1. Parenting

Q. What Is a Top Tether?

By Sally Tusa

A. A top tether is a strap that comes with some types of car seats. It is a key part of proper car seat installation using LATCH that helps securely anchor the top of the car seat so it doesn't pitch forward in the event of a collision. Though the use of the top tether is optional when installing a car seat with the vehicle seat belt it is strongly recommended that you use the top tether whenever possible, as it reduces head excursion (the forward movement of the head in a crash) enough to significantly reduce the likelihood of serious head and neck injuries.

Top tethers can be found on all car seats made after Sept. 2002 that can be used forward-facing. This includes convertible car seats and combination car seats. On many car seats, the top tether is made to be used only in the forward-facing position. However, a few models allow for the use of the top tether in a rear-facing installation, so you should check your car seat owner's manual to see if this is an option for you.

The top tether attaches to a hook that is usually on the rear dash in sedans but often on the floor of a mini-van or in the back cargo area of an SUV. Any vehicle made in 2002 or later should come standard with LATCH, so check your car's owner manual for instructions. Some top tethers must be routed in specific ways over or under head rests, so it's important to check your vehicle owner's manual and your car seat instructions to be sure you're using the top tether correctly. For more information, check out "When to Use a Car Seat Top Tether."

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