After exhaustive research, I decided to buy the Safety 1st Complete Air for my rear-facing 1 year old. I hate it. I tried to love it. I tried to remedy my issues with it. I even figured it must be the fact that it was rear-facing and so I turned her around this week...nope, it is still just as difficult and I HATE running errands now soley because of having to deal with this seat. It is the bain of my existence. When I realized that I was laying in bed the night before having to run several errands and was angsting over the in-and-out of the seat and how frustrated I would become...I decided that maybe I should just try a new seat since it's truly causing this much frustration!
Sooooo....can anyone recommend a seat that is comparable in safety and a good rear-facing seat? I'm hoping for something which doesn't get twisted straps all the time as I am pregnant and cannot spend 5 minutes hunched over in the back seat trying to fiddle with untwisting them - it's actually causing damage to my back and now I feel like I need to go to the chiropractor. Also, something that tightens smoothly. Our Graco snugride tightened like a dream compared with the Complete Air. I never knew how good I had it!
**I do know about the problem where one side tightens more than the other and I did some research to figure out how to remedy that one. And I have read on many Complete Air testimonials about how people who review the seat poorly are incompetent...well, ahem, pardon me, I guess I'm a dummy! :) Point being: I'm really not a dummy, I worked really hard to get along with this seat and I am a college graduate with 2 degrees and an experienced nanny who has come in contact with quite a few car seats. If you happen to love the Complete Air (and you aren't armed with insults about me being incompetent for having trouble with the CA) I'd be very happy to hear any friendly suggestions.**
The Complete Air has a continuous-loop harness, which means that one side can get tighter than the other, but the fix is easy--just pull the tighter side by the hip, and it slides under the child's bum and evens out.
What car do you drive? Other seats I'd consider are the Britaxes, the Radians, the Graco My Ride and the Evenflo Triumph65 and Momentum. All of those have 40lb RF limits (a couple models of Radians have a 45 lb limit).
CPST & mom
I am not familiar with the Complete Air, but I have and love the Radian65. Got it when my DD out-grew her Keyfit30 by height at 7months, she is nearly 28mos now and we really don't have any complaints about the seat. I have never had an issue with twisting straps.
You may read that it is difficult to install in some vehicles, most often Toyotas, and I hesitated on that count because our only car is a Corolla. But, in 20 months of use, I have installed her seat in 5 different Toyotas, plus a number of other vehicles (and two very different airplanes) and have always gotten an excellent install (far less than the allowable 1" movement at the belt path). She is RF still, and all installs have been RF except for the airplane.
One of the things I really love about the seat is that it sits nice and low, so it is super easy to get her into it, even RF. Also, since you mentioned that you are pregnant, the Radian is one of the narrowest convertible seats, so often is a good bet as part of a multiple-carseat set up.
The Radian appears to be tough but do-able in the older CR-Vs
CPST & mom
Interesting...the outboard review was not very encouraging! Ha! But in the middle, sounds like it'd be okay. She'll have to be outboard here in 4 months, :( Radian might not be good for us, long term. I can't imagine trying to install a seat larger than the Complete Air. It was VERY snug against our front seats when installed rear facing even as it was in the middle.
Man, I wish I could just remedy the strap issues! My head is spinning looking at car seats all over again! I keep reading about more and more people having the same tightening issues and twisty issues with the Complete Air.
Honestly, I don't have those issues with my CA and I've had it over a year and a half. I did have a few issues at first with twisting, but figured out quickly how to avoid it and it hasn't been a problem since.
There really is no data on how seats test. The only company that releases that info is sunshine kids. We do know all seats meet the same safety minimums that the NHSTA sets.
How big is your child? How long do you want to rear face? That will help with suggestions.
I really love my Graco Myride, but it doesn't have the tallest shell (comparable to the Britax seats), so it won't last as long rfing as other seats. But if your child is not long torsoed the shell height really isn't an issue. I HATED tightening the harness on my radian rfing. It's a rachet and a pain (I discovered tricks, but it still was annoying to me).
I have a Radian and a Complete Air and the CA is much easier to tighten. Also, you don't have to take the straps out to change the height which is nice.
