Child Seat Cleat Install | Adding safety to a used car.

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We're not sure why-perhaps it was a difference between design year for the vehicle and implementation year for the law-but the '98 Toyota Rav4 didn't come equipped with the rear safety cleat necessary to properly install a child seat in its back seat. Hmmm.

There was part of the provision for a child seat anchor designed into the floorpan of the Rav4, behind the second row of seats, but it was sitting out in the middle of the rear floor (the back-back?), a bit of an orphan. If you've seen pictures of Ayers Rock, you know what we're talking about. Little mound of metal pressed into the floorpan, standing alone. It's got to have some purpose, but what?

Did Toyota actually intend for the hook to be there all the time? Did they anticipate the regulation that would prescribe the seat cleat? Was the spot in the back-back floor designed for something else altogether? Why no hook for the cleat, just the mounting point?

Some research at Toyota and in the factory manuals revealed that the safety restraint receiver needed for current-spec children's seats was a dealership or consumer-installed option for the 1998 Toyota Rav4. (They use a strap that runs to the rear-the "top-strap"-with a big meaty spring hook on it to secure the child seat to a hard-point aft of the seat, like a safety strap.)

Though it was claimed by the factory that the trucklet would have bolts already welded into place in the rear floor and waiting for the top-strap bracket, there were none on this Rav4 - a hole would need to be drilled in the floor behind the back seats in the center of that raised section of metal, and an anchor (purchased from the dealership, supposedly) would be mounted there. Sounds a little Mickey Mouse for the Toyota factory. Hell, we can do Mickey Mouse at home.

Bracket and Bolt.
So we had a bracket already. Go figure, it came out of the WRX parts box. So much good stuff comes from that box. Needless to say, there were a lot of leftovers. The passenger-side bracket had been in the ideal spot to mount our MiniDV camera when shooting video at the track, so we engineered a camera mount that bolted into the same hole where the top-strap bracket lived.

Probably should have re-installed that when we sold the car. There was that bracket now, though, complete with the sexy high-strength steel bolt that held it in place. Hmmm, just to find a nut to match. Of course, there was one in the WRX box.

Hole in Floor.
The location spec'd by Toyota for their floor-mounted child-seat retainer (should there have been one) was on either the right or left side of the cargo area floor, a raised section of the mild-steel floorpan that appeared to be a spot where two layers of steel were sandwiched together, strengthened for improved fatigue resistance and possible distortion or outright tearing during a high-load incident.

We double-checked to be sure that the top-strap on the child seat reached it (we were pretty sure ours was long enough, but is yours?), and mocked up the two holes necessary before we began actually making them in a perfectly good Toyota.

The bracket we lifted from the Subaru would need two holes to secure it, one to take the through-bolt that was keeper'd to the strap retainer itself, another hole just aft of that to receive the small metal tang that sprouted from the back of the retainer to keep it pointed toward the front of the car. This was necessary to prevent it from rotating while unloaded and thusly making itself vulnerable to a snap-spin under load (during a crash) that could cause it to break.

Seal and Torque.
The parts necessary were minimal, utterly. The bracket and nut/bolt combo came right out of the WRX and had been designed for this application, so we weren't too worried about it being too weak for the job.

We dug up a large, slightly concave fender washer from our bin-o-leftovers in the garage to create a quality metal-to-metal interface under the floorpan, providing us with ample space to inject the silicone sealant we used to seal off the back-back of the Rav4 from the outside world.

Oh, and that sealant is about as easy to use as filling holes in your dorm walls with toothpaste right before the end-of-year inspection. Everyone has a half-used tube of silicone or latex-based sealant sitting in the garage, and the stuff will last forever if you close the tube properly after using it. Make sure the sealant you choose is temperature-and metal-friendly, and you're golden. We goobed it into the interface between the child-seat retention bracket and the floorpan then did the same from underneath to properly close off the contact point between the fender washer and the underside of the floorpan.

Watch Your Knee.
Ouch. Kneeling around in the back of the Rav4 while putting the interior back together, we found a whole new kind of pain-right up there with taking an airborne automotive horn in the shin. The newly installed child-seat safety strap retainer bracket was black, and in a sea of dark grey carpeting, it disappeared nicely. Nicely enough that, as we returned the plastic carpet edging to its OEM locale, we kneeled with full weight upon the high-tensile steel bracket, right on the edge of the kneecap. The bracket did not flinch.

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