How to Install a Car Seat Using the Tether Strap

LATCH, which stands for “Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children”, is designed to make proper car seat installation easier. LATCH is standard in all cars manufactured after September 1, 2002, and eliminates the need for the use of vehicle seat belts to secure car seats. The LATCH system consists of two lower anchors and a tether anchor.  Vehicle manufacturers are required to provide two sets of lower anchors and three tether anchor positions in each vehicle. These anchors are specifically designed to attach to the lower anchor connectors and tether connectors found on car seats.

Tether anchors are sometimes called “top straps” in vehicle owner's manuals and are frequently the last item discussed under the child restraint section. The purpose of the tether is to hold the back of the car seat firmly against the vehicle seat to make it more secure and reduce the amount of forward and side movement. The proper use of the tether can reduce the distance that the child's head moves forward in a crash by 4-6 inches and can thus lessen the risk of head injuries in a crash. You should use the tether whenever possible. 

Where is the tether anchor located?

In your car: Consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual to determine the location of the tethers in your car. Car manufacturers are required to provide three tether anchorages in the rear seat. Possible tether anchor locations are:

  • Ceiling above the rear seating position
  • Rear window shelf
  • Back of the vehicle seat
  • Floor of cargo area
  • Under the vehicle seat

Using the tether anchor:

  • Always read the car seat's instructions and vehicle's owner's manual for proper use and correct installation information.
  • Only use a tether when installing a car seat forward-facing.
  • Install the car seat with either the lower anchor connectors or the vehicle seat belt, according to manufacturer instructions.
  • Hook the car seat's tether to the vehicle's tether anchorage and pull to tighten.
  • If your tether is too short to reach from your car seat to your vehicle tether anchor, you will need a Tether Extender.
  • Car seats should not move more than an inch forward or sideways at the belt path.

Still have questions regarding LATCH? Check out our article "Getting to Know LATCH".