Why Do Car Seats Expire?
Car seat expiration dates aren’t taken as seriously as they should. Some people might think, “How can a car seat expire? It’s not like a loaf of bread that molds over if you don’t eat it in a week or two". For some parents, it’s just hard to accept that something as costly as a car seat would have a life span and an expiration date.
The truth of the matter is, knowing your baby’s car seat expiration date is extremely important for your child’s safety. Child Passenger Safety experts say that the car seat expiration date is crucial knowledge. It’s part of our responsibility as parents to purchase a car seat that’ll keep our child safe in any event, and part of that responsibility is being mindful of the car seat expiration date.
Of course, there are a number of important safety reasons for the expiration dates. Here are some of the most important:
1. The standards for child passenger safety are constantly changing
Today, technology is moving faster than ever. The more and more tech shifts and improves, the more the standards change. This is especially true in for Child Passenger Safety, an ever-advancing field of study. The seat you might’ve used for your teenager might not be using the same potentially life-saving technologies as a newer car seat. It may not even have the same safety standards!
For example, all car seats today are equipped with the Lower Anchor and Tethers for Children (LATCH) feature. However, this wasn’t standardized at all until 2002. Knowing the car seat expiration date ensures that your seat technology is optimized and up-to-date, guaranteeing the safety of your little one.
2. The seat’s materials will naturally wear down over time
The fact of the matter is: no product is made to last forever. And that counts for car seats, too. Plastic may be sturdy, but it will break down and degrade over time. With continued use, the car seat belts can stretch out or the base can develop small fractures that can shatter the seat completely in the event of a crash. Most likely, your car seat stays in your car, and is exposed constantly to the harsh temperature of the sun when left out in the driveway. Not to mention, the metal inside the seat can rust, as well.
The combination of age, heat, and sun are all factors in the aging of a car seat, and to make it even more complicated: they’re all nearly impossible to notice. That’s where the car seat expiration date comes in handy. As long as you replace the seat before the end of its lifespan, your seat should be 100% safe for your child.
3. There’s a limited supply of replacement parts for your car seat
As mentioned in the first point, technology is constantly improving. As car seat designs upgrade, so do their parts. If your seat is past its car seat expiration date, it will be difficult to find replacement parts should the seat break. Due to costs, manufacturers usually don’t maintain an inventory of older parts for long. Once the seat is out of production, finding replacement parts will be difficult at best, and impossible at worst.
4. Car seats are only safety-tested for a certain period of time
Just like the header says, models are only safety-tested for a typical car seat lifespan. After a certain amount of time, the manufacturers stop testing the seats. Thus, there’s no knowing how older seats will perform in an accident. It’d be much better to buy a new seat than to take that risk.
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5. An old seat may have been a recall
This is a minor one, but an older seat may have been part of a car seat recall, and you might not have been informed or you may not have noticed. This is one of the many reasons why you should avoid buying second-hand seats, especially if the seat is past its expiration date.
6. Where do I find the expiration date?
Now that you understand just how important it is to know your car seat expiration date, the real question is: where do I find it? Easy. Just like a loaf of bread, most car seats have the car seat expiration date stamped on the side or on the base of the seat.
It might also just show the date the seat was manufactured, and if that’s the case, the car seat’s date of expiry is six years after the date of manufacture. Very few seats last longer than the standard six years. However, it’s best to look at the seat itself to confirm. Usually, the car seat’s usable lifespan is also printed in the car seat’s manual.
It’s important to remember that the expiry date is six years after the date of manufacture and not the date of purchase. That’s why previous year’s models are usually cheaper or on sale—because the lifespan of the seat is a year shorter than the latest models. This is alright if the seat is an infant or rear-facing, as most likely your child will outgrow the seat before the expiration date hits. However, if you plan on having more children, or if you’re getting a convertible or all-in-one seat, it’s best to get the newest model.
Also important to note: If the seat is missing the stamp or if it’s unreadable, or the sticker/manual is missing, consider the seat unsafe to use.
7. Keep your child safe while traveling
All this might sound daunting if you’re a parent on a budget. But don’t be fooled into thinking that the more expensive the seat is, the longer it’ll last. There are a variety of seats out there that are designed to suit any child and family lifestyle!
What you should avoid though, is buying used car seats. While it may be a bargain, you’re sacrificing the safety of your child in exchange for a lower price. If the seat is older, past its expiry date, or was in a crash, it should definitely not be re-used. If you have an expired seat or booster, discontinue using the seat immediately, and dispose of it in a manner that ensures that it won’t be re-used by anyone.
If you’re in need of a new seat, or need to check for the expiry of your current one but can’t find it, give us a call here at Taxi Baby Co.! Our team will be more than happy to help you with any of your child safety needs.