There are a lot of things that I review that are purely novelty items, items that are fun to have but not something that I feel completely passionate about. But, safety is obviously not something that falls in that category or something I take lightly, the proof of which is this incredibly long mega post. Whereas a lot of products I choose are for purely aesthetic reasons or for the way in which my daughter’s eyes light up when she sees them, The Safety 1st Complete Air Convertible Car Seat was chosen because of something much more important – my daughter’s comfort and safety.
The Safety 1st Complete Air Convertible Car Seat with Air Protect Side Impact Technology (whew!) is for rear-facing infants from 5-40lbs (19 to 41 inches) and for toddlers facing forward from 22-50lbs (34 to 45 inches), and has many unique features that allow it to grow with your child from infancy until they are booster seat ready. Offering one of the highest weight limits of any rear facing seat we’ve ever seen and a deeper and taller seat than most, the Complete Air allows you the most options for your littlest passengers as well as the most comfortable ride –whether that is rear or forward facing.
If you take a look down the car seat aisle of your local department store or baby center you will see a huge difference in the design of rear facing seats as compared with forward facing seats. Generally speaking, rear facing seats are padded and deluxe, with a virtual cocoon of safety around your child that offers not only the best protection for your little one, but also the most plush accommodations while forward facing seats are fairly minimal in design and padding. For months I resisted switching to a forward facing car seat, even after my daughter was pushing the 20lb recommendation, because I just wasn’t finding a car seat that came close to offering the piece of mind that I had when she was in her infant seat. So, as her legs became cramped in my small sedan backseat, I begrudgingly began the car seat hunt of ’09 that led us to buy one of my least favorite car seats ever, and finally ended when we found the Safety 1st Complete Air Car Seat.
So, what is Air Protect with Side Impact Technology? In its most simple explanation, it is the inclusion of features such as two specially formulated pillows of air that are attached to the inside of the Complete Air Convertible Seat and are designed to dissipate force around your child’s head and protect them better in side impact crashes. Or, as Safety 1st explains “Through the precise release of air, Air Protect™ shields children from side impact intrusion and immediately reduces crash forces at the most critical spot: around a child’s head.” Safety 1st offers videos on their website that show the crash testing of the Complete Air, and the Air Protect system certainly appears to provide excellent head protection in a side impact crash. Since I clearly don’t have a crash test facility at my disposal, I can’t offer any scientific data that you can’t get online at the Safety 1st site, but I can tell you how the Complete Air Car Seat has completely changed the way I look at car seats, especially convertible seats.
I will never, ever forget the first time I saw an infant in a convertible rear facing-to-forward facing seat and how horrified both my husband and I were with the very minimal amount of padding and protection that was securing this teeny tiny baby into his seat. The seat honestly looked like it was made for a four year old in both size and support and I was even more horrified when I found out that this seat had been issued by a State-run program to help parents who were unable to afford their own car seats. At the time I remember looking at my daughter all snug in her infant seat with its high crash test ratings and feeling very fortunate that I had a mother in law and nana in law who cared enough about my baby to purchase a top of the line seat for her and wishing that every child could be so lucky.
So, you can imagine how sad I was when my daughter was reaching the limits of that seat and we decided to make the all-important transition to a big girl car seat. In my mind I was picturing that car seat from months earlier and imagining my baby (yes, she will always be my baby – no matter what her age) riding in that ill-fitting toddler seat with minimal padding and lacking safety features and I just couldn’t do it. Even after going to 7 different stores to look for car seats and comparing every model we found online, I still was absolutely petrified to make that leap from the swaddled infant seat. At last we could hold off no longer, and we finally purchased a replacement seat for her by going with the one we deemed most safe in our research.
But, from day one we hated that seat. Besides the fact that the seat was light colored (the dark colors were almost $40 more expensive!) and showed every bit of dirt, the seat was extremely difficult to buckle and the straps were constantly twisting, turning and folding inside the seat, so in order to secure her in I had to dig the straps out from under her and then buckle them around her while carrying my bags and bags of stuff I just can’t seem to go anywhere without.
But, all of that was minor in comparison to what became its ultimate downfall; how much my daughter hated it. Anyone who knows my daughter knows how easy going she is – seriously, check out the site to see what kinds of shenanigans we have put her through in 18 short months – but you should have seen how much she hated that seat. I can only assume it was uncomfortable in some way I will never know, because she had absolutely loved her infant seat and thus riding in the car. I know that she found it next to impossible to sleep in the new seat, and that if she ever did fall asleep while driving, she would undoubtedly wake up as soon as the car slowed slightly because she had no where to lean her head and even the smallest movement forward was too much for her to correct in her sleep. Since my job takes both of us on the road numerous times during the week, I used to plan our trips right during naptime and was really disappointed when I found that this new big girl carseat, even with it’s touted “adjustable recline” was not going to cut it.
Lucky for me, I found the Complete Air Convertible Car Seat almost on accident and promptly fell in love. Instead of looking like all the other toddler car seats I had seen and researched in the car seat hunt of ’09, the Complete Air looked entirely different, and more like those super deluxe and padded infant seats I was so wishing she could still ride in. For starters, I loved that the Complete Air was naturally reclined more than the “adjustable recline” of her current seat, and that the fabrics were made to be kid-tough and spot camouflaging. But, really, what I ultimately fell in love with were the pillows of air that is the signature distinction of the Complete Air Seat. It all came down to the idea that the seat offered much more side padding and safety features to protect against side impact crashes and completely sold me on the Complete Air.
