Placing your child in a vehicle already presents inherent risk despite how safely you might drive. In a sense, you are putting your child’s life in the hands of complete strangers. To bring you the most ease in this kind of situation, the best choice you can make is to ensure that you are familiar with the current car seat laws and standards. It’s also important to make sure that your chosen car seat is up to par and certainly not past its expiration date.
Depending on the model of car seat, expiration dates can range from six to 10 years. For example, Eddie Bauer car seat expiration dates can vary depending on the date of manufacture. If the car seat was created before December 2013, your warranty might only be valid for six years, while newer models made after January 2014 likely range from eight to 10 years. To be absolutely certain, you can refer to the sticker that you can find on the seat itself, the owner’s manual, or you can give the manufacturer a call and ask them.
Purchase Date Vs. Manufacture Date
Purchasing a product that has the ability to expire presents a risk in and of itself. It seems logical to assume that the product will expire from the date you purchase it; however, the real expiration date is based on when the product was produced. This can be an especially tricky situation if you plan on buying a model from the previous year. However, if your child is going to outgrow the car seat before it expires, this doesn’t pose as much of a possible liability, but if your family’s expanding, or you intend on your child using the car seat for years to come, you will likely benefit most from purchasing a newer model.
5 Reasons To Replace a Car Seat When It Expires
It can be a common thought process that some manufacturers develop warranties and expiration dates as a tactic to guarantee that they will consistently be making money, particularly when it comes to putting out new models of their products. Though this can be true in some cases, when it comes to car seats (like car parts), newer models are a matter of restoring security and safety as much as possible when facing unpredictable situations on the road.
Some people might argue that years ago, children didn’t have car seats and seemed to manage just fine. What most people probably don’t realize is that since 1975, it’s been noted that the number of kids killed in car accidents has dropped 80 percent, even though there’s been a five percent boost in the total number of kids riding in cars.
1) Overall Weathering of Materials
As with most plastic-based objects, exposure to extreme temperatures degrades the integrity of both the function and the appearance of the object. When this object is primarily responsible for the protection of a human life, it should be of great importance to guarantee that the materials are able to operate to their full capacity. The belts for the car seat can also become less taut over time, which can be especially detrimental in the unfortunate case of a car accident.
2) Potential of Recalls
Unless you register your car seat (either with your car seat’s manufacturer or the registration card that comes with your car seat), you will not be notified if the car seat gets recalled for any reason. As with car parts, this isn’t typically something that a person thinks to look at on their own. The best way to prevent any mishaps with the state of your car seat is to register your car seat as soon as you buy it and to refrain from purchasing used car seats regardless of how tempting and cost-effective it might seem.
3) Technological Advances and Higher Standards
When it comes to the development of new automobiles, companies consider data gathered from crash tests as well as the general progress of the materials used to make the car seat. The design and creation of the end product are not to be taken for granted either. Unfortunately, the convenience of purchasing a used car seat can outweigh this fact for some people, or perhaps they aren’t aware of why car seats expire. Though understandable, it can be risky considering that, if the car seat is older, it might not contain crucial elements of car seats today.
4) Limited Safety Guarantee
Like most products, car seats have a set amount of time that they’re promised to deliver their intended outcomes (otherwise known as a warranty). The issue with keeping a car seat that’s expired is not only that you’re putting your child’s well-being in jeopardy but also that you aren’t able to hold the company accountable for any potential mishaps. To eliminate this possibility altogether, make sure that the car seat you’re using is in line with the current standards and isn’t expired.
5) Inability To Replace Parts
As car seats improve both in the materials used and various advances in functionality, it’s likely that manufacturers will rid their inventory of older parts. If you decide to hold onto a car seat that’s expired and one of the parts ends up needing to be replaced, it’s possible that the likelihood of you tracking down a place to purchase that part will be reduced. In fact, as time passes, it’s more than likely that you’ll need to buy a new car seat anyway.
Different Types of Car Seats and Their Laws
Though car seat laws tend to differ by state, and can often be inadequate, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) frequently updates their standards based on updated information and research. To choose the best car seat for your child, you will have to consider both their age and size.
1) Rear-Facing Car Seats
Your infant or toddler is required to remain in a rear-facing car seat until they are two years old or reach the weight and height limits located on the car seat. There are two choices of rear-facing car seats: infant-only and convertible. Convertible car seats offer a higher weight and height limit, but there are infant-only car seats that have weight limits up to 35 pounds.
2) Forward-Facing Car Seats
The transition to a forward-facing car seat will typically happen when your child turns two years old or outgrows their rear-facing car seat. They will, however, need to wear harness straps until they meet the height and weight requirements on their new car seat. These requirements typically fall between 65 to 80 pounds.
3) Booster Seat
Once your child reaches the limits of the forward-facing car seat with the harness straps, they are able to shift to a belt-positioning booster seat. All that’s left before moving to a seat belt is meeting the final height and weight requirements.
4) Seat Belt
Kids are able to move to a seat belt when they are old enough and meet the requirements of the seat belt. These requirements often involve being at least 4’9” (or 57 inches tall) and being between the ages of eight and 12 years old. The reasoning for the specificity of these requirements is that it’s important that the lap belt rests on the child’s upper legs and the shoulder belt fits snugly against the chest.
Determining Readiness For a Seatbelt
One of the most important things you can do is making sure that you are familiar with the standards of graduating from a booster seat to a seat belt. Your child won’t be ready to use only a seat belt until their knees remain bent when they sit at the seat’s edge. Their back must be against the seat without slouching. When it comes to the shoulder and lap belt, it’s especially important that these lay in the appropriate positions. The lap belt should rest across your child’s upper thighs, not their stomach, and the shoulder belt should fit snugly against their chest, not their neck.
Proper Tightness Is Optimal
To minimize the potential for injury if an accident were to occur, making sure your child’s car seat or booster seat is secure and connected correctly is crucial. If you are able to move the seat from the bottom more than an inch, it’s not installed tight enough.
Be Aware of Frequent Oversights
It’s not abnormal for a parent to assume they know what’s best for their children in most situations. This isn’t a bad thing or inaccurate by any means, but there are some standards that come from the manufacturing side of things that are important for parents to follow and be aware of. Common mistakes include: harness straps being too loose, the wrong seat being chosen for the child’s size and age, failing to keep rear-facing car seats at a 45-degree angle, and not using a latch when it’s present.
Do Your Research and Guarantee Satisfaction
Be relieved by your child’s first or next car seat by doing a sufficient amount of research and comparing products accordingly. A higher priced car seat won’t make much of a difference when it comes to an expiration date, so it’s wise to choose your child’s car seat based on the usage you intend on getting out of it.