Pros: Easy to install, great customer service.
Cons: False advertising, won’t fit most newborns, outgrown at 2.5-3 y/o.
The bottom line: Not recommended. There are other seats that are a much better value for your money.
We purchased this when my son was 4 months old. At this age, he fit nicely into it. We had to stop using the AOE when he was 2.5 years old, 33 lbs and 37" tall with a torso height of 15". He outgrew it by height. When we purchased this seat, we thought it would at last until he could go in an adult seatbelt or the seat expired. Our new one is a Sunshine Kids Radian Premier, which harnesses to 65 lbs and should keep him harnessed until around 6-7 years old, at which point we will have to buy a booster. I wish I had skipped this seat and just bought my son’s Radian as soon as he outgrew his bucket seat. It was $150 completely wasted.
Weight and Height Limits
Rear-facing (RF): 5-35 lbs,
Forward-facing with harness (FF): 20-40 lbs,
Belt-positioning booster (BPB): 30-100 lbs
RF: 5-30 lbs, (newer seats RF to 35 lbs)
FF: 22-40 lbs,
BPB: 40-80 lbs
The headrest moves up along with the harness. There are five headrest positions, the uppermost is for BPB use only. Harness slot heights (at the top of the harness slot opening) are 11.25, 12.75, 14.25, and 15".
To measure torso height, sit your child against the wall and measure from the floor to the top of their shoulders.
When RF, the harness must be at or below the child’s shoulders. If your child’s torso height is shorter than 10.45" (the bottom of the harness slot opening at its lowest setting) then you cannot use this car seat yet. You will have to get an infant carrier or a convertible that has lower bottom harness slots until your child grows bigger.
Your child can RF as long as they have at least 1" of hard shell (not cover) above their head and are below the weight limit to RF. Most kids are not ready to FF until at least 2 years old. To see a great website about why to keep children rear facing after a year, visit http://www.cpsafety.com/articles/stayrearfacing.aspx . At the bottom of the page are three videos showing crash test footage: one forward facing and two rear facing.
When FF, the harness must be at or ABOVE the child’s shoulders. If your child’s torso height is longer than 15" you will need either a higher weight harnessing seat or a BPB, depending on the child’s weight, age, and maturity level. The seat is also outgrown FF when the tips of their ears pass the top of the hard shell or they pass the weight limit.
First of all, read the manual!
Make sure when finished installing it to test the installation by pushing with your non-dominant hand at the belt-path. You should have less than 1" of movement. Check out this article for more installation advice.
With LATCH anchorage system
It installs very easily into my Pontiac Aztek, both RF and FF. It is also easy to install in any other vehicle I have put it into, including in my friend's two-door (FF).
One feature of the LATCH anchorage system is the tether strap on the top of the car seat, for use in the forward facing position. In Canada, it is mandatory to use the top tether strap when FF. If your vehicle does not have top tether anchors, take it into your dealership and they will install one or more for you. Most dealerships will install them for free.
With vehicle’s seatbelts
When installing using the vehicle’s seatbelts, it requires threading the belt through a narrow opening which scraped up my hands. It was difficult to tighten the belt enough to keep the car seat from having more than 1" of movement. This probably depends on the make of car. Ford is more secure than Pontiac, but I still prefer using the LATCH system.
There are two FF recline settings and one RF recline setting. In order to get the proper 45 degrees recline for RF a smaller infant, you may have to use a rolled-up towel, section of pool noodle, or rolled newspaper under the base in order to get it level. This is true of most rear-facing car seats. For an infant or toddler with better head control, you can install it anywhere between 30-45 degrees from vertical. If their head flops forward when sleeping, then install it more reclined.
It is VERY easy to adjust the length of the straps using the lever on the front of the seat. The weather where I live keeps changing, but it was easy to adjust whether he had a fleece jacket on or just a t-shirt (note: snowsuits and bulky jackets are not recommended for use with car seats).
The buckles are very child-resistant. The crotch buckle is sort of a puzzle. It is easiest if I buckle the chest strap first to keep my son in place and the straps straight, and then do up the crotch buckle.
