What does milk have in common a car seat? They both expire! However, while milk just gets chunky and smelly, there is no clear physical evidence to suggest that your car seat has reached, or passed, its expiry date – unless it’s Volvo’s inflatable car seat, in which case all the bets are off…
So, what should a parent know before purchasing their child’s car seat? Let’s have a look:
How Can Car Seats Expire?!
There are a lot of reasons as to why car seats expire. Some of them can be controlled and others cannot, but to know what to look out for is paramount. Most seats are made from strong plastics, but over time, daily wear and tear can break them down. Here are some reasons for a car seat to expire:
- Frequent use and exposure to sunlight – think plastic patio furniture.
- Safe-use labels on the products fade, fall off and become hard to read – how will you know if the seat is doing its job?
- Instruction manuals are lost – reference tools are always good to have.
- Food, drinks and cleaners have been spilled or used over various parts of the seat – we are talking children here after all. This could prevent the buckles and different parts from working properly.
- It is used or has been in a crash. If that’s the case, get rid of it.
- Safety regulations may have changed. Make sure your car seat is up-to-date.
Who Monitors This?
Unlike perishable foods, the Canadian government does not regulate the expiration of car seats. Thankfully, the manufacturers are right on top of things. Of course, they do profit on the new purchases of seats, but at least they do so by improving your child’s safety.
The average lifespan of a car seat ranges from six to ten years. A simple booster seat will last close to a decade, while the more intricate units for infants and babies have shorter lifecycles. The expiration date is usually molded or printed on a label at the bottom of the seat.
Usually this label isn’t visible when the seat is installed so be sure to set reminders for checking it.
What Should I Be Looking for When Purchasing a Seat?
There are quite a few important factors to look for when determining what car seat to go for. Some will enhance safety, while others may purely be for comfort and convenience. The most important thing to remember is that safety should always come first, and sometimes the added comfort actually enhances safety since the child won’t be squirming or crying due to discomfort. Here are some things to look out for:
- Pre-crash position
- The child fits comfortably and snugly
- No-twist harnesses
- Full-body side-impact protection
- Generous bolsters
- Memory foam
- Ventilated seat shells
- Easy-installation engineering
What Should I Do With My Old Car Seat?
Once your car seat reaches its expiration date (or become affected by any other factors that make it no longer usable) make sure you trash it. Do not keep it around as a spare or hand it down to another child, friend or family member. These factors exist for a reason and if the seat is no longer useful to anyone, it should be disposed of.