Hey expecting parents! (and anyone else who has wondered what those ISOFIX labels are on their rear passenger seats – wonder no more!!!)
In non-technical speak: ISOFIX refers to little latches at the base of the rear passenger backrest (where your butt goes when you’re sitting in the back…). Specially made car seat bases are available that quickly and easily clip into these latches.
Generally two latches are found on the left-hand rear passenger seat and two on the right – so you can install an ISOFIX car-seat and its base on either the back left or back right passenger seats. See pictures below – it can be a little confusing when you have never heard of it or seen it.
Why ISOFIX? It’s safer and more convenient. No more trying to remember which part of the seatbelt goes where around the chair. No more worrying that the seat hasn’t been installed right. Just clip and go!
So, why are they so helpful…?
It was shown in studies that there was quite a high incidence of people installing the seat-belt compatible car-seats incorrectly. This leads to a significant safety risk for your child.
The jury is still out on whether ISOFIX fitted or correctly seat-belt-fitted car-seats are more or less effective (Google it. Check it out for yourself.) However, the elegant ISOFIX solution can give you peace of mind that the seat is securely in place and your child is safe. The latches have indicators that show when they are correctly installed. Some fancy car-seats come with light indicators and some even come with alarms that sound if the seat is not secure.
The clip-in / clip-out nature of ISOFIX seats mean that you can quickly and easily take the car-seat out of the car – unclip and go – without dealing with threaded seatbelts. This is particularly great in emergency situation, as well as a little more convenient when you want to take your sleeping child out of the car. It also means that you can get more out of a travel system that integrates a car seat adaptor (most of these are ISOFIX base compatible).
Right – now I’ve seen many car seats but not many ISOFIX bases, tell me more?
In order to use ISOFIX, you need to purchase an ISOFIX base. This stays attached to the car and does not move with you. The base clips into the anchor points on the car and your car-seat clips into the base. Some bases cost the same price as a car-seat.
What to look out for when buying an ISOFIX system?
- Not all bases fit all car-seats. Once you have decided on the car-seat you want to purchase, make sure you get a compatible base.
- Not all bases fit all cars! These are three kinds of ISOFIX bases. They all have the same two metal anchorage points at the back. They are anchored differently to mitigate rotation of the seat in the event of an accident:
- Semi-universal: these are the most common ISOFIX bases. They have a sort of “kick-stand” between the front of the ISOFIX base and the floor of the car to prevent forward rotation of the seat
- Universal: this has a third anchorage strap that goes over the top of the rear passenger seat and clips in behind it. See schematic to the right. Found in many hatchbacks and SUVs, if you open the boot, you will see the tether points clearly labelled. Cars that cant accommodate a footstand require Universal type ISOFIX bases. For example, if there are storage compartments in the foot-well, or other impediments to using the foot stand.
- Vehicle specific: these are only for use in particular vehicles they are designed for and may or may not have a third anchorage point as result.
- So, make sure your car is fitted with ISOFIX and that you purchase the correct base for that car
- Lastly, try and get an ISOFIX base that will grow with your child. As you upgrade to a bigger, toddler-size car-seat and then to a booster-seat, get a base that will accommodate that evolution. Some bases only fit one particular car-seat, which isn’t very practical or cost effective.
As with all safety devices, do your homework and understand what you are buying and how to operate it. Only consider a second-hand car seats or ISOFIX base if you are 100% sure that they have never been involved in an accident,. Any drops, bangs or accidents may effect the correct functioning of your system (which is why they should be completely replaced if they are involved in an accident – like crash helmets). Any cracks or fractures, no matter how small and invisible to the naked eye, may materially change the ability of the system to function properly and protect your child as intended.
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