After a Crash

Posted in: Blog, Car Seat Buying Guide

Can I keep using my car seat after a car crash?

Probably not. Crash forces are extreme; they’re strong enough to bend the steel frame of the car, and can easily damage a car seat too. Even though you may not be able to see the damage, the plastic in the car seat could be weakened by these crash forces and may not protect the child properly in a 2nd crash.

But my child wasn’t in the seat, do I still need to replace it?

YES. The car seat will still take some of the crash forces even when a child is not in the seat. Therefore, if the manufacturer says to replace the seat, it should be replaced regardless of whether the child was or was not in the seat.

Someone tapped my bumper in the parking lot… do I still need to replace the car seat?

Minor taps in a parking lot – which typically don’t even damage the fragile bumper of the car – are likely not going to damage the car seat either.

If you need to replace your car seat, remember:

Can I recycle the car seat?

Depending on where you live, recycling the car seat may be as simple as putting it out with the rest of your curbside recycling. See here to learn more about ways to recycle a car seat. If there is textile recycling at your local farmer’s market, they may accept the fabric cover. Others have repurposed the covers as dog/cat beds and the straps for carrying firewood.

If you have a Clek car seat or booster, they have a recycling program where you can mail your seat back to them for $40 (covers shipping) and receive a $40 coupon towards the purchase of anything on Clek’s online store.

Another way to keep the seat out of the landfill is to see if your local SAFE KIDS coalition may be able to use the seat for training purposes.

If recycling is not an option, make sure to take the seat apart in a way that no one will pick it up out of the trash and try to re-use it. Remove all the fabric, foam, and straps – and throw them away separately. Using a permanent marker, write on the plastic shell of the car seat “NOT SAFE. DO NOT USE”.

What do the car seat manufacturers say?

Only a handful of manufacturers allow you to reuse the seat after a crash, and, among those that allow reuse, there are caveats. We’ve made a chart to help you figure out whether or not you need a new seat. The information in this chart is taken directly from the car seat instruction manuals. If you still have questions, call the manufacturer before reusing the car seat. When in doubt, do not reuse your car seat after a crash.

Manufacturers’ Requirements After a Crash:

If you are a CPS Technician or Instructor and would like to print a PDF of this chart to have at seat checks, click here.

11 Responses to “After a Crash”

  1. […] The Car Seat Lady’s Guide to Using A Car Seat After a Crash […]

  2. Abigail says:

    What if the child was not in the car seat at the time of the crash?

    Does a base need to be replaced if the car seat was not in it at the time of the crash?

    • Abigail – the seat needs to be replaced whether the child was in it or not. If the base was installed at the time of the crash, it needs to be replaced. Any part of the car seat that was installed during a crash has taken some of the forces of a crash.

  3. Sara D. says:

    For a Peg Perego infant car seat, what if the only criteria met was the damage near the child’s door and the damage was a very small dent at the bottom of the door? Also if replacement is required, would it be safe to only replace the base, and not the entire car seat?

    • You must follow the manufacturer’s instructions – and if replacement is instructed, then the entire seat (all that was in the car at the time) must be replaced. Please contact the company directly with specific questions.

  4. Laura W. says:

    We’re about to switch the infant seat to a convertible seat and just had a crush last week. In that case, can we buy a convertible seat and still be reimbursed by the insurance company?
    Would there be any trouble getting the reimbursement?

    Thank you.

  5. Emily says:

    We were just lightly rear ended due to stop and go traffic the other day. There was no damage to the car (scratches or otherwise). Do we need to get a new seat?

  6. Patricia says:

    We need to upgrade car seats after an accident, from infant to convertible, our agent said she’s never heard of them having to pay for upgrade. They reimbursed us for the ones we had only. We’re in CA. Suggestions? What can we show her to show her she needs to pay for the upgrade???