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How I got +4" of extra room with a rear facing infant car seat!

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Old 10-24-2012, 10:37 PM   #1
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Thumbs up How I got +4" of extra room with a rear facing infant car seat!

THIS MOD PERTAINS TO ONE REAR FACING INFANT CAR SEAT AND ONE FORWARD FACING CAR SEAT. PUT THE FORWARD FACING ONE BEHIND THE DRIVER AND THE REAR ONE BEHIND THE PASSENGER.

In 2010 with my first kid, I had a rear facing car seat in a double cab, and it's a no brainier that you you put in the middle of the back seat to make it fit the best. however with two car seats one forward facing and the second one rear facing, the rear facing one is a pain in the ass because it takes up so much room that my front passenger seat was a joke.

After a theory and some analysis I took out the rear passenger seat back from my truck, and earned 4 inches of extra leg room for my front passenger. Car seat is secure and uncompromised. Damned rear facing car seat takes up an obscene amount of room.

This was a compromise, because in doing so I sacrificed the back passenger and the middle seat. So in a pinch I can still legally carry 3 adults if I remove the forward facing car seat (behind the driver) and replace the head rest.

It's two 12mm bolts that are removed to take the seat back out. I also had to take out the center seat belt. It is anchored with a single 14mm bolt in the center bottom of the cab. I replaced the bolt and torqued to factory specs. I found the directions in the Factory Service Manual. Basically fold the seat bottoms up and then fold the seat back down, remove the plastic covers from the corners by prying them up and then remove the bolts. It's very easy.

I used a blanket to fill the void and build a flat base for the car seat base. This is a car-seat-manufacturer approved method of install. The factory seat belt anchor system is retained when the seat back is removed. The alternate seat-base-with-built-in-clip-in-system is not retained as the hooks are part of the seat back. I did not care about that, as the room was critical and the seat belt system works.

Final Install


Test Fitting


Final Install as pictured from the drivers seat


A Complete view of the back seat of the double cab


After using this system for a couple weeks I am very happy. The only drawback I've detected so far is that It can be a bit cramped when putting the infant in or taking the infant out of the car seat while the seat is in the base. Putting the car seat in the base or taking the car seat out the base is still very easy.

When my second kid is old or big enough to go forward facing I'll put the seat back back into the truck. Probably in a year or so... Last time we waited until our kid screamed at us each time we put her into the rear facing one and that's when we knew we had to get the forward facing one.

Overall I'm very happy about how this mod has turned out.

If anyone out there reading this thinks what I've done is wrong and I'm going to burn in hell or something, I'm really not at all that interested in hearing from you and I would prefer you just keep your comments to yourself. However, if you have some constructive criticism and want to comment I'm open to discussion.

If you like what you have seen here give it a try. I say go for it and I hope I have helped someone out there.

Also, In theory, it would be possible to do the reverse and take out the seat back from the drivers side back seat. The advantage here is that you'd only be sacrificing one seat and not the middle seat as well like I did. For us it just made more sense to have the toddler behind the driver and the infant on the passenger side.
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Old 10-24-2012, 10:41 PM   #2
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Good idea!!
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Old 10-25-2012, 12:40 AM   #3
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I would have some questions about stability, but I'm sure it's super stable.

One question, in an accident would that plastic behind where you have the seat back removed shatter, possible flinging towards your kid. Obviously theres no chance of a seat back doing that.

Great job figuring out how to get that car seat in! Some people on here would have just bought a Camry....
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Old 10-25-2012, 10:12 AM   #4
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nice!
Question: Can you still use the LATCH system or do you have to use the seat belt? I got another one on the way. He/she will be here in MAY13 so I'm trying to get some ideas before we consider trading in the truck.
Thanks again and great write up!
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Old 10-25-2012, 10:33 AM   #5
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hummm... Not bad at all! I'll keep that in mind whenever we have #2. #1 is only 2wks old though, so it'll be a while!

