Almost all ISOfix car seats will have a third point of contact with the car, the new i-Size car seats always have a third point of contact. Without getting too jargon-ey, that means that the child car seat will connect to your car with the two isofix points, and the third point is either a top tether, or a support leg.
The tether and the support leg (both third points of contact) both do the same thing in an accident, they help stop the forward momentum. Some car seats that install with a seatbelt also have a top tether.
The child car seat will attach to the tether points using a strap that looks like a car seat belt, with a clip on the end.
The problem with top tethers
Tethering incorrectly is one of the most common mistakes parents make when installing car seats, and it's not hard to see why:
Tether points aren't in the same place in every car
Not all cars have tether points
On some cars tether points are called anchor points
Luggage clips look deceptively like tether points
Sometimes tether points are in the middle of the boot- people unclip the tether to pack more things into the boot
Tether points aren't always clearly labelled
Not all child car seats have tether straps
Why you should use a tether point
It's important that you find the real tether point in your car. If the manual for your child's car seat says that a tether needs to be used then it would have passed the safety testing using the tether. The tether point is an integral part of the safety of the seat. We can't know how the seat will perform without the tether, and we definitely wouldn't recommend that you use the seat without the tether (if it has one).
How to find the tether points in your car
The first stop is your car's manual. It will tell you where the tether points are located.
Spot the Tether Point!
Anchor points/ tether points/ tether bolts (all the same thing!) tend to be square-ish in shape, and thicker metal than a luggage clip. They'll usually be in the centre of a seat, so the back seat of the car may have two or three anchor points, in the centre of each seat.
They're usually D shaped, but not always!
You can also have a look in the car. Some tether points will have an anchor symbol next to them, like this.
Beware of luggage clips
Make sure you don't secure the car seat to a luggage clip. Luggage clips aren't as strong as tether bolts as they aren't designed to hold much weight in the event of an accident. They are often just held to the car with plastic. The problem with luggage clips is that to an untrained eye they look a lot like Tether Points!!
Common tether point locations
You might find the tether points behind in the middle or the bottom of the seat back. It might be at the top of the seat (kind of underneath the head rest), or somewhere in the boot.
Can I have tether points retro fitted?
If your car doesn't have tether points, you can have them fitted by some mechanics. Obviously there is a cost involved, and not all child car seats require the use of a top tether, so in most cases we would recommend looking for a different child car seat without a tether. If you already own the child car seats and you've just bought a new car without tether points, installing them will probably be a cheaper option than buying new car seats. Here are a few garages in Auckland who provide the service.
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