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Expiry date of car seats - what is the official position not just hearsay?

(38 Posts)
blithedance Sat 01-Aug-09 16:02:53

In the loft I have a 2001-made Britax Club Class seat, passed on to me from a close and trusted friend. It's never been in an accident, although has been regularly used.

Now I find chatrooms/overseas websites saying car seats should be chucked after about 6 years. But the Britax UK website clearly says:

" Q: Is an old seat still safe?
This depends on the condition of the seat. If you bought the child seat yourself and you know its history, nothing speaks against a further use, but please ensure the seat fulfils the current standard for child safety systems (at least ECE R 44/03, new 44/04)."

I can't bring myself to throw something away that could be passed on and is within manufacturer's guidelines.

Does anyone know the official position on this in the UK and can link?

maker Mon 28-Jan-13 11:06:19

Plastic materials degrade, fact

In use in a car they are subjected to constant temp changes, and magnified UV levels from the car glass, this accelerates the breakdown of plastics.

Plastics when made have inhibitors added by those companies who know what they're doing, to try and reduce this and then they will also test the break down. This is usually to ensure the life of the seats to 7 years, and why in the US they normally state something like 5 or 6 years life on seats.

There is no legal requirement to do this in Europe, only in the US, but I know a number of brands who use inhibitors and a number of them that don't.

Having worked for a number of car seat companies over the years, would I used a seat beyond 5 years? Yes, but for no more than 10 years mostly due to the advances in development, but also down to the fact that plastics do not last and its just not worth the risk.

kellyatbabyguds Mon 03-Aug-09 16:13:01

I have just had a conversation regarding this with Maxi Cosi and they say that they will not repair or replace any parts on a seat over 5 years old as they can not say what effect sun and moisture has on the plastics.

The basic level for legal requirements are relatively low hence the reason some seats can be sold for as little as £30 but if you compare these to a Britax seat for instance and see the crash test results its frightening! We never know how safe a car seat is until the worst happens so I have invested in new seats for my dc at each stage and for each child so that I can offer them the best protection.

reallywoundup Mon 03-Aug-09 11:26:04

i buy new seat per child per stage- admittedly i get a discount grin but i figure if i am going to put my children (who don't have a choice in the matter) in the dangerous position of being in a car on the open road, i owe it to them to provide the safest environment i possibly can.

However i fully understand that some people may not be able to do that and therefore i am not judging.

i also find it unbelievable that ebay won't allow used nappies (which can be fully santised etc) to be sold on its auction site- but will allow the sale of potentially life threatening second hand car seats.

It is up to the parent at the end of the day.

melrose Mon 03-Aug-09 11:05:09

So have people bought new seats for 2nd and 3rd chidren then? My car seats have all done 2 children and I would have been happy to use them for another child

blithedance Sun 02-Aug-09 18:35:44

Yes sazm I see what you mean. I have answered my own question haven't I?

In the end it's up to us as parents to comply with the legal minimum and make our own informed judgement about the rest.

reallywoundup to be fair the Britax seat had detailed stickers on it showing the seatbelt routing, and general guidance about tightening up straps etc surely that would be the same as the current model so you could download from website. But then I would do that because I'm obsessive about instructions, most people wouldn't.

It's not the expense that bothers me it's the waste. Here I am recycling every bleeding yoghurt pot and yet throwing away into landfill great big things like a car seat. Every 5 years x 2 children x 2 vehicles = 8 car seats by my reckoning. Great.

coolkat Sun 02-Aug-09 18:16:22

This is interesting as I have a Britax first class and Eclipse SI from 6 years ago, They were used for 2 years and then put in the loft. I had to order a new polysterene insert for the Eclipse one and emailed Britax with the information and they supplied the part within days. To me that was the ideal time to tell me it needed replacing and sell me a new one but they didn't. Something I felt was unecessary as they still sell this model of car seat in halfords. All the straps and plastic is in as new condition.

