what's the deal with expired car seats? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 03-17-2010, 10:36 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I've heard people talk about expired car seats before, but I don't really understand what it means - how to car seats expire?

Can someone clue me in about this?

Mama to Penelope!! born 9/19/10. Missing Elliott 10/10/09. And expecting expecting again Oct '14!
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#2 of 14 Old 03-17-2010, 10:39 AM
 
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Over time heat and cold fluctuations, and time itself, can weaken the plastic and make it more likely to fail in a crash.

Sorry, I just realized I DDC crashed! Thought this was in the Safety forum!

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#3 of 14 Old 03-17-2010, 10:50 AM
 
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DDC crashing... I just started a thread on this in FS recently. The deal is that the recommendation is that all seats should be replaced after 6 years from the date of manufacture, though some particular models have slightly longer expiration dates. The expiration date is printed on the carseat itself (either on the label or molded into the plastic). Once upon a time, the recommended use for 10 years, so I wanted to know WHY the recommendation was changed.

Well, the reasons I got were, quite honestly, stupid. They included:
  • Parents might lose parts of the carseat or the manual and install it wrong
  • Federal standards change (the only change in the last 8 years for infant seats has been to set a minimum harness strength where previously there was no minimum, but 95% of seats already met the minimum anyway)
  • The plastic degrades (though the manufacturers state the plastic is graded to last 10 years, hence the previous 10-year recommendation)

In some states, depending on how the law is written, it is illegal to use expired carseats. But nowhere, NO WHERE outside of a single silly youtube video which has no additional documentation or support, has anyone demonstrated that carseats between 6 and 10 years are actually "unsafe".

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#4 of 14 Old 03-17-2010, 11:21 AM - Thread Starter
 
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thanks!

guess I didn't need to post this though, I spent about 1 min googling and found more information that I want to know right now about expired car seats

Mama to Penelope!! born 9/19/10. Missing Elliott 10/10/09. And expecting expecting again Oct '14!
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#5 of 14 Old 03-17-2010, 11:32 AM
 
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There's a thread in Family Safety. At first I was all O.K., we need a new car seat, because ours will be 7 years old...but then I found an article in the NYTimes from the head of Graco's safety division who said they had never seen any plastic degradation before 10 years. Never ever. So, now I'm not so sure. I do need to find out how Draconian the hospital I'm delivering at. I gave birth to DS1 there, and I remember that they wouldn't let you leave the maternity center without the kid in a car seat. (Of course, I have no idea how they handled convertibles.) If they're checking expiration dates, then we may need to buy a new one.

Mom to DS(8), DS(6), DD(4), and DS(1).  "Kids do as well as they can."

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#6 of 14 Old 03-17-2010, 12:46 PM
 
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My hospital did not check expiration (and like most hospitals, will not let you leave without a car seat... from what I understand its so you cant sue them for letting you leave without your child properly secured)

Artist, photographer, stay-at-home-mom and Marine wife. Mom to 4; a boy and three little girls.
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#7 of 14 Old 03-17-2010, 01:00 PM
 
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Well, here is the deal on expired car seats. There are a lot of reasons why using expired car seats are a bad idea. Before I knew better, I actually did it myself, not realizing that I might be endangering my kiddo. The more research I did, the more I found out, and the more I realized that while there was info that could go either way, in the end, it wasnt worth the risk. Does the plastic automatically become unsafe on the first day of the seventh year? Nah. Do the straps lose their elasticity and not work correctly? Nah. But dont write off the reasons given. The manufacturers cant say for sure WHEN that plastic has reached it's limit, because every car seat is exposed to different outside influences (sun, heat, cold, freezing, etc) at different rates, different amounts of time. I know that my seats, after being toted around, lugged to and from cars (and airplanes), through many states and lots of trips, all have their share of bumps, scratches, and exposure to sun and cold. All those factors are a stress to those plastic shells. Additionally, before I knew better, I would remove the straps and wash them. Thats a huge no-no and there are compelling reasons why thats a bad idea. Soaps and detergents break down the fibers in the straps and cause them to stretch. They lose the elasticity that helps them to work so well, and that transfers the energy of a crash to your baby, instead of the straps! Also, have you ever lent your baby seat out? Let friends use it for their new baby? Received a used seat from a friend? That can be a bad idea too and heres why. Those seats my have been involved in a recall, be missing parts, not have been cared for properly, or may have even been in a crash. Car seats are one time use products. They are designed to absorb and withstand a single crash. Then they MUST be replaced. There are only one or two car seat manufacturers that dont demand replacement after every crash. One is Britax, and the crash must meet certain strict criteria in order for the seat to be used again.
The reason a crashed seat should be replaced is this: After absorbing a crash, there is no way to tell if that seat will be able to sustain another without failure. Using a crashed seat after it's been through those kinds of forces is the same as using your child as a crash test dummy. Nobody knows what will happen.

Last, I would never ask you ladies to take my post as gospel. I am a certified child passenger safety tech though, and so far my best resource on car seat information from certified and dependable resources has been www.car-seat.org. If you have questions or need specific information you can ask questions there and get a ton of wonderful information. The techs on that site changed the way I looked at sticking my kids in car seats. I realized it was much more than just a duty. I realized that even though I am a good driver, there was no more dangerous place I could possibly put my kids than in a car, and its my job to do my very best to protect them.

