A Tether is Always Better!
Tethering your child’s forward-facing car seat
What is a top tether?
A top tether (tether strap) connects the top of a forward-facing child safety
seat (car seat) to the car. Forward-facing car seats sold today in the U.S. and
Canada come with a tether. Tethers also are used with safety vests and seats
with harnesses for children over 40 pounds.
The tether attaches to a tether anchor in the car. At least three anchors are
installed in most cars starting with the 2000 model year. Most older cars also
have places to add anchors.
A tether is also part of the system called LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children). LATCH connects
a car seat to the car without using a seat belt (A). Almost
all cars and car seats made since September 2002 (2003
models) have LATCH. Many 2001-2002 models also
have LATCH. (See your car manual.)
With tether strap
B. In a severe crash, the seat belt, tether, and
harness work together to keep the child’s head
out of danger.
Without tether strap
A tether adds extra protection
In a severe crash, a tether holds the top of a forwardfacing car seat back (see pictures B and C at right). This
helps prevent serious head and neck injuries. A booster
seat does not need a tether because the lap-shoulder
belt holds the child if a crash happens.
A. Car seat installed
with LATCH, including
a top tether
When should I tether a forward-facing car seat?
ALWAYS! If the car seat has a tether and the car has a tether anchor, use it.
If the car does not have an anchor, find out if one can be ordered.
If a tether cannot be used, the vehicle seat belt can still hold a car seat well.
(Check the car seat instructions and the car manual.) Make sure the seat belt
holds the car seat tightly in place.
Can I use a tether for a rear-facing car seat?
A few products have a tether that can be used for rear-facing use. These
can help keep the car seat more firmly installed. Use a tether for a car seat
facing the rear only if the instructions tell you it is okay. ALWAYS follow the car
seat instructions.
What if my car seat does not have a tether?
Infant car seats and boosters usually do not have a tether. If your child’s
forward-facing car seat does not have a tether, check the label for the date it was
made. Car seats made before tethers were added are too old to use now and
should be destroyed and replaced. Do not try to make your own tether! Try to
get a newer seat that has a tether and other newer safety features.
If your car seat is not old but the
tether is lost or damaged, contact the
car seat maker to order a new tether.
C. In a severe crash, without a tether, the
child’s head could hit something. She could be
seriously injured.
A tether has two parts:
1) On car seats: a strap with a hook
and adjuster (see picture below). A
tether comes with forward-facing car
seats. In some cases, you may need
to attach the tether to the car seat.
2) In cars: an anchor—a metal
piece with a hole for the tether hook,
installed at the factory in newer cars.
Anchors that are under covers or are
hidden will be marked with a symbol
(see page 2). For an older car, an
anchor kit may be available from a
car dealer. Some dealers offer free
Top tether strap
Tether anchor
FACT SHEET © 2010 Safe Ride News Publications, 800-403-1424 • www.saferidenews.com
Reproducible by SRN Fact Sheet purchasers only. For noncommercial distribution only.
C3 Revised 1/10
A Tether is Always Better!
Does my vehicle have tether anchors?
Most 2000 and newer cars have three tether anchors. Almost
all 2001 and newer cars, trucks, vans, and SUVs have anchors.
Read about tethers in the car owner’s manual. (Look under Top Tether anchor
Tether or Child Restraints.) Look for the symbol shown at right. symbol in some
Common places to find a tether anchor
• Sedan: in the shelf (filler panel) behind the back seat (D).
cars shows where
anchors are installed.
D. Tether anchor locations behind the
rear seat of a sedan
• Station wagon or hatchback: in the cargo area (E), on the back of the seat, or
above or below the rear door.
• Van or SUV: on the back or bottom of the seat or in the floor of the cargo area.
Rarely, a seat belt in the row behind may be used as an anchor.
• Pickup truck: usually behind the seat back on the back wall of the cab.
All anchors do not look the same, so check the owner’s manual. They may be
bars, brackets, rings, or webbing loops. Many anchors are under plastic covers,
marked with the tether anchor symbol. BEWARE! Some cargo tie-down rings
look like tether anchors, but are NOT strong enough. Do not use a cargo tiedown ring unless the car manual says that it can be used as a tether anchor.
Installing a tether anchor kit in an older car
Anchor kits may be available for some older cars from car dealers. Follow the
instructions in your car owner’s manual or in the anchor kit. Most cars have at
least two places for anchors. Some makers offer free installation (see right).
The parts department may not know about tether anchors. They usually can
find information in service manuals and dealers’ parts catalogs.
If a tether anchor kit is not available for an older car, you may be able to
install a generic anchor kit from the car seat manufacturer. Special, heavy-duty
hardware is provided for car seats for children with special needs (see below).
Dealerships do not offer installation help in such cases. For more help, contact a
local Child Passenger Safety Technician (see Resources).
Tether use on car seats for heavier children
Some car seats have harnesses with a higher upper weight limit than the
typical car seat. These high-weight harness seats can be used up to 50, 65, or
80 pounds. There are many reasons to use this kind of a seat, such as:
- the child is over 40 pounds, but too active to sit in a booster.
- only lap belts are in the back seat, making booster seat use impossible.
Tether use is recommended for all forward-facing car seats. Seats made to
provide special support for heavier children with medical needs REQUIRE tether
use. However, some car owner’s manuals say tether anchors can only be used
with children up to 40 or 48 pounds. Others say to follow child seat weight limits.
In general, it is best to follow manufacturers’ instructions. However, using
a tether above the car manual’s stated weight limit has safety benefits that
caregivers may want to consider. Some special needs car seats can be installed
with two tether anchors (see instructions). If not, a heavy-duty tether anchor must
be installed. (A Child Passenger Safety Technician can help you learn more.
Help can also be found in the LATCH Manual and at www.saferidenews.com.
See Resources at right.)
E. Installing a tether anchor kit in a
station wagon cargo area
Who can help me install
a tether anchor?
Call your car dealership, body shop,
or local mechanic. Most Chrysler, Ford,
General Motors, Saab, and Toyota
dealers will put in a tether anchor for
free. Not all service people know about
installing tethers. Refer them to service
manuals or to the LATCH Manual (see
below). For Toyota program, see SBS
USA website below.
Car Seat Questions:
National Auto Safety Hotline:
888-327-4236, 800-424-9153 (tty) or
SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A. (SBS USA)
Helpline: 800-745-7233, 800-747-7266
(Spanish) or www.carseat.org
Includes Toyota retrofit program details.
Find a Child Passenger Safety Technician:
866-732-8243 or www.seatcheck.org
LATCH Manual: Using Lower Anchors and
Tethers for Child Restraints, Safe Ride
News Publications; installation manual with
vehicle anchor part numbers. To order,
call 800-422-4121 or www.saferidenews.
FACT SHEET © 2010 Safe Ride News Publications, 800-403-1424 • www.saferidenews.com Reproducible by SRN Fact Sheet purchasers only. For noncommercial distribution only.
C3 Revised 1/10
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