Why do car seats expire?

Car seats can be used safely only for a defined period of time, typically 7 to 10 years. Think about it: Your car seat goes through a lot during its useful life. Your child sits in the seat hundreds of times, plus the temperatures inside our cars vary greatly with the seasons (from cold to hot and back again). Graco defines “useful life” as 10 years for belt-positioning boosters and for steel-reinforced belt path car seats and 7 years for plastic-reinforced belt path car seats. Due to frequent changes in vehicles, regulations, safety technology and general wear and tear, Graco recommends not to use a car seat past its expiration date.

How do I find out when my car seat expires?

Each Graco car seat is marked with its Date of Manufacture (DOM) on one of your car seat’s labels. To identify your car seat’s useful life, check out your manual or look for it stamped into the car seat. Both will say “Do not use this child restraint…” and will reference either a 10-year useful life (for belt-positioning boosters and for harnessed seats with steel-reinforced belt paths) or 7-year useful life (for harnessed seats with plastic-reinforced belt paths, such as the Contender™ 65 Convertible Car Seat). You’ll have to do a very simple calculation to determine the car seat expiration date.

Date of Manufacture + Useful Life = Car Seat Expiration Date

Example:

Date of Manufacture (3/15/2020) + Useful Life for a steel-reinforced booster (10 years) = Expiration Date of 3/15/2030

Can I purchase a used car seat?

As tempting as it might be to save a little cash by purchasing a used car seat or accepting a hand-me-down, it’s not a good idea. “Unless you know the complete history of a seat and that it’s never been involved in even the most minor of crashes, it’s safest to purchase a new car seat,” explains Drew Kitchens, Graco® Global Engineering Director of Car Seats. “That way, you’re assured of up-to-date car seat technology and a clean history.”

Can I reuse my current car seat for a second child?

If you have children who are close together in age—like a child who has graduated to a convertible or all-in-one car seat and a newborn—it could be possible to let baby use big brother or big sister’s infant car seat. Before making the decision, double check that the seat hasn’t expired and that all of the seat pads and hardware are in good condition.

What should I do with an expired car seat?

First, discontinue use of the expired car seat immediately. An expired seat should be disposed of in a way that it won’t be reused by anyone. To help ensure a car seat won’t be used after expiration, it is a good idea to remove the cover, cut or remove the harness straps, write “DO NOT USE, EXPIRED” on it with a Sharpie, and place it in a black garbage bag before taking it to be recycled or disposed of. You should then purchase a replacement car seat based on your child’s height and weight.

How can I register my car seat?

Graco offers three ways to register: 1) Mail in the card that comes on the front of the car seat; 2) call Graco’s consumer service center at 1-800-345-4109; or 3: register your product online. Once your product is registered, your manufacturer can notify you in the event of a recall.

Still unsure? Ask an expert.

If you still have questions about your specific Graco car seat, call the Graco customer service line at 1-800-345-4109. There, you can speak with a certified Graco CPST (Child Passenger Safety Technician), who can help you determine the car seat expiration date and decide the best course of action.