Food, batteries, even make-up all have expiration dates designed to keep the products safe and effective. But the product meant to protect your most precious cargo has a limited shelf life too.
Daniella Silver, a child passenger safety technician, says people are often surprised car seats have expiration dates. To make it even more complicated, the expiration information may be placed where you wouldn't typically look.
"With mine, it's on the side, but a lot of them it's going to be under the shell of the seat," says mom Catherine Noriega. Often times, you can find the date sticker tucked away on the back, bottom or side of the device.
Car seats, and their bases, expire within six to ten years from the manufacturing date.
Daniella Silver is a mother and a car seat safety technician. "30, 40% of the time they have a car seat that's been sitting on the shelf for over a year," says Silver.
Silver has installed more 400 seats over the past two years. She says she's seen it all. "They're always shocked when they find out they have a 2016 or even a 2017 car seat when they just bought it yesterday."
How does this happen?
"They want to get the old inventory out," says Silver. The "they" she's referencing? Stores.
Silver points out that it's not illegal to do so.
Is it really a big deal?
"A lot of times parents will say to me, 'do they really expire or is this like a marketing ploy to get us to buy more stuff.'" says Silver. "And I always them them, no, actually this really is a big issue. We are talking about something that's made out of plastic."
David Van Horn is a chemistry professor who agreed to show us how plastics wear over time. He showed a head rest from a vehicle manufactured in 2004.
"Overtime, plastic will become more brittle," says Van Horn. Brittle due to extreme temperature cycles during a given year - hot summers, cold winters - which causes contracting and expanding.
"These will all impact the effectiveness and performance of the plastic," says Van Horn.
"That can lead to serous injury or death, so it's definitely not something to mess around with," says Silver. "The last thing you want to do is need it to have it's full absorbent power and it not be able to."
What Can You Do?
When it comes to buying a car seat, here's what you need to do. If you already bought one, make sure the manufacturing date is same year you bought it. If not, return it.
If you're shopping for one and there's no date listed on the box, ask a sales rep to open it.
The manufacturing date for your car seat will be listed one of the following ways: a sticker on the seat, engraved in the plastic, or in the booklet that comes with it.