Carseats "Expire"? Why?

Some women feel compelled to destroy carseats when they’re finished with them - they’re literally chopping them up - because they’re ready to “expire”. I noticed a date was printed on ours, the seat’s supposed to last about 5 years.

How on earth can a plastic/foam/fabric device “expire”?

Great, Wisconsin alread forces kids to sit in booster seats like a baby, now I suppose they’ll write tickets for expired seats. A lot less regulation might allow people to prosper a bit.

I think this is done to stifle a second hand market for them - in which it would be virtually impossible to enforce any standards. Would you buy a second hand car seat of unknown provenance?

Any rubber parts do expire. Handling expired rubber isn’t a particularly pleasant experience; either it goes rock-hard and fragile (which isn’t yucky, but definitely it’s not doing its intended function any more) or all goooey.

well well but but but ::sputtering over here::

Now, HOW is it that we’re destroying the planet with all of our horrible plastics that will be around for a thousand years – but a carseat is going to magically disintegrate in 6? That just doesn’t make any sense. Maybe they should be making them out of pop bottles and styrofoam cups?

Hmph, I remain skeptical - I think they’re pandering to parental paranoia, the poops!

I’d rather see kids in something than nothing at all! I sold our old carseats and will do so again, I figure there are people who need a bargain. I WILL buy new ones, but not those $300 Britax seats that everyone’s so fixated on.

Geez, I was a toddler when seatbelts came into use - imagine - there was a time when everybody bounced around like popcorn. And the old carseats, they were just little chairs, no protection at all!

Not to say that was good - just, sometimes I feel like we’re all excessively bubblewrapped.

Anyway, thanks for your answers and research!

This Is An Ex-carseat!

Reminds me of tires.
The enthusiast mags always say you should swap out your tires every 5 years for best feel…

PS - Anyone know if there is statutory force behind these expirations?

Just because the mechanical properties of plastic may degrade over a fairly short time, that doesn’t mean the plastic itself disappears.

I agree that sometimes we’re a little too bubblewrapped, but as I worked my way through raising three kids, I started with a used car seat in 1984, one of the old-fashioned ones with a weighs-a-ton steel tubing frame with a plastic bucket to sit in and only a bit of token plastic padding, and by the time we got to Kid #3 in 1990 the plastic padding was noticeably brittle and cracking, so we bought a new one for her. This was before anyone told me a car seat could “expire”, but in retrospect the plastic bucket was probably on its way out, too.

I would guess that the driving force behind the “expiration” thing is the perception that plastic that has lost its plasticizers gets brittle and will break, whereas “fresh” plastic will not. Thus I would expect an all-plastic car seat, after a certain period of time, to possibly snap and crack under the stresses of a collision, whereas fresh plastic would not and would thereby protect the little body.

It isn’t that the car seat disintegrates–it’s that the plastics degrade and no longer perform the way the engineers designed it to, back in the lab. They subject them to Crash Test Dummies based on “fresh” plastic, but plastic that protects the Dummy this year may have degraded too much in 6 years to be able to function the way it was designed to.

And although, as I said, I would agree we’re sometimes a little too bubblewrapped, two of my now-teenage kids walked away from a T-bone car accident a few years ago with not even a scratch, thanks to lap and seat belts. So yeah, in the 1950s we all bounced around like popcorn–and in the 1950s my son and daughter would both have been seriously injured, or killed, when my son ran that red light. So some bubblewrap is a Good Thing. :smiley:

I don’t think so, but if you want to check it out, here is a collection of statutes:

Also note that heat and UV are especially degrading to plastics. Car seats are often kept full time in the car, exposed to sunlight and heat, so it’s no surprise that they could get quite weak and brittle after a few years of environmental exposure.

Yeah, that finally occurred to me. We’ve got those plastic slide-things in the backyard and it’s clear that sunlight is affecting that plastic.

That makes sense too, Mangetout; elasticity IS what we’re paying for.

DuckDuckGoose, glad to hear that your kids walked from that one. Teenaged driving - now those are some scary years!

I can’t believe I’m the first person to point this out, but

…I feel like I just fell into a bizarro-world episode of Straight Dope…

Please tell me this entire thread is about child safety seats… but then… do people keep their child safety seats in hopes of having more children? :confused:

If not then,

…people… change … car seats like they were tires? I am utterly terrified by this concept. The seat? The big metal framework sitting on rails with a reclining mechanism that is stuffed with god-knows-what and has leather stretched all over it? Please tell me that doesn’t have an expiration date.

Ok, reading over the thread one more time pretty much convinced me the discussion is about child seats. Carry on then.

Well, yeah.

You’re supposed to rotate your seats every 10,000 miles. Don’t tell me you don’t! :eek:


Your car’s airbags also have an expiration date. My '04 Volvo will need its airbags replaced in 2010. (I plan on getting a whole new car by then.)

Does my motorcycle helmet expire? I didn’t find an expiration date but I didn’t look all that hard, maybe under the liner?

If you’re not a parent, you might not realize that kiddie seats are designed for a specific height and weight range (i.e., 5-20 lbs, 20-40 lbs), so children tend to outgrow them long before they “expire”. Hence the quandry.

Unless you get one of those new-fangled 3 in ones like I did. I love that thing, but it’s rated from 5-100 pounds, depending on the position and belt arrangement. Now, my older kid was 11 before he hit 100 pounds, and I won’t make a kid that old sit in a carseat, but I could see parents having kids three or four years apart and using the same seat - moving the older kid into a smaller booster or just a shoulder belt.

But a little more public awareness on the fact that carseats *have *expiration dates would be helpful. I didn’t know until a few months ago when the last Doper asked why carseats have expiration dates, but sure enough, ours does!