FAQ: What if my child figures out how to open the chest clip on their car seat?

chestclip2We’ve received a few questions recently from parents who tell us that their child has figured out how to open the chest clip on their car seat harness. We wanted to share some information that we hope can help in this situation.

Should my child be able to open the chest clip?

The chest clip (harness tie) needs to be both easy for a caregiver to open quickly in an emergency and complex enough for a child to not easily open it. For instance, Graco’s chest clips have 2 buttons which take both knowledge and dexterity to be opened – and while the vast majority of children cannot open the chest clip, there are some children who figure it out. There are also some adults who find it hard to open. We’ve tried to design our harness tie to fall somewhere in the middle of these competing objectives.


My child has figured it out – how do I get him to stop!?

The best way to discourage your child from opening their chest clip is refusing to drive anywhere without them properly strapped in. It takes consistency and some discipline to help them understand that the chest clip needs to stay closed.

Here are some additional tips:

- Has your child been in the car too long? Allow for frequent stops and make sure they have had plenty of exercise before a long trip.

- Set a good example by always buckling yourself in when you get in the car.

- Keep soft toys and cloth books in the car – nothing heavy or with sharp edges that could injure someone in a crash – that can keep a child busy.

- Sing songs together or play music your child enjoys.

- Let your child buckle in a baby doll in a toy car seat (available in the doll section of big toy stores) to help get them involved.

- Finally, do NOT adapt or modify the chest clip in anyway to make it more difficult for the child to open, as the chest clip does need to be easy enough to quickly open in case of an emergency.

If you notice that your child has opened their chest clip while driving, we recommend that you calmly pull over as soon as possible to a safe location, close the chest clip and emphasize to your child the importance of keeping the chest clip closed. While an opened chest clip is important to close as soon as possible, it is perhaps even more critical that the harness straps are in the proper slots and snugly adjusted around your child.

Why kids need to remain strapped in at all times:

First and foremost, it’s extremely important that your child be snugly strapped into their harness at all times. A snug but comfortable harness is important for good protection in case of a crash. If there is a lot of slack in the harness at the time of a crash, the child first moves forward unrestrained but is then abruptly stopped by the loose straps. This can cause greater injury than if the straps were already snugly against the child’s body.

However, the harness should not be too tight either – it shouldn’t press on the child’s flesh or push the child’s body into an unnatural position. A common way to check that the harness is snug enough is the pinch test. After adjusting the harness so it is snug but comfortable, try to pinch the harness webbing along its length (not its width). If you can grab some of the webbing, it is too loose.


Need more information?

Carseat.org offers these and other helpful tips for parents.  You are also welcome to get in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter, here on the blog and by e-mail if you have additional questions or concerns about your chest clip. If you have any concern that the clip might be too tight or too loose, always get in touch with Graco to check.

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77 Responses to “FAQ: What if my child figures out how to open the chest clip on their car seat?”

  1. Jessica February 13, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

    Did anyone find a solution for their graco natulus or graco argus cheast strap. Our two year old is constantly opeing it. It think by now this should be recalled!

  2. Elizabeth March 19, 2013 at 12:58 am #

    I was hoping to find a resolution to my issue, however, coming to the Graco website did not help in the least! My 2 year old constantly unbuckles his chest clip. We first discovered him”loose” from the chest harness while driving down the road and he was able to reach the door handle!!!!!!!!!!……thankfully, we had the child proof lock on!!!!! I have tried EVERYTHING! The additional tips were comical…something needs to be done to correct this issue. If your looking to get a Graco carseat, check out the harness first…it’s absolutely not child proof..and PLEASE, make sure your child proof locks are on!

  3. Jennifer April 16, 2013 at 2:49 am #

    My 14 month old daughter just figured out how to undo her chest clip on our Size4Me :( She is not old enough to explain the necessity of staying buckled. There has to be a better solution! Can the buckle be turned around or covered?

