“Hi, honey, I just had to cut the baby out of her car seat.”
As the child passenger safety technician at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital at the UVM Medical Center, these words scared me. My husband had called to let me know that, while no, there had been no car crash; he had had a major problem with our child’s car seat. It turned out that the buckle refused to release the tongues and, thus, held our daughter tightly in her seat. It was doing what it was designed to do – a *little* too well.
Being the conscientious consumer that I am, and knowing of some of the car seat representatives, I emailed Graco, the car seat manufacturer, and asked if this was a problem they knew about. Graco said no, that it wasn’t, but they would be happy to replace the buckle at no cost to me. They were very prompt and it arrived 3-4 days later.
This was September of 2013. On Tuesday, February 11, Graco, that same manufacturer, issued a recall for 3.7 million car seats, citing a buckle that refused to release. Sound familiar? To me, too. What Graco said was that, over time, food and liquid can get into the buckle and make it stop working properly. This does not impact how safe the seat is, and, unless you have the problem, you don’t need to replace the buckle. If you are concerned, however, these seats were all of their convertible (rear and forward faces) and combination (faces forward and then becomes a booster) seats.
The seats were manufactured between 2009 and July 2013. A complete list of car seats includes: Cozy Cline, Comfort Sport, Classic Ride 50, My Ride 65, My Ride 70, My Ride 65 with Safety Surround, Size4Me 70, My Size 70, Head Wise 70, Smart Seat, Nautilus 3-in-1, Nautilus Elite and Argos. The recall does NOT include infant seats.
What Graco and other manufacturers do when they have received enough reports of a problem, is to decide whether they will issue a recall on a seat. They, just like concerned parents, don’t want anything bad to happen to kids. They contact the National Transportation Safety Administration and say “We have this problem, we’re issuing a recall for it.” Typically this is voluntary and a good safety net that the manufacturers provide to the consumers of their seats. A recall says: “We have had a problem but we’re telling you about it and how to fix it.” It’s the sign of a stand-up company.
The recalled buckles look like these:
If you discover that your seat is part of the recall, Graco has a webpage detailing how you can attempt a fix. Please visit HERE. You can go HERE to fill out a form for a replacement buckle. You can also call Graco at 1-800-345-4109, Monday through Friday, 8:30am to 5pm EST, or email them at consumerservices@Gracobaby.com.
Before you make the call, you’ll need to get some information from your seat. Every car seat has a label on it with a date of manufacture, a model name, and model number. These are the pieces you’ll need to get a new buckle. Car Seats for the Littles, a website devoted to car seats, put this great graphic together to show what that label looks like:
So what do you do if your seat, like mine, sticks with a child in it? Well, for one, don’t cut the harness. If you cut the harness, Graco will have to send you two pieces instead of one. The buckle is attached to the seat by a very short piece of webbing. Cut that piece instead.
Then fill out the form, call or email Graco and let them know you’re affected by this recall. Graco should get your buckle to you quickly.
In the event you must cut your buckle off, and you use your car seat daily, you may need to use or purchase a back-up seat during the time it takes to ship your new buckle.
If you have questions about or problems putting your car seat back into the car, please make an appointment to visit us here at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital at the UVM Medical Center for an inspection. You can call us 802-847-1215 to schedule an appointment.
Ann Weinstein is a Child Passenger Safety Specialist at the Office of Community Health Improvement at the UVM Medical Center.