Reusing your old car seat from your first child may seem like a good way to save money when welcoming your second…until you realize the potential risks this could have for your child in an auto accident. Car seats do have expiration dates, and not just to force parents to buy them more often. Manufacturers tell buyers to purchase new car seats every six to 10 years for important safety reasons. Always check for an expiration date before installing a used car seat in your vehicle. When in doubt, buy new. It could save a life.
Car seat technology has upgraded significantly in the last 10 years alone. For one, the LATCH (lower anchors and tethers for children) system for car seat installation did not exist. Scientists knew less than they do today about the gravitational forces exerted on a child in a car crash. What they know now, based on years of gathered data and advanced studies, has led to upgrades in car seat design that offers much greater protection for occupants.
- Car seats today use three-point or five-point harnesses to prevent an infant from lurching forward in an accident. Special harness systems evenly distribute the weight of impact for the greatest level of protection.
- Car seats can have overhead shields that swing down around a child or t-shields that attach to shoulder straps. These shields protect infants the same way as harness systems.
The more technology advances, the more protection car seats can offer infants. Using an outdated car seat keeps your child from benefitting from modern knowledge and technology. This could increase his or her chance of serious injuries in a car accident.
Another reason to pay attention to your car seat’s expiration date is the breakdown of materials over time. The plastic of the car seat could degrade and become more brittle over the years – especially if stored somewhere hot or sunny. An old plastic car seat may crumble or shatter under the pressure of a car crash, in a way that a new seat would not. Metal parts can also break down over time, developing rust and not working as they should.
Car Seat Recalls
Over the years, thousands of car seats have made recall lists for manufacturing or design defects that could put children at risk. Although no one can guarantee a new car seat is free from defects, using an old one without checking a recall list is risky. Your old car seat might have an ongoing recall for an important safety risk. Keep up with the latest recall lists to make sure your child has the safest possible car seat on the market.
Lack of Replacement Parts
If your older car seat does experience a breakdown or problem, manufacturers may no longer have replacement parts available for your model. Manufacturers do not keep these parts around once a car seat is out of production. Missing important parts of car seats will render the device unusable. If your car seat is old enough that you cannot find replacement parts for it from a trusted vendor, it is time for an upgrade.
Safety Test Expiration Dates
When manufacturers test the safety and quality of car seats, they do so with a typical product lifespan in mind. Manufacturers can guarantee the performance of the devices within this lifespan, but cannot ensure the safety thereafter. This is why they include specific expiration dates on all car seat systems – to avoid liability for older car seats if they do not perform up to standard in a car accident.
The expiration date on your car seat should be somewhere on the manufacturer’s label, on the side or base of the device. If it gives the date of manufacture, assume the expiration date is about six years after. If your car seat is more than six years old or showing any signs of damage or wear and tear, replace it with a newer model. Avoid buying used car seats for the same reasons listed above. A used car seat may not be able to properly protect your child in a collision. If you have additional questions, reach out to an Orange County car accident attorney.