  4. John April 23, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    Thanks for this super helpful tutorial (sarcasm). Let’s just hope we don’t get in a wreck during the months it might take to implement this “quick and easy” process of teaching a 15-month old the importance of staying strapped in his car seat.

    Just admit you need to build a better strap. My kid is not a genius (I mean, I think he is, but he’s not). This is a horrible and dangerous design flaw. Also, not real safe to pull off on the hwy to strap your kid back in. Just do better.

    The only actual effect of this tutorial is that it will show Graco’s prior knowledge of the design-flaw when the inevitable tragedy happens.

  5. Emily G April 30, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    My 17 month old keeps unclipping this thing and she nearly flopped out of her car seat. It’s impossible to calmly pull over ever 2 minutes to put her back in. She is too young to understand and this needs to be recalled!! This seat is supposed to be up to 70 pounds so that should be for a long time!!

  6. Derald June 19, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    This needs to addressed and fixed right away. My son was barely a year when figured out how to open this. He doesn’t yet understand consequences well enough to bargain with him to close the strap, yet possesses enough “strength and dexterity” to open it.

    Fix it, Graco.

  7. Christina martini July 1, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    I agree with John…. I have bought 2 smart seats $600 dollars worth… And should last me the rest of the time my son needs to be in a car seat. But he can in do his clip in 1 min and he is 18 months old. He can not understand your solution of reason. Pretty sad that when I googled the problem this site was first to come up.. I want it fixe ASAP!!!!

  8. Amanda July 24, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    My duaghter has been able to undo the Graco chest clip since she was 1 year old. I will not be buying Graco car seats in the future due to this design flaw. Other car seat brands have a tighter chest clip design. The Graco design is NOT difficult to open and takes very little pressure to open it. In the future we will use a chest clip that has a 3-point pressure release.
    PLEASE CREATE A REPLACEMENT GRACO! It’s very sad that I’ve spent $200 on an unsafe seat. :(

  9. jessica July 29, 2013 at 1:00 am #

    my 17 month old unbuckled herself today from her graco my ride 65 multiple times. i pulled over each time, gave her books and toys to distract her, and it happened over and over. she absolutely does not understand the importance of wearing her seat belt and the consequences of not doing so (obviously..17 months old). i was convinced there must have been a recall, and this is what i found i’m disgusted. how can i continue using such an unsafe car seat? but how can i afford another? this is awful.

  10. Kristen August 20, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    This is a terrible design flaw. I am at the point where I had to switch my 10 month old and two year old so that my 10 month old is in my Graco carseat and my 2 year old is now in my Evenflo Titan (which was cheaper and she can’t unclip the buckle!). I am very disappointed that a big name company like Graco is so unresponsive to such a dangerous issue. I now have to go out and purchase ANOTHER car seat, because I’m sure my 10 month old will have this clip figured out in no time.

    I am at that age where all my friends are having kids, and you can bet I will be telling everyone and their mother not to buy Graco carseats!

  11. Rachel September 27, 2013 at 1:23 am #

    I have a 28 month old daughter who has been able to undo this strap for a year now .
    I’m furious! I was forced to use the spare I have ($50 cosco) instead of the $300 Graco
    Signature (Larkin) that I have. I have tried ever “tip” in this list with no avail.., what a joke. Graco needs to recall this horrible design in the harness.

  12. Mara October 3, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    I am shocked that there hasnt been a recall of the graco carseats because of these dangerous clips. My 2 year old can easyly undo the clip with two fingers!! The “tips” above a useless!!! Don’t they think I already tried all that BEFORE looking for an aswer to this clip problem.

    I spent $300 a Graco “top pf the line” “safe as can be” carseat so that I contemplate throwing it out the window and replacing it with a $50 costco carseat every single day my kid unbuckles herself on the highway. Where is the accountabily? I say, the least Graco can do is recall their car seats and replace them with the clips that latch in the front and not cip on the sides. If they don’t want to recall it then at least I want a refund!!!!!

  13. Mara October 3, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

    BTW, I’m serious about my refund!

