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Heather Corley

Can I Re-Use a Car Seat After a Crash?

By February 20, 2006

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A forum member was involved in a car accident last week and recently asked whether or not her kids' car seats needed to be replaced after the crash. An older recommendation was to always replace car seats after every crash, no matter how minor. That standard has changed, though. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released new recommendations on when to replace car seats after car accidents, and now you'll need to go through NHTSA's checklist and make sure that your vehicle and car seats meet all five criteria in order to be safely re-used. If your vehicle and car seats don't meet all five criteria, the car seats should be replaced.

One caveat is that some car seat manufacturers still state in the user manual that their car seats should be replaced after any crash, no matter how minor. The manufacturers instructions take precedence over other agency suggestions, so take a look at the manual before deciding to use a car seat after a crash.

You may hear that a visual inspection is sufficient in deciding whether or not to re-use a car seat after a crash. However, crash damage is not always visible to the naked eye. There are some scans and x-rays that can find hidden damage, but the cost of these tests is usually greater than the cost of the most expensive new car seat.

Talk to your insurance company about reimbursement for car seats. Since safe car seats are required in all states, insurance companies should pay the entire cost of a new car seat. Some companies may try to pro-rate the cost of a car seat based on the age of the damaged seat. Pro-rated compensation is unacceptable, though, since it is not safe to purchase an older, used car seat for your baby.

September 5, 2010 at 5:01 pm
(1) texxs says:

I noticed on the NHTSA page you linked to above:
The background says the car seats are fine even after some pretty tough crashes yet they recomend replacing it after everything except the most minor of crashes. After all it doesn’t take diddly of a crash to set off the airbags,, but they say just because the airbags were deployed that’s a “major crash” and the car seat should be replaced.

Their own facts about seats and crashes doesn’t support their recommendations.

Sounds like their some corproate influence going own, as is extremely common in this country sadly.

the most obvious test result:
“ICBC performed four vehicle crash tests at 48 and 64 km/h, with two child seats restraining 3-year-old dummies in each vehicle. Each seat was subjected to multiple impacts and visually inspected. Defects were noted and the seats were re-tested. Seats always performed as well in subsequent tests as they did in the first test.”

January 25, 2012 at 1:29 pm
(2) Kayla says:

As a CPST it would be my recommendation not to use the seat not only due to the deterioration on the plastic shell of the seat but also the stretching of the harness on the seat if it is an infant carrier/forward facing harnessed seat. Both of these factors are not very easily noticeable but they can greatly affect the safety of your child.

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