[QUOTE=jackrules;5891590]I
One question, in an accident would that plastic behind where you have the seat back removed shatter, possible flinging towards your kid. Obviously theres no chance of a seat back doing that.
/QUOTE]
I'd say the chances are the same actually. So no, I wouldn't worry about it. That said, I wouldn't store anything in the cubby though!
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Old 10-25-2012, 12:00 PM   #6
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I'd have some concerns over the use of the padding/blanket to keep the seat bottom level like you have. If you were rear ended quite hard, the seat would dive down at the rear which could loosen the seat belts on the child seat. G-forces in an accident are so much larger then what we think. While you may not be able to push the seat botton down by hand, during an accident that force could be problematic.
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Old 10-25-2012, 12:14 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lurkin View Post
I'd have some concerns over the use of the padding/blanket to keep the seat bottom level like you have. If you were rear ended quite hard, the seat would dive down at the rear which could loosen the seat belts on the child seat. G-forces in an accident are so much larger then what we think. While you may not be able to push the seat botton down by hand, during an accident that force could be problematic.
I have our first due in January. I just got our first car seat and diligently read the instructions. The manufacturers instructions actually say to use a rolled up towel to level the seat if it can't be done without it.
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Old 10-25-2012, 12:32 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by supriseaztacoma View Post
Good idea!!
Thanks.

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Originally Posted by jackrules View Post
I would have some questions about stability, but I'm sure it's super stable.
It is stable. I would not use it otherwise.

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Originally Posted by jackrules View Post
One question, in an accident would that plastic behind where you have the seat back removed shatter, possible flinging towards your kid. Obviously theres no chance of a seat back doing that.
Good point. I thought about it, but I don't see how plastic would spontaneously explode without something impacting it and I don't think Toyota would use that kind of brittle plastic in automotive applications. Frankly I just don't see it happening.

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Great job figuring out how to get that car seat in! Some people on here would have just bought a Camry....
Right. I'm invested in my 4x4 truck and I'm not going to give it up unless I have no other choice.

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Originally Posted by nathan3306 View Post
nice!
Question: Can you still use the LATCH system or do you have to use the seat belt? I got another one on the way. He/she will be here in MAY13 so I'm trying to get some ideas before we consider trading in the truck.
Thanks again and great write up!
Not the way I did it. The LATCH system is integrated into the seat back cushion. Since I pulled mine out I can't use the factory LATCH points, however, if you are handy, you can fashion an extension from the seat belt bolt holes. It's difficult to explain here without pictures, but I thought about it and it can be done with the right hardware. It involves temporarily removing the seat belt bolts 14mm and installing an anchor for the LATCH system and then re-installing the seat belt bolts on top. I may actually do this as it's a better (safer) anchor system for the car seat and it doesn't exact wear and tear on the seatbelt restraint system.

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Originally Posted by ManMan View Post
hummm... Not bad at all! I'll keep that in mind whenever we have #2. #1 is only 2wks old though, so it'll be a while!
Awesome, and congrats on your new one!

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... I wouldn't store anything in the cubby though!
^this. Only soft goods like blankets should be stored anywhere near the child. Anything that is dense or hard can become a potential missile during a sudden braking or collision situation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lurkin View Post
I'd have some concerns over the use of the padding/blanket to keep the seat bottom level like you have. If you were rear ended quite hard, the seat would dive down at the rear which could loosen the seat belts on the child seat. G-forces in an accident are so much larger then what we think. While you may not be able to push the seat botton down by hand, during an accident that force could be problematic.
No. It doesn't work like that. If you roll a blanket like the one I have, and as I have done and stand on it ~190 lbs or so, it compresses but not by much. The forces during a front end collision are not downward but are lateral towards the front of the truck. As such the sole purpose of the blanket is to make a level surface so the infant is sitting at the right angle. If you actually read the literature that comes with an infant car seat you would know that using rolled or folded towels is an approved method of building a level base for the car seat. The rolled blanket is no different really, it's just filling a void.
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Old 10-25-2012, 12:39 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghoster View Post
I have our first due in January. I just got our first car seat and diligently read the instructions. The manufacturers instructions actually say to use a rolled up towel to level the seat if it can't be done without it.
^This is 100% correct. Thumbs up for an informed future parent. Congrats!

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Hahaha baby gets all the bass to rock out!
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Old 10-25-2012, 12:43 PM   #11
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Kind of off topic, but it's looking more and more like I'm going to have to get a standard infant car seat vs. a convertible one. The backs of the convertibles are so long that rear facing seems absolutely impossible. Do you have any experience with a convertible in the double cab?
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Old 10-25-2012, 12:45 PM   #12
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^This is 100% correct. Thumbs up for an informed future parent. Congrats!
I've even seen somewhere, some police depts. suggest a section cut out of a pool noodle for leveling...
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Old 10-25-2012, 12:48 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jackrules View Post
I would have some questions about stability, but I'm sure it's super stable.

