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As a certified child passenger safety Advocate and technician, I regularly see folks arrive at clinics with their car seats installed on vehicle seat protectors. What I don’t like to do is tell a caregiver they are potentially putting their child in danger. It is a tough position to be in.
When asked what the best vehicle seat protectors are, I have difficulty answering for clients. It is kind of a loaded question. Because, technically speaking, seat protectors are not recommended. What happens is they fall under the category of aftermarket products.
What is an aftermarket product you ask? Well, an aftermarket product is exactly as it sounds, it is a product that was made after the production of your child’s seat. Although they claim to be crash-tested, chances are they are not tested with every single model of a seat on the market.
With thousands of different brands that produce vehicle seat protector or cover it is difficult to list every single one.
Here are a few items to consider before shopping.
- Read Your Manual. Every manufacturer has its own rules and regulations for the use of its seats. Not every manufacturer allows it. Some manufacturers only allow the use of their own branded seat protectors, a thin towel, or nothing at all. This includes reading your vehicle manual as well.
- Some seat protectors mask a poor installation. This means you protecting your vehicle seats but putting your child in danger with an unsafe installation.
- Know that your seat protector will become a cesspool of bacteria, mold, and the never-ending black hole of goldfish crackers.
Let’s Break it Down
As a technician, I know it is hard for me to convince caregivers and clients that their seat does not need a mat. However, having this handy chart can help folks decide for themselves what they are permitted to use.
|Manufacture||Yes||No||Brand Specific||Single layer towel||Special exceptions special||Special Notes|
|Baby Trend||*||*||Only Protect & Secure Models|
|Britax||*||Only Britax Mat|
|Chicco||*||Chicco Mat is also not approved by|
|Clek||*||Only with Clek Mat Thingy|
|Diono||*||Eddie Bauer Mat is also not approved|
|Evenflo||*||*||Only Evenflo Undermat Permitted|
|Nuna||*||Not recommended but not prohibited|
|Phil&Teds||*||Phil&Teds protector not approved for use with seats|
|Uppa Baby||*||Only approved with; Brica, Munchkin Auto Seat Protector, and Diono’s Super Mat and Ultra Mat|
As you can see, the majority of these manufacturers do not permit the use of a mat or even a thin towel under their seats. Those that do allow it, range from requiring you to use their own branded mats or very specific mats.
Rear-Facing Muddy Boots
- Kick mat: With many folks protecting their babies’ spines by rear-facing longer comes the struggle of muddy boots and the back of the vehicle seat. A dynamic duo in the province of Quebec, Canada has come up with a great solution. Les Deux Frisées has invented a kick mat that goes on the back of your seat attached to your headrest. It comes in various colors and patterns. It is thin and won’t interfere with your seat’s installation.
- Old T-Shirt: You can also take an old t-shirt and slide it over your vehicle seat to have the same effect as a kick-mat. This falls into the recycle re-use category.
- Towel: A simple towel over the headrest can also help with those muddy boots.
- Take boots off: If your children are like mine, shoes and boots go flying all over the car when on long trips.
As with any aftermarket product please verify with your manufacturer that the product being used does not interfere with anything safety-wise.
Answer: When it comes to car seats, only the professionals can say yay or nay to what is permitted. A lot goes into the testing of seats to pass the Federal Test Standards.
If your seat states that nothing can be used, it is because it was not tested with that extra inch or layer under the seat. That extra layer could be what makes or breaks the momentum approved in a collision.
Answer: If you have to use this vehicle for your family every day, you should know the risks involved with going against the manufacturer’s instructions. There is only so much I as a technician can do to educate caregivers on what is permitted and what is not. There comes a point where I must say use at your own risk.
I just bought one of those fitted seat covers with a mini mouse all over it for my back seat. It has LATCH placement holes I should be fine. They wouldn’t make it if it’s not safe.
Unfortunately, there is no regulation on the sale of aftermarket products. All I as a technician can do is tell you to reach out to your car seat manufacturer for instructions. Folks need to also take into account that those added covers possibly go against your vehicle requirements also. They pose a risk to sensors for airbags. Always check your manuals.
If you’re going to drive a fancy car with children, you are going to have to realize that children get messy. It doesn’t matter if you’re a strict no snack in the car family or a take-off-your-boot kind of family. Your seat will get messy.
When choosing to grow a family, certain things just come with the territory of being a parent. You should never jeopardize your family’s safety over your vehicle interior. Yes, as a technician I see clients come in extremely worried or upset about their leather seats.
It is important to note that leather does bounce back. No matter how long a seat is installed leather will bounce back from the indents of a seat. Yes, there is the occasional mishap where the leather can be damaged.
This is by far the most difficult article to write as I can’t give you a favorite. Nor can anyone who is trained and certified in child passenger safety. Even with the use of their own branded mats, it is easy to mask an improper installation. It is best to double-check your installations to ensure that your seat is installed as securely as possible.
With roughly 80% of seats used incorrectly, a mat is the least of our worries as technicians. Making sure your seat is installed correctly and the right fit for your child and vehicle is all that will matter when it comes down to it.
Saving Lives, One Car Seat At A Time.