Fitting 3 across can be difficult in many cars and in some actually impossible to do it safely.
Sometimes it takes just the right combination of seats and putting that combination in the right positions like puzzle pieces.
When we upgraded from two to three children, our car made fitting 3 across extremely difficult. We had bucket seats in the back with a humped center position. The only solution that worked for us was to take both our booster kids out of boosters and put them into RideSafer travel vests on the outboard positions and put the infant carrier in the center.
Some of the common problems fitting 3 across:
- seats don’t fit side by side
- seats seem to fit but get twisted
- can’t get to the buckle to tighten seats
- can’t get to the buckle to buckle a child in a booster seat
Some conditions to ensure when fitting three across:
- each seat must be properly installed on its own (meaning being jammed between two other seats isn’t what is keeping it from moving)
- the car seat’s position remains unchanged (other seats aren’t pushing a seat and the seat doesn’t move if you close the door)
- if you are using LATCH, each seat uses its own LATCH set, there is no doubling up on Lower Anchors or tether anchors
- Lower Anchors or seat belts do not rub or cross over where they may interfere with each other
- contact with other seats does not deform or bend a seat
Narrow car seat options
There are some generally more narrow seats on the market that make fitting 3 car seats across easier:
- For infants:
- Belt Positioning:
- RideSafer (this has no seat so just takes up the width of the child)
With the RideSafer, you can easily, comfortably and SAFELY fit up to three children in one row in your vehicle — even if one or two are in traditional car seats! BONUS: for a small investment in the RideSafer, you could save THOUSANDS by not needing to buy a new, bigger car.
What to do?
If you already have seats, is there a way to replace one to make them all fit? For instance if you have a high-back booster and a rear facing convertible and you need to fit a new baby infant seat, can you use the RideSafer instead of the high-back booster in between the other two seats?
If you are ready to buy all new seats, can you go to the store, checkout the narrowest seats of the types you need and start playing with them all to see if they fit. Try different seats. Try different positions.
- It is usually easiest to start with installing the car seat in the center seating position first.
- Alternate forward facing and rear facing to fit better. For instance, FF-RF-FF or RF-FF-RF. Keep in mind having a rear facing in the middle between two forward facing seats may make getting a child in that rear facing seat a challenge.
- Be sure to put forward facing car seats in positions that have a tether anchor point.
- Use seat belts for all the installs, sometimes using LATCH requires the seats to be further from the doors than a seat belt will allow.
- Look at the width of the seat and the back and side panels and various heights.
- If you take out one seat and the others are suddenly loose, then they were not installed correctly and it was the squeeze of fitting 3 across that made them seem tight.
- If the any of the car seat’s plastic shells bend or the car seats shift position when you shut both car doors, then it’s not a good fit.
We want to know, did you figure out 3 across in your car? Share your solution for others below.
By Amie Durocher, Creative Director at Safe Ride 4 Kids and certified CPS Tech since 2004
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