One question, in an accident would that plastic behind where you have the seat back removed shatter, possible flinging towards your kid. Obviously theres no chance of a seat back doing that.

Great job figuring out how to get that car seat in! Some people on here would have just bought a Camry....

I would be more worried about the glass from an impact vs the plastic. Since the glass has always been there, I am not sure I would worry much about the plastic.

With that said, if you tint or put a UV layer on the glass, it would be a good idea to put some vinyl sheet on the plastic. That would be good all around.
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Old 10-25-2012, 12:57 PM   #14
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xJuice,

Yes sort of. The forward facing one I have is a Evenflo Symphony 65 All-In-One Convertible Car Seat. However, I've never had it rear facing with infant, only forward facing with toddler. It has three incline positions, I currently have it on #2 (middle position ) it takes up a lot of room, but it in current form and position, not as much as the rear facing infant one. Hope that helps.

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Old 10-25-2012, 05:23 PM   #15
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My son was rear facing in the passenger seat in my 2002 x tended cab. Now he's almost 4 and is in a booster in back. He has plenty of room by I could care less about the passenger.
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Old 10-26-2012, 05:29 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crom View Post
No. It doesn't work like that. If you roll a blanket like the one I have, and as I have done and stand on it ~190 lbs or so, it compresses but not by much. The forces during a front end collision are not downward but are lateral towards the front of the truck. As such the sole purpose of the blanket is to make a level surface so the infant is sitting at the right angle. If you actually read the literature that comes with an infant car seat you would know that using rolled or folded towels is an approved method of building a level base for the car seat. The rolled blanket is no different really, it's just filling a void.
I was actually talking about the padding underneath the seat, not the towel. But it sounds like my concern is in the minority. BTW, I did forget to say good idea. Luckily for me both of mine were in forward facing seats with my Tacoma.
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Old 10-26-2012, 07:13 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lurkin View Post
I was actually talking about the padding underneath the seat, not the towel. But it sounds like my concern is in the minority. BTW, I did forget to say good idea. Luckily for me both of mine were in forward facing seats with my Tacoma.
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Old 10-26-2012, 10:42 AM   #18
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Not a bad idea. One I hadn't thought of.
However...
I've got my 9mo in the bucket (Chicco) in the middle. I've got my 4yo in the front-facing seat on the PS. With that arrangement, the front passenger still has copious leg room, and plenty of recline, without me having to worry about getting on my 4yo's case about keeping his feet off the seat back. Also with that arrangement, I can still fully open the DS rear seat bottom and back. And, I can still carry an adult in the rear, next to the bucket, with plenty of room to be comfortable (assuming I move my packs off the floor).
This is all possible because the child seat is the Sunshine Kids Radian XT. Metal frame, and skinny enough to be able to fit three of them side-by-side in a sedan.
Of course, when my 9mo outgrows the bucket, we'll see how well I can fit the same car seat in there facing backwards. Crossing my fingers on that one. (I may, at that time, have to take your suggestion here......which means removing the assload of stuff I have stored behind the seat).
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Old 10-26-2012, 11:09 AM   #19
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Not a bad idea. One I hadn't thought of.
However...
I've got my 9mo in the bucket (Chicco) in the middle. I've got my 4yo in the front-facing seat on the PS. With that arrangement, the front passenger still has copious leg room, and plenty of recline, without me having to worry about getting on my 4yo's case about keeping his feet off the seat back. Also with that arrangement, I can still fully open the DS rear seat bottom and back. And, I can still carry an adult in the rear, next to the bucket, with plenty of room to be comfortable (assuming I move my packs off the floor).
This is all possible because the child seat is the Sunshine Kids Radian XT. Metal frame, and skinny enough to be able to fit three of them side-by-side in a sedan.
Of course, when my 9mo outgrows the bucket, we'll see how well I can fit the same car seat in there facing backwards. Crossing my fingers on that one. (I may, at that time, have to take your suggestion here......which means removing the assload of stuff I have stored behind the seat).
Very good! Sounds like you got a really nice setup right now. Good to know about a brand/model that doesn't eat up so much room. I'll have to give that model some attention when my infant grows out of the rear facing car seat.

Thanks for your post.
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Old 10-29-2012, 11:59 AM   #20
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This is a very interesting (and creative) solution. I am a Child Passenger Safety Technician, a parent of two (4 and 6), and owner of a 06 DC. I've used many seats from infant seats to rear facing covertibles to forward facing seats and boosters in my back seat.

