Do child car seats expire?
We analyze the service life of child car seats
First of all, it should be noted that the current regulation does not require any aging test for child restraint systems and only some of its components, mainly those that secure the child car seat to the car and those that secure the child to the child car seat, are subjected to durability tests.
There is, therefore, no reference to the durability limit of the product. Does this mean we can use child car seats indefinitely? Unfortunately, the answer is NO.
Inside vehicles, child restraint systems are constantly subjected to changes in temperature, solar radiation, vibrations, stresses, and shocks, which cause the characteristics of the plastic components to change throughout their service life, obviously never for the better.
On the other hand, the dynamic tests performed on child car seats are always carried out with new units. We must bear in mind that more than 80% of a child restraint system (CRS) is made of plastic materials and, therefore, the mechanical characteristics of these materials degrade over time.
The factors that determine the durability of a child restraint system depend on the use that we make of the product.
A child car seat does not receive as much thermal and radiation stress in Germany as it does in Spain, neither if the car is in a parking lot or parked outside. Determining all these factors is an impossible task, so we can only apply common sense.
If we forget a toy in the garden, by the time we pick it up the plastic will be discolored, very dry and it will crack easily. Although on a different scale, the same will happen to a child restraint system (CRS) that is constantly subjected to thermal stress, solar radiation, vibration, and deformation.
On the other hand, child car seat manufacturers generally do not test or analyze the durability of their products, so for a child car seat that ranges from 40 cm to 150 cm in height, we have no guarantee that the CRS will maintain its mechanical and endurance properties after 12 years (when the child is approximately 150 cm tall).
Our safety recommendation is to choose quality products with a height range that does not exceed 6 years of use. In addition, we advise not to use second-hand products and, if possible, to avoid reusing the child restraint system beyond this period of time.
Finally, we recommend checking the condition of the child restraint system from time to time. It is important to detect color changes in the plastic, brittleness, broken plastic parts or foams, harness erosion and buckle malfunction. Any damage detected in these parts means that the child seat must be replaced.