After reading this I am starting to question myself blush

reallywoundup Sun 02-Aug-09 18:12:08

can i just throw in my two pence worth- as a qualified fitter, i see a large number of dangerous and unsafe seats in my line of work- often seats from the 90's were made using a metal frame on the base- which in many cases rusts from the inside- so very often NOT SAFE.

Also- if there are no instructions to go with the seat how is anyone to know how to fit it? even modern seats people assume they know what they are doing and ignore the booklet which is why (just an example as it is the most commonly incorrectly fitted seat ime) i would say out of every 4 britax evolva's i check, i would say on average two are wrongly fitted.

I would never use a second hand seat or an old seat- this is the reason why maxi cosi do not make any multi stage seats- they claim that the use gained for example by the tobi from 9mnths to 4 yrs is sufficient usage before it should be replaced- its expensive but then again so is owning a car.

sazm Sun 02-Aug-09 18:01:44

from your post:

2. I'm not prepared to use it for my own child so I can't in all conscience expect someone else to. While browsing I looked at the Which videos on side impact protection, and realised that neither the seat that my DS2 currently uses, nor the old one, have very good side impact head protection for a taller child.

thats the point im making,seats dont have to have side impact protection to pass the safety tests (which i think is mad)
im not saying that the safety laws have changed,but there are newer seats which are tested more than just the legal requirement,(like having side impact protection)

blithedance Sun 02-Aug-09 17:58:16

I'm sorry but I still don't believe in the ageing plastic! But rules are rules. It could just be our local freecycle's rule.

"would you not prefer to buy a new one that has a much better safety rating and has been through more rigerous(sp) tests?"

Sorry but I don't think that's true. The safety tests have not changed since ECE R44.03 in about 1997 (I think that R44.04 was updated for useability rather than safety testing). I have a login to the British European standards website and will check this evening.

sazm Sun 02-Aug-09 17:52:25

maybe freecycle has just changed this as i know we can put carseats on ours,

blithedance i think that is prob the best idea,seems silly i know,but if you pass it on through freecycle,the people who get it might keep it for a few yrs til their kids have grown up,and think its a nice thing to put it back on freecycle,
then it would be MUCH older,and the person who is happy to get it might be none the wiser to the age/safety implications,

blithedance Sun 02-Aug-09 17:43:35

Well it has not been kept in a car for 6 years, I know that for a fact.

I know plastic degrades in UV light (although "plastic" is a very broad term for many different polymers) - you only have to look at your old garden toys to see that.

In the building industry where I work, a rule was brought in to replace plastic hard hats every 3 years. This is because old guys on site were walking around in 10 year old hard hats they had been wearing day in day out in the blazing sun. So a good idea, but it means that if I have a hard hat I keep in my desk drawer and use about 5 times a year, that has to be thrown away after 3 years too. So one-rule-for-all is safe, but wasteful. And hard hats only cost £5!

In the end, the research I've done has sort of answered my question.

1. DH's suggestion was to freecycle it, since there are families out there who struggle to keep all their children is safe car seats and better that than nothing. But used car seats are banned on Freecycle, probably rightly, so I can't do that.

2. I'm not prepared to use it for my own child so I can't in all conscience expect someone else to. While browsing I looked at the Which videos on side impact protection, and realised that neither the seat that my DS2 currently uses, nor the old one, have very good side impact head protection for a taller child. So now I have two items to take to the tip which is even worse!

Interesting debate and I'm still very frustrated at the need to put something else that's nearly functional into landfill. But don't think I can avoid it this time sad!

sazm Sun 02-Aug-09 17:42:34

tbh though,with all the research going on,
would you not prefer to buy a new one that has a much better safety rating and has been through more rigerous(sp) tests?
i know i would

MerlinsBeard Sun 02-Aug-09 17:17:25

I think the actual actual advice is 6-10 years. I can't bloody find the fabulous links!! Of course every seat is different even the same make.

purepurple Sun 02-Aug-09 17:11:17

so what happens if my carseat is 1 day short of being 6 years old?
will it be less dangerous that one that is 6 years and 1 day old?
is it going to self combust?
sounds like a good way to make money out of over anxious parents who don't want to risk their child being injured

does commom sense even come in to it?

