose a car seat that:

  • you can easily install in your vehicle
  • makes it easy to buckle up and remove your child
  • has adjustable shoulder harness levels
  • fits your child’s current weight and height
  • has higher weight and height limits to grow with your child

Types of car seats

There are three types of rear-facing car seats.  The best rear-facing car seat is the one that fits your child and your vehicle.

1. Infant-only car seat
Use this seat in a rear-facing position only. 

2. Convertible 2-in-1 car seat
Use this car seat rear-facing and forward-facing. 

2-in-1 car seat

3. Convertible 3-in-1 seat
Use this seat rear-facing, forward-facing and as a booster seat. 

3-in-1 car seat

Expiry dates and recalls

Most car seats expire within five to ten years. Check Transport Canada to see how long your seat is good for.

Mail the car seat registration card that comes with the car seat to the manufacturer. They will contact you if there are any problems or recalls with your car seat. 

Transport Canada does not recommend used car seats because you may not know the history of the car seat.

If you choose a used car seat make sure that it:

  • has a CMVSS label
  • has not been in a car crash
  • has not been dropped on the ground
  • has not been recalled
  • has not expired
  • has all of its parts and manual
  • has no added pieces
  • is in good condition
  • has no marks on plastic
  • has no fraying on the straps
  • has no ripped fabric 

A child under two years old should sit in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat of your vehicle.   

How to install a rear-facing car seat

Read your vehicle manual and your car seat manual to find out where the safest spot is for your child’s car seat. The manuals will tell you where and how to correctly install the car seat.

If your vehicle does not have a back seat, you will have to turn off or deactivate the passenger airbag before putting the car seat in the passenger seat.

Car seat inspections and installations

You can have your child’s car seat inspected or installed by a certified car seat technician.  Check the Car Seat and Booster Seat Clinics schedule to find out when clinics are open and book an appointment.

How to buckle up your child in a rear-facing car seat

Make sure:

  • the chest clip is level with his armpits
  • there is at least 2.5 cm (1 inch) between the top of his head and the top of the car seat
  • the harness slots are at or slightly below his shoulders
  • the harness is tight; you should not be able to pinch the harness strap at your baby’s collarbone

Forward-facing car seats are made for children between 10 and 29 kg (22 – 65 pounds).

Check each car seat for specific weight and height limits.

Do not switch your child to a forward-facing car seat until they outgrow the height or weight limits of their rear-facing car seat.

Choose a car seat that:

  • you can easily install in your vehicle
  • makes it easy to buckle up and remove your child
  • has adjustable shoulder harness levels
  • fits your child’s current weight and height
  • has higher weight and height limits to grow with your child

Types of car seats

There are three types of forward-facing car seats.  The best forward-facing car seat is the one that fits your child and your vehicle.

1. Convertible 2-in-1 car seat
Use this car seat rear-facing and forward-facing. 

2-in-1 car seat

2. Convertible 3-in-1 seat
Use this seat rear-facing, forward-facing and as a booster seat. 

3-in-1 car seat

3. Combination seat
Use this seat forward-facing and as a booster seat. 

Expiry dates and recalls

Most car seats expire within five to ten years. Check Transport Canada to see how long your seat is good for.

Mail the car seat registration card that comes with the car seat to the manufacturer. They contact you if there are any problems or recalls with your car seat.

Used car seats

Transport Canada does not recommend used car seats because you may not know the history of the car seat.

If you choose a used car seat make sure that it:

  • has a CMVSS label
  • has not been in a car crash
  • has not been dropped on the ground
  • has not been recalled
  • has not expired
  • has all of its parts and manual
  • has no added pieces
  • is in good condition
  • has no marks on plastic
  • has no fraying on the straps
  • has no ripped fabric 

Keep your child rear-facing as long as possible. When you buy a car seat, choose one you can use in the rear-facing and forward-facing positions. Keep your child rear-facing until they reach the height or weight limit for that position in their seat.

Children need strong neck and back muscles to safely use a forward-facing seat. 

How to install a forward-facing car seat

Read your vehicle manual and your car seat manual to find out where the safest spot is for your child’s car seat. The manuals will tell you where and how to correctly install the car seat.

If your vehicle does not have a back seat, you will have to turn off or deactivate the passenger airbag before putting the car seat in the passenger seat.

All forward-facing car seats must use a tether strap. Tethering keeps your child’s head from moving too far forward in a sudden stop or crash.

Car seat inspections and installations

You can have your child’s car seat inspected or installed by a certified car seat technician.  Check the Car Seat and Booster Seat Clinics schedule to find out when clinics are open and book an appointment.

How to buckle up your child in a forward-facing car seat

Make sure:

  • the middle of his ear is below the top of the car seat
  • the harness slots are at or slightly above her shoulders
  • the harness is tight; you should not be able to pinch the harness strap at the child’s collarbone
  • the chest clip is level with his armpits 
 

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