Combi issued a recall affecting 3 of their convertible car seats today – the Coccoro, the Zeus Turn, and the Zeus 360.
I’d like to explain this recall (and specifically why the car seat is being permitted to be used before the repair has been made) – which requires a little background info, and some technical jargon, so bear with me.
All car seats sold in the US are required to comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 213, which includes innumerable requirements ranging from the airbag warning labels on the side of the seats, to how far a forward-facing child’s head is allowed to move in a crash, to the flammability of the components. In assessing the crashworthiness of a seat, namely will it be able to protect the child as it is designed to do, FMVSS213 requires two types of testing: dynamic & static. Dynamic tests are crash tests; the dummy is strapped into the car seat, the car seat is installed on the crash test sled’s bench, and the sled is “crashed” in a way that simulates the acceleration seen in a crash with a change in velocity of 30mph (which is more severe than 96% of all frontal crashes in the real world). Dynamic tests look at how the seat in its entirety functions in a crash and whether it protects the child.
Static tests, on the other hand, are typically trying to assess the strength of an individual component of a seat – like the harness straps or the lower anchor straps – to make sure they’ll be able to withstand the forces they may experience in a crash. FMVSS213 requires that new harness straps be able withstand a tremendous amount of force – 11,000 Newtons to be exact – without breaking.
Now… back to the Combi recall.
According to federal documents, NHTSA’s 2012 compliance testing of the Coccoro harness webbing showed static breaking strength test results of 8990 N, 9170 N, and 9300 N – all of which are slightly lower than the required 11,000 N.
In 2 separate frontal crash scenarios – FMVSS No. 213 dynamic crash pulse (30 mph crash pulse) and the NCAP pulse (35 mph crash pulse) – both of which represent frontal crashes that are more severe than 90% of all real world frontal crashes – Combi test results showed load cell values ranging from approximately 1150 N to 1900 N on the harness straps in the recalled seats. These results suggest that the harness straps of the Coccoro, Zeus 360, and Zeus Turn child restraints will under no circumstances fail in a real world crash, as the forces acting on the harness system in dynamic testing are less than 22 percent of the breaking strength test results determined by NHTSA.
I am going to translate for you what Combi has released. All bolded quotes are taken directly from Combi’s Consumer Notification Letter– and then below each quote you can see my explanation.
“The Coccoro, Zeus Turn and Zeus 360 child restraints, when tested as a complete child restraint system, do fully comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Standard 213.”
This means that in the dynamic (crash) tests the seats passed all the requirements and kept the dummy properly protected.
“Combi has received no reports of accidents or injuries.”
This means that in the real world there have been no known cases of a child being injured due to the problem identified in this recall.
“The webbing used on the harness of the affected child restraints has an embedded plastic button that keeps the buckle tongues from sliding into the recesses of the restraint. The webbing with the embedded plastic button, when tested independently from the child restraint system, does not meet the minimum breaking strength in accordance with Federal Motor Vehicle Standard No. 213. The embedded plastic button affects the overall strength of the seat belt assembly, and in turn could potentially affect the overall performance of the child restraint in the event of a crash.”
Have you ever noticed on your own seat belt that there is a small button which prevents the latchplate (the male end of the seat belt with the silver tongue) from falling down so far that it is hard to find. Well, Combi put a similar button on the leg straps on some of their seats to prevent the crotch buckle tongues from falling down, thus making it easier for parents to buckle the child (as now you didn’t have to dig down around the child’s bottom/thighs for the buckle tongues).
In the static tests of the harness straps with these buttons, there was some amount of breaking of the straps, which is not allowed under FMVSS213. The buttons seem to be the culprit as later versions of the Coccoro that do not have the buttons had no trouble in their static testing.
“Consumers are encouraged to continue use of the Coccoro, Zeus Turn and Zeus 360 child restraints while awaiting the remedy kit.”At first this seems puzzling; why on the one hand is it safe to use this car seat when on the other hand you are recalling it because in static tests the harness webbing didn’t stay 100% intact? First, understand that the decision about whether a seat undergoing a recall may be used or not until the recall is remedied is NOT up to the car seat manufacturer alone. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – the federal agency in charge of investigating defects and carrying out recalls – is also in charge of determining whether a recalled seat may or may not be used until the problem outlined in the recall is remedied. NHTSA feels that it is OK for parents to continue using this seat in the meantime – again, because in all the dynamic tests the seat has always passed with flying colors.
Answers to some questions you might be having:
How do I know if my Combi Coccoro, Zeus Turn, or Zeus 360 seat is recalled?
First, you need to locate the sticker with the model number and date of manufacture.
These are the seats included in the recall
Combi Coccoro Child Restraint Model Number: 8220 Manufacture Dates: January 6, 2009 – December 5, 2012
Combi Zeus Turn Child Restraint Model Number: 8815 Manufacture Dates: July 15, 2007 – March 25, 2009
Combi Zeus 360 Child Restraint Model Number: 8836 Manufacture Dates: February 25, 2009 – May 24, 2012
Combi did ask NHTSA to make it such that this issue never became a recall. There is a lot of potential harm that can come from issuing a recall – centered around 1. parents deciding to stop using the seat (including seats that aren’t even included in the recall’s date range) without a safe alternative to use in the meantime AND 2. the almost certain outcome that some parents will improperly replace the harness, something which has a higher likelihood of harm in a crash than the straps involved in the recall did. Also, most parents do not register their seats, so recalls typically reach very few of the parents actually using the car seats affected.