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What To Do If Your Child’s Car Seat Is Recalled


Car seats - misuse harness straps too loose, NHTSA

Although recalls tend to make for scary headlines, taking prompt action is a parent’s best precaution when their child’s car seat is the subject of a recall.

First, don’t panic. Go to the source to find out particulars surrounding the recall so that you know exactly what you need to do.

Contact the car seat manufacturer, giving them the model number and date of manufacturer (you find this on the car seat label). Or, contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236. The latest recall information is also posted on the NHTSA website at www.safercar.gov,

Note that recall information posted on the above mentioned site is not available for car seats that are older than 10 years. For information on recalls for seats older than 10 years, visit NHTSA’s search page for child restraint recalls, investigations and complaints.

Car seat label - on NHTSA website

Expiration dates for car seats

Parents may not know that most manufacturers of newer car seats provide “expiration dates” for the seats. These typically range from two to eight years from the date of the seat’s manufacture.

An expiration date doesn’t necessarily mean that the seat cannot be safely used beyond that date. It is more of a guideline from the car seat manufacturer as to the expected “useful life” of the seat.

Verify the age and expiration date by checking the car seat for date of manufacture and listed expiration date. This information is also available from the car seat manufacturer.

What actions will be taken

Car seats involved in a recall, just like autos, have recall notices posted by the NHTSA. The recall notice will contain a description of the recall, list the car seat models affected by the recall, and describe the defect, consequences and corrective action for the recall.

The NHTSA recall notice will also contain toll-free numbers where consumers can find out more information from the car seat manufacturer about the recall, as well as a NHTSA Vehicle Safety Hotline toll-free number and website URL. When contacting either the car seat manufacturer or the NHTSA, mention the respective recall numbers (listed in the NHTSA recall notice).

In most cases, the car seat manufacturer will mail notices to registered car seat owners advising them of the corrective action to be taken. This may include sending remedy or repair kits, replacement pads, bases, or other parts. Caregivers who have not registered their car seats with the car seat manufacturer should contact the manufacturer for further information and instructions on what to do.

Register your car seat with the manufacturer

To stay on top of car seat recalls and be sure you don’t miss one that involves the seat your child or children use, register the car seat with the car seat manufacturer. By law, in the event of a safety recall, all manufacturers are required to notify registered owners by first-class mail that their child restraint is included in the recall.

The NHTSA has more information on registering child car seats with the appropriate manufacturer, including a listing of website URLs for a number of car seat manufacturers where caregivers can register the seats directly.

Sign up for email notification of child restraint recalls

Another tip to ensure you never miss a car seat recall is to sign up to receive email notification from the NHTSA when a recall occurs involving your car seat.

The NHTSA website notes that since 2002, it receives an average of eight child restraint recalls each year.

MORE: car seat costs and car seat tips.

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