Registering your car seat

Car seats just like any other products are subject to recalls.  Many times, recalls are not complicated. They may involve an updated manual or a new label. Should this be the case, the car seat is safe to use.

The only way a car seat manufacturer can get in touch with you is if you have registered your car seat with them.

Registering your car seat is quite easy. A new car seat will come with a registration card. This should be filled out and sent. Registration is also easy on the internet. Safercar.gov offers a link that connects car seat registrations among numerous manufacturers. This means that you can register without the worry of loosing your card.

You can also register your car seat by Calling the manufacturer. Most Child Passenger Safety Technicians (CPSTs) have generic forms at hand to be filled in order to register the car seat.  This is quite useful especially if you are not sure who to send the form to.

What Information is required?

Here is what you need to fill out on the registration card (If it already does not have a label with all the car seat’s details)

  1. Model name
  2. Date of manufacture
  3. Manufacturer name
  4. Model number

The parent company will sometimes have a different name from the name on the car seat. For example: Parent company, Dorel has Cosco, Maxi-Cosi and Cosi. This means that the manufacturer name listed on the car seat sticker is not the same as the name on the front of the car seat.

The information that you need to register your car seat (as mentioned above) will be found on the bottom or the side of the car seat.  There may also be a copy of this sticker on the registration card.

Email alerts from Safercar.gov can keep you updated on recalls that have not been processed (not just the ones you have registered).

 

We hope that The Car Seat Nerd will help you register your kid’s car seats and booster seats. This way, you are aware of any or all recalls as well as any urgent fixes.

12 Car Seat Safety Mistakes You May Be Making

Using a car seat does not ensure your child’s safety. Car seats are intended to keep your young one safe, but if not used correctly, your child’s safety may be compromised.  Various mistakes during use like incorrect use of the harness, loose car seat installation, washing car seat straps or putting your child forward facing too soon can be deadly mistakes in the event of an accident.

So are you making these very common but potentially fatal car seat safety mistakes?

Mistake #1: Positioning The Chest Clip Incorrectly

A recent survey by our friends at NHTSA cited incorrect positioning of the chest clip as one of the most common mistakes parents made when using car seats. It is also the easiest one to fix.  Parents will put the chest clip together but often fail to position it correctly. If the chest clip is left too low (most times at the abdomen), your child’s harness straps may slide off their shoulders making it likely that they may be ejected from their car seat during and accident.  A poorly positioned chest clip may also cause internal bleeding. This is because the abdomen area is not as protected as the chest area (by the ribcage).

What can a parent do to fix this?: Make sure that chest clips are in line with your young one’s armpits. By doing this you ensure that the chest clips are on the chest.

Mistake # 2 : Unfastened Car Seat Installation.

Another mistake pointed out by NHTSA is loose installation.  This is the number one mistake made by parents according to car seat inspectors. You can use your own car seat belts to secure the car seat, but car seats come complete with LATCH system equipment and tethers to assist with correct installation.

A car seat that moves even slightly is more dangerous in an accident as the impact of the collision can shake your child terribly causing serious injury to their head or face should the car seat crash into the front seat.

What can parents do to fix this? : Confirm that the car seat can only move less than an inch.  Use the LATCH system if your car has it and fasten the top tether as tightly as is possible.  When using a seatbelt, tighten it as much as you can. You can use the weight of your arm or knee to depress it. This will also ensure that you better secure the LATCH system seat.  Make sure you lock the seat belt. DO NOT use the seat belt and LATCH together.  Using both the LATCH and seatbelt can be dangerous and does not in any way add to the safety of your child. Using both my in fact transfer too much impact to the plastic causing it to break or to your child.

Mistake #3: Loosely Secured Harness

It goes without saying that a loose harness is unsafe. It is suggested by the NHTSA that there should be no slack between a child and the harness. However, parents many times leave two or more inches of slack and this could be potentially fatal in the event of a collision.

A loose harness means that a child is at risk of movement and even ejection from the car seat. Fatal injury and even death is a possibility should the child hit another passenger or any part of the car’s interior or is ejected from the car altogether. Even if the child does not come out of the car seat, excessive shaking can cause damage to the brain and other internal organs.

