If you are a new parent or grandparent, you may not know that car seats, like many other products, have expiration dates. This article will help you understand more about Britax Marathon expiration dates and the laws regarding their use.
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Britax creates several different styles of car seats including infant, convertible and booster to accommodate different sizes of children. An infant car seat is only rear-facing and can fit children up to 35 pounds or 32 inches. The Marathon style has been on the market for many years and is strictly a convertible car seat, which means that it can change from rear-facing to front-facing as your child grows.
However, the car seat only accommodates children up to 65 pounds in weight or 49 inches in height. Beyond this, you will want to move your child into a booster seat. Britax has two newer convertible designs called Emblem and Allegiance that have similar functions but a new design and some more enhanced safety.
Britax Car Seat Model Expiration Dates
All Britax car seats come with expiration dates displayed on the seat back or side. Different seats have slightly different life expectancy dates. For instance, their infant car seats and belt-positioning booster seats have an expiration date of six years. Their convertible car seats expire approximately seven years after creation. The Harness-2-Booster and Click-Tight convertible seats have expiration dates of nine and 10 years, respectively.
Why Have Expiration Dates on Car Seats?
There are several situations in which people may decide to give you a car seat. You are having your first baby, and some friends want to gift you with their old car seat to save you some money. You had a baby many years ago and are now having a second or third, and you have saved all of your baby gear for the next child. Your parents will be driving your child around, and they need a dedicated car seat so that you are not constantly shifting the car seat between cars. These situations may be perfect opportunities to save money on a used or older car seat, but you will want to make sure that the car seat is not expired.
While many people think that car seat expiration dates are a ploy by manufacturers to create an artificially small life span for these big plastic buckets with cushions, there are several very important and lifesaving reasons for car seats to expire routinely.
Upgraded Safety Features
As mentioned earlier, the Marathon car seat has been in production for many years. While it has received upgrades over these years, the model itself has not changed much. Companies continually learn more about how to keep children safe during accidents. They then apply this knowledge to newer car seat models. The newer seats may have slightly different padding or harness mechanisms that keep children even safer than the previous models. In fact, Britax has just released two new convertible car seat models with the latest technology available. They boast similar but upgraded technology:
Safety Cell – this transfers energy away from the child in case of an impact.
Stabilizing Steel Frame – provides more seat stability and the ability to absorb crash energy.
Impact-Absorbing Base – designed to compress in the event of an accident and redirect crash energy away from the child.
V-Shaped Tether – intended to reduce the rotation of the seat in the event of an impact and also slows any forward movement of the seat.
Due to the constant influx of data through crash testing in both real-life situations and during crash tests, the company continually monitors the safety of models that are currently on the market. They will recall any seat or part that is deemed unsafe within the expiration date of the model. Even the best seats occasionally have recalls. In 2007, Marathon seats had a recall for the safety clip on the harness. The company provided new clips to anyone who needed them. However, companies cannot be responsible for recalls on their products indefinitely, especially considering how much safety technology changes over time. The seats of the 1990s and early 2000s are much less safe than the ones today but were deemed to be suitable for their time.
Similar to recalls, companies cannot continually produce parts for seat models that they no longer build. By having an expiration date approximately six to 10 years after manufacture, companies can mitigate the number of replacement parts that they must always have on hand for older models.
While used car seats may seem like a great deal, unless you know the history of the seat you may be gambling with safety. Car seats that have been in accidents may find their way back to the marketplace. Any seat that has been in an accident should be immediately discarded since there could be unseen damage.
As was discussed earlier, car seats that have unknown histories can have unseen damage. You often do not know how these seats were used or stored. For instance, after the other person's child became too big for the seat, it could have sat in a garage or carport for an extended period. While not directly exposed to the weather, it could have been exposed to extremes in temperature.
In addition, car seats undergo extreme temperature shifts by remaining in a vehicle for extended periods of time, up to years. Consider the fact that during the summer, temperatures in vehicles can reach over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature is enough to kill a person or animal. It is also enough to cause plastic fatigue since the car seat will then cool off once the driver gets in and turns on the air conditioning. In the winter, there are similar dips in temperature. These constant hot and cold temperature shifts can cause unseen damage to the plastic base. While car seat manufacturers admit that they normally do not see this kind of material fatigue for at least a decade after manufacture, the point is still an important one to consider.
There are no laws that state that you cannot use an expired car seat. Laws are written in much more general terms than that. These laws allow police officers to interpret and apply the law as necessary. While a police officer will most likely not stop your car to check the expiration date on a car seat, he or she may check the seat if your car is involved in an accident. The laws in many areas say that all car equipment must be used within the safety regulations set forth in the owner's manual. A car seat owner's manual will have the expiration date listed; therefore, if you have an expired car seat in your car, you are using the equipment in an unsafe manner and can be cited for its use.
Car Seat Disposal
Similar to using the car seat correctly, the seat must also be decommissioned properly as well. Once the car seat is beyond the expiration date, it cannot be sold or used. One way to properly dispose of the seat is to take it to a retailer during one of their baby equipment buyback events. This will prevent you from having to disassemble the seat, and you will get some discount on new equipment. The other way to dispose of the seat is to disassemble it completely. You should remove the harness straps and seat cover.
Unless you have a non-car-seat use for them, you can cut them so no one else may use them and place them in the trash. Next, you should remove any metal hardware using a screwdriver. These pieces can be recycled in metal recycling. Finally, you should check with your local plastic recycler to see if the seat can be placed in the recycle bin. If not, write the word "expired" in large print with a permanent marker and place the entire seat in the trash can. By taking these extra steps, you can ensure the safety of other people's children so they are not inadvertently using an expired car seat.
Car seats are an important safety barrier between children and car collisions. The Britax Marathon expiration date is an important part of this safety feature. The company does not want consumers using outdated or unsafe seats. While we don’t often want to think about the worst-case scenario, we can feel more confident about safety if children are buckled up correctly in a non-expired car seat.
Unlike food expiration dates where we can assess the freshness and quality of the item, car seats cannot be visually assessed for material fatigue and unseen damage. Also, the law requires that children be seated in car seats that match their height and weight and that the car seat is used within the guidelines of the user manual. For all these reasons, be sure to check the expiration date of any car seat that you obtain or purchase.