Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Crazy over my car seat

My (er, Ethan's) car seat is driving me batty. It's a Britax Frontier. I purchased it not quite a year ago because I had to play around with the boys' seating arrangements in the backseat. To make a long story short...or maybe longer come to think of it, Eli had outgrown his infant carrier/car seat combo and Ethan had long outgrown the Britax Roundabout. I was very happy with the Britax Marathon that Ethan was in but Eli needed it because I didn't want to buy another Roundabout since they outgrow them so quickly. I had to purchase, at the minimum, two new car seats (both for Ethan) while Eli went into the Roundabout in Adam's car and into the Marathon in my car. Are you with me still??? No? I don't blame you...the car seat craze at my house is enough to keep my head spinning. Suffice to say, I did tons of research and lots of mathematical projections to come to the conclusion that I needed to buy a combination booster (a booster that provides you the ability to use it as a five-point-harness car seat AND ALSO a belt positioning booster).

So saving you the boring math and reading recap, just know that I wound up buying a Graco Nautilus for Adam's car (Even though I HATE the way the Graco seats buckle. The clasps are always wonky to me.) and a Britax Frontier for my car. Why didn't I buy identical seats? First, I love the Britax product so wanted to make sure I at least had ONE Britax, preferably in the car that Ethan spends the most time in. They are admittedly expensive, but also the safest seat around. All my Britax seats have worn well, have been easy to install and worth their weight in gold. Why didn't I get two of them, then? Because they are admittedly expensive. The Graco Nautilus had the same safety ratings that the Frontier had and since Adam has Ethan in his car so rarely, I couldn't justify the hefty price tag for a second Frontier.

As if the decision making process for these darn seats didn't seem complicated enough, fast forward to the installation of said seats. The Nautilus, which I considered to be the stepchild of car seats, was an absolute breeze to install. I barely had to glance at the directions and was able to install it correctly on the first try.

Not so much with the Frontier. I think it took me two hours. Maybe that's not true. Maybe it was three. Seriously. HORRIBLE!!! First off, the LATCH clips are situated in a horrible way where you are required to thread them through the front of the seat to the back. Which would be fine, except the pathway for the clips and the part that you tighten them with is too narrow. So it is impossible to tighten them all the way because they get hung up on the back of the carseat. UNLESS you position the seat the way you would if you were using it as just a belt-positioning booster. And then wear a red shirt while you install the seat on the third Tuesday of the month and spin around three times before opening the box.

But seriously, going against the safety instructions really freaks me out. So, in order to position the seat the WRONG way to make it work the RIGHT way, you have to flip a platform underneath the seat in the the opposite direction you are supposed to flip it for the five-point-harness seat installation. Have I mentioned I don't like going against safety rules? And it took me two hours to figure this out. I finally won the battle with the car seat and emerged from the garage sweaty, my hands and fingers scraped and bleeding practically beyond recognition and my patience was nowhere to be found. I think I kicked things on the way into the house.

We've been riding around in Britax bliss (well, blissful except for the safety recall as well as the issue with consistently twisted straps, which I believe is related to the recall) for the last 10+ months. Fast forward to today. I had taken Ethan's seat out (which I NEVER do. For obvious reasons.) and had to reinstall it on the fly this morning. It did not go well. But I didn't have time to fool with it because we were running late (me!? late!? how odd!!). I decided at the moment where I scraped my hand and hit my head on the ceiling of the car that no car seat is worth the aggravation (or the injuries) that the Britax Frontier has caused.

Plus, the stupid cup holders (which is a feature I LOVE since my oldest son is always "completely thirsty" in the car) are BOTH broken. All in all, the Frontier is not a good design and a big disappointment. I should've stuck with the Nautilus. And in a fit of irritation, I strapped Ethan into his improperly installed Frontier to run to the store to purchase my second stepchild of carseats and am now the proud owner of two Graco Nautilus seats.

My friend over at asked me today, all this over installation? Well, yes. With Ethan starting kindergarten in the fall August 10th, I foresee many play dates in his future and I can't fathom having to repeat this epic battle of the Britax. Plus the straps will not remain untwisted for any extended period of time and to properly fix them, I need to uninstall the car seat which then puts me in the unfortunate position of having to reinstall it yet again. So yes, all of this over installation issues. So stick a fork in me because I'm done with the Frontier. PLUS, the Nautilus converts into a backless booster, so it is actually THREE seats in one (a five-point-harness car seat, a belt positioning booster and a backless booster). So now here's my question. How did I miss all this the first time around?


Tim said...

"I barely had to glance at the directions and was able to install it correctly on the first try."

Jennifer, this troubles me a bit. You MUST look at the directions completely, otherwise you can't know if it is installed correctly. The seats these days are getting complicated (as you know from your Frontier experience), so it is important to read all the instructions. Also, on the Frontier, did you try to tighten the LATCH straps by pulling the loop through the holes in the back of the seat?? That seems to work well for me (although it is too late for that advice now).

Also, remember to check the weight limit on the LATCH system for your vehicle. Once the boys are over that limit (usually 40 or 48 lbs), you must use the seatbelt to secure the car seat.

Another thing to remember - do not use backless boosters if there is no headrest where the child is sitting!

Monica said...

You missed it because, like me, you REALLY wanted to like the Britax- it seems like the next step. To go from a Britax to a Graco feels like a step down! But I'm glad you did it first because I didn't even bother. I shed a few tears looking at the Frontier in the store, wishing it were a better seat, and bought two Nautili (Nautiluses?). Since I only need one here (and one for the cars at home) I am hoping that by the time I get back to the US and need another seat, perhaps the Frontier will re-invent itself. Until then, I'm a slightly-shamefaced-'cause-it's-not-Britax owner of a solidly installed Graco Nautilus.

Jen said...

Hi Tim!

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog post about one of my favorite topics - car seats! So sorry to have concerned assured that my comment about not reading the directions was simply tongue-in-cheek. I like to be a little dramatic every now and again but realized I could've alarmed some folks who might be picturing me driving around the mean streets of Atlanta with my children strapped to my roof with shoe strings. Before I was a stay-at-home mom and car seat extraordinaire, I was a process manager so I have a particular (and perhaps unnatural) affinity for reading instructions.

I am a car seat research fanatic and my favorite class that my husband and I took through the hospital during our preparation for our first son was the car seat safety class (every one else I know that took it hated it...not us!). Thanks for all the great info you provided. Others may not be as fastidious as you, so thank you! I heard (in my infamous car seat class) that 97% of car seats are installed incorrectly. Frightening!

P.S. Hop over to my friend's site, She has a whole week of blog posts dedicated to all things kid and car related and I'm sure you'll enjoy the car seat discussions. Be safe!

Tim said...

I wasn't really concerned, I knew that someone who put so much effort into it would read the manual. It's amazing how many people don't.

I always notice these posts because I am a Child Passenger Safety Technician and deal with people all the time that don't really do much to ensure their kids are safe. Most of the misuse in car seats is minor, but some cases are pretty frightening.

I was very close to getting a Nautilus last year, it is a really nice seat.

See ya.

Guest said...

In my area, the police will help you make sure a child's car seat is installed properly. It might be worth it to drop by the station. They may even give your boys a tour or a junior badge.

The Parsonage Family said...

I never thought I would be this interested in a post about car seats. Wow, how parenting changes you. I found you through Deep South Moms, and I think I'm going to subscribe! Best wishes.