OP, I'm not going blast you or anything like that, I just would like you to consider some sublties of your solution that you may have not considered. I always belive that having as much information from the right sources help us make the best decisions for our children, even if the end decisions are different. Being informed is the best tool a parent can have.

Child Restraints have been designed to pass all the requirements of FMVSS 213 (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for Child Restraint Systems) to ensure protection of your child should you be in a crash - The standard is not perfect, and there are some shortcomings IMO regarding some of the test procedures, but it is what the carseat manufacturers meet and how they define the limits and liabilty of their seats. These tests were done on a bench seat with a vehicle back. Deviations from the manufacturer instructions is misuse of the seat and will release the manufacturer of any liability if you are in a crash and your child gets hurt or killed because the seat did not perform as expected.

Regarding law, CA is a proper use state, meaning that legaly you can be cited for misuse because you are not using your carseat according to manufacture instructions. Probably unlikely, however if you get pulled over, the lack of a vehicle seat back and presence of a carseat might give the officer cause to look closer and see that you have done something non standard. If the officer knows his stuff, this could be a steep ticket.

Removing the seat back gives a similar situation to what the tacoma extended cabs have with respect to being in close proximity to the rear panel and window. In a crash, you are correct that the primary impact is in the forward direction, what we would be concerned with is the change in dynamics on rebound. On rebound the carseat will pivot at the seatbelt and the entire system will "coccoon" towards the back window. You have changed this pivot point and also changed the density of the base - since part is rolled blanket, the other is softer vehicle seat. The soft seat acts as an energy damper to dissapate the kinetic energy of the rebound. Would a harder surface like the rolled blanket transfer more energy to the seat and then to your child? Something to consider...however, as long as your child is strapped tightly with the harness in the correct position, the tall seat sides should protect your child from impact on rebound just fine.

The technical "misuse" in your solution, specific for the Chicco that you have are:
-use of tightly rolled towels- a rolled towel is only allowed for a baseless install using the seat belt to adjust the recline angle of the carseat. Chicco does not allow noodles or rolled towels for adjusting angle for base installs. Other brands of infant seats do allow rolled towels or noodles under their bases, just not Chicco.

-not using the lockoff - by moving the base 4 inches toward the back of the vehicle, you have created a situation where the lockoffs on the base can not work effectively. If you notice, the orange lockoffs rely on the acute rearward angle made between the shoulderbelt anchor and the lockoff wedge. You can tell in your picture that the lockoff is not fully engaged. Chicco does not permit bypassing the lockoff and using the switchable retractor (Toyota factory belt retention system) for a lap/shoulder belt installation. They require the base to be tight with the lockoff firs and then state as an option that the shoulder belt can be locked.

I'd also like to comment about re-creating lower latch connections (since they are part of the vehicle seat back). FMVSS 225, Child Restrain Anchorage is the standard that toyota has to meet with respect to LATCH. Lower anchors are required to be nominally 280mm (11 in) and have specific dimension, strength and anchorage to vehicle requirement. Many carseats do not allow non-standard lower anchorage spacing - so once again, check your manual. Some do state a range - but usually it is in reference to LATCH borrowing (using innermost lower anchors of the outboard seats) for center installs with LATCH. FYI Toyota does not allow borrowing of this kind though. I don't think your proposed solution of creating lower anchors will meet this, and again, if anything should happen, and your child gets hurt, this solution releases Toyota of any liability.

OP, once again I'm not trying to chastise or judge you I would hope that you might consider that you are potentially putting your child in a condition that has not been verified or tested by the carseat manufacturer. It is your decision as the parent to make a fully informed decision on how best to protect your child in the event of a crash.

The Keyfit is one of the shortest front to back infant seats currently on the market. It fits very well in small spaces. I am aware that front passenger room for tall parents is of concern especially with a rear facing seat is behind it. Many times just one click forward and a couple clicks upright of the driver or passenger seat is all that it takes to fit a seat and parent comfortably. Incidentally, once your child outgrows the infant seat and moves to a rear facing convertible (2 years minimum per current recommendations by the AAP), these tend to give more room to the front passenger despite the larger seat because they can be installed more upright and don't require the full recline.

Anyone else, I'd be happy to answer any questions, you are welcome to PM me.
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