  14. michael October 5, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

    hello i dont think my daughter is a genius either ( as i write this she is sticking the ear phone plug into her ear) but she has this thing down pat. i turn away for a second and this thing is open. yes i can understand the emergency thing but if this isnt corrected, stopping short will turn into an emergency. from there it will turn into a class action lawsuit against grace. please fix this or many of us will never purchase your products again.

    good day!

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  19. jackie butler October 18, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    really, are you all going to blame a company, what happenens when your kid is 15 and unbuckles his belt, there needs to be a fix to this but not scream recall! hello my daughter got out of her britax yesterday, yes i said britax, but the way some of you are acting, i doubt you have heard of that high end baby company.

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  22. Jessica February 13, 2014 at 1:32 am #

    My daughter also figured out how to unbuckle it by age 2. This should be recalled! I am disgusted I spent $300 on a Smart Seat and I can’t even use it because it’s not safe. You can’t reason with a 2 year old and I shouldn’t have to. We bought a cheap $30 car seat from Walmart and she cannot unbuckle that one!

  23. Hollie March 14, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

    What a freaking joke! This tutorial is absurd. My daughter has got out so many times that it isn’t funny. Graco needs to add this to their MANY recalls and fix the problem ASAP!

  24. Jessica April 21, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

    I recently purchased a Graco Myride 65 for my 2 year old after eyeing it for quite awhile. I loved the design, reviews on amazon were excellent, but of course I could not afford it. We were riding with a Cosco that I purchased for $30 after she outgrew her bucket seat. It took me more than a year to be able to afford to purchase a “better” seat. This was the most horrible decision that I have ever made. She figured out how to open the chest clip within a month. I can now no longer drive with her in the car because this is a constant issue. I have tried everything to stop her short of duct taping the thing closed!

    I am stuck with a car seat that I cannot use and I cannot afford another one. You better believe that I will be yelling this one from the rooftops, posting bad reviews everywhere, and will never ever purchase another Graco product.

    I am disgusted by how Graco is handling this situation, it is clear that my child’s safety is of no priority to this company.

  25. Jillianne B July 2, 2014 at 12:39 am #

    Has anyone come up with a solution?
    I’m thinking wrapping a cloth or something around the clip to make it more difficult. Maybe Velcro it together? I think turning the clips around wouldn’t be safe in an accident?? My baby is 17 months and constantly unbuckled himself! Kinda scary to think he would fly out if I get into a car crash. I am a trauma nurse so think about these things and all about keeping my little guy safe. I’m sure Graco isn’t the only seat that has this issue. We just need to figure out away around our smart little kids!!!!!!

  26. Sarah Schroeder July 29, 2014 at 7:18 pm #

    Graco should recall this Chest clip! My three year old opens his constantly- it has become aakor source of battles and tantrums. My four and a half year old is in a britax and can’t even open his. I am done with graco- their response to this issue is unacceptable.

  27. Sheleen August 12, 2014 at 9:16 pm #


    I am a mom of three, I have been an avid purchaser of graco products for all three children wesince the day I found out I was expexting my first child. I have spent a generous amount of money upgrading carseats to the safest next step. We have a Graco Nautilus seat for my 2year old and she has quickly learned how to open the chest harness and the bottom push clasp. This does not take rocket science to open theae clasps this is such a joke reading graco tutorial. I feel like they already knew about the design flaw before the manufactured the seat, hence the rediculous tutorial to teach our younge not so eager to listen toddlers to not open the buckle. This is such a safety issue, I am discusted in yhe comment the phone representtive gave me about getting adhesive velcroe the rough part and sticking it to the buckle because kids dont tend to like the feel of the ugh stuff. What the hell kind of safety ettiquette does the company follow when it comes to the care and overall wellbeing of our most prized possessions. I am a huge anti Graco customer now. I will be choosig a company that is more proactive in safety and wellbeing. I hope I can help at least one person with my novel ive just wrote. . Thanks for reading. Happy hunting for safety everyone.