Car Seat Safety
Learning About LATCH
The Easier Way to Install a Car Seat
LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) is a
way to attach a child’s car safety seat (car seat) to the car
without using a seat belt. It is called UAS in Canada and
ISOFIX in Europe.
LATCH can make tight installation easier in a car seating
position that has LATCH parts. A top tether gives extra
protection for children in forward-facing seats. The tether can
also be used when the car seat is installed with a seat belt.
The LATCH system has two parts (see picture, right):
Top tether strap
LATCH anchors in
car: tether anchor
(top), two lower
anchors (below).
• On car seats: Tether and lower (LATCH) attachments are
on most car seats made after September 1, 2002. Most
are flexible straps with connectors. A few models have
rigid lower LATCH connectors.
A top tether strap has been included on all forwardfacing car seats since 2000.
• In cars (including SUVs, vans, and pickups): All cars
since 2003 have LATCH (a pair of lower anchors and a
tether anchor). Many models from 2001 and 2002 also
have LATCH. Tether anchors have been required in most
cars since 2000. Many older cars can be retrofitted with
tether anchors, but not lower anchors.
What is the LATCH system in a car?
Check the car owner’s manual for locations of tether
and lower anchors. Many are marked with the symbols
shown below. Each position with a LATCH system has:
Two lower anchors: A pair of small metal
bars located where the lower seat cushion
meets the seatback. They may be up to 3
inches behind the cushion. Hidden anchors
are marked, often with a small round symbol
on the seatback (right). A few cars have small Lower anchor
tags that say “ISOFIX” or “LATCH.”
One tether anchor: A bar, bracket, cable
loop, or webbing strap located somewhere
behind the seat back. Locations vary (shelf,
seatback, floor, roof, etc.). It may be marked
Tether anchor
with a tether anchor symbol (right).
Every Ride
A Safe Ride
Car seat with LATCH
system installed in a car
with tether and lower
Cars with LATCH must have a full system (two lower
anchors and a tether anchor) in at least two rear seating
positions. A third seating position must have a tether
anchor that can be used with a car seat installed with the
seat belt. In cars with three rows of seats, at least one of
the LATCH positions must be in the second row.
Most cars have a tether anchor in the center back. Some
cars also have lower anchors in the center back, but most
do not. (Check the owner’s manual.) If there are no lower
anchors there, use the seat belt instead (see page 2).
Basics of Using LATCH
Always read and follow instructions for both the car
seat and the car.
Always tighten LATCH straps after connecting them
to the anchors in the vehicle. In most cases, tighten the
lower anchor straps before tightening the tether strap.
Use the seat belt instead if the lower anchor straps
do not hold the car seat tightly. Do not install a car seat
with the seat belt and lower anchor straps together,
unless the car and car seat instructions say it is okay.
Do NOT use lower anchors in the center position
to install a car seat UNLESS the car AND the car seat
instructions allow it. If it is not allowed, use the seat belt
for center installation instead.
Never attach two car seats to one LATCH anchor.
Make sure children do not play with seat belts.
FACT SHEET © 2015 Safe Ride News Publications, 800-403-1424 • Reproducible by SRN Fact Sheet purchasers only. For noncommercial distribution only.
C2 Revised 1/15
Learning About LATCH
What is the LATCH system on a car seat?
Lower anchor straps with connectors that hook or push onto
the lower anchor bars (pictures, right). A few car seats have
rigid connectors built into the car seat.
The top tether strap has a hook
that connects to the tether anchor
(picture, below).
LATCH on different types of
car seats: Push-on LATCH connectors
on some lower straps
Hook-on connector on tether
and some lower straps
• Rear-facing-only car seats: Only
lower anchor straps are required (no
tether). Car seats with separate bases have the lower anchor
strap on the base. If a rear-facing-only car seat can be used
without its base, install with a seat belt when not using the base.
• Convertible car seats (rear-facing and forward-facing):
In the rear-facing position, use the lower anchor straps, not
the tether. Do not use the tether when rear facing unless the
instructions clearly say that this is okay.
In the forward-facing position, use both the lower anchor
strap and the tether.
• Forward-facing car seats: These
have a top tether (right) as well as
lower anchor straps. Use both.
• Combination seats: Can be used as a
car seat with harness or as a booster;
check instructions for LATCH use.
• Car beds, booster seats, and
harnesses/vests are not required to
Top tether strap
and hook attached
have LATCH. However, some have
to a tether anchor
been designed to use LATCH.
Questions about LATCH:
Which is safer, LATCH or the seat belt?
The goal is tight installation. The LATCH system and the
seat belt are both tested for crash protection. In some cases,
LATCH anchors will provide a better fit. Other times, the seat
belt makes a better fit. (For some seating positions, it is the only
option.) Always choose the method that works best for you to get
the car seat installed correctly. REMEMBER: Use the tether on
forward-facing car seats, whether using lower anchors or a seat
belt to install.
Can I use lower anchors for a car seat in the center?
Do NOT use the lower anchors to install a car seat in
the center unless the vehicle owner’s manual and car seat
instructions say that this is okay.
If lower anchors cannot be used in the center, use the seat
belt (and the tether on a forward-facing car seat). However, if
you cannot get a tight installation with the seat belt (and tether),
try using a different seating position.
Can I install a LATCH car seat with a seat belt?
Yes. All LATCH car seats can be installed using a seat belt
instead of LATCH. To make the seat belt stay tight, see the car
manual and car seat instructions. Generally, do not use both
the seat belt and LATCH together. Using both at the same
time may affect crash protection, so it is very important to check
the manufacturers’ instructions.
How do I check for a tight fit?
Hold the car seat where the
LATCH straps or seat belt go
through the car seat. Pull forward
and from side to side. If the car
seat moves more than an inch, it is
not secured tightly enough.
Can LATCH be used for children of all sizes?
No. Car and car seat makers usually state limits for how
heavy a child can be to safely install a car seat using LATCH.
Always check the car owner’s manual and car seat labels and
instructions. If you cannot find this information, contact the car
seat maker and/or go to a local child passenger safety checkup
location for help. (See Resources.)
If your child weighs more than the limit, use the seat belt to
install the car seat instead. Also do so if you do not know the
LATCH weight limit, especially if the child is nearing 40 pounds
or more. In many cases, the tether can still be used with the seat
belt, even if the child is heavier than the lower anchor weight limit.
Should I use LATCH with a booster seat?
Check the booster directions. Many allow use of LATCH when
the parts are present. LATCH keeps the booster seat in place
while the child climbs in and out. It also holds the booster when
it is not in use so it will not harm other people in a crash.
Since the lap-shoulder belt will hold the weight of the child in
a crash, the child’s weight is not a concern for using a booster’s
LATCH straps.
My old car seat does not have LATCH. Is it unsafe?
All car seats since 2002 must have LATCH. If your car seat is
older than this, it is too old and should be destroyed.
Should LATCH anchors be replaced after a crash?
Tell your insurance agent if LATCH anchors have been used
in a crash. Have your car dealer and/or body shop check the
LATCH anchors. If damaged, use the seat belt instead until the
anchors are replaced.
• National Vehicle Safety Hotline: 888-327-4236,
800-424-9153 (tty),
• SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A.: 800-745-7233,
800-747-7266 (Spanish),
• Find a Child Passenger Safety Checkup Location: 866-732-8243 or
FACT SHEET © 2015 Safe Ride News Publications, 800-403-1424 • Reproducible by SRN Fact Sheet purchasers only. For noncommercial distribution only.
C2 Revised 1/15
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