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What to look for in a car seat for your first child

Question: We just had our first child and I'm getting set to buy and install a car seat. Any tips or recommendations would be appreciated.


ANSWER: Congratulations!

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First of all, do not buy a used car seat unless you are very familiar with the previous owner and how long and how it was used.

Even a minor impact can compromise the carefully engineered structure that was designed to deform or absorb forces in a crash. The effect may not be visible.

You are in the market for what is known as an infant seat. These rear-facing units will serve until your new child weighs about 22 pounds. The seats are designed so the infant is reclined and can breath properly yet still is protected in a crash.

If you have a relatively new vehicle, you'll find it is equipped with a LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system that hooks the base of an approved seat to metal anchors securing it to the vehicle without the use of the vehicle's belt system.

Some seats have a separate case designed for the LATCH system and most can be secured directly without a base.

Some of the seats have a three-point belt system for the child and some a five-point system. More is better in this case. Three-point belts have a pair over the shoulders and one between the legs. The five-point system also has a pair for the thighs.

Other features to consider: the handle design and how it feels when you are carrying. Try it out in the store by finding something on display that weighs about 10 to 15 pounds, put it in the seat and see how it feels.

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Also check out the possibility the seat can be fitted into a stroller.

There are a number of other issues, but the most important is to remember is that the safest spot for a young one is the middle position of the back seat.

That assumes that the vehicle has the LATCH system fitted in the centre rear and that there is only one child back there. In any case, the safest place for children is always in the rear seat.

Adding a snow plow

Question: Will my new '07 Ford Ranger Model FX4 4.0-litre perform well with a snow plow?

Will it need adjustment to its original suspension (such as a Timbren suspension enhancement)? Am I okay (or is it necessary) to use a rear counterweight so the truck travels level with the plow raised?

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Do you have any comment on the effective use of a lightweight plow like the Western Suburbanite at 250 lbs vs most other makes such as Meyers or Blizzard, which weigh about 375 lbs - all are 6-foot-6 wide?

The background to my questions: After 20 years use, I have recently replaced my '88 Jeep Comanche 4x4 Sportruck with a '07 Ford Ranger FX4, automatic transmission (both 6-foot boxes). The Jeep had a 6-foot-6 Meyers steel plow and worked well for all 20 years.

These are farm-use vehicles - low mileage, frequent starts and stops and, in the winter, plow snow on three farm lanes, around farm buildings and are generally driven with respect by me or one or two others.


Answer: I'll bet you hated to say goodbye to that old Comanche, but the Ranger 4.0 should be a good replacement as it is near equal in many respects.

Assuming you've covered any warranty concerns, I would say the main issues are use and weight.

If the driver is not abusing the plow - i.e. ramming huge or heavy drifts at speed - the lighter the plow the better, as long as you keep in mind the link between weight and durability.

If you were happy with the Meyers, why not stay with it? I've heard good things about the Blizzard as well. As with buying a new vehicle, I'd place more emphasis on dealer reputation and service than actual brand.

Whatever your choice, it is not a bad idea to add ballast to ensure proper ride height and it also might be a good idea to look into an auxiliary cooler for that automatic transmission. Beefing up the front suspension can also pay off long-term.

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