How to Find Out When Your Car Seat Will Expire

girls in car seats

No matter how carefully you buckle your baby into his car seat, it won't do much good if your car seat its past is expiration date. That's right -- car seats, like the milk in your fridge, don't last forever. Which may leave you wondering when when your car seat expires and how to find that expiration date.

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Here's why it's important: even if your car seat has never been in a crash or so much as nicked as you set it down on your driveway, the materials it's made of degrade over time.

"Car seats are exposed to extreme hot and cold temperatures inside a car that can affect the plastic shell," explains Jennifer Newman, a certified car seat technician who does "Car Seat Checks" by installing various seats for Cars.com. "An expired car seat’s shell could become brittle and fail to protect the child in a crash. Also, car seat technology is evolving, as are car seat federal safety standards. It’s important to have a car seat that will offer your child the best protection in a crash."

As for where to find your car seat's expiration date, that depends.

"Expiration dates are usually printed on a sticker affixed to the side, bottom, or back of the seat," says Nathaniel Washatka, Cincinnati Children’s Certified Child Passenger Safety Tech and a Project Specialist with  Buckle Up for Life. "You’ll often find a date of manufacture and an expiration date. The expiration date is also usually included on the registration card, the detachable card that you’re supposed to mail back to the manufacturer."

Still not finding it? Then you may need to consult the car seat's owner's manual -- and just to warn you, some manufacturers may not always make it easy to spot, so you may have to dig.

"Finding the expiration date info in the manual can be difficult," admits Newman. "I have several car seat manuals on hand and none of them explicitly list an expiration date section in the table of contents. In the Britax Marathon car seat’s manual, the expiration date info is grouped in under general usage. In two Graco car seat manuals, it’s listed under Child Restraint Useful Life."

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If all else fails, call your car seat's manufacturer with your model  number and they should be able to tell you when your seat expires. If you're not getting answers there, follow this rule of thumb: 

"The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association recommends that seats be replaced six years after the date of manufacture," says Benjamin Hoffman, MD, medical director of the Tom Sargent Children’s Safety Center at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. The reason: many new car seats have an expiration date that can vary from six to 10 years, so better safe than sorry when it comes to your little bundle of joy, right?

Do you know when your car seat expires?

 

Image © Priscilla Gragg/Blend Images/Corbis

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