The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Graco Children's Products, Inc. have announced a recall of almost 3.8 million Graco car seats because their harness buckles can be difficult to unlatch.
The recall includes multiple Graco car seat models from year 2009 to 2013, including the Graco:
- Cozy Cline
- Comfort Sport
- Classic Ride 50
- My Ride 65
- My Ride w/Safety Surround
- My Ride 70
- Size 4 Me 70
- Nautilus Elite
- Argos 70
The NHTSA has received multiple reports of problems and has found that in some cases, "It may be difficult to remove the child from the restraint, increasing the risk of injury in the event of a vehicle crash, fire, or other emergency, in which a prompt exit from the vehicle is required."
Specifically, the NHTSA reports that "Consumers state that excessive force and/or effort is required to push the button to unlatch the harness. Some reported not being able to unlatch the buckle at all and were forced to remove their child by pulling them through the still buckled harness, or in some cases, by cutting the harness straps."
Surprisingly, Graco did not recall about 1.83 million rear-facing Graco car seats which use the same buckles. The NHTSA had sought a recall for these seats too, including the Graco Snugride, Snugride 30, Snugride 32, Infant Safe Seat-Step 1, Snugride 35, Tuetonia 35, and Snugride Click Connect 40.
And unlike Graco's contention that "food and dried liquids that can make some harness buckles progressively more difficult to open over time or become stuck in the latched position," the NHTSA states that "the defect appears to occur through normal and foreseeable use of the car seat," even if the car seat and harness buckle is properly maintained.
Although Graco does offer cleaning tips for harness buckles on their website, the NHTSA states that "Graco's characterization of the condition leading to the Subject Buckles sticking or becoming stuck in the latched position as being a 'maintenance' issue, or resulting from a lack of cleaning, is both inaccurate and misleading to consumers."
New and improved replacement harness buckles are available to affected by the recall though.
We will have to wait and see if the rear-facing Graco car seats will also be added to the recall. The NHTSA states that their "investigation into the safety related defects in the Subject Buckles used in Graco's rear facing infant seats remains open and active."
Keep in mind that at least 4 models of Evenflo car seats, including their 2011 to 2013 Chase, Maestro, Secure Kid, and Titan, use the same harness buckles. The NHTSA is investigating them after receiving at least 18 reports of "consumers alleging the harness buckle on their car seat was difficult to unlatch or would not unlatch" in these models.
The recall is also a great reminder to register your car seat and other baby and child products when you buy them. It is the best way to be notified when products you have are recalled.