Why do Car Seats Expire?

radian_rxt_child_car_seat_with_girl-7-800-600-80Are you considering re-using a car seat that you purchased for your first child or that a friend no longer needs? Before you use this seat again, please check the expiration date!

Safety experts agree that it is important to pay attention to the expiration date on the car seat. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends checking expiration dates on car seats and cites one of the top reasons to stop using a seat, is if it has expired. If you go to a check point, Child Passenger Safety Technicians will check the date on a car seat first. If it has expired, they are not permitted to install the car seat. It’s important to note that expiration dates are based on when the seat was manufactured, not necessarily the purchase date.

So why is this expiration date important to consider?

  • Technology - Car seats today are being made with more durable material and are being crash-tested at higher levels. Many car seats today have longer expiration dates (for example, some current models have a 10-year life, as opposed to 5-year that some older car seats have) due to advances made in technology.
  • Wear and Tear - You many not want to think about this, but it’s true. Bases can develop fractures. The belts on the LATCH system can become elastic over time and might not be able to get as tight of a fit as they once were (and remember, we want the tightness because we don’t want the seat to move too much from side to side). See our post for 5 Things to Do to Check Your Infant or Toddler Car Seat, including the inch test.
  • Safety Standards - Advances in technology lead to updated Safety Standards. Think about this: in 2002, not all car seats yet had the LATCH system; and today car seats are being made with stronger LATCHes all the time, to hold a heavier baby. This is important since it’s now recommended to keep children rear-facing longer. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends: “All infants and toddlers should ride in a Rear-Facing Car Seat until they are 2 years of age, or until they reach the highest weight and height allowed by their car seat’s manufacturer.”

Most older car seats don’t allow for children to be in the rear-facing position as long as most newer models do. Also, newer convertible car seats will often transition into a booster seat. Thanks to technology and updated safety standards, car seats are being designed to keep children safer, longer. I view expiration dates as a reminder and opportunity to purchase a new seat that will do just that: keep your child safer, for a longer period of time.

Teresa Stewart, MS, MPH
Program Manager of Safety, Wellness and Sleep Support

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About Teresa Stewart MS MPH

Teresa Stewart is the Program Manager of Sleep Support and Safety at Isis Parenting and has been a proud member of the Isis team since 2007. Teresa holds a MS in Child Development from Wheelock College and an MPH in Maternal and Child Health from Boston University School of Public Health. She is certified by the American Heart Association as a CPR and First Aid instructor. Teresa is a member of the Safe Kids Boston Coalition and MassPinn (Massachusetts Prevents Injuries Now Network). She combines her areas of expertise to help parents understand why our children do the mysterious things they do and how to keep them healthy and safe. Teresa also supports parents around sleep through her work as an Isis Sleep Consultant and co-contributor to Sleep from Birth to One Year, from the Isis Online Parenting School. She recently presented at the Zero to Three’s National Training Institute on the Isis Sleep Support Program. Teresa is the mother of a school-aged daughter and toddler son and understands the joys and challenges of parenting.

One Response to Why do Car Seats Expire?
  1. [...] Is too old! Look on the label for the date it was made. Check with the manufacturer to find out how long it recommends using the seat. Read here about why we don’t recommend using an expired car seat. [...]

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