Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Safety 1st OnSide Air Convertible Car Seat Review

For those who've followed my blog and seen all my car seat entries, you know the woes I've been having finding one that fits my car and my big boy.  He had a 6 month baby well checkup a few days ago, and he's 20 lbs. 9 oz. and 28 1/4".  So he's above average in weight and very above average in height.  Because of this, I need a seat that can handle a bigger child and still have room to grow.  I drive a 2000 Toyota Corolla so I needed it to be compact.  I had almost decided on the Combi Coccoro because it's made in Japan and designed to fit in smaller spaces and then I found a new car seat that came out this summer by Safety 1st.  It's the OnSide Air convertible car seat, the only car seat under $100 that can handle 5-40 pounds rear-facing.  I scoured the internet for information without much luck and saw on the web forums that many people had called Dorel, the company that manufactures Safety 1st products, didn't have much information available to curious car seat enthusiasts.  It was impossible to even find the car seat dimensions online.  Despite this, I took a chance and drove an hour and a half to Savannah, the closest place with a store that had it in stock.  I had to see it for myself.

Comfy but narrow and notice how little head 
room there is for future growth.
Aesthetics, Comforts, and Features

Many have commented that the stock photos of the OnSide Air make it look like the Cosco Scenera.  I have to agree that I wasn't a fan of the look presented.  In person, however, I was pleasantly surprised.  I think you can probably tell from my photo that it looks much better with higher quality fabric. The cover is so plush that it feels stuffed with memory foam.

The cover is also easily removable because it is elasticized the entire way around like a bed sheet without any of those annoying or hard to release hooks or catches.  You do need to undo the shoulder harness to get it completely off, but that's not difficult.  It is generously sized so that it doesn't pop off in tight spots.

I will say that the harness webbing isn't very thick, so it does twist if you're not careful.  The chest clip also isn't the most substantial feeling plastic and is much flimsier compared to the chest clip on the Chicco KeyFit this seat is meant to replace.  It may be because it's new, but the chest clip and buckle don't come undone as quickly as I would like.  It does not come equipped with harness covers, so I would highly recommend that purchase.  I got these cute, cuddly monkey covers for $4.50 at WalMart.

Other features include a removable cup holder, which didn't attach securely enough to be functional for me.  The OnSide Air Converitble Car Seat is one of the products by Safety 1st that incorporates Air Protect technology.  Air Protect reduces side impact by releasing a burst of air from special chambers in order to reduce the force of collision.  The OnSide Air focuses on the child's head, but Safety 1st offers choices in the Complete Air line that features full body Air Protect side impact protection.  The Complete Air seats start at $180, so the OnSide air is an affordable alternative that focuses on the most vulnerable part of a child's body during side impact collisions.

Adjustability and Fit

The seat features 4 harness slots and 3 crotch strap slots for adjustments as your child grows.  This is where it has something in common with the Scenera.  The harness slot heights are the same with a top height of about 15 inches, and the same placement of the crotch strap slots.  Many parents have lamented that their children outgrow the Scenera by height before they reach the weight limit, so this may be an issue for tall babies like my son.  At 6 months and 28.25" tall, however, my son is using the 2nd harness slot from the bottom so he has two more slots to grow with.  He is also using the middle crotch strap slot.

At 11" across, it is a somewhat narrow seat, so the OnSide Air may not be the best solution if you have a heavier or older child.  For smaller or slimmer babies, this is perfect since it doesn't totally swallow the child.  Because of it's narrower seat and well-padded cover, this is a more realistic choice for parents wishing to start with a convertible car seat for newborns.  I think the recline is deep enough for a newborn to sleep comfortably, especially with a head positioning pillow.

Adjusting the harness was about the same as any other harness system I've used.  The adjustable crotch strap, however, was more difficult.  It's held in place by a metal retainer that you have to twist and push through the slot in order to remove the strap.  For safety's sake, it's a tight fight getting the retainer to pass through the slot so it does take time and brute force (for me anyway) to get it through.  Then you have to do it again to put it back in the correct position.

This seat also features a 2 position recline.  It was easy to figure out and switch between the two.

