Car Seat Safety: How to properly use your 5-point harness

A 5-point harness is one of the most important parts of your child restraint, and proper use of the harness is critical to keeping your little one as safe as possible.

Here are some important tips to help you make sure you’re using the harness on your car seat correctly every time:

How long should my child stay harnessed in his car seat?
All children in a rear-facing car seat MUST be harnessed with a 5-point harness at all times. Children in a forward-facing car seat should be harnessed as long as the seat will allow.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a child stay harnessed in a forward-facing car seat until they are at least 4 years old and at least 40 lbs. Seats like the Graco MyRide 65 and the Graco Nautilus will keep your child in a 5-point harness up to 65 lbs.

Proper shoulder position for harness straps:
The proper shoulder positioning for harness straps differs depending on whether your child is rear-facing or forward-facing. As a general rule:

FOR A REAR-FACING CAR SEAT: Use harness slots that are AT or BELOW the child’s shoulder level
FOR A FORWARD-FACING CAR SEAT: Use harness slots that are AT or JUST ABOVE the child’s shoulder level

Always check your car seat’s manual to confirm proper shoulder positioning for that specific car seat.

Proper harness fit:
To ensure your child is as safe as possible in his car seat, it is critical that the harness has a snug fit and is positioned correctly. These tips are for any age or size child, rear-facing, or forward-facing.

Snug fit:
When strapping your child into a harness, always perform the “pinch test” on the straps above the harness clip. You should not be able to pinch any of the webbing on the harness strap. If you can, the straps are too loose.

The harness needs to be snug against your child’s body to ensure he is as safe as possible during a crash. That means a child should never be strapped into a car seat in a winter coat. See here for some tips on how to keep your little one warm in the winter while still keeping him safe in his car seat.

Correct positioning:
The harness clip should be at your child’s armpit level. Another way to remember the correct positioning is to make sure the chest clip is over your baby’s heart.

Let us know what other questions you have about properly using your car seat’s 5-point harness. We’re here to help!

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5 Responses to “Car Seat Safety: How to properly use your 5-point harness”

  1. Amanda January 12, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

    I think it is great that you are sharing the important information on how to properly restrain a child in a 5 point harness! Although I would like to point out that even though the weight limits on the MyRide and Nautilus are 65lbs for the harness often they are outgrown by height and many people do not realize that once their child reaches that top harness slot they have outgrown their seat even if the weight has not been reached. Thanks for the great products…my 4 year old loves her Nautilus and still has plenty of room to grow in the 5pt. harness!

  2. Kim January 12, 2011 at 11:43 pm #

    Also – keep the straps flat! Having them all twisted and stuff seems very unsafe – your child’s weight will not properly distribute across the straps in the event of a crash.

  3. Kelly V. January 13, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    Thank you both for the comments!

  4. Car Roof Racks UK February 4, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    I think you are try car seat love lol ;) . I myself believe that everything should be maintained properly and since car seat offer us comfort while traveling so it should be maintained. The ways that you have suggested I agree with those and wish to follow the same. Thanks!

  5. candace derry September 30, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    How do you re-thread it? I was using it for my son (now 8), but I need it for my 2 year old in another car. Please help. I cannot find my manual :-(

    Thank you,