I have a devil of a time tightening the straps on my dd's Safety 1st Complete Air. After loads of research I felt like it was one of the safest seats...unless you aren't tightening the straps correctly in which case I wouldn't think it would perform well in an accident. I don't know if I'm just being anal or if I truly have a problem with this car seat. I can pinch the straps when they are as tight they can possibly go. And I pretty easily slip my palm through between the straps and her chest/belly. She doesn't wear any heavy clothing or anything. I have read tons of reviews where other people have trouble tightening these straps, too. We actually have two models (long story but insurance bought us a second seat and by that point Safety 1st had updated the seat we purchased orginally so we have two versions). Since I have this issue with both seats, I assume it's isn't a defect with the seat and that they are all this way. I always wonder if the parents who don't have a problem with the seat just aren't that concerned with tighteing it properly.
So should the straps be tight enough to where you can't pinch them up? I feel worried every single time I drive my dd around.
It's very unlikely to be a defect. Tightening the straps on a rear facing convertible can be tricky. The bigger the seats get, the more bends the harness needs to go around before you get to the adjuster, and then of course you're pulling the adjust *up* rather than *down*, which is against the natural grain of the 'lock off' in the adjuster. So, basically, you're working against a lot of natural forces.
Where are you testing for tightness? The 'pinch test' should be done at the shoulders (above the chest clip), parallel to the collar bones (not a vertical pinch running the length of the child's body.)
Don't worry about slipping your hands between the harness and belly. That's completely meaningless.
The harness should be tight enough that your fingers slip off the belt webbing and you can't pinch anything with the pinch test, but it shouldn't be soooo tight that it tears skin, leaves bruises, or pushes your child's body into an unnatural shape. You're not doing anything 'better' at that point.
To get optimal tightness: buckle in. First grab the straps in front of the belly, and pull up from the hips, to get as much slack as possible out of there.
Then, reach behind the seat where the harness comes out of the slots, and yank back, to encourage the harness up and over the shoulders and around the next big turn.
THEN, grab the adjuster strap, wrap it once around your hand to give yourself a little leverage and pull. That is generally enough to deal with even the most obstinate of tighteners :-)
Well, she's actually forward facing right now. I dislocated my thumb trying to tighten the straps several months ago when she was RF and finally we just turned her around because (though not tight enough) we could get things much tighter while she was forward facing and so we stuck with it. I know RF is safer...but not if your straps are loose. So this seemed safer considering our situation.
Dealing with this car seat over the past year has exacerbated my back/shoulder/neck problem and hunching over her trying to untwist straps while fending off her grabby hands has caused a lot of pain. I mean, I seriously hate this seat. It's been the source of so much physical pain. She's the size of a 4yr old and I can't physically hoist her into our SUV in the RF position any longer and she can't climb in there on her own (maybe if her seat was in the middle she could, but she and her sister wouldn't both fit if either of them were in the middle.) She's just a few pounds from the weight limit anyway and we're going to stay in FF position.
The way you describe reaching around to the back of the seat really does seem like it would help...is there no way to help the straps along like that if she's FF?
For some reason I assumed she was a baby; how old/tall/heavy is she?
Forward facing you do get a bit of a help due to the fact that you can pull the adjuster straight out or down rather than having to pull up, and you can still pull up at the hips to get the slack out, but unfortunately there's no way to do the reach around.