You should however be careful that they harness is not too tight. The straps are made to have some give so that they can accommodate the energy from a crash. If the seat is too constricted, the force from the crash will be transferred to the child.

What can parents do to fix this?.

The Car Seat Nerd recommends that you should fasten harness straps as much as they can withstand without compromising safety. Just be careful that the straps are not too tight.

Mistake #4:  Improper Harness Slots

Car seats have adjustable straps because they are made to grow with the child. For a rear facing car seat, the harness should be at or just below the child’s shoulder.

Forward facing seats should have their harness slots at or above the child’s shoulders. The straps may be moved as your child grows.  Improper use of the harness slots is a risk to your child. They may not be as secure in an accident.

What can parents do to fix this ?

Check your child’s car seat frequently to ensure that you are using the right slot. Confirm that for a rear facing the harness are at or just below the shoulders and at or just above the shoulders for a front facing seat.

Mistake #5 : Improper Seat Belt Placement

It may become increasingly difficult to ensure proper placement and use of the seat belt as children move to booster seats.  To make sure that seat belts are placed correctly, belt-positioning boosters can assist if they fit and are used accurately.

It may become increasingly difficult to ensure proper placement and use of the seat belt as children move to booster seats.  To make sure that seat belts are placed correctly, belt-positioning boosters can assist if they fit and are used accurately.

A child will not be restrained in a collision with a wrongly placed lap belt.  This may cause abdominal injury should their hips slide under the lap belt. A shoulder belt that is used wrongly can cause forward movement or cause injury to the neck and face.

What can parents do to fix this ? : You need to ensure that the lap belt fits well across your child’s upper thigh, it should not be on the tummy. Shoulder belts should fit well across the shoulder and chest evading the neck and face.

Mistake # 6:  Using a Used or Expired Car Seat

Because car seats are made to last and safeguard your child for year, many families tend to use the same car seat for more than one child. Car seats are often safe to use for over five years. However, expiration dates must be noted and respected.

Worn car seats are also not safe and may not safeguard your child as they were designed to. Seat belts can fray or wear over time causing them to open or break during a crash. Belts may also loosen and make it hard to fit safely.

What Can Parents Do to Fix This ?: Find out the expiration date of the car seat. You will find it directly under the seat where your child’s legs rest. The expiration date may also be found on a sticker. If you can’t find any sticker, look for the molding under the car seat. It is also not wise to buy a used car seat especially from someone you do not know or from a thrift store. A used car seat may have been involved in a car accident and may have some unseen damage. You need to know the seat’s full history before you even consider purchasing or borrowing it. If the seat was involved in a crash, please call the manufacturer for clarification on recommendations on whether it may be used or not.

Mistake #7: Transitioning to Forward Facing Car Seats Too Early

The law in many states allows for children who are a year old and at least 20 pounds to use a forward facing car seat. The American Academy of Pediatrics  however suggests that children remain in  a rear facing position until they are at least two or when they can no longer fit in their rear facing car seat.

This recommendation has been made by the AAP because the rear facing position is much safer than the forward facing position. Putting a child forward facing too soon carries the risk of head and spinal injuries.

What Can Parents Do to Fix This ?: Have your child in a rear facing position for as long as possible. This means that you will have to wait until they get to the top limit weight or height allowed by the manufacturer. If their legs seemed cramped experts insist that kids are more comfy like this and are better protected from leg injuries.

Mistake #8 : Having a Child in a Car Seat in Heavy Winter Coats

Winter coats are a hazard when your kid is in a car seat. Heavy and filled coats leave plenty of space between your child and the harness straps.

Compression of heavy coats during a crash can be fatal , causing your child to be thrown around and possibly ejected.

What Can Parents Do to Fix This ?:Do not use heavy coats in the car. Your children should not wear more layers in their car seat than they would indoors. If they are not warm enough you may out their arms through their coat backwards over the harness and not under it.  Younger kids can have a blankie tucked around the straps.

Mistake #9: Use of Aftermarket Products/ Accessories

Bundle sets , mirrors , harness covers , toys that strap on or any other accessories designed to make your baby’s ride more fun and comfy may not be safe. These items can be found in any local baby store. According to Doucher , “ Always remember that anything that cannot be strapped down becomes projectile in the event of a crash”. Doucher insists that if you would not throw it at your child at 30mph , do not have it unstrapped in the car.  Anything that did not come as part of the car seat must be avoided for the safety of your child and the effectiveness of the car seat.

