Many people are surprised to find out that their car seats have an expiration date. This date may vary by car seat manufacturer, but every child safety seat will expire at some point, and shouldn’t be used past that expiration date.
So, why do car seats expire?
There is actually more than one reason car seats expire. The first is due to the potential breakdown of the plastic components over time. With the varying temperatures we have, even just here in Cincinnati, the plastic goes through a variety of temperature changes over the life of the seat. This can lead to weak or brittle plastic as the car seat ages. This can reduce the stability and strength, and safety of the seat itself.
Also, technology is always changing and as a result, older car seats may not be in regulation of new government safety standards. There continue to be new features on car seats that are not only more convenient for parents and caregivers to use, but also more safe for your child.
Last, the parts of the car seat tend to break and wear down as the car seat ages. Therefore, the older the car seats gets, the more likely the parts of the seat may not be functioning as well as they were originally intended to.
So, how do you check to make sure your car seat isn’t expired?
All car seats should have a model number and date of manufacture printed on the car seat either with a label or actually imprinted into the seat itself. If you are using a rear-facing only or infant seat, there may be two different dates and model numbers on both the carrier and the base. Therefore, you’ll need to check both.
Some new labels actually have the date of manufacture and the date of expiration on the car seat. If so, pay close attention to the expiration date and ensure that you do not use it past that manufacture recommended date. If your car seat only has a manufacture date, you can call the car seat’s manufacturer to see when and if that particular seat is expired or not.
The standard length before a car seat expires is usually six years, but some car seat models have longer expiration dates (due to the length of time the car seat can be used or because it has steel-reinforcing) like the Graco 4-Ever car seat which can be used for 10 years before it expires. Therefore, it’s important to check each and every one of your seats so you can be sure to know how long each one is safe to use.
What if I have an expired car seat? What should I do with it?
First, if your child’s car seat is expired, you should stop using it.
Next, it is best practice to properly dispose of the seat and not to sell it or give it away to someone else. This is not only discouraged but it is also not safe.
We suggest taking the harnesses out of the seat (if it has harnesses) as well as also cutting the fabric on the seat so that it cannot be used again. If possible, you can recycle the plastic on the seat if your local recycling program allows it. If not, we recommend disposing of the car seat in a black trash bag so that someone doesn’t pick it up with the intention of using it.