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How-To Guide: Setting Up Your Car Seat

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Before you take to the roads, it’s important that you take the time to set up your car seat properly. It’s not as simple as leaving your car seat the way it is—all drivers will require a different height, angle and position. Once you get this sorted, however, you’ll be able to sit comfortably, all the while driving safely and effectively.

In the first instalment of our How-To Guide series, we’re looking at how drivers can set up their car seats. We’ve broken it down into handy steps and also included a video tutorial, a PDF guide and FAQs. Enjoy!


Table of contents

Steps
Setting up your car seat
Sitting correctly
Additional resources
Video tutorial
PDF guide
FAQs

Steps

Setting up your car seat

Start things off by sitting in your car seat. You’ll be able to then start adjusting your car seat by using the controls at your disposal. Depending on your car model, you’ll be able to do this by using manual, electric or mixed controls.

  • Manual controls: you’ll find either a bar at the bottom of the seat, or a lever at the side of the seat which, once pulled, will allow you to slide the car seat forwards or backwards.
  • Electric controls: you might have a series of buttons at the side of your car seat. They will enable you to adjust the height and angle of your car seat.
  • Mixed controls: a combination of the two. You’ll typically have a lever or bar that will allow you to move the seat forwards/backwards, along with a range of buttons that will alter the angle and height of the seat.

Once you know how you’re going to adjust your car seat, we can move onto the steps you need to make your way through to get your car seat to the perfect position possible.

① Seat Height and Angle

Diagram of adjusting car seat height and angle
  • If you have the option to, start off by adjusting the height of your car seat using a lever at the side of your chair, or a button. You need to have a good view of the road ahead and out of the rear view mirror.
  • Be careful when you make height adjustments—you don’t want your head to touch the roof.
  • If you don’t have the ability to adjust the height, or you can’t get it right, find a suitable cushion to give you the lift you need.
  • You might also need to adjust the angle of the backrest. There will be a dial at the side of the seat that you can turn, or a button you can press. Sit right back in the seat and adjust it until you’re comfortable.

② Seat Position

Diagram of driver sitting correctly
  • You need to adjust the position of your car seat until your legs have adequate room to reach the pedals, without brushing against the steering wheel.
  • Typically, you’ll be able to do this with a bar/lever at the bottom of the seat, or a button.
  • You need to be able to depress all the foot pedals without moving forward in your seat. You’ll also need a slight bend in your knees as you do.
  • You’ve also got to check that you can reach the steering wheel. If you find yourself stretching too far, you need to move the seat closer.

③ Headrest

Diagram of car seat and headrest
  • In the event of a rear-end collision, your headrest will help protect you against whiplash. As such, it’s important that you take the time to adjust it to suit you.
  • There will typically be a button on the side of the headrest that will allow you to move it. Or it will simply give way when you push or pull it.
  • Face forward and move your hands behind you on either side of the headrest. Then, push the button and push/pull the headrest to adjust its position.
  • Ideally, you’ll want to move the headrest until the very top of it is level with the top of your head.

④ Seatbelt

Diagram of car seatbelt
  • Depending on the position and height of your car seat, you might need to adjust the height of the seatbelt so that it rests against you in a safe and proper fashion.
  • You should be able to find a sliding clasp on the B-pillar which will allow you to adjust the height.
  • Slowly, start to move the clasp on the B-pillar until the diagonal strap sits over your shoulder, not your neck.
  • You’ll also need to make sure that the horizontal strap rests over your pelvis, not your stomach.
Once you’re finished with setting up your car seat, you will need to spend some time adjusting your car mirrors. A change in position will mean that external and internal mirrors will need to be moved as well. Otherwise, you won’t have a complete view of the road around you.

Sitting correctly

Unless you want to be stuck with back and shoulder pains when you’re driving (something to be avoided if you’re going to be behind the wheel for long periods of time), it’s important that you learn how to sit correctly. As you adapt your posture, you might have to go back a few steps to set up your car once more.

