We've previously posted about the different kinds of child seats and their uses. One term that came up was Isofix. For parents who are truly serious about the safety of their children, the presence of this system is pretty important in buying a new car.
Isofix, as the name suggests, is derived from ISO regulations on child car seats, as set by the International Standards Organization. LATCH is an alternative title for Isofix, and is an acronym for "Lower Anchor Tethers for Children." This system, while mandatory in the United States, is not required in the Philippines. Yet slowly but surely, more and more new cars feature this system.
Isofix anchors consist of two lower loops per position to which the child seat can be fastened, as well as a top tether anchor for use when the child seat is placed in the forward-facing position.
Some cars have two top tether locations (above); others have three (below).
First things first, however: To secure the child seat, you first have to make sure it is properly positioned. Our guinea pig here is a Graco "My Ride" child seat. It's not the most compact of child seats, but it is priced well, and has good padding and side-impact protection.
Beyond that, it's built for both rear-facing and forward-facing use. That's important, as children can't stay in a rear-facing seat forever.
Most seats built for forward-facing use have a level indicator that shows how the seat should be aligned. This seat has an adjustable base that makes it sit more upright in the forward-facing position.
Once it's in position, locate the lower anchor points. These are usually marked by a little button or a small cloth tag with the word "Isofix." If you're not used to it, it can take a few tries to find the loop. Otherwise, it's pretty easy. It is the task of removing the clips that's difficult.
After securing both anchors, tighten the strap. When removing the seat, don't forget to loosen the strap again!
Next, attach the top tether. This part is pretty easy.
Thread the upper strap under the headrest, and clip it to the tether.
Then tighten the strap. Make sure the seat is centered.
Check that the seat doesn't shift about too much, and that there's no slack in the straps. Sometimes, you will have to put your own weight on the seat to get the straps properly tight.
Installing the seat in rear-facing position is much easier, as this only involves the lower anchors.
The center of the rear bench is typically the safest place for your child seat.
As before, locate the anchor points and latch the belt to them.
Again, pull the belts tight. And again, you may have to put some weight on the chair to get it to sit without wiggling.
And you're done!
If your car doesn't have Isofix, it's still safe to use a rear-facing seat, as long as you have an adjustable center belt, rather than the three-point retractable type as shown here. In fact, using an adjustable-strap center belt is just as safe as using an Isofix system, and offers the advantage of easier extraction of the seat in case of an accident.
This will depend, however, on your child seat having loops for the safety belt, as ours does. And for forward-facing placement, a non-Isofix-compliant vehicle will not have the top tether. While you can wrap or fasten the top anchor to a headrest or the post of the headrest, this is not secure as the strap may slip off or pull the headrest out. This may cause both seat and child to catapult forward in a crash.
If you have a non-Isofix-compliant car, be sure that you're buying a forward-facing seat that has provisions for clipping into the seatbelt system. Forward-facing seats for larger children typically have these, but models for smaller children, like this particular unit, usually do not.
In the end, whatever system you use, common sense and proper research will help ensure the safety and security of your most precious cargo.
But don't forget the most important safety device on your car--that all-important nut behind the wheel.
Photos by Niky Tamayo