Car seats and booster seats are mandatory safety tools—but did you know there are situations when you should avoid using one? Here are the three most common reasons you should ditch your car seat or booster and replace it.
Car seats should be replaced if they are past their expiration date. How do they expire? They are exposed to the intense heat inside a car during the summer and freezing temperatures in the winter. This causes the plastic to expand and contract and get weaker. They are also subject to the motion of the car as it moves and will slowly lose structural integrity.
The expiration date can be found on a sticker on the bottom of the seat.
It’s been in an accident
Car seats shouldn’t be used if they have been involved in an accident. This also means you shouldn’t use a car seat if you are unsure of its history. It is fine to take one from a family member or a friend, but don’t buy a used seat from someone you don’t know.
It’s also good to note that not all car seats are the same when it comes to being replaced after an accident. Some car seats will need to be replaced after a little fender bender, and others will not. The only way to know is to check your car seat manual. Most car seats are covered under your car insurance, so check with your insurance provider as well.
Why does it matter if a car seat has been in an accident? What if it looks fine? Car accidents put strain on the car seat. It may weaken the car seat. If it has been in an accident, even a minor one, and your manual recommends replacing it, then you should replace it.
It’s been recalled
You should also avoid car seats that have been recalled. You can find this information by first getting the model number and production date from the sticker on the bottom of your car seat, then checking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to see which car seats have been recalled.
You should also register your car seat when you buy it. If your car seat is registered, the manufacturer can contact you if there is a recall affecting your seat.
Reviewed by Dr. Heather Felton, April 2020
- Car seats are mandatory for babies and children riding in cars.
- Don’t use car seats that have been accidents.
- Avoid used car seats unless you know their history.
- Make sure your car seat isn’t expired.
- Make sure your car seat hasn’t been recalled.