LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children. This system was designed to ease the correct installation of child safety seats without using seat belts. LATCH compatibility is in all auto seats, including those in convertibles, as well as in all forward-facing child safety and booster seats made after Sept. 1, 2012. Vehicles made after 2003 should feature anchors installed for LATCH. You can use the LATCH system or the seat belt but just don’t use both together. Both are safe for your child but again should never be used together. It is important to check the weight limit of the LATCH system by reading both your car manual and the car seat manual. The weight restriction includes the weight of the child and the weight of the car seat so it is important to double-check to make sure the LATCH system is still safe to use depending on your child’s weight and the weight of the seat.
The system consists of two main straps.
- The lower anchor straps
- The tether strap (typically just used with a forward-facing seat only)
Lower anchors are a pair of metal U-shaped bars hidden in the vehicle’s seat crack. Use them to fasten the anchor straps. The tether anchor, often a ring or bar, is found behind the vehicle seat, which is typically just used on a forward-facing seat. Always consult your vehicle owner’s manual to locate appropriate LATCH anchors for each seating position. Some seating positions may not be equipped with LATCH.
The LATCH system does have weight limits. You should not use the lower LATCH anchors once your child and car seat reach a combined weight of 65 lbs between the car seat and the child’s weight. Make sure to always check both your car manual and your car seat manual to find out the specified weight restrictions. Excess weight could cause the lower anchors to detach during a crash.
Car seats manufactured after February 2014 will have a label that clearly defines the maximum weight limit for installing that car seat with lower anchors. That maximum weight limit should be 65 lbs when the car seat weight and the child’s weight are combined.
Shortly before the February 2014 final rule went into effect, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration added a few additional stipulations to the requirements for this labeling. Allowing for the child restraint to round the maximum weight limit to the nearest number ending in 0 or 5. All car seats made after February 2015 are required to comply with this final version of the labeling requirements.
A tether strap helps protect the child’s head and neck and decrease the risk for injury if you were involved in a wreck. Always use the top tether strap with safety seats in the forward-facing position, in addition to either the lower anchor strap or the seatbelt. The tether strap is not needed in the rear-facing position. A tether strap keeps a forward-facing seat from tipping forward in a crash. Without it, the child’s head and neck will be jerked forward, hitting the back of the seat in front of them. Using a tether could be the difference between a brain injury or no injury at all.
Booster seats are used with a lap and shoulder belt over the child’s body instead of a five-point harness. Not all booster seats are compatible with LATCH. If yours is, consult the seat manufacturer’s manual for instructions on proper use. If your seat has the LATCH system, it can be used to prevent the booster seat from flying into other occupants if the vehicle is in a crash when the child is not in the seat. With boosters that do not have LATCH, you must buckle the booster into the seat when unoccupied.
Using your car manual and car seat manual:
Always read both your car manual and the car seat manual to find the weight restrictions of the LATCH system. Your car manual will also tell you which seats have the LATCH system and can be used with the lower anchors. We have videos created about the car seat manual and the car manual to help you navigate the important parts of each manual. It will also tell you where you can attach the tether strap to your vehicle. It is important to make sure you know the difference between the lower anchors and the tether strap so you do not install them in the wrong location. Each will be labeled with a symbol on the car seat and also in the manuals that help you distinguish the difference between the tether strap and lower anchors. You may also have a label on your car seat that tells you the weight restrictions of the lower anchors. For more information about car seat labels, watch our video on car seat labels.
There will clearly be a label on the seat that states the weight limit when using the low anchors, which will include the weight of the child and the weight of the seat.