Fits in my 2000 Corolla with seats extended and reclined 
for up to 6'2" tall driver.  It also is slim enough that you could 
fit up to 3 of them or 2 additional passengers on either side.
Small Car Compatibility

The OnSide Air does fit in my small Toyota Corolla with the front seats extended comfortably for me (5'7") and my brother (6'2").  This is the largest amount of space a car seat could take, however, and still be comfortable in front.  As far the width of the seat, it's perfect for a family that frequently rides at full capacity.  I tried the Evenflo Tribute 5, and it extended into my lap when I sat next to it.  The OnSide Air didn't encroach on my space.  I wouldn't want to ride long distances in this setup though.

Even though the edge goes over my chair, it doesn't
interfere with my shoulder or arm.  I can live with it.

This car seat is lightweight and easy to carry and position.  My car is a pre-LATCH model, so I had to do a seatbelt installation.  It wasn't difficult.  The belt paths are clearly labelled for front and rear-facing modes.  The car seat cover is easy to peel back if necessary to thread the seat belt through the path, but I personally didn't need to because the opening was big enough for me to feel my way through.  Aligning the seat was pretty straight forward.  There is a guide that must be level with the ground.  It's not as accurate is the bubble levels, but it gets the job done.

The seat is at the proper recline when the edge of the sticker
is parallel with the ground.

The biggest concern for me with the installation was the fact that my lap and shoulder belt make the seat slant when tightened down as much as necessary to keep the wiggle to 1" or less.  You can tell in the picture of my shoulder and also in the one that shows my son how the car seat tilts up to the left side.  It's because the shoulder part of the belt pulls the seat up while the side with the buckle pulls the side down.  I think part of the issue is that my back seat has a pretty big slant even in the center.  Another part of the issue is that the way the car seat is designed leaves a big space under the front which I had to fill with towels in order to stabilize the vertical wobble.  But I've had this problem to a certain extent with every car seat I've put in my car.  With some car seats, I've been able to fix the slant issue by stuffing a towel in front of the car seat.  That didn't work, however, with the OnSide Air.  In my car, I acheived the most level installation by tightening the seat belt as much as I needed and then stuffing the gaps between the car seat and the backseat with towels afterward.  I needed one on the front and back of the seat as pictured above.

Belt paths are clearly marked:


I love the fact that I can potentially have extended rear-facing to 40 lbs, the softness and comfort of the seat cover, the ease of removal of the seat cover, and the price.  There isn't another car seat I've encountered that gives you so much for $100 or less.  It's softer than a lot of more expensive car seats.  It's nice that you can switch to forward-facing if you child outgrows the 40" or 40 lb. limits for rear-facing.  This seat allows forward-facing passengers up to 43" and 40 lbs.  I don't consider the fact that it has the same weight limit for front and back to necessarily be a downfall.  It's what keeps the seat compact, and it allows the child to stay rear-facing for longer than the 35 pound limit on most convertible seat covers in this size and price range.  I also liked that the recline was bigger than other similar car seats.

I'm not such a big fan of the fact that it doesn't come with harness covers, probably won't keep up with my child's growth by height, and that it requires towels to fill the gaps between it and the seat when the belts are properly tightened.

Overall, however, I recommend this car seat to anyone with a compact car or who regularly rides with a full load, especially if the vehicle is latch-equipped.  I also think this is a great option for newborn use because of it's more compact size and 7" harness slot and substantial recline.


  1. Thanks for all of the great information! Keep up the great work! I do have a question though.. I have always been told to not put the car seat in the middle of the back seat, to put it behind the passenger seat. Have you done any research on this? Thanks, Sam

  2. That's funny that you should mention that because all the research I've done says the middle is the safest. Here's one of the articles I've read about that: .

    Also, if your car is LATCH-equipped, the LATCH hooks on the side tend to be more difficult to use than the center. For forward-facing car seats that require a tether system, my car and many other models only accommodate tethering from the center position. And if your car is small like mine, there's no way a rear-facing toddler car seat would fit behind the passenger's seat unless it was all the way forward. That's fine if you're by yourself, but it limits the amount of passengers you can carry even more.

    Thanks for reading!

  3. thanks for the review. we've been considering the coccoro but came across this seat and also weren't able to find much info. i also wonder how the seat would fit behind the passenger seat because we have 2 kids, and they are both outbound now but i'm hoping once we get a smaller seat for baby, front-facing 3 year old can be in the middle (since he is front facing ). i feel pretty confident that with the coccoro the passenger seat can be back far enough to be safe.

