Although you expect a car seat to come with a slew of things like instructions, safety manuals, and more — you probably don't expect your car seat to come with an expiration date. Expiration dates make sense for things like milk, baby food, and other things you can find in the fridge, but since it's not something your child's ingesting, you may wonder why do car seats expire?
According to VeryWell, car seats expire for good reasons. Although you might think that manufacturers are simply trying to keep their market going with that expiration date, it's actually there to keep your baby safe. In fact, using a car seat beyond it's expiration date can be dangerous for you and your child.
One of the main reasons car seats expire is because over time, technology improves and car seat standards change. Although hand-me-down car seats may seem like a great option (especially if they're in great shape), VeryWell recommended thinking twice before accepting the offer. It was only in the year 2000 that car seats started being built with Lower Anchor and Tethers for Children, according to Safety Belt Safe. And they're now considered a standard feature in nearly all car seats. An expiration date on your car seat helps prevent you from using a seat with outdated technology, in order to keep your child as safe as possible while they're in their car seat.
Aside from keeping up with technology and car seat standards, another reason car seats expire is because of the materials they're made with. The plastic shell, the seatbelt, and other breakable parts can gain wear and tear over time, making a car seat more dangerous as it gets older. Though the degradation of materials isn't the top concern for newly purchased car seats, according to The New York Times, it may be an issue when it comes to hand-me-downs. Seat belts can become more elastic, plastic can break, and broken parts can become a danger to your child. According to Graco, this is one of the reasons that expiration dates can run anywhere between six and 10 years. In general, Graco recommended car seats being used for about six years — though some seats (with reinforced frames) can be used for up to ten years. The fact remains, car seats weren't made to last forever. Even if a car seat looks like it's in good shape, it's still important to check for the expiration date, because more often than not, you can't see the breakdown of a car seat with your own eyes.
If you're searching for the expiration date of your current car seat, most manufacturers print their expiration dates on the back or bottom of the seat. The owners manual should also state the recommended length of use, which you can then compare against the date of manufacture to find how long you can safely use your car seat for.
If you find that your car seat is expired and your child still needs to be in a car seat, Graco stated that you first need to dispose of the seat in a way that it won't be reused by anyone. The company recommended taking the cover off, snipping the seatbelt, and placing it in a garbage bag before recycling or disposing, so that it can't be repurposed. Then, purchase a proper replacement seat according to your child's height and weight. By keeping your child's car seat up to date, and paying attention to those unexpected expiration dates, you'll be keeping your child as safe as possible.