Some accessories like infant inserts that have not been provided by the manufacturer will make the car seat less safe by allowing for extra space and compression during an accident. Using these inserts can also void your warranty, as car seats are not tested for safety with aftermarket products in them. Mirrors and toys can easily become hazardous projectiles in a collision.

What Can Parents Do to Fix This ?:

They should simply not be used. It is a risk to your child’s safety to use anything that was not originally included with your car seat.  Only use strap covers and inserts that were provided by the manufacturer. These have been tested for safety and can be trusted.

Mistake #10: Using the Wrong Car Seat

A car seat is only safe if it is in the correct position and fits well. Having your child in a car seat that is too big or too small is dangerous.  Parents often move children to the next car seat way too soon. Preschoolers are most at risk of being moved up to a booster seat too soon as parents feel that they are ready as soon as they turn 4. It is only safe to move a child to a booster seat when he has attained the maximum height and weight allowed for their seat. The same also applies for older kids who may not be big enough to move out of a booster seat just yet.

The wrong car seat for your child is hazardous as it will not keep your child as safe as the correct car seat. Ineffective straps or incorrect positioning may also cause your child to be shaken on ejected during a crash.

What Can Parents Do to Fix This ?: Check with the manufacturer if your child is in the right car seat. You should know the weight and height limits for your child and their car seat. This will give you an indication if you can move them to the next seat or not.  To find out more about car seat recommendations for your child, visit  SaferCar.gov

Mistake #11: Placing an Infant in a Wrong Angle

Infant car seats do not just fit right into the base. An infant should be put in a 45-degree angle for their safety. Most car seats will have a recline indicator that show is the seat has been placed properly or not.

Placing your infant at the wring angle is dangerous, as they still do not have neck control. If their head rolls or they are unable to keep their head up, or their head rolls up on their chest, their airway may become blocked.  A seat that is also too reclined is hazardous.

What Can Parents Do to Fix This ?: You need to ensure that your car seat is in the proper and safe angle at all times. The safest angle for infants is 45 degrees rear facing.

Mistake # 12 : Washing straps

As gross as car seat straps may get with food , drool , spitup and dirty little hands , washing them may cause weakening  and stretching in an accident. Detergents may also strip the straps of their flame retardant.

What Can Parents Do to Fix This ?:

A regular wipe down of the straps with a damp cloth or baby wipes will do. There is no need to out them in your washer or soak them in water or any cleaner.

Here are a few resources The Car Seat Nerd recommends for more information on the safe us of car seats.

Car Seat Safety 101

Convertible car seat reviews

Whether you are a first time parent or you have been at it for a while now, it is important to go through the essentials of car seat safety once in a while. As a parent, your child’s safety is absolutely essential. Going through these safety rules might be just what saves their life.

The height of the straps

If you are using a 5 point harness then the strap should be placed at or below the baby’s shoulders for rear facing car seats and for forward facing car seats, the harness straps should be positioned at or above the baby’s shoulders.

Is the chest clip placed correctly?

The purpose of the chest clip is to keep the straps in place over the upper body before a crash occurs. It is vital for it to be placed on a baby’s sternum or the armpit level.

Is the tightness of the straps enough?

You determine this by doing the pinch test where you pinch the straps vertically at the collar bone. If you are able to grab extra slack between your fingers and be in a position to pinch it then the straps are considered too loose.

Is the seat fitted-in tightly?

When installing a car seat ensure that there is less than 1” movement front to back as well as side to side when holding onto the belt path. In other words, ensure that the lower anchor connector or the seat belt goes through the car seat. It is important to note that this is the only location where you are required to test for movement and not the top of the car seat.

Is the tether attached?

A tether is necessary when one is fitting a forward facing harnessed car seat. This is because the tether minimizes forward movement for the baby’s head as well as the neck up to 6” in case a crash occurs.

Which is the right seat for your child’s age?

