Graco Recalls Nearly 3.8 Million Child Car Seats
In what news reports are calling one of the largest recalls ever, Graco is recalling nearly 3.8 million child car seats because of a problem in opening the buckle. The company announced the recall on Tuesday, and it could grow even larger, writes Pete Bigelow, for AOL Autos. That is because the federal government has asked Graco to recall an additional 1.8 million, rear-facing car seats designed for infants, writes Associated Press in an article appearing on FoxNews.com.
Bigelow reports that an investigation by the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) found more than 6,100 cases in which parents or caregivers complained to Graco that they had a hard time unlatching the car-seat buckle. In one complaint filed with NHTSA, a mother said she spent 45 minutes trying to unbuckle her daughter, and another parent said they had to use pliers to force the latch open in order to remove their son, Bigelow writes.
In some cases, the adults had to cut the seat’s straps to get the child out. This led investigators and emergency workers to worry that some children could get trapped in their seats should an emergency occur, Bigelow writes. He goes on to note that the recall affects those seats made between 2009 and 2013 that contain the Signature QT, and QT3 buckles.
Bigelow writes that the recall includes:
- Toddler Convertible Car Seats
- Cozy Cline
- Classic Ride 50
- My Ride 65
- My Ride 70
- Size4Me 70
- My Size 70
- Head Wise 70
- Smart Seat
- Harnessed Booster Seats
- Nautilus 3-in-1
- Nautilus Elite
Seven more models are among the disputed, Bigelow writes. Graco told federal investigators the stuck buckles do not present an “unreasonable” safety risk and that it knows of no injuries related to the problem. But, Bigelow writes, Graco is a named defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit in California, in which the plaintiff says a 2-year-old girl, Leiana Ramirez, was killed in a car fire because the Nautilus seat was difficult to unlatch after a car crash.
As Jen Stockburger writes for Consumer Reports:
When food or dried liquids get into the