Before our trip, I decided we really needed to replace Child #4’s car seat. It is due to “expire” in December 2008 and we had budgeted to replace it this fall. The one we are replacing is a convertible seat that was made by a company no longer in business (Century). It caused quite an episode at a car-seat-check event about two months ago because the seat technicians were unable to get it installed “tight enough” with the vehicle seat belt and it was made before LATCH belts were on every seat. While my install of the seat allowed it to move less than 1/2″ at the belt path, that wasn’t good enough for them. Two seat techs worked together to get it “rock solid.” Just short of high-fiving each other, they realized that the seat was so tight at the belt path that over half of the car seat was not touching the vehicle seat. The angle of the seat in rear facing mode was also not acceptable. They undid the seat belt and started over.
On try #2, they were able to achieve less than 1/4″ movement at the belt path while the seat was at an acceptable angle and completely touching the vehicle seat. This was still not to their liking. They consulted their recall list and found that the same model (Smart Move SE) but of a different manufacture date had had a recall for a problem only when in front facing position. Since we practice extended rear facing and were not planning to turn the seat around during its remaining useful life, I wasn’t concerned. But the technicians were. The pressure to buy another seat during the seat-check-event made me feel like I was at a car lot! Thankfully, I kept my sense of humor and that was the only sticking point they had with my four seats.
The seat has always been hard to buckle, usually had uneven straps causing much consternation, and I wanted our kids in good car seats for the long road trip we were taking. Knowing I was contemplating car-seat-swapping, a friend had suggested that I might want to look into the new Graco Nautilus for one of my older children. (Child #2 just turned five years old and was in a Britax Marathon in order to stay harnessed at current height/weights.) The Nautilus would allow us to continue keeping that child in a five-point harness for quite awhile longer and was cheaper than buying another Britax Marathon. So, I looked around the internet and found a fairly decent deal. It arrived in two days (instead of the 3-5 stated) – a whole day ahead of when we were scheduled to leave town.
I was able to rearrange the car seats, install the Nautilus, change the Marathon to RF from FF. I almost forgot to move the Marathon’s harness straps down for Child #4, but was able to do so after the seat was installed.
Just a run down for the car seat fanatics – I installed the Nautilus using LATCH (and tether) because I couldn’t get a good install in 3rd row, passenger side with the vehicle seat belt (and tether). I haven’t tried it in any other positions. I have a Graco Turbo high-back booster in the 3rd row, driver’s side position. In the second row of our Toyota Sienna (8-passenger) LE, I installed the Britax Marathon with LATCH and the RF tether attached to a seat post with the little do-hickey they give you. The next-car-seat-to-expire Eddie Bauer (can’t remember the style name) harness/booster seat is installed tightly using the vehicle seat belt with tether.