The Real Easy Guide To ISOFIX

When it comes to child safety in passenger cars, there is much talk around ISOFIX, a system for installing child car seats safely and correctly.

This guide is to help parents understand the technicalities of ISOFIX, and to explain – very simply - the design elements of the system.  

What is ISOFIX?

ISOFIX is an international standardised fitting system that provides the safest, easiest and quickest way to install a child car seat correctly without the need of vehicle seat belts.

Read: What is ISOFIX

How did this cool concept come about?

The ISOFIX introduction into vehicles began as early as 2002 in Europe. Manufacturers of child restraints, or baby car seats, were challenged with trying to get their product to work effectively in as many vehicles in the marketplace as possible.

Child restraints needed to utilise the three-point static safety belt of the vehicle as an anchorage medium. The diverse design features of so many different vehicles in the marketplace made this a formidable task, and hence manufacturers looked at an alternative medium to the three-point static belt for installation.

The ISOFIX anchorage points serve no function in a car other than to install a child restraint.

This joint venture between vehicle and the child-restraint market has arguably been the best development in the child restraint trade. 

Is it easy to use?

Oh yes. The design of the ISOFIX anchorage brackets is specifically focused on simplifying the installation of child restraints.

ISOFIX brackets in vehicles are U-shaped metal units mounted to the chassis of a vehicle. The specific size of these brackets is regulated by the car manufacturer industry safety standards. This ensures that all vehicles offering the ISOFIX brackets have universal sizing and hence allow child restraint manufacturers to design universal seats.

Read: How to install ISOFIX

What advantages does it have over other such systems?

As mentioned, installation systems for child restraints are either three-point static safety belts or ISOFIX.

With the three-point static safety belt there are a number of issues that makes installing car seats a little bit more complex. This complexity could affect the proper installation of the child restraint, which could lead to the seat not being safe in a collision.

For example, in some vehicles the three-point safety belt of the vehicles may not be long enough or it might have an inertia reel that locks too easily.

As previously stated, ISOFIX has the advantage of being universal, and will thus accommodate the child restraint installation regardless of the brand or model of seat.  

Where can I get it?

ISOFIX brackets are installed at vehicle manufacturer level. These have been available as an optional extra on some vehicles for a while now, but European legislation is attempting to enforce that all vehicles have these as standard.

In South Africa, the safety standards adopted by the vehicle industry are those of European legislation, and we will hopefully see all imported passenger vehicles with ISOFIX installed as standard in the future.

Can it be retrofitted?

Any ISOFIX brackets that need to be installed in a vehicle after purchase must be checked and approved with the vehicle manufacturer concerned.

Why is it so cool?

Anything that can simplify the task of being a parent is always cool. However at this level, cool also means safer, and this is exceptionally reassuring for parents.

Who are the main end-users? Are they nervous people, or forward thinking people?

The users are all parents who would not like to risk the safety of their child’s life in the case of a collision while a car seat is installed incorrectly. 

Is it expensive?

The ISOFIX anchorage points in the vehicle are inexpensive, however the child restrains that utilise these ISOFIX anchorage points are a more expensive than the seats that use the three-point safety belts.

The technology used for ISOFIX child restraints is considerably more advanced than its counterparts. The demand for ISOFIX child restraints is continually on the increase to the point that many parents are now looking for this option prior to their vehicle purchase.  

Will there come a time when all cars are installed with ISOFIX?

Definitely. The inexpensive cost of having this installed at vehicle manufacturer level makes the system a must-have. With parents becoming more aware of the dangers associated with incorrectly installed child restraints, the demand for ISOFIX is on the increase. On top of this, European legislation is enforcing the use of ISOFIX brackets purely for children’s safety.

Apart from the three-point safety belt system, are there any other systems in place anywhere?

No. Traditional two-point lap belt systems no longer exist.

See: ISOFIX vs. car seat belts

Once the child is of a certain age, can ISOFIX be uninstalled? Is this necessary?

No. ISOFIX units cannot be removed from the vehicle. These brackets are form part of the chassis of the vehicle and are thus welded to the structure of the vehicle. If there is no need for the ISOFIX brackets, they are simply covered up, and do not affect passengers in any way.

Does ISOFIX increase the value of your vehicle?

Because ISOFIX has become such an important part in the child restraints industry to parents, the decision to purchase a vehicle with ISOFIX installed does make the purchase more valued. It does not really increase the purchase price, but will definitely increase the desirability of the vehicle when purchased.

How do I know if my vehicle has these ISOFIX units?

The ISOFIX brackets are usually clearly marked on the vehicles interior seating with a specific symbol, but on some older models of vehicles this may not be the case. The best way of physically confirming if ISOFIX is installed is by running a flat hand between the backrest and seating area of the rear seat.

Is ISOFIX located on specific points in the vehicle?

Yes. Mostly all vehicles have ISOFIX anchorage points in the rear of the vehicle, as it is the safest place to have a child restraint installed. Child restraint manufacturers provide information as to whether their seats are compatible with vehicles via a manual referred to as a Car Fitting List. It is mandatory that manufacturers provide this with all their ISOFIX seats sold, so as to allow you to predetermine whether your vehicle can accommodate an ISOFIX seat.

Read: ISOFIX car fitting list

Also View

Child restraints and Road Safety

Car seat Legislation in South Africa

Buying and Installing a Car Seat