Monday, June 14, 2010

LATCH 101: The Basics

LATCH stands for Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren. It's also known as ISOFIX in Europe and LUAS (Lower Universal Anchorage System) in Canada.

LATCH is a way to secure a child safety seat to the vehicle using straps from the child safety seat that connect to special metal anchors in the vehicle.


  • Lower anchors are a pair of metal “u-shaped” bars hidden in the vehicle’s seat crack.
  • A tether anchor is a metal anchor (often a ring or bar) found behind the vehicle seat.
**FYI: Vehicles since model year 2003 must have the lower anchors in at least TWO seating positions and tether anchors in at least THREE positions. This means that, in most vehicles, the side seats have lower anchors AND tether anchors, while the center seat has a tether anchor but NO lower anchors.

This diagram above shows the varied locations you may find the tether anchor in the vehicle.  ALWAYS check the vehicle owner's manual to make sure that what you have found is indeed the tether anchor (and not a cargo hook, which can not withstand the force of a crash).  See bottom of this post for pictures of different locations for tether anchors in a wide variety of vehicles.


  • All child safety seats that use the vehicle’s lower anchors have a lower anchor strap with a connector on the end. Some child safety seats have two separate lower anchor straps, each with a connector on one end. These connectors attach to the vehicle’s lower anchors.  A few booster seats have a rigid lower anchor connector, instead of having the connector on a flexible strap.
  • Rear-facing car seats typically just use the lower anchors (a few can also use the top tether).  Forward-facing car seats use the lower anchors AND top tether.  
Forward-facing car seat
using Lower Anchor Strap

Forward-facing car seat
with Rigid Lower LATCH

  • All forward-facing child safety seats that use the vehicle's lower LATCH anchors will come with not only a lower anchor strap, but also a tether strap. The tether strap comes from the top of the child's car seat and has a hook on the end that connects to the tether anchor in the vehicle.
Forward-facing car seat
Using tether in a minivan
Forward-facing car seat
Using tether in a sedan
Vehicle Seat Belt: Glasses   as   Lower Anchors : Contact Lenses  
- Just an analogy for those yearning to relive their high-school SAT studying days.  But in all seriousness, this analogy explains why you never use the lower anchors & the vehicle seat belt at the same time to install the car seat.   Just like if you were to wear contacts & glasses at the same time you would see worse rather than better, so too the performance of the car seat may be NEGATIVELY affected by using both the lower anchors and the vehicle's seat belt at the same time.
- Note: Lower anchors are used INSTEAD of the vehicle's safety belt to secure the child safety seat to the vehicle. Tethers are used IN ADDITION to the lower anchors OR the vehicle's safety belt to secure a forward-facing (and some rear-facing) child safety seat to the vehicle.

Tether on bottom of vehicle seat

Tether on bottom of vehicle seat -
but covered up by carpet flap

Tether anchor in the roof

Tether anchor on back of vehicle seat

SUV/WagonTether anchors in floor of cargo area
(very inconvenient when trying to load packages)

5 door Hatchback
Tether Anchor on back of vehicle seat
Tether Anchor is on the shelf below the rear windshield

Tether Anchor is on the shelf below the rear windshield


  1. I would love to know where the tether anchor is for RF on a 2003 Ford F-250 Diesel Quad Cab Truck? I found the tether anchors for FF. I would prefer to keep the seat outboard passenger, but will move it in order to get the proper anchor point.
    I would also love to know on a 2009 Toyota Prius.


  2. Great piece! I will share this on FB. Thanks!

  3. Can you explain what the point of 3 tether anchors is, with ony 2 sets of lower anchors? My suburban has lowers in the middle and left seat but only an anchor on the right side.

  4. RF-specific tethers don't necessarily exist as only a couple seats allow tethering when RFing. Those that do generally come with an extra strap that can be used to wrap around a bolted point (leg of seat, etc.) and then the tether is attached to that.

    The point of having 3 tether anchors is that the third seat can be installed with the belt and then the tether still used.

  5. Our Britax (can't remember the model) convertible FF car seat/booster says in the directions to continue to use the lower anchor and top tether straps when the seat is being used as a booster. IIRC, the explanation was that the tether straps help keep the seat from moving around. Is this not the case? I realize your post above is talking about using either a seat belt or LATCH for car seat (non-booster) installation, and that I'm talking about using it in its booster mode. Not exactly the same, but thought I'd ask.

  6. Anonymous: There is no designated anchor for the rear-facing tether when using it in the Swedish mode (the Australian mode attaches the tether to the forward-facing anchor). The Swedish-mode rear-facing tether has to attach to something that is metal and part of the structural frame of the vehicle. I find the seat track of the front seat to be the best choice - however in some vehicles the seat track is flush to the floor of the vehicle making it impossible to use the rear-facing tether in the Swedish mode (you could still do Australian style). Britax has a video showing the attachment of the D-ring (rear-facing tether connector strap) around the seat track of the front seat - There is usually a cosmetic plastic casing around the seat track - it is helpful to remove this so that the tether connector strap will fit better.

    Jonathan: You have a combination seat (carseat -> booster), not a convertible seat (rear-facing to forward-facing) - and it is either the Frontier or the Frontier 85. Check out today's post for the answer to your question - but, yes, your seat is one of the few that allow the use of the lower anchors and tether while the seat is used in the booster mode (helpful to prevent the seat from becoming a projectile when the child is not in it).

    Keep the comments coming!

  7. I'd love to find information for moving a tether anchor point. I have a 2010 Ford f-150 Super Crew (four door). The tether anchor is at the top of the rear seats. The problem is that it is not far enough away from the top of the car seat to let the tightening strap draw tight enough. Consequently, ford recommends looping the tether strap through the first anchor, around the headrest post, and connecting it to the center tether anchor. With two car seats this means that both are connected to the same tether anchor. Further, I doubt it is ideal to have the tether straps run around a headrest stud.

    Here's a thread that discusses solutions...

    So, I'd like to move the tether anchor to the floor or back wall of the truck, but can't seem to get any information on how and who to have do this.

    Can you steer me in the right direction for what seems to me to be a fairly simple modification.