When Should I Change the Recline Position on My Britax Two Way Elite?

Britax TWE recline position

The Britax Two Way Elite has two different install methods. Upright & Reclined.

Reclined is for the younger children, and according to the car seat manual – should be used for all children under 13kg. This is also something many misinterpret and they believe the manual is actually stating that you have to put the seat in the upright position after 13kg. Which is not the case.

Reclined to the left. Upright mode to the right. (The green outline is there to show which part of the vehicle seat the TWE is bracing on.) // Pic credit @rearfacingthewayforward on Facebook.

The upright position is for older children. Now what I mean by an older child, is generally a child over the age of 3 or 4, but there is another major factor involved in regards to when you need to change the positions which I will explain further down.

When should I change the recline position?

You should change the installation from ‘reclined’ to ‘upright’ when your child’s head has reached the top of the seat shell.

You might have heard differently and this made you wonder why. Well, that would be because it’s not a standard rule – it’s a rule that we (Admins in CSA UK on Facebook) created when we talked to the crash test people who do crash tests and by understanding how the body moves in a crash.

If you look at a video of the TWE used in crash tests it’s used in the more upright position far more than any other position. And when you speak to for example TRL or VTI (as I did – I had a long discussion with Tanya at TRL on this matter when I was there during training some years ago), it’s basic physics.

The thing that we are trying to prevent is a head injury. This type of damage to the head is a problem in RF car seats with no headrest and one of the reasons why newer car seats do have them.

The fact is that being more upright is safer in a crash for older children. Hence the more upright position – it’s for older children.

But someone told me I don’t have to change the position?

It’s not a manufacturer set rule like when it’s outgrown, it’s a rule of physics and by making it a blanket rule we are trying to prevent peoples children from being injured in an accident due to their head hitting the seat back and so forth.

It’s “ok” to use it both ways – but what I advise is the safer alternative.

In the car seat world we do sometimes – not often – but sometimes, have different approaches to things when there is no absolute standard rule about something.

When this happens – you are free to go with what advice you wish to follow as we are not discussing using a seat above the weight limit or longer than what is the maximum height you can use it too.

When asked the question: What is your recommendation for how to judge when it is outgrown? Richard Frank the Director at Britax Global Research and Development answered:

“Ideally, the child’s head should be fully maintained in the shell. However, it is also acceptable if the child’s eye-line is in line with the shell edge.”
Richard Frank, Director, Britax Global Research and Development.

Please note that the info in this post is not a standard rule. You may come across people/information who will tell you that you do not have to use the seat in the upright position. However, based on crash testing and my understanding of physics in car seats and how the body moves in a crash, I will continue to recommend that you change to the upright install position once your child’s head has reached the top of the car seat shell.

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