MerlinsBeard Sun 02-Aug-09 17:10:36

It's because the plastic can degrade over time, especially if they are kept in the car which can get very hot with just a small amount of sun shining on it. They can warp which means they are more likely to break in an accident rather than protect your child. I had some fabulous links about this for a car seat we were given but i can't find the thread now (it was over a year ago)

blithedance Sun 02-Aug-09 17:03:29

Phishfood that's all very interesting but can you link to any more research or references? It's just a clip on youtube, there's nothing on the GMTV website or any govt websites that explain what's being shown or back it up. I'm not interested in rumour or scaremongering.

There is a very detailed child safety research programme going on at Transport Research Laboratory (who I do see as a trustworthy source), if the age of seats was a real issue I would expect it to have been researched and incorporated into the standards/law.

GentlyDoesIt Sun 02-Aug-09 12:48:58

Maybe there's scope for everyone with old car seats taking them to crash testing centres to see how they perform at various ages, rather than landfill, so that we can start to get a wider picture of how dangerous this is?

GentlyDoesIt Sun 02-Aug-09 12:45:34

phishfood Of course it's an unsettling clip, but what exactly is being demonstrated? One commenter on that link says that it shows a 10 year old Britax car seat, any idea if that's correct?

I really want to know where the 6 year rule comes from - perhaps I should seek out someone with some knowledge of plastics.

Katymac Sun 02-Aug-09 10:11:07

As childminders we are required to replace our seats every 3 years

As a business woman & a green advocate I consider this to be bizarre - but I comply, I have too

My old seats are taken by my parents and used for a significant time

phishfood Sun 02-Aug-09 10:07:33

If you are thinking of using an old car seat, watch this from GMTV.

If you are still happy to use an older seat then at least you saw the risks and made your own choice.

edam Sat 01-Aug-09 23:50:42

nowt wrong with dumping responsibility for a tricky decision onto someone else. It's not called sexism, it's called delegation!

blithedance Sat 01-Aug-09 22:20:08


I'm still in a dilemma. According to the manufacturer and EU the seat I have is safe and legal. But I obviously feel uncomfortable about passing it on.

I think I'm going to ask DH when he gets back from work.

(abandons feminist principles as well as eco ones and goes to crack open a bottle of wine)

EldonAve Sat 01-Aug-09 21:32:38

sorry I meant 9 years from manufacture not expiry blush

EldonAve Sat 01-Aug-09 21:32:00

I think they are supposed to be good for 10 years but can't find a link to support this

On the Britax US site they say the Frontier seat is good for 9 years from expiry

I think the manufacturers like to scare us into buying seats
I saw 2nd hand car seats for sale in the Swedish baby shops but here we are told never buy 2nd hand

GentlyDoesIt Sat 01-Aug-09 21:18:05

I'm with MinkyBorage - when my next baby arrives in 3 weeks, there will be almost exactly 6 years between my two kids and I don't think I am sufficiently concerned to buy 3 new car seats as the years roll by.(travel system one, 12m+ one and booster seat).

I speak as someone who has been bereaved by road crash, so yes, I am well aware that imagining these things will never happen to you is foolish. Then again, it makes me more philosophical about it in a way. What kind of crash would cause a 6 year old plastic car seat to shatter in a worse way than a 5 year old plastic car seat..? Well, not one I could see anyone walking away from, let's leave it at that.

Keeping your kids as safe as possible in the car is vitally important, but I think sometimes we can forget that bombing around with tiny people in crushable, flammable, fallable metal boxes at 70mph is a terribly dangerous and foolhardy thing to do in the first place.

I would really like to see more comparitive studies to help me make an informed decision, but until car seats are being sold with a "WARNING! Expires in 2013" sticker, I'll reserve my judgement.

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