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Is It Okay To Use A Second-Hand Car Seat?

November 5, 2012

Also Posted On BabyCenter

As a certified child passenger technician and instructor, working in injury prevention, I frequently hear this question. Not surprising, given tight household budgets and the constantly increasing costs of raising children.

First, let’s look at the things that rule out using secondhand seats, then we can better determine when it’s okay.

In recent years, child seat manufacturers have determined expiration dates for their restraints. The length of time is a minimum of 6 years from the date of manufacture – which is stamped on the restraint.

As with many products, the structural integrity may weaken over time due to exposure to a number of environmental factors, including extreme temperature change. If you cannot find the expiration date stamped on your car seat, you can call the manufacturer and provide them with the date of manufacture and model number, to determine the expiration date.

Another situation that will rule out using a secondhand seat is not knowing the history of the restraint. Specifically, has the restraint been involved in a crash? Restraints are designed to perform one time in a crash situation.

While there may be no visible damage to the restraint, there is still potential for significant damage that we can’t detect. Not knowing the history, we have no way of knowing if the restraint has been in a crash.

The third criterion that rules out a secondhand seat is missing labels. Federal law requires manufacturers to adhere labels that provide basic instructions, warnings, manufacturer information, along with date of manufacture and model number.

The date and model numbers are used to determine if the restraint has ever been recalled. Without labels, there’s no way to know. Therefore, as with not knowing the history, we can’t take the risk that the restraint has ever been recalled. Also, without the date of manufacture (as well as model number), we can’t determine an expiration date.

So, now we can clearly identify the times when it would be okay to use a secondhand seat.

ONLY if you: 1) know the full history of the seat and can be 100% certain it has never been in a crash; 2) can ascertain through the labels that it has not been recalled and 3) know it is not beyond the expiration date, then it is safe to use a secondhand seat.

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