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! 🙂

Why Do Car Seats Expire?

car seat expiry date

Every car seat comes with an expiry date. Doesn’t make sense does it? You’ve been holding on to that car seat that your teenage daughter used and can hardly wait to use for your little bundle of joy. Could this car seat have expired?

Well, this article will explain why that car seat or booster seat can no longer be used.

Reasons why car seats expire.

1. Materials wear over time.

A good number of car seats have a plastic shell. With time however, plastic degrades and consequently becomes brittle.

This could prove dangerous if for instance there was an accident and an expired car seat is being used.

Due to exposure to the elements over time, it is likely that the plastic shell could break and consequently fail in serving its purpose of safe guarding a child in the event of an accident. Car seats are also made of metal which we all know rusts over time and this is likely to cause it to malfunction.

2. No replacement parts.

Once these car seats are out there in the market, it becomes very difficult or at times next to impossible to find replacement parts if they have a defect. This essentially renders the car useless.

3. Changing technology

The issue of child passenger safety is always an ongoing one and advancements in this field are ongoing. Manufacturers in this field are constantly working towards keeping up with current best recommendations. In addition, most manufacturers run independent crash tests to ensure they keep up with the advancing technology.

How do you know when your car seat is no longer fit for use?

car seat expiry date

All car seats differ when it comes to their lifespan. Nothing explicitly determines this date, but their lifespan ranges from 4-12 years from year of production.

If you want to know the expiration date of your car seat, you just have to check the seat itself.

The date of manufacture is written on a sticker somewhere on the seat. The date should also be included on the registration card that was delivered with the seat.

In most cases, the seat’s lifespan is written in the manual as well. Other seats have the words “DO NOT USE AFTER (DATE)” on their plastic shell casing. It is also not uncommon to have seats that require you to calculate the expiration date from the manufacture date.

Car seat should be ware of car seats that have no stickers or any indicator of the expiration date. This may be a car seat with no history and therefore unsafe to use.

What should you do with an expired car seat?

Stop using it. Afterwards if you do not choose to dispose it you can donate it to any local CPST for demo and training purposes or you can look for ways to use it around the house, maybe as a rocker for the baby.

If you are going to use the car seat around the house don’t use it as a napping place for the baby and make sure you remove the harness to prevent strangulation.

expired car seat

If you choose to dispose it, do so in a manner that it cannot be used by anybody else by making sure you get rid of the harness straps and the cover, deface it with a sharpie… anything to render it unusable really… and make sure you put it in a black garbage bag.

Finally, make a point of checking your babies’ seats. If any of them is almost expired, do not forget to dispose it.

Happy Parenting! 🙂