Your child should ride rear facing up until they are at least two years old while a child who is 3-4 years should use a forward facing seat with a 5 point harness until they are 5+ years. For 10 to 12 years a child should use a booster seat.

Checking the expiration date.

car seat expiry date
expiration date imprinted in plastic

car seat expiry date

The standard expiration period for most car seats is from four to twelve years from the date of manufacturing. Although the time frame differs for all manufacturers, it is important to note that plastic breaks down over time and a car seat that is already expired is unlikely to protect a child if a car crash occurs.

Ensure you remove coats before buckling

If a child is wearing a bulky coat this puts extra space between them and the harness which means in the event of a crash, it will greatly compress and therefore creating more distance for the child to move before stopping. Instead, parents can drape a blanket over the seat or wear the coat backwards over the harness.

Have you been involved in a crash?

It does not matter if the crash was minor or not or even if the children were involved or not, chances are that the car seat might need replacing. To confirm this, you should ensure that you double check the seat’s manual to familiarize yourself with information on how to replace it or about accidents.

Ensure you read the manual.

It is very important for every parent to read the manual that comes with a car seat. It provides all the seats instructions regarding your child’s safety and we can all agree nothing is more important than that. In case of a misplacement, you can always contact the seat manufacturer for a replacement copy.

There are other crucial things to note when it comes to as well as correctly installing the car seat and ensuring you harness safely. Therefore, make sure you read the car seat and vehicle manual thoroughly before using them.

How To Dispose Unusable Car Seats

Car seats are rendered useless all the time. The seat might have expired, been involved in an accident may have been recalled by the manufacturer because of a fault.

So, what should you do if your car seat is no longer fit for use?

One important thing parents should note is that you should never donate a faulty car seats.

The seat is not safe for any child. Some make the assumption that having a faulty car seat is better than none. This is a dangerous mind set and could put someone’s child in grave danger.

Some parents might decide to throw the unusable seats away and they are likely to be picked by dumpster divers or well-meaning pickers. It is therefore a parent’s responsibility to ensure that the seat is rendered completely useless.

The best option available is taking the faulty seat to a recycling center. Search for such a center nearby and donate the seat to them. Some might ask you to disassemble it before taking to them. To do this, remove the harness and the cover as this makes it easier for them to destroy it.

If recycling is not an option, the other one is taking it down as trash. However, there is a possibility someone might take it to resell it or use it and to avoid this, ensure that it is broken down enough that no one can use it.

Do as much damage to the seat as you possibly can. You can even cut it into small pieces or smash it to pieces with anything as long as it is safe for you.

If destroying it with power tools or farm equipment is not an option then scribbling all over the seat with a sharpie with words like “NO LONGER SAFE FOR USE, CRASHED” or “EXPIRED! DO NOT USE” is the best way. Also, do not forget to remove the harness.

expired car seat

Another way of doing it is making the seat as undesirable as possible. You can achieve this by using kitty litter, dog poop or soiled diapers.

You can also poor water on it to ensure it gets rusty before throwing it away. Pouring a spoilt box of milk on the seat can also make it very repellent.

Whichever options you choose, ensure you secure the seat in a black plastic bag so no one can easily tell if it is a car seat. In addition, ensure it is inside the trash bin and not beside it.

How do you recycle your seat?

  • Remove all straps and padding.
  • Put the straps and padding into the trash.
  • Use a sharpie to label the seat with “Do not re-use”
  • Take your car seat to a recycling center near you.

How to prepare your car seat for trash collection

  • Remove all straps and padding.
  • Use a sharpie to to mark the car seat with “Do not re-use”.
  • Have the straps and padding in one trash bag, then place the car seat into another trash bag. This will keep someone from reusing your car seat.

Where can you take a usable car seat?

If you are the original owner of the car seat and the seat has never been in a crash, you can resell the car seat to someone who needs it (Other seats can also sometimes be used for training purposes by a CPST)

When passing along a car seat, be sure to:

Used Car Seats – How to Borrow/Sell/Buy

used car seats

“Buy a used car seat!” they said. “It’ll be a bargain!” they said.

A good deal can be very tempting. You are on a budget, looking for a car seat and there it is on craigslist, the car seat that fits right within your budget and it is in “EXCELLENT CONDITION” and has been “GENTLY USED”, and is not expired! What a deal right?

