LATCH 101: The Basics

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LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren. It’s also known as ISOFIX in Europe and LUAS (Lower Universal Anchorage System) in Canada.
LATCH is a way to secure a child safety seat to the vehicle using straps from the child safety seat that connect to special metal anchors in the vehicle.
VEHICLE LATCH ANCHORS
LOWER ANCHORS:
  • Lower anchors are a pair of metal “u-shaped” bars hidden in the vehicle’s seat crack.
TETHER ANCHOR:
  • A tether anchor is a metal anchor (often a ring or bar) found behind the vehicle seat.
**FYI: Vehicles since model year 2003 must have the lower anchors in at least TWO seating positions and tether anchors in at least THREE positions. This means that, in most vehicles, the side seats have lower anchors AND tether anchors, while the center seat has a tether anchor but NO lower anchors.
This diagram above shows the varied locations you may find the tether anchor in the vehicle.  ALWAYS check the vehicle owner’s manual to make sure that what you have found is indeed the tether anchor (and not a cargo hook, which can not withstand the force of a crash).  See bottom of this post for pictures of different locations for tether anchors in a wide variety of vehicles.

CHILD SAFETY SEAT LATCH STRAPS
LOWER ANCHOR STRAP
  • All child safety seats that use the vehicle’s lower anchors have a lower anchor strap with a connector on the end. Some child safety seats have two separate lower anchor straps, each with a connector on one end. These connectors attach to the vehicle’s lower anchors.  A few booster seats have a rigid lower anchor connector, instead of having the connector on a flexible strap.
  • Rear-facing car seats typically just use the lower anchors (a few can also use the top tether).  Forward-facing car seats use the lower anchors AND top tether.
Forward-facing car seat
using Lower Anchor Strap
Forward-facing car seat
with Rigid Lower LATCH
TETHER STRAP
  • All forward-facing child safety seats that use the vehicle’s lower LATCH anchors will come with not only a lower anchor strap, but also a tether strap. The tether strap comes from the top of the child’s car seat and has a hook on the end that connects to the tether anchor in the vehicle.
Forward-facing car seat
Using tether in a minivan
Forward-facing car seat
Using tether in a sedan
AN ANALOGY
Vehicle Seat BeltGlasses   as   Lower Anchors : Contact Lenses  
- Just an analogy for those yearning to relive their high-school SAT studying days.  But in all seriousness, this analogy explains why you (almost) never use the lower anchors & the vehicle seat belt at the same time to install the car seat.   Just like if you were to wear contacts & glasses at the same time you would see worse rather than better, so too the performance of the car seat may be NEGATIVELY affected by using both the lower anchors and the vehicle’s seat belt at the same time.
- Note: Lower anchors are used INSTEAD of the vehicle’s safety belt to secure the child safety seat to the vehicle. Tethers are used IN ADDITION to the lower anchors OR the vehicle’s safety belt to secure a forward-facing (and some rear-facing) child safety seat to the vehicle.
NOTE: There are currently 2 seats on the market that allow the use of the lower anchors AND seat belt at the same time:
  1. Nuna Pipa (base) – you may, but certainly do not have to, use the rigid lower anchors AND seat belt when installing the base.
  2. Clek Foonf – when installing this seat forward facing using the rigid lower anchors, if the child weighs more than 33 pounds, you may continue to use the lower anchors if you route the seat belt through the forward facing belt path in addition.  Please remember to keep using the top tether.  How did you get 33 pounds???  65 pounds is the maximum weight for the lower anchors (child’s weight + car seats’s weight) and since the forward facing Foonf weighs 32 pounds, the child’s weight should not exceed 33 pounds if using the lower anchors… unless you use the seat belt in addition as a sort of “back up plan”.  Why not just use teh seat belt on the forward facing Foonf?  The REACT system is integrated most closely with the rigid LATCH – so it is beneficial for the child’s safety to continue to use rigid LATCH with this seat.
JUST A FEW PICTURES SHOWING THE HIGHLY VARIABLE LOCATIONS FOR TETHER ANCHORS 
***ALWAYS CHECK YOUR VEHICLE OWNER’S MANUAL TO SEE WHERE YOUR ANCHORS ARE LOCATED***
MINIVAN
Tether on bottom of vehicle seat
MINIVAN
Tether on bottom of vehicle seat -
but covered up by carpet flap
SUV/Wagon
Tether anchor in the roof
SUV/Wagon
Tether anchor on back of vehicle seat
SUV/WagonTether anchors in floor of cargo area
(very inconvenient when trying to load packages)
5 door Hatchback
Tether Anchor on back of vehicle seat
SEDAN
Tether Anchor is on the shelf below the rear windshield
SEDAN
Tether Anchor is on the shelf below the rear windshield

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