Children’s car seats are complicated. Their mechanisms can get clogged by a Cheerio; they’re hard to fit in the back seat; they don’t work well with winter coats. And after six to ten years, they expire.
The expiration dates printed on most child safety seats might feel like a trick to keep you from saving money on a hand-me-down. But while these dates aren’t legally enforced, they’re there for a good reason.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration doesn’t mandate or enforce expiration dates on car seats, according to their Office of Communications and Consumer Information. Nor do they know of any state laws requiring you obey these dates.
Still, the NHTSA points to voluntary guidelines by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, which suggest replacing seats after six years or by the manufacturer’s expiration date.
There are multiple reasons for this: According to the JPMA, as well as car manufacturer Graco, parts can deteriorate or break, including the plastic shell, which can degrade from years of sun exposure. Car designs and safety regulations can change over the years as well. If you’re not sure if your seat is still safe, take it to an inspector.
It might feel frustrating that a car seat can’t last longer. But consider that this device has to do an extraordinary job: keep kids safe at 60 miles an hour in a metal box designed for adults. When you look at it that way, it’s impressive they work at all.
PSA: Kids Shouldn’t Wear Winter Coats In Their Car Seat
The colder months are upon us, so you’ll want to bundle up your kids in some warm winter jackets.…