The height of the harness is a little tricky to adjust at first. It can be done while installed in the car, but it is easiest to do uninstalled. You don’t ever have to rethread it to change the harness height.
The infant head support, strap pads, and seat cover are all removable and washable, but requires removing the plastic pieces that line the space where the harness threads through. I had to use a screwdriver and worried that I would break the pieces. I did eventually get it off by inserting a flat screwdriver through the back of the car seat, twisting 90 degrees, and pushing towards the front of the car seat.
The toddler pillow attaches using velcro and is easily readjusted or removed altogether.
It is quite heavy, about 20 lbs. I would not recommend this car seat if you travel and would have to carry it long distances.
Armrests can be raised or lowered.
Removable cup holder.
8 year expiration date (most other car seats have a 6 year expiration). Go here for a great article on the expiration dates of car seats. Even if your child actually fits in it from birth to age 8 (which is unlikely), the car seat most likely will expire before then.
Seven year limited warranty. Be sure to register your car seat so that you can be informed in case of a recall.
Mine was purchased from Toys “R” Us. It was on sale for $150 CAD, regularly $200 CAD.
My recommendation is to stay away from anything that says "3-in-1" or that it's "The only seat you'll ever need!" Those seats maybe labelled as Cosco, Eddie Bauer, or Safety 1st and may go by the name of "Alpha Omega" or "Enspira". They are all made by the parent company Dorel Juvenile. They have very low top harness slots which are often outgrown by only 2.5-3 years old. So you then have to go and purchase another seat in order to keep your child harnessed at least to the bare minimum of 4 years and 40 lbs. Child passenger safety advocates prefer to see children to be at least 5 or 6 years old before going in a booster. Any younger than that and they just don't have the physical and/or emotional maturity to be safe sitting in a booster. Those seats also make poor boosters. There are other seats that are a much better value for your money. As I said above, I wish I had skipped this seat and just bought my son’s Radian as soon as he outgrew his bucket seat. It was $150 completely wasted.
Go to the following website for more information, including which model numbers are affected and a link for ordering the repair kit: http://safetynotice.djgusa.com/alpha-omega-ha/press.php
Dorel Juvenile Group Announces a Voluntary Safety Recall
Columbus, IN August 30, 2007- Dorel Juvenile Group (DJG) is issuing a voluntary safety recall for certain Cosco®, Safety 1st® and Eddie Bauer® brand child restraint systems manufactured during November 2003 through December 2005. Although no injuries have been reported, there is a potential for the harness adjustment strap to loosen during use. If this were to occur, the harness may be loose around the child, possibly increasing the risk of injury in a crash. We feel that it is important to replace the harness adjustment strap.
DJG encourages parents to obtain and install the repair kit as soon as possible. Parents may continue to use the child restraint system as directed in their instruction manual. Parents should be sure to adjust the harness adjuster strap snugly each time they put their child in the child restraint system. If there is any difficulty adjusting the harness adjustment strap, or it does not remain tight, DJG suggests using a different child restraint system until the repair kit has been installed.
To check for harness slippage:
(1) Fully tighten the harness, (2) pull on the harness straps without pressing or lifting the harness adjustment lever. If movement occurs, the harness is experiencing slippage.
My repair kit arrived about a week after I ordered it. It came with English and French directions. I installed the repair kit in about 15 minutes. The directions are very good and easy to follow and have clear drawings to go along with them.
There is a new version of this seat available. Check for a manufacture date of August 2008 or later. It harnesses to 50 lbs and the top headrest position is now usable with the harness (was previously for booster use only). It still doesn't fit newborns well, makes a poor booster and you can get the same features for less money, or better features for the same amount you would spend on one of these seats. This seat still doesn't make it onto my recommendations list.
My other car seat reviews:
Evenflo Embrace infant bucket seat
Sunshine Kids Radian80/Premier convertible seat
Graco Nautilus combination seat
Sunshine Kids Monterey booster seat