Registering Car Seats Won't Prevent Recalls, But It will Notify You of One

Registering Car Seats Won't Prevent Recalls, But It will Notify You of One
Image: IIHS
September 17, 2015

Recaro on Wednesday recalled more than 170,000 car seats. It also happens to be Child Passenger Safety Week so the announcement, though likely coincidental, was aptly timed.

While the German manufacturer is the latest making recall news, it's hardly the only brand that has pulled car seats for safety issues. In the past year Recaro, Britax, Evenflo, and Graco have recalled millions of car seats for various defects.

Mostly notably, Graco, after pressure from consumers and federal regulators, in 2014 recalled 6 million rear-facing, convertible and booster seats for seat buckles that can become stuck. An investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that Graco began receiving complaints as early as 2009 but delayed issuing a recall until five years later. The company was subsequently fined $10 million and ordered to make improvements to its safety plans.

Things You Can Do

You can't necessarily avoid car seat recalls, but there are things that can be done so that you can stay ahead of the game and keep your children safe.

The easiest way to be aware of recalls is to register the seat with the company. If you bought the car seat used or borrowed it from someone, make sure the registration reflects the new ownership registration. If not, recall notices will continue to be sent to the original owner who may or may not pass on the message.

You can register your car seat using the registration card it came with or on the company's website. You can visit the NHTSA website if you are having trouble finding a link or would like the agency to register the seat for you.

Parents who are expecting the arrival of a baby should register their car seats within three weeks of the baby's expected delivery.

Since it's illegal to sell recalled products, you should be safe if you buy your car seat from a well-known retailer. Things are a little trickier if you buy a used one or borrow one so it's best to borrow or buy a car seat from someone you trust.

Before purchasing a new car seat or taking home a borrowed one, find out if it has been recalled by visiting the NHTSA website. Don't assume the person selling or lending it has checked the recall status. Previous car seat owners may not have registered their seats and may not be aware that they have been recalled or know how they can check.

Regardless of recall status, pass on any car seat that is older than six years old or otherwise expired. You should also never purchase or borrow a car seat that has been in an accident regardless of whether or not it sustained damage.

Along with registering your car seat, you can sign up for recall alerts on the NHTSA website. In our experience, though, the manufacturer will update its information more quickly, but this can be used as an extra level of notification.

Your Car Seat has Been Recalled, Now What?

So you found out that your car seat has been recalled. Now what do you do?

Start by verifying with the manufacturer that your car seat has been recalled by visiting its website or calling its customer service line. You can also call the NHTSA's toll-free Vehicle Safety Hotline at 888-327-4236. Before you call, make sure you have the manufacturer's name, model name, model number and date of manufacture.

The company will often provide additional instructions for how the recall will be remedied. This might be as simple as mailing a new buckle or repair kit, or providing new warning labels or usage instructions.

Unless the recall notice specifically tells you to stop using the product, continue using the car seat until you receive repair materials. Using a recalled car seat is almost always safer than letting a child ride just using a seatbelt.

More information about car seat safety, including how to find the right one and install it correctly can be found here.