Maybe a MyRide? It's wider than the CA but not as tall so you shouldn't have a problem with the front seat.
I'd just leave the Radian in the center and put the baby outboard. If you have a narrow infant seat it should fit next to the Radian, or if you want to start out with a convertible, the My Ride puzzles very well with the Radian--those two next to each other take up less room than two Radians.
CPST & mom
We plan to use the Graco Snugride with the infant (since we already have it and like it). MANY mothers here have advised that I make both babies outboard since a 20 month old is likely to bop the infant in the face, feed the baby ro whatever. Apparently, it's just much less stressful to separate them. So they will both be outboard.
I do not know how long I intend to have her rear-facing. I mean, if daily life is a pain and totally frsutrating because of a seat that fits poorly in a RF position...then I'd probably FF her. Her safety is more important than daily frustration...but I have some issues with some of the research re: RF and how it's limited to certain types of crashes. Part of me thinks that with all of the gadgets and safety tests of this day in age that our kids are pretty darn safe and we can't spend our lives obssessing over every iota of safety. With that said...I do want to leave her RF as long as it seems to work for us. Neither works for us right now, though.
How come nobody else with a CA has this strap resistance issue? One of my best friends has the CA and she doesn't have the issue either. I feel nervous everytime we drive somewhere that she isn't in her seat securely. We've re-installed and tried everything I can think of to get this seat to work. I went out again this morning trying some suggestions I'd seen on the internet and still we had issues. I'm tempted to put her back in the snugride 32 since she still fits. But, what toddler wants to be in a bucket seat. *sigh*
We have a Radian and while I like some points of it, it definatly has some things that can be frustrating. The easiest seat I've used is the Evenflo Triumph Advance. The tightening knob on the sides makes it simple to tighten the straps. Another plus with two kids is the no-rethread harness adjustment...that way it's easy to switch between children if need be. My parents and in-laws have these in their cars and they are user friendly enough for all the grandparents to use. Do you have a BRU near you that you could try seats in your car? That has been very helpful for me to really try things out to see what seats worked for me.
Maybe try an Evenflo seat, since they adjust from the side, and also take up very little room front-to-back RF'ing, so when she's outboard it won't eat up front passenger space.
I am on my second Complete Air and I have noticed the straps like to fold over in the buckles. It is annoying. I don't have an issue tightening the straps, though.
CPST & mom
Dot to Dot I have a complete air and also absolutely hate this seat. I actually just posted about it at www.car-seat.org. I have a recaro in my car which I love and the comlete air is in the backseat of our chevy silverado and I hate putting him in the CA. The straps get horribly twisted, multiple twists and are very difficult to untwist. And even when I take the time to untwist them it seems like they are twisted all over again the next time I use it. I also have a heck of a time getting the straps snug. I have none of these issues with the recaro, but I wasn't planning on having to buy a 3rd convertible car seat so while I was going to just buy another recaro, they are expensive and diapers.com is having a 20% off britax sale right now, and I just ordered the Britax Marathon 70 and am just praying I will like this seat.
I'm at the point of just throwing out the complete air - so I can completely understand you're frustrations and I don't think of myself as incompetent either :)
If you want a smooth harness adjuster, skip the classic Britaxes and the Radians. They are ratchet adjusters and a PITA.
For nice and smooth adjusting, or at least easier adjusting... check out the First Years TrueFit Premiere (the adjuster on the non-premiere is hard to reach). This seat can also be installed at up to 35* upright, leaving more room for your front passengers. It does have only a 35lb weight limit but the shell is as tall as the CA, IIRC.
Also the MyRide, which has a shorter shell than the TF but the 40lb RF weight limit.
And also the Evenflo Triumph 65. It has the knob adjusters on the side. The momentum is a little bigger looking and has a regular type adjuster. Both install fairly upright as well.
Sunny : gun toting, retired breastfeeding, car seat loving, guitar playing, home birthing and schooling mama to Jakob (10.06), Mikah (07.08) and Korah (07.11).
Is your seat still under warranty? Perhaps it might be defective somehow. It can't hurt to call the manufacturer and at least get a new harness before throwing it out.
I used to drive a baby in a Complete Air every morning and it did take me a while to be able to adjust the harness properly.