Some other really cool features I found after we got to play with the seat up close and in person are that those little special air pillows are adjustable to five different heights and can be done easily and without rethreading the car seat straps. Everyone knows that the day you notice your kid is too big for the strap and height settings on your carseat is the day that you are running late to that really important meeting, so I love that adjustments can be made quickly and easily. Speaking of the straps, I have mastered undoing them with one hand, which leaves the other one free to hold my pounds and pounds of gear. I also really like the removable cup holder on the Complete Air, not because of its extreme usefulness (which I’m sure it is), but because if it had come fixed on the seat it wouldn’t have fit in my far left backseat position with the car door shut. Unfortunately, that does mean that we are using our seat cup-holder-less, but there are far worse things than being without a cup holder. Besides, we found that we can somewhat finagle the cup holder so it is attached to the right side of the car seat, but we hope to find a more permanent solution at some point.
When this review originally posted, we hadn't had an opportunity to test the Complete Air in a rear facing configuration, but since then we have turned around my daughter's seat again so we could extend her rear-facing riding. It was a bit of a squeeze to get it rear-facing in our small sedan, but it did fit and I feel so much better knowing that she can delay the switch to forward-facing for awhile longer. To me, the prolonged rear-facing option was one of the greatest benefits of the Safety 1st Air, and I am so thrilled that we have that option with this car seat.
The height of the seat does make it rather interesting getting the correct angle on the recline – especially if you have a really young baby – but it is possible to do it, which is more than I can say for other seats we have tried. In fact, in order to use my daughter’s infant seat that we loved so dearly, we had to install it right in the middle of the backseat with the front seats pushed as far forward as they could comfortably go for hubby’s and my long legs, and made it awfully fun to get her in and out, which got even more so once she exceeded the 20lb weight limit.
I have read that others have had some difficulty on the rear-facing install and we did as well at first, but after a little while of hubby reading the manual and checking and double-checking, he got it in secure as can be. I would definitely suggest that you get expert help when installing a car seat if you are not car seat inclined, it is so much better to be as safe as possible when we're talking babies and toddlers. There are many services and programs nationwide that help you ensure your seat is installed correctly – because an incorrectly installed seat cannot work as it should. But, to help out the do-it-yourselfer, Safety 1st uses a color-coded installation guide in the User Guide and on the Car Seat in order to distinguish between forward and rear facing instructions.
I’m just sorry we didn’t find the Safety 1st Complete Air Car Seat when my daughter was younger. I would have loved to use it for that period in which she had outgrown her infant seat but before she was ready to face forward and prolong her rear-facing riding. But, one cannot be too upset that they found the perfect car seat for them a month too late, especially when she’s got years of use left in it. I’m just happy we found a comfortable and safe solution that is perfect for our family.
When I placed my daughter in it the first time, she clapped. No joke, she started clapping and patted the arm rest of the Complete Air Car Seat lovingly, which is how she tells us she likes something. She leaned her head to the side and snuggled up to one of the air pillows and smiled a sweet little “you understood – I didn’t like that old car seat” smile that could melt even the most hardened of hearts. To this day she still sometimes claps when I put her in it, especially when it’s been a while since she was in the car or when it’s dangerously near to naptime, and sometimes I catch her patting the arm of her seat lovingly as we drive. And I think, yes, my dear, I love it too.
We all understand that side impact crashes are some of the worst in terms of damage and injury, which is mostly due to the lack of side airbags in most vehicles to protect occupants in side crashes, so I’m not going to scare you with side-impact crash warnings. I’m not even going to force you to watch the crash test video from the Safety 1st Site, but I will recommend that you go visit the site and see all the hoopla about this seat, and excerpt of which is below:
The Complete Air™ Convertible Car Seat is tested with an intruding door technique, which best replicates an actual side impact crash. Dorel Juvenile Group (DJG) collaborated with Kettering University’s renowned Crash Safety Center to develop a new standard for side impact testing. This new testing method is so significant that DJG and Kettering University have shared their findings with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), supporting NHTSA’s efforts to provide more comprehensive regulations for side impact crash testing.
Other features from the Safety 1st site:
• Air Protect™ Revolutionary Side Impact Technology: Breakthrough system shields head and immediately reduces side impact forces through the precise release of air.
• QuickFit™ Harness System adjusts harness height from the front in one easy step without uninstalling from the car.
• Harness accommodates children up to 50 lbs.
• One Click LATCH installation system allows for faster and easier installation when moving between vehicles.
• 5-position adjustable headrest easily accommodates your growing child.
• Removable cup holder.
• Styles: McKenna or Harvest
• MSRP $219.99 at Babies"R"Us
And now for the Giveaway…
This giveaway is closed. Thank you to all who entered and congratulations to Jana who won the Safety 1st Complete Air Car Seat for her little one!
A big thank you to Safety 1st for absolutely making my month by sending their Complete Air Car Seat to ease my mind and for offering a giveaway to our fabulous readers. No type of monetary compensation was received for this Rave Review.