Can I Use an Expired Car Seat?: All the Facts You Need to Know
Who is ready to have a baby? If that person is you, this means that the task of buying baby supplies is upon you and getting ready for a baby requires a lot of work. It is not you, but someone you know is having a baby and you have been invited to help chip in for those baby supplies. Whatever the case may be, one of the main items that are necessary to have before baby can even come home from the hospital is a car seat. However expired car seats may be a problem. Read on to find out why car seats expire and what are the dangers of it.
Did you know that using a car seat properly can cut down on fatal injuries by up to 80%? This is why it’s so important to use a properly installed and maintained car seat for your child. Something that was not thought of in the past was whether or not car seats expire. The short answer is “yes, they do” and the rest of the information you need you can read below.
Why Do Car Seats Expire?
There are several reasons that a car seat will expire, and while some may think it is a great scam to get people to buy a new one, here are the main reasons to switch.
Materials Wear Out
Over time, the materials used to make car seats will start to deteriorate and the time it takes will depend on how much it is used and where.
- Extreme heat or cold can have an impact on the plastic that they are made of, while it is hard plastic, it can become brittle or worn.
- The parts of the car seat that are made of metal can become rusted and in some cases, you will not be able to see these areas because it is covered by material.
- Material and the stuffing under it can become too soft and not as durable. It can also become moldy underneath if you are not checking it due to dampness from diapers, or those lovely sippy cups.
- With the base, it can develop fractures from the weather, but also dings and dents from the constant moving of the seat itself in and out of the base.
- The straps of the car seat can start to fray from usage, or in most cases, spills from cups or bottles.
Once the car seat is no longer made, finding parts to fix that car seat will become challenging. In some instances, you will not be able to find parts through the manufacturer at all to replace a part if needed when you get closer to that expiration date. Since the pads and belts are constantly being used and switched, pieces can go missing and you will not be able to replace them.
It is obvious with all the studies and steps in advancement these days, that the technology in car seats will be advanced over time as well. Since cars are constantly changing in development and how they are made, it only makes sense that during their safety checks, manufacturers of car seats will change the way they make those as well. Materials and the way they are made will also influence how these seats are made and advancements will be added to car seats.
How to Check When Yours Expires
Most car seats will have an expiration date listed on them, and if not will at least have the manufacturing date. Most car seats are good for 6-10yrs depending on the brand you buy. Now when we say good, we mean that they are in top condition for what the manufacturer intended for use. This does not mean that you must change it immediately, but what it means is that you should look at upgrading to a more current model. You will find these stickers on the bottom of your car seat, or sometimes on the back of the material towards the bottom.
If you are unable to find a sticker or the manual is missing, it is a safe bet that you should buy a new one. If you cannot afford a new one and are looking to buy a secondhand model, check for the date before buying it. If you cannot find one, you always have the option to check the model on the manufacturer’s website or call them.
Most states do have specific laws in regards to car seats, like how they need to be attached in the car, which way they are facing, ages to have one, and also were in the car. Car seats have become something that local law enforcement can and will check, and if not in compliance, can cite you for unsafe travel of a minor.
Make sure you check with your local law office or check the state website to see what the laws are pertaining to expired car seats.
When Should You Buy a New Seat?
So now you know what to look for, when do you buy a new one?
- Expiration Date: Once you get past the expiration date, you should buy a new one
- Missing/Broken Parts: If you notice that parts are missing, or pieces of the seat are broken, especially in the straps, you should get a new seat.
- Plastic Looks Worn: The hard plastic should not have too many scratches, no dents, no bowing, and no cracks. If the plastic has any of these issues, you need to replace the seat.
- The Seat Was in an Accident: If you know the seat was in an accident, and when we say accident, we are talking a moderate to severe crash, it is a safe bet that the safety features of the seat are tainted. It would be safer to buy a new one, then use one you know that has been compromised.
Unfortunately, there are few places that you can dispose of car seats. Your best choice is to call the local recycling facility and see if they can tell you where to get rid of your seat. Before doing this, cut off all the webbing and material, and write in black marker “do not use”. Blacking out the manufacturer information and dates are also recommended if you are going to be sitting it out on the curb. More and more people are picking up items on the side of the road to use for their personal use, and you do not want to be responsible for someone taking your seat and using it if it has expired. Taking these steps will help prevent that.
Look into local programs that may be available to tell you if they take your recycled seat, as well as some department stores will host trade in days. On these days, you may get a discount on a new seat for turning in your old one.
Price Does not Matter
Just because a seat has a higher price tag, it does not mean that it will last longer than those that do not. All seats must meet certain guidelines for them to be sold on the market. You can certainly buy a seat for less and know that your child will be safe if it is not expired. When you are getting ready to buy one, and it is on sale, make sure you check the dates first. Some stores will give you a discount on a shelf model, but make sure the date has not expired.
With the number of distractions that drivers have today, accidents are more prone to happen. Keeping your children safe, no matter what the age, is something that no price can be put on. Making sure that the car seat you are using is current and up to date is one way for you to keep your kids safe in case of an accident. There are plenty of links out there to help you find the information you are looking for when it comes to those expiration dates, and make sure that you always look up your current state laws.
- NBC Chicago – What families need to know about car seat expiration
- Best Car Seat Hub – USA Car Seat Laws 2019
- VeryWell Family – The Reason why child car seats expire
- The Washington Post – Yes car seats expire and here’s why
- The Bump – Car seat expiration
- Car Seats for the Littles – Car seats: Why do they expire?
- Parenting – Your car seat safety questions answered