Child Safety Seats
by Pat Goss
If you're a parent, maintaining a car requires more than just keeping up with oil changes and regularly checking your tire pressure. It means making sure that the safety seat is correctly installed and properly maintained. And to give us some pointers, we have Tracy Whitman. She is coordinator for Kids in Safety Seats. What are some of the basics parents need to keep in mind?
TRACY WHITMAN: Well, we break down car seat safety into three main aspects. You want to make sure that the child restraint is appropriate for the child's age, height, weight and physical limitations. You then want to make sure your harness is set up correctly. And the last point is making sure it is installed in the vehicle correctly.
PAT GOSS: Okay, the first... the selection.
TRACY WHITMAN: Yes.
PAT GOSS: Are there labels or something that guide the parent?
TRACY WHITMAN: Yes there are. You'll have an instruction manual with each new child restraint. You also can find labels on the actual car set or the base itself. It will have a weight and a height, and many include age ranges as well.
PAT GOSS: Alright, so, that's step number one. Number two is?
TRACY WHITMAN: Number two is when you actually want to a contact a certified child passenger safety technician. You can locate one through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Child Safety Seat Locator on their website or through their 1-800 number. What they'll do at that appointment is show you how to utilize your child safety restraint harness and how to get it into the vehicle correctly.
PAT GOSS: All right. And also, if you just want to read up, the NHTSA website is fabulous.
TRACY WHITMAN: Yes.
PAT GOSS: Okay, now the installation and the maintenance.
TRACY WHITMAN: Yes. You want to make sure that the child restraint is in good working order, that all of the parts are original, the harness systems are flat and not frayed, that they're not twisted and they're actually threaded correctly through the child restraint system. The padding itselfâ€”you want to make sure it's kept clean, it shouldn't have any tears. If a parent feels the need to actually clean it, we do recommend actually spot cleaning it with a mild detergent and some cool water. These can come off, but if they're going to be laundered, you have to do them according to the manufacturer's instructions. Lastly, the harness system itself should be spot cleaned only. Take a lightly dampened wash cloth and just kind of spot clean. They don't even recommend using harsh detergents. If it's in bad enough condition that the parent feels it needs to be cleaned, then just go ahead and replace it. They can contact the manufacturer.
PAT GOSS: Okay. And if they're buying used they always want to check to see if there are any recalls.
TRACY WHITMAN: Yes. You want to make sure that if you are buying used you ask the original owner, has it ever been involved in a crash? Are all of the parts original and in working order? That it hasn't been recalled. There's a model number and a date of manufacturer on the labels themselves underneath the car seat. So check for recalls, that it hasn't been in a crash, and it's still within the lifespan of the car seat, which would typically be six to nine years worth of use.