HTH!
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#8 of 14 Old 03-17-2010, 01:28 PM
 
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DDCC

I personally would never use an expired car seat. I think of a dog leash when I think of the safety belts (not the same but still). Eventually they wear out and become brittle. Also when I think of the car seats themselves, the first thing I think about are those white plastice lawn chairs. Even though we put them away for the winter they are still exposed to cold and heat etc. Eventually they also become brittle and then someday (who knows when) you go to sit on it and the leg busts off and you are laying on your arse in the dirt. Had you just replaced the lawnchairs you wouldnt have a broken tailbone

Jaclyn, Madly in with DH, Scott. Mama to Calli Elizabeth (23 months) & our new little man, Bode Keam (9 weeks).
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#9 of 14 Old 03-17-2010, 01:37 PM
 
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Personally, I would never use an expired carseat.

Also, remember that if something were to happen, g-d forbid, and you found yourself in a situation where the seat itself failed and your child was permanently injured, you want to be in a position where you could claim injury in a lawsuit. If the carseat is expired then that could null your ability to claim the money that you might need to pay for therapy, surgery, insurance or help with a disabled child. It's aweful to think that way, but I can't help it. It's another huge reason why I won't use Bundle Me Bags or Cuddle Bags in the infant seat...I don't *think* it would be a problem but if we were in an accident while I had one in place then that nulls the warranty on my carseat and protects my child less incase of failure.

Emily: Homebirthin' mama to 3 boys and a girl.
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#10 of 14 Old 03-17-2010, 05:08 PM
 
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I won't use them either.

The more research I do, the more I am careful with our carseats. The risk is just not worth it to me.

"If you keep doing the same things you've always done, you'll keep getting the same results you've always gotten."

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#11 of 14 Old 03-17-2010, 05:14 PM
 
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Yeah, I agree with the last few posts. I wouldn't use an expired carseat. The only reason you need a carseat is if there is an accident, but because you never know when/if that is going to happen, you have to be prepared for the worst every time. And using a carseat that's been used for several babies over several years doesn't seem like it would be in tip-top shape. You want a carseat that can, without a doubt, do it's job if it ever has to.

wife to DH 6/25/05, mama to DS 5/26/08 & DS2 9/1/10
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#12 of 14 Old 03-17-2010, 10:03 PM
 
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I understand for some people who don't work with seats on a regular basis this may seem "stupid" as one of the PP indicated. However, once you've seen a seat fail in a crash test lab, it doesn't take a lot to convince you that you don't want your baby to be the crash test dummy to find out IF your 7 or 8 your old seat really is fine. I have a parent coming in next week to replace an expired seat where the harnessing ripped out in a 35mph collision.

The reality is that seats DO fail. They assign a 6 year expiration for a variety of reasons- standards change, we've seen a few things change and it's not just harnessing strength, LATCH requirements and side impact standards both have changed in the last 8 years. Seats do become compromised from every day wear and tear, and the plastic and metal parts begin to degrade. Sure, it's not a magic 6 year mark, and I do suspect the 10 year mark is more accurate, in most cases. However, I will not have my child at risk. If cost is an issue, most areas have Safe Kids coalitions, health departments, hospitals, etc. that distribute free or low cost seats to families in need so that parents don't have to use expired, recalled or otherwise unsafe seats.

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#13 of 14 Old 03-18-2010, 08:11 AM
 
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I am so glad for this post- I was just talking about this with DH not for this new baby's carseat but for the "extra" one we have for my son (it'll expire in Dec). I wanted to watch for deals on carseats to get a good one to replace it, and he didn't see the need.

Teacher Mama to (8/03) (6/06) and (9/10)
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#14 of 14 Old 03-18-2010, 08:37 AM
 
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I just want to add that there's a lot to carseat safety, too. I know it's easy to have the "it'll never happen to me" mentality, but in the event it does, it is really simple and easy to potentionally dramatically improve the outcome. The little bit of research and effort are worth it to me.

Here are some questions I've found it helpful to get answered:

1.) Is my car equipped with LATCH, and a tethering system. If yes, how and when can I properly use it? If no, can it be retrofitted? If it cannot be retrofitted, what is the BEST seat for that situation?

2.) Are my car's seats suitable for a carseat? Do they dip to much? Are they too narrow?

3.) Is it okay for the carseat to touch the seat in front of it? The door? Another carseat?

4.) How much wiggle room is okay with a carseat? How do I tighten it?

5.) At what angle should a carseat be installed? What are good/safe ways of adjusting it?

6.) Why is extended rear-facing a better option?

7.) Can I add headrests, blankets, coats, or any other type of cushion? Is it okay for my baby/child to wear a coat in the carseat?

8.)How do I correctly put my child in the carseat? Should the harness be above or below the shoulders?

9.) Should I have loose items in my vehicle? What about an unrestrained pet?

10.) Do my car's seatbelts need a locking clip?

11.) What about extended harnessing? What is head excursion?

12.) How do carseats work? What is the difference in the physics of FF versus RF?

There are lots more, but the answers to these questions really changed how I thought about carseats.

"If you keep doing the same things you've always done, you'll keep getting the same results you've always gotten."

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