Saving a few dollars, however, may not be in the best interest of your child’s safety.

How much do you know about the car seat’s history? Had it been cared for appropriately? Has it ever been recalled? Has the seat been involved in an accident?

This car seat you found at a great bargain may look good, it may even look brand new, but if you do not know the entire history of this car seat you probably need to avoid it.

A car seat that has been recalled, or been in an accident may still really just look like a brand new, fresh out the box car seat. But do you know the seller? Has the seat been cleaned according to the manual? Had they ever checked it in as baggage on a flight?

Now ask yourself, “Would I trust this seller with my little one’s life?”

A used car seat isn’t unsafe just because it’s a used car seat. Here are few things you need to pay very close attention to:

  • Has the car seat been in a collision?
  • Are all the stickers, original parts  and user manual intact?
  • Has the car seat been recalled? Check the car seat manufacturer, model name, and model number on the NHTSA list of recalled child restraints.
  • How well has the car seat been cared for? Has the harness been cleaned with harsh detergent/bleach or thrown in the washing machine?
  • Has the seat been checked in as luggage on an airplane and how was it packaged?  Was it thoroughly inspected after the flight?
  • Does the car seat have any aftermarket products?
  • Is there any sign of fraying on the harness, or rusting of the metal parts, or damage to the plastic parts?

If you are uncertain about all of these, then you may want to consider looking for a brand-new car seat from an approved retailer. You can always get a new car seat at a pretty reasonable price point.

HOW DO YOU BORROW, BUY OR SELL A USED CAR SEAT SAFELY?

When in doubt, the answer should always be a resounding NO. So if you doubt the safety of a used car seat, you are better off not borrowing, buying or selling that car seat. The risk is just not worth it.

Many used car seats are still safe and can be sold or loaned out. There are a few things you need to know that will ensure that you are selling, borrowing or buying a safe used car seat.

TIPS FOR THE SELLER

KNOW THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF THE CAR SEAT YOU ARE SELLING
Are you the original owner of the car seat? Do you know everyone who has used that car seat? If not, please do not sell the car seat. You also need to be able to confidently answer the question below:

HAS THE CAR SEAT EVER BEEN IN A CRASH?
A car seat that has been involved in a crash (with or without the child in it) is considered unsafe. Some car seat manufacturers will give an allowance for the car seat to be used again if it was in a minor crash. Most car seat manufacturers however, will clearly state that should the car seat be involved in an accident, it should never be used again.

When is a crash considered a minor crash?

  1. The vehicle was driven away from the crash site; AND
  2. The door nearest the car seat was undamaged; AND
  3. No occupants were injured; AND
  4. Air bags did not deploy; AND
  5. There is no visible damage to the car seat.

ENSURE THAT ALL PARTS ARE STILL PRESENT AND IN GOOD CONDITION
You can easily do this by going through the owner’s manual and ensuring that all parts are available. You should also check for fraying harnesses, cracks in the plastic and any other damage to the car seat.

GATHERING INFORMATION ON A USED CAR SEAT.
You need to find out about any recalls and expiry of the car seat.  It’s pretty easy. Take a pic of the labels where this information would be found and use these images when you are selling the car seat. Take a picture of:

  • The manufacturer and model
  • The model number and manufacture date

Somewhere on the car seat you will find a mailing-label size sticker (it is often difficult to find). This sticker has all the information on the date of manufacture, model number as well as the manufacturer’s name.

The dates and labels you see on the harness straps as in the picture below should not confuse you. This is not the date of manufacture of that particular car seat.

The large stickers on the left and right of the car seat have information on weight/height guidelines as well as installation procedures. The little date at the bottom is not the date of manufacture if a car seat.

TIPS FOR THE BUYER (OR BORROWER)

ENSURE THAT THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF THE CAR SEAT IS KNOWN TO THE SELLER
It would be in the best interests of your child’s safety that the seller is the original owner and that they know the history of the car seat. You should not buy a car seat that cannot answer question 2 below.

