Car Seat Pinch Test

Failing to tightly secure your child's car seat straps can result in him or her being jostled too much or becoming completely displaced in a crash. According to the results of a report done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 59% of car seat harnesses are not fastened tightly enough. The NHTSA suggests ensuring that harnesses be snug. Harnesses should lie flat in a straight line and not be so tight as to cause the child to be uncomfortable. Making sure that you have a snug strap can be achieved by carrying out the car seat pinch test or the "harness pinch-test".

How to Conduct Car Seat Pinch Test

Before carrying out the pinch-test,you should first ensure that the car seat has been set up properly with the straps coming from the correct slots and the harness tightly buckled. You can check the manual for guidance.

Next, position the chest clip at armpit level; then pinch the strap where it comes over the shoulder. Use three fingers: the middle finger along with the thumb and forefinger. Place your middle finger under the strap to pull it up. Then, use the other two fingers to try the pinch.

If there is no excess to pinch at all or your fingers slip off, then this is a sign that the harness is snug. On the other hand, if you can find excess strap that can be easily folded, then the harness is too loose.


  • You should be careful not to over tighten the harness. Some clues to a harness that is too tight include your child not being able to breathe properly, his body being twisted and constricted, or his squirming. Fortunately, a child who is uncomfortable will make it known. On the other hand, some children like a tight-fitting harness for sensory comforts.
  • You should always perform a harness pinch-test when the child is wearing regular clothes.

Watch this video to see a harness pinch-test being performed.

Tips on Car Seat Pinch Test

1. Read the Car Seat Manual

This may not be something that you look forward to doing. However, every car seat is different. Although there are general guidelines for installing and securing a car seat, you should become familiar with the peculiarities of your specific model before you start using it. You should also try to register your car seat with the manufacturer so that you can keep up to date with any issues or recalls.

2. Keep Straps Straight

Make sure that the car seat straps are straight when you're adjusting them and doing your test. Straightened, untwisted straps offer more protection by evenly distributing the pressures of any impact across the child's body.

3. Place Straps at the Right Height

To ensure maximum safety, adjust the harness straps at the right height for the type of car seat you're using. Rear-facing and infant car seats should have straps affixed at or below the shoulder level of the child. The straps of front-facing car seats should be adjusted at or above shoulder level.

4. Adjust Harness Straps for a Snug Fit

The harness pinch-test is a must before setting off on your journey. A strap that is too loose can be easily folded between your fingers. A snug fitting harness is one under which you can only fit one finger. Straps that are too tight will squeeze into your child's shoulders or place his body in uncomfortable positions.

5. Ensure That Straps Stay on the Shoulders

Make sure that straps are snugly and securely positioned on the baby's shoulders. If the straps are on the sides of the shoulders and slipping down, then this will heighten the chances of the child being thrown or injured in an accident. 

6. Position the Chest Clip

The chest clip is an important part of the car seat's harness. It brings the two straps together as well as plays the important role of spreading the force of impact evenly across the child's chest in the event of an accident. The chest clip should always be at armpit level. If it is too low, then your child can easily slip out of the seat. If it is too high, then you run the risk of your child choking.

7. Buckle In

Follow the recommended position of the buckle for your car seat. Most buckles are positioned between the baby's feet. You should try to make sure that you use the setting that is closest to your child's body.

8. Check Hip Straps' Placement

The proper position for the hip straps will depend on your particular car seat and the specifications of the manufacturer. Some seats are designed to have the harness straps go over the thighs, while others may require them to come up and over the thighs from below.