All child restraints have an expiration date. On average, most seats expire 6 years from the date of manufacture, although this can vary by manufacturer.
Like motorcycle and race car helmets, child restraints are tested for use in just one crash event. This means that if the restraint is compromised in any way (with or without the child in it), owners are strongly suggested to replace it. This is due to the uncertainty with how a compromised child restraint will perform in subsequent crashes.
Child restraints are sometimes the subject of manufacturing recalls. (See the list maintained by the NHTSA for details). Recalls vary in severity; sometimes the manufacturer will send an additional part for the seat, other times they will provide an entirely new seat.
The purchase of a used seat is not recommended. Due to the aforementioned concerns regarding expiry dates, crash testing, and recalls, it is often impossible to determine the history of the child restraint when it is purchased second-hand.
Children traveling by plane are safer in a child safety seat than in a parent's arms. The FAA and the AAP recommends that all children under 40 lb use a child safety seat on a plane. Booster seats cannot be used on airplanes because they don't have shoulder belts.
Read more about this topic: Child Safety Seat
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