Child car seats, like so many other things, have expiry dates.

Expiry dates have become a part of daily life, with just about everything in the supermarket, dairy or corner store coming with one.

But did you know the child car seat in the back of your vehicle also has an expiry date? With a life of between six and 10 years, it’s important to make sure yours hasn’t reached the end of its safe use.

Why is this? After all a seat isn’t organic like most things with expiry dates.

There are a number of reasons, the first being the wear and tear every seat endures as it lives out its life inside a car – suffering extremes in temperature. These can have detrimental effects on a seat’s components, especially the plastic, making it unsafe.

There is also the wear and tear from general use to consider. As we all know a child’s car seat can get pretty messy, with young passengers spilling food or drink on them.

While this is usually nothing more than an extra cleaning chore for mum or dad, it can eventually prevent a seat from working properly. Over many years food and drink can clog buckles or latches, while cleaning products can corrode components.

Another factor is safety regulations or standards change over the years, with safer products coming onto the market. Safe use labels often fade over time too.

Generally, over its lifetime a seat can have a lot of use, and abuse (however unintentional), leading to damage or fatigue which isn’t easy to spot.

For some, buying a new seat isn’t an option. According to Plunket Injury Prevention Manager Simone Budel, they are regularly asked about using a second-hand seat.

“The answer is not that a second-hand seat cannot be used, rather the buyer needs to take extra caution when purchasing a second-hand car seat,” she says.

There are some key things to watch out for when considering a second-hand seat including checking for rust on metal fittings or fraying or discolouration on webbing, checking whether it has been in an accident or has an instruction manual, and of course checking if it’s passed its expiry date.  If you’re not sure, the best advice is to get in touch with your local car seat technician.  A list of qualified technicians can be found on the NZTA website.

So, what should you do if you have an expired or damaged seat? SeatSmart was set up to stop these highly recyclable items ending up in landfill. The programme recycles up to 75% of seat materials (by weight) including plastics and metals, while the straps are used on bags made from various repurposed materials.