① Sit all the way back

Diagram of driver sitting correctly
  • When you sit behind the steering wheel, your back should be resting directly against the backrest of the car seat.
  • You should not be moving yourself forwards so that you can reach the pedals. If you find yourself doing this, go back to square one and adjust your car seat again.
  • The key here is to move the car seat if you can’t reach the steering wheel or pedals—not yourself.
  • As you’re sat there, check that the back of your knees don’t touch the bottom of the seat. There needs to be a two finger gap between the back of your knees and the seat.

② Hold the steering wheel correctly

Diagram of driver holding steering wheel
  • Once you’ve sorted out your car seat and the way you’re sitting, you need to make sure that you’re able to comfortably grip the steering wheel.
  • Typically, you’ll hold the wheel with your hands at either 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock, or at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock. It doesn’t matter which position you pick, as long as it’s comfortable for you.
  • If you find that you can’t rest your hands in either position well, adjust the car seat once more.
  • When you drive, keep both hands on the wheel. This isn’t just for safety purposes. It’s because driving one-handed can lead to bad posture.

③ Rest your left foot when necessary

Diagram of foot on car pedal
  • If you’re driving a manual car, you’ll notice that while your right foot is always busy, your left foot won’t have to do as much.
  • Unless you’re changing gears, pulling over or stopping the car, your left foot won’t be doing anything. Until you need to use the clutch, you should rest your foot at the side of the pedal.
  • This will be beneficial for your posture, as you won’t be tensing or straining your left foot unnecessarily.
  • By comparison, your right foot should never move away from the brake and accelerator pedals.

Additional resources

Video tutorial

If you’re more of a visual learner, then carefully watch the video tutorial below. Though your controls might differ from the ones shown in the video, everything else should be the same—specifically, how you need to adjust the height, angle and position of the car seat.

PDF guide

If you’ve got a shoddy memory, why not print out our handy PDF guide on how to set up your car seat? You can get behind the wheel and make your way through our steps slowly to make sure you’re sitting in the best position for you!


FAQs

1. I’ve made adjustments but the car seat keeps moving. What should I do?

When you move your car seat forwards or backwards, you’ll usually hear (and feel) a click once the car seat has locked into place. The best way to test whether it’s locked into place is to move yourself back and forth – if the seat moves, then you need to keep adjusting until it locks.

2. How far away should I be from the airbag?

For your own safety, you should make sure that there’s approximately 25 centimetres (or 10 inches) between the centre of your breastbone and the airbag. If you move closer than this, you run the risk of being injured by the airbag in the event of it being activated.

3. Do you learn how to set up a car seat in driving lessons?

Yes! One of the first things you should cover in your first driving lesson is the cockpit drill. This is a step-by-step process on how to adjust your car seat, steering wheel, seatbelt, mirrors and so on. It sounds like a lot, but you’ll get the hang of it in no time!

4. How far back should the backrest be?

It depends entirely on your preferences. If you prefer to be as upright as possible, you might prefer a strict 90 degree angle. If you’re a bit taller and prefer a bit more of a recline, you can adjust the angle further back. Make sure that you don’t recline it more than 30 degrees back though.

5. How much space should there be between the top of my head and the roof?

As mentioned, you do not want to have your head brushing against the car roof. This could result in serious injury in the event of a crash. Ideally, you’ll want a couple of inches of space between the top of your head and the car roof.

6. I can’t figure out how to adjust my car seat. What should I do?

If you’ve checked underneath and at the side of your seat for a lever/bar, and looked through the buttons, but had no luck, you’ll want to check your car’s manual. It will explain what methods you need to use to adjust your seat correctly.

By Bethany Hall

Whether you’re a learner or a pro driver, Bethany is here to help. From defensive driving to the Highway Code, she’ll tell you everything you need know about driving. If she’s not on the road, you’ll probably find Bethany with her head in a book or binge-watching the latest TV show.

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