When’s the Last Time Your Car Seats Were Inspected?

by Chrystal Johnson on May 28, 2012

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This past week, the local Mom and Dad Project put together a car seat and bike safety event. They were doing free car seat inspections and giving away free car seats to families who needed them. They were also giving away free bike helmets, so we decided to go check it out.

I love that there are such great resources in our community for families in need of assistance getting their children safety products. The Mom and Dad Project does some really great things for our community. They are supported by First 5 California and community donations. I don’t remember anything like this in San Diego when Zoë was a baby, so I always try to make an effort to go out and support them.

Of course our first stop was at the bike safety station since Zoë is getting to the age where we want to teach her about riding her bike safely. They tried the helmets on her and, unfortunately, she has a very small head like her Daddy so none of them fit. At age 4, she still needs a toddler helmet! There were kids quite a bit smaller than her that the helmets fit, so she was a little sad. Next year! They said her snowboarding helmet works perfectly for bike riding as well though so we may do that this year.

Next we headed over to the car seat safety inspection station. We got a new (for us) vehicle not too long ago, and I thought the car seats were installed correctly, but since we were there, I decided to have the experts take a look. I had been having some concerns very recently about Kaylee’s harness as well, so I felt it was better to take the time out of my day to make sure she was safe in her car seat.


When we first pulled up, I got a confused look from the car seat safety technician when he saw our car seats (we have Sunshine Kids Radian 65 seats). His first reaction was something like, “These are top of the line seats, why do you want to get rid of them?”

Of course, I said, “I don’t!” I explained that I just wanted to make sure they were installed correctly and that I was a little worried about the harness on Kaylee’s seat, so I just wanted to be sure it was okay. I reiterated that I was not looking to replace the seats unless they were a safety hazard.

I have always considered myself to be pretty knowledgeable about car seat safety. Rear face as long as possible. Snug harness. Chest clip at arm pit height. Etc. So I wasn’t expecting to learn as much as I did!

First, I had always believed that using the latch system was safer than using the seat belt. The car seat technician pointed out that most latch systems are only rated up to 40 pounds, whereas the seat belt can hold a full grown adult’s weight. He did say that the Sunshine Kids seats use a “Super Latch,” and that the company says they’ll hold more weight.

So, he tried to install our car seats with the seat belts, just to see, but it didn’t work well. The latch system held the seats much more firmly in place, so we went back to latch. He said the fit was more important than the weight in that instance. Good to know we were doing that right for our vehicle!

He removed the headrests from behind the seats so that they’d sit more firmly against the seats. Check – one good change for my time.

There was also one more component of the seats that wasn’t installed called a SafeStop (I didn’t even know it was there!). It’s just a tiny piece that is hooked to the back of the harness to help absorb the energy impact of an accident, if one were to happen (luckily we haven’t been in one and I hope not to be – ever!), for children under 40 pounds. He attached them for me. Check – another reason it was worth my time!

Everything else, he said we had set up perfect. He told me to never, ever get rid of those seats – that they are the best of the best – and that if as many parents put as much research into their car seats as I did, that people like him wouldn’t have a job.

That made me feel good. I tend to put crazy amounts of research into the products we choose, especially when the safety of my children are concerned. As silly as it may seem, it’s nice to have those choices validated!

Just in case you’re curious, these are the main reasons we went with the Sunshine Kids seats (I discovered the brand has been renamed Diono if you’re searching for it).

  1. They’re super narrow. You can fit 3 across in most cars, or 2 car seats and another person in the other seat. That’s huge.
  2. They have a steel frame – not plastic. That makes them much heavier than a standard car seat, but gives me more peace of mind.
  3. They fold in half. This makes them much easier to store. When we were traveling more, this was a huge consideration for us.
  4. This model goes up to 40 pounds rear facing, and up to 65 pounds forward facing.
  5. They have the Super Latch system I mentioned above, which is supposed to hold up to 80 pounds (vs. 40 pounds for the standard latch system).
  6. They have a lifespan of 8 years before expiring. That’s longer than I had seen with any other seat, so I knew it would last for the full duration of my girls being in car seats.

They can be a bit of a pain to get in and out of the truck, but it’s so worth it. I love our car seats.

This particular model has been replaced with a newer version, the Diono RadianR100 Convertible Car Seat. So if you’re looking for an awesome car seat, check it out and let me know what you think!

About Chrystal Johnson

Chrystal, publisher of Happy Mothering, is a mother of two sweet girls who believes in living a simple, natural lifestyle. A former marketing manager, Chrystal spends her time researching green and eco-friendly alternatives to improve her family's life. She enjoys sharing those discoveries with anyone who's willing to listen.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Johanna May 28, 2012 at 5:19 am

Thanks for the post! I need to find an event close to me, and check out the car seats! I thought Britax was the only “metal framed” car seat!

Reply

2 Chrystal May 29, 2012 at 9:02 pm

I think the Britax have metal reinforcements, but these ones are mostly metal, so they’re really heavy! If you call your local highway patrol, they should be able to help you find somewhere you can get your seats inspected.

Reply

3 Chrystal May 29, 2012 at 9:03 pm

This website also has an inspection locator: http://www.seatcheck.org/

Reply

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