Using LATCH to Install Car Seats and Booster Seats

The LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system was developed to make it easier to install child safety seats without the use of seat belts. LATCH can be found in vehicles as well as child safety seats made after Sept. 1, 2002. It consists of built-in straps with hooks on the child's safety seat that attach to anchors in the car.


About LATCH System

Narrator: Of all the frightening statistics we hear about child passenger safety, this may be the scariest. Three out of 4 car seats are not installed correctly. Between the different types of cars and child safety seats, there are literally hundreds of different ways to install a child seat. That's why a different system was developed for installing child safety seats without the use of seat belts. It's called LATCH.

Simply put, it works by using a built-in strap with hooks on the child's safety seat which attach to anchors in the car. LATCH is used for both rear- and forward-facing child safety seats. Most belt-positioning booster seats do not need to be attached to the vehicle so they do not come equipped with LATCH. Any car made after September 2002 must come with LATCH in at least two seating positions. Your vehicle owner's manual will tell you if LATCH is present. You can also look for the built-in latch anchors which are usually marked by a symbol or tag on the vehicle's seat.

LATCH-equipped vehicles will have two lower anchors and one top tether anchor installed in each LATCH seating position. Convertible cars are not required to have tether anchors. LATCH-equipped child safety seats will have two LATCH attachments that connect to the lower anchors. Forward-facing safety seats will also have one top tether strap that connects to the tether anchor in the vehicle. Lower anchors are small horizontal bars that are found in the rear seat of the car where the seat back and bottom seat cushions meet. Top tether anchors for forward-facing safety seats can be found in different areas of your car such as the floor, underneath the vehicle seat or the rear-window shelf. Consult your car manual for help.

The top tether attaches to an anchor in the vehicle. Top tethers greatly reduce the amount of head movement a forward-facing child may experience in a crash. Infant car seats have lower attachments only. If your rear-facing infant seat has a detachable base, only the base will have a set of lower attachments. convertible child safety seats have both a top tether and lower attachments. When installing this seat in a rear-facing position, usually you use only the lower attachment hooks. Some convertible seats available in the United States use a top tether when rear-facing. Check the safety seat's manual. Forward-facing child seats use both a top tether and lower attachment hooks.

LATCH may make it easier to get the child seat in right the first time and every time. With LATCH, you install your child safety seat without using your vehicle seat belt. Of course, you should always check your vehicle and car seat manuals for specific details, but here's some general guidelines for using LATCH:

First, fasten the safety seat's lower attachment to your vehicle's lower anchors. Tighten and adjust according to the instructions in your manual. You may need to use your upper body's weight to press down the seat as you attach the lower attachment hooks for a tight fit. If you are using a child safety seat in the forward-facing position, attach the safety seat's top tether strap to the top anchor in your vehicle. Pull to tighten. Check to see if the seat is tight in the car. You should not be able to move it more than an inch, side to side or forward. Always make sure you are attaching to the LATCH anchors, not part of the vehicle trim or other vehicle tie-downs. And never fasten more than one safety seat to the same anchor. The LATCH system may make car seat installation easier, but remember whether it's by LATCH or by seat belt, any properly installed child safety seat can save lives.

For more good advice on kids and cars, look for a certified car seat technician in your area. You may find a free child safety seat checkpoint or car seat check at a local hospital, police or fire department or state highway safety office. And remember, crashes happen, but with proper precautions, serious injuries don't have to.

This presentation was created by the Kohl's Injury Prevention Program and the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Related Centers and Programs: Car Seat Safety for Kids