Does your child's car seat expire? Basically the answer is No...well, maybe...it depends!
Child car seats are rigorously tested before they are allowed to be sold on the European market. Once these safety tests (called ECE R44 and ECE R129) have been accoladed to a particular seat then it can be used in the countries these safety laws apply to - unless however the sets are recalled or re-tested due to safety worries, which does happen on very rare occasions.
All car seats come with useage guidelines to make sure their passengers are as safe as possible. In R44 tested car seats, these guidelines are based on your child's age and approximate weight and in R129 car seats, the guidelines are measured using your child's height and weight as opposed to their age. So, technically speaking, if your child is above the age, weight or height restriction for your child, then it has reached the end of its life for that particular child and you could say it has expired.
Many people may have noticed a Service life or manufacturer's suggested expiry date on the base of their car seat. These dates can be likened to a best before date on your shop bought food. These Service life spans can range from 5-10 years depending upon each manufacturer's individual guidelines. These dates are a rough guide and car seats do not actually have set expiration dates by law like food does. Manufacturers put these date son their seats as a recognition that plastics and the properties of the car seat components may weaken over longer periods of time. But it is worth bearing in mind that their maximum usage age can be affected by how well the car seat is looked after and how much the car seat has been used.
Another important factor to take into account is accident damage. If your car seat is damaged in an accident, even a tiny knock, then it automatically expires and reaches the end of its life. Car seats should never be used if any part of it has been put under stress as this can weaken the plastic mouldings and at times crack the safety cushioning.
In short, if you buy an infant car seat that is tested to current European safety standards, use it for one year and would like to put it away for your next child, then technically it is entirely ‘in date.'
Your car seat is however classed as ‘expired' if:
It no longer conforms to current safety legislation.
It has been damaged
Your child is over the age/weight/height limit for the seat.