Can Car Seats Touch Each Other?

Chances are that you’ve just bought your third car seat for the newest addition to your family.

First things first; Congratulations are in order!

Fitting 3 seats at the back can be a challenge for even the most trained CPST. Not only is space a precious commodity, but the installation has to be perfect as well. Even then, most people end up having their car seats coming in contact with each other. This is where you start to wonder whether having the car seats touch or rub against each other is a safety concern? The short answer is.

It is perfectly safe for car seats to touch each other and is not a safety concern given all 3 seats are installed properly and according to the manufactures and safety standards. A car seat is designed to absorb crash impact in case of an accident, therefore having them touch or rub against each other should not be a problem.

When can it become a problem?

Despite the fact that it is safe to have car seats come in contact with each other, there are still precautions that need to be taken before you can drive safely with them at the back.

1. Are the car seats properly installed?

When you start to install the car seats, you should always make sure to install each one as if it is the only seat in the car. This idea is termed as “Independent Installation”.

Independent Installation requires a parent to install seat A properly and making sure it is in compliance with the safety laws. Once a tight fit is achieved, then and only then are you allowed to fit Seat B, and same procedure is repeated till all 3 seats are installed.

The benefit of this method is that each seat gets its fair share of attention and results in being fitted properly, without becoming a safety concern.

Tip: Make sure all seats comply with manufacturers’ guidelines. This includes, and is not limited to footprint, overhang, seat belts, and anchors.

2. Are the car seats properly tightened?

According to a CPST, a car seat should not move more than one inch on each side. This means that not only each seat should have a tight fit, but it should be tested independent of its neighbor seat. This means that if the reason for a tight fit for the middle seat is because it is sandwiched between the two adjacent car seats, then you have a problem at your hand that needs fixing.

This can be avoided if you follow the independent installation tips mentioned above.

3. Are the seats pushing on each other?

Once installed, you should always make sure that a car seat isn’t pushing in on the adjacent seat with any amount of force that would cause either one of the two to deform. Moreover, despite the contact, all seat positions are not changed due to it and should align properly with respect to seat belt or Latch anchor positions.        

4. Can you reach the emergency harness/seatbelt release system?

An often-repeated phrase is that you’re as strong as your weakest link. This can be modified to somewhat fit this situation as well.

You can have 3 of the best installed car seats at the back of the car, but if it blocks you from reaching the emergency harness/seatbelt, then it is a cause for concern. Granted that safety of the child has been achieved, but in accident, time is of the essence and if you can’t get you child out of their car seat, then it could spell disaster.

Tip: Once installed, use a doll to practice unbuckling. This will allow you to work out angles and techniques that will come in handy down the line.

5. Is there a danger for a seat to push the release button of the other one?

Due to the compact nature of the car and installation of 3 seats across, you should always make sure that the movement of a seat would not accidently cause the release of its adjacent seat. A perfect fil allows for no more than 1-inch movement on either side, so it shouldn’t be much of a problem, but still worth looking into. Better safe than sorry.


Due to the physics of forces, when the car takes a turn, all things inside are forced to lean towards a certain side and this includes the installed car seats as well. Since this can’t be avoided, a compact car seat designed for 3-across has to take this contact into consideration and make the seat safe for it.

Once properly installed and inspected, you can safely drive with 3 children at the back.

Note: Always read the manufacturer instruction for proper fitting

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