  4. YOu REALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLYYYYYYYYYYYY need you have your carseat checks by a tech. That is a COMPLETELY HORRIBLE in stall

  5. I second the car seat check. Please go to a technician ASAP! Not only will they show you the proper way to install the seat but you are going to gain a whole bunch of room behind your seat as well.

    You can search by zipcode for the CPST nearest to you!

  6. Do you really think that the seat is soft? I have a Graco Comfortsport and am looking for a new seat for my second child. I guess I am used to how soft the Graco is because everything else seems so firm to me. I saw this seat while shopping and wondered if it would really be comfortable.

  7. I bought this carseat for my 12 month old who weighs 21 lbs and 31 1/2 inches tall. I like the seat and it the material is very comfy. However, I feel like the crotch latch rubs on her legs too much, and causes discomfort. I have it on the last place for the strap to go in. Have you noticed this problem? I feel like the strap isn't long enough.

    Did you ever get your car seat installation fixed? That is horrribly unsafe! You can use a couple of rolled towels for recline at the seat crevice ONLY--not underneath the car seat! Your child could be hurt (or worse) with a bad install like that.

    Go to to find a certified CPST (Child Passenger Safety Technician)

  9. Hi.

    I know this is a late comment, but I just couldn't not reply.

    I am a CRST (that's a Canadian car-seat tech), and a mom of three who has had to deal with finding seats for small cars, and for BIG babies. My youngest was 22 lbs at 11 WEEKS.

    I'm glad that you found a seat that you are comfortable with, and that fits your gorgeous little boy as well as your car.

    But I do think you need to look at your installation again. Rolled towels are allowed to help with the recline of a seat, but they are only allowed to be put in certain spots under the seat. The area we call the "bight" - where the bottom of the vehicle seat meets the back of the vehicle seat, is where we can put towels or pool noodles.

    We can't put them under the whole seat the way your photos shows. I know that it's tempting when there isn't contact between the car seat and the vehicle seat, but it's not safe. The towel compresses and suddenly that seat is very loose.

    Those who suggested checking out are spot on.

    Seeing a carseat tech is free, in a time when very little is.

    Good luck.

  10. It sounds like you are doing a good job trying to find a seat that works well for your baby and your car. That's great.

    I am concerned about the way in which you have your carseat installed, though. The "level to the ground" guideline is really only critical for a newborn or young infant who cannot hold his/her head up. For a baby your child's age, the seat can be more upright. :) There also shouldn't be any towels, blankets, or other items underneath any part of the seat other than the very front (in the seat crease). It is unsafe to have items anywhere else because those items can compress in an accident and can introduce slack that could put your baby in danger.

    In addition, the strap covers you have on your seat are not recommended. They too can compress in an accident and can introduce slack.

    Please do look into finding a CPST in your area. That CPST can help you learn how to best install seats in your particular vehicle.

  11. Did you even read your car seat manual? Why the hell would you put all those towels under the seat and possibly think that is safe???? And then post pictures so others could possibly think that your seat is safe!! I think though that the majority of parents will realize you are a complete idiot when it comes to installing seats. I hope and pray that you don't get in an accident until that seat is properly installed!! Jesus Christ I can't even believe someone would be that stupid to install a seat like that!!

  12. Wow, that was ENTIRELY UNHELPFUL right there ^.

    Your son really is very adorable. Love the cheeks! I do need to echo the sentiment in some of the other comments - please do get the install checked. There are lots of ways to get a good, tight install with the proper angle without the use of the blankets/towels.

  13. I agree that the above comment was completely uncalled for!!

    When the instructions say that you can use a towel or pool noodle to alter the angle, they are referring to towels/noodles ONLY in the seat bight. Here is one example I have (I have also had a scenera and installed it similarly)

    Also, the 45 degrees with the line level to the ground is for newborns, so that their airways are not constricted. It is actually safer to have an older child more upright, up to 30 degrees from the vertical. This would make the seat take up much less room as the child gets older.

    I saw in your first comment about using LATCH in the center of a vehicle. Many vehicles and car seats do NOT allow this--it is important to check with a CPST that owns a LATCH manual before you do this, or read BOTH your car and car-seat manuals. Your seat AND your vehicle must allow it in order for you to be able to do it.

    You should have 3 top tethers in your car. Vehicles older than yours should be able to be retrofitted by the dealer.

    I hope you have been able to see a technician since taking this picture so you can get your cutie's seat properly installed!! At his weight, there are MANY seats that now rear-face to 40 and 45lbs... many of which are right around the $100-130 pricepoint as well.

  14. You have picked a good seat in your quest to keep your little one safe. I agree with others though, that you need to have a good install without all the towels. It looks like you might have the foot that is used for forward facing, in a down position. When this seat is used rear facing, that foot needs to be folded up against the bottom of the seat. This will allow you to recline the seat properly for use rear facing. If you still can't get it reclined enough(the line does not need to be level for an older child) then you can roll a small towel up and put it in the crease of the seat(the bight between the back and the bottom of the vehicle seat) Then you set the foot of the seat(under babys feet) on the towel. This tips the seat a little for more recline.

    You can search on the Safe Kids website to find a techinicial close to you.

  15. What a cute baby! Thanks for the great review on this new seat. It looks great with your little one in it and I hope it will keep him rear-facing for a good long time and then forward-facing once he's quite a bit older.
    As others have mentioned, please find a CPST (certified child passenger safety technician) to help you with your install. There are SO many different cars, car seats, and products sold to go with those seats, it can make your head spin. The picture you have with your seat installed with all those towels looks very wrong and dangerous. I strongly urge you to seek some guidance to make sure your little cutie is as safe as can be.

  16. SO many things are wrong. First, a rolled noodle can only be used in the bight of the seat to help achieve a proper recline. As a PP stated, the level mark is just a guide for infants without good head control. Secondly, the aftermarket products (harness covers and the seat protector) have to go. They are not tested with the car seat and are NOT safe; read your manual, it will tell you that no aftermarket products are to be used. The seat protector gives you a false sense of security since the seat feels tight, when in reality the install is compromised because the seat protector can shift during a crash and cause the seat to malfunction. Lastly, the seat belt s hould be threaded without any bunching or folding, as it shows in the last picture. This is not meant to be bitchy or snarky, I'm just extremely concerned for the safety of your child. Please keep that adorable little boy safe!

  17. This blog should be called a Modern Mom's Perspective on HOW TO KILL A CHILD. I can not believe you would post photos like this on the internet for other uneducated morons to copy. YOU are going to be the reason children die in car accidents. This needs to be taken down immediately.

  18. I agree with all of the comments, saying to get your seat checked. The seat is not installed properly at all, and I hope anyone reading this blog for info is also reading the comments. The strap covers are also not safe at all, since they are after market products. I would highly suggest removing the photo of the incorrectly installed seat, and have it checked and you shown how to properly install this seat.

  19. At almost 6 months later, I was wondering if you're still using this seat and if so how big your child is? My child is 22.5 lbs at 7 Months and I'm considering this model.

  20. Great info. Thanks a lot for being so thorough.

  21. Using the locking clip that came with the seat, instead of "locking" the seat belt will fix the tilt. I, too, and wondering if you had your install checked with a tech. And is he still rear facing? :)

  22. so this review has been online now for over 6 months and their has been no update on the incorrectly installed carseat?
    for your child's sake, and for the children of those who are reading this, please update this with a correctly installed photo and information...
    i am not trying to be rude or push my opinions or views on you, but there is a "right" and "wrong" way when carseat safety is involved. and unfortunately you are encouraging the "wrong" way to install a carseat. Your child IS in danger, and you are enabling others who aren't aware of the "right" way by not being a responsible blogger and correcting your mistakes.

  23. Horrible! I'm so scared for her child!
    I just got the carseat as well its really so I love it
    But yes the harness on the crotch area needs to be longer
    =/ anyways I was wondering why she hasn't updated? You think CPS got her? Hope her child is ok

  24. I know this blog is really old but wow you are an idiot...don't have any more kids bc you clearly have no clue how to install a car seat.

  25. Holy car-seat misuse, Batman!! Get that thing checked, and don't represent yourself as an carseat expert online, you are just perpetuating wrong information.