You have been there: You stored some leftovers in your fridge and without wanting, it was pushed to the back little by little. After a week, you clean the fridge and you find that container, wondering what is in there. And it hits you: Ughhhh, that smell! Yes, that milk jug, those leftovers, they do expire.
But do baby car seats expire? Just like the food in your refrigerator could not be eaten anymore, you will not be able to use your car seat forever! And there are good reasons why you want to get rid of them in time to prevent your children from real dangers that expired car seats pose.
In this post, you are going to learn why car seats have an expiry date and what you can do about it.
History of Car Seats
Back in the time when we were babies (in the 1970s and 1980s), there was not such a thing as car seats. Our parents held us on their laps and it was not uncommon for everyone to travel in the front seat.
They even tell stories about long road trips in which we were roaming around in the vehicles. They never thought that anything was wrong with it. In fact, our parents did not even use seat belts either. They were completely optional and most of the time they were awkward.
We vividly remember the days when our grandparents took us to the store in their pickup trucks that they had recently acquired. We were standing on the front seat looking out the window. With not airbags in place, it was as dangerous as standing in the backseat of a car nowadays.
One day on one of those eventful grandpa-trips, we got stuck in a river we had to cross. Of course, as I was standing on the seat, I rolled over and fell down. Although I wasn’t injured, I recall that day and compare it with what we see on the roads today. Neither did our grandparents nor our parents know much about car safety.
When you consider the traffic on the roads, you can see how it increased drastically over the years. 20 years ago not every member of the family had his own vehicle, yet that is common today. Vehicles have become more accessible to everybody.
And with more traffic on the roads, crashes and fatalities rise. People had to invent new products to reduce quickly rising numbers.
There are interesting facts about the history of car seats, how they started in those early years and what they have become over the years. They evolved from seats that were to help babies look out the windows into sophisticated car seats that protect children in so many ways.
We know that car seats have reduced fatalities over the years and since the technology is becoming better every year, we can expect the numbers to fall.
Since the mid-1980s every state has car seat laws that were not rigorously enforced in the beginning but can now result in serious fines if you neglect the law.
Why Car Seats Expire?
Since car seats are required in many countries, parents cannot avoid buying one for their children. Thankfully there are so many car seats on the market that there is one for everyone. From the smallest to the safest to the cheapest, to on-the-go car seats, there is something for every budget and need.
When you consider buying a car seat, there are a few things to look for and one is definitely the expiry date. It is good to bear in mind that car seats do not last forever and will not last through all your kids. So, acquiring the most expensive 4-stage car seat for your child that has almost outgrown it, in hopes to use it for a future baby, is not a good choice.
You will not find a single reason why car seats expire, but here are a few that definitely play a role.
a) Materials Become Brittle Over Time
This is one of the main reasons why car seats wear off over time. Anyone who has bought a set of chairs and a table for the backyard and leaves it there knows what happens after some years.
The bright sunlight takes its toll on plastic or wooden materials. Also, the not so gentle use of children that jump on them, spill things and accidentally run into them with their motorized vehicles makes them wear off. Try to keep them for 6 years in the sun and still be confident to use them. You have to agree that it does not always work.
Think about car seats. Most of them are exposed to direct sunlight during the day. They have to stand turbulent movements from children when they make their lovely tantrums in them, have accidents in them, spill their milk, and so many others.
Do you think that plastic will stay like new like that? We all agree that car seats might not come with the smell from the food container, but they sure are not made of materials that last forever even though they are made of sturdy materials.
And lastly, car seats tear and wear over time. It is well-known that harsh chemicals, like bleach, weakens the harness straps. If you consider buying a used car seat, you have no guarantee that it was not cleaned with a harsh chemical.
b) Technology, Design, and Innovations
Many would not consider this a reason as to why car seats expire, but it plays a major role.
The first car seats that were manufactured did not have the technology that we have today. In fact, the LATCH system was a requirement for every vehicle before the year 2003, but car seats had been on the market since the 1970s.
The side-impact protection was also a later addition to car seats. And many other features and new technologies have made their way into the world of car seats, all promising to be safer than previous models.
Every year extensive testing is done on car seats to ensure the utmost safety. If you acquire your car seat today, do not expect it to be as safe as the ones that you will find in twenty years.
c) Replacement Parts Cannot Be Found
If car seat technology would not have the need to advance and improve, you would be able to buy replacement parts for them. However, since more and more is required from the government regarding car seat safety, you will not find too many replacement parts at all.
In fact, what you mostly find in car seat parts are items that add more safety to the already safe car seat, as for example the anti-rebound bar.
Car seat companies spend millions on testing their car seats. If they find one particular model to not be safe enough, you better believe them. Using a car seat that has been recalled, should not be used again. Your child deserves a safer place to ride in.
This is one of the reasons you should never buy a used car seat because it may be under recall, and some people are trying to sell it to you for a low price. Click here to find out which models have been recalled since February 2009.
When Does Your Car Seat Expire?
No matter what type of car seat you acquire, they will all expire. They have different expiry dates. Some will only last 4 years, others will last up to 12 years.
For example, infant car seats have a shorter expiry date, because they seldom come with a steel reinforced frame like convertible car seats, which can have up to 12 years.
When you buy a car seat you will most likely find the expiry date clearly stamped near the manufacturer label which is commonly near the bottom of the base or on the back of the carrier. Look at the image for an example.
What you have to take into account when buying a car seat is that the lifespan of that car seat has already started right when it was manufactured. So, you only want to take advantage of discounts in stores if you do not plan to use the car seat for many years to come.
What Car Seat Should I Buy?
There is the common misconception that more expensive car seats have longer expiry dates and cheap ones have shorter lifespans.
It does not matter how expensive a car seat is. Most infant car seats range between 4-8 years, while most convertible car seats anywhere between 8-12 years, regardless of the brand and price.
Car seats don’t last forever and you have to be aware when the car seat you buy or own expires because you want your child to be safe on the road.
Because materials get worn over time and the technology advances so rapidly every year, it does not matter if you want to use your car seat for longer than the expiry date because it is not safe.
And don’t worry about looks. Some car seats have been cared for so much that you will not see any damage on them, thus assuming everything is fine. Some people are deceived and think that it is ok to use used car seats because they look in good condition. What matters is that you know what it has been through and if it has expired.
And lastly, register your car seat as soon as you have it in your hands to make sure that you will be notified if that model should be recalled. If you don’t do it right at the moment when you set up your car seat, believe us, you will forget and lose the registration card (in which case you can always make use of convenient online registration). Therefore, we highly recommend that you do it immediately.