ENSURE THAT THE CAR SEAT HAS NEVER BEEN IN A CRASH
As mentioned, even if there was no child in the car seat at the time of a crash, collision forces may have damaged the car seat. A few car seat manufacturers will give an allowance for the car seat to be used again if the crash was minor. A majority of car seat manufacturers will be adamant that a car seat that has been in an accident should not be used.

When is a crash considered a minor crash?

  1. The vehicle was driven away from the crash site; AND
  2. The door nearest the car seat was undamaged; AND
  3. No occupants were injured; AND
  4. Air bags did not deploy; AND
  5. There is no visible damage to the car seat.

Should the car seat have been in a minor accident please read the owner’s manual to find out if you can use it again safely. And like we said before , when in doubt the answer is always no. So do not borrow or buy a used car seat that you are not sure of.

You will need to know what the manufacturer of the car seat recommends for car seats that have been in minor accidents.

ENSURE THAT ALL PARTS ARE PRESENT AND WORKING WELL
Have a look at the car seat against the owner’s manual. Be sure to check for any cracks, fraying and any other damage.

GATHERING INFORMATION
A picture of the sticker on the used car seat should have been posted by the seller. This sticker should clearly relay information on the manufacturer, model number & date of manufacture of the car seat.

The seller should also give the model name of the car seat to you. However, some seats like Safety 1st, Cosco and Eddie Bauer may not have model names.

There are also other labels and dates that may confuse a parent. The date on the harness strap tag is not the date of the manufacture.

Installation as well as height and weight guidelines will be clearly illustrated on the large stickers on the sides of the car seat. These stickers will also have a tiny date at the bottom. This date indicates the last day the sticker was updated and not the date of manufacture.

Ensure that you have had a look at the expiration date (Usually 6 years from the date of manufacture)

To find the expiry date on some car seats, you may need to look on the plastic that is underneath the car seat. You may need good lighting so that you are able to see it.

You may need to look out for some car seat expiration dates that will be listed on the same sticker as the date of manufacture.

Call the manufacturer to find out about your car seat’s expiration date if you cannot find it.

CAR SEAT EXPIRY DATES

To find the expiry date on some car seats, you may need to look on the plastic that is underneath the car seat. Look out for something that goes something like “Do NOT use this car seat after December 2011”.

expiration date imprinted in plastic

You may need to look out for some car seat expiration dates that will be listed on the same sticker as the date of manufacture.

car seat expiry date

Some owner’s manuals will also indicate the expiry date.

If you cannot find the expiration date anywhere, you can always call the manufacturer for clarification.

Why do car seats expire?

You wouldn’t give your child food or medicine that is past it’s expiration date, would you? Your precious child should also never ride in an expired car seat.

Car seats are mostly made of plastic, this plastic become brittle over time and cannot therefore withstand the force of a crash.

For a car seat to be safe, the plastic needs to be a new as possible. Some car seats have plastic with steel reinforcements and will last longer, say 9 years and not 6 years like some car seats.

We at The Car Seat Nerd recommend that…

Only buy a rear facing car seat if it has at least one year left before expiry.

A used convertible car seat (rear facing to forward facing) should have no less than 2 to 3 years of good use left before expiry as these seats are also used before the kids transition to a booster car seat.

Should you be buying a booster car seat, then it ought to have enough years before expiry to see the child through to the age of 10.

Check for car seat recalls

Car seats get recalled. This is not news. Many times, recalls are dealt with and you can continue using the car seat.

You can always check for recalls with the manufacturer. Tell them the model number, model name and date of manufacture.  Additionally, check for recalls here: http://www.carseat.org/Recalls/179NP.pdf

Buying a used car seat – A checklist

CHECKLIST BEFORE BUYING OR BORROWING A USED CAR SEAT YES NO
The entire history of the car seat is known to the seller
The seat has not been in a crash and if the crash was minor, does the manufacturer allow for continued use of the car seat?
All original parts are available and in good working order
The car seat has not been recalled and if it was, the recall was addressed.
The car seat has enough years to serve your child safely before its expiry date

You can read more on the resale of car seats by The Consumer Product Safety Commission here : Handbook for Resale Stores and Product Re-sellers

So now that you know what to look out for when you are selling, buying or borrowing a used car seat, we hope that your child’s safety will be number one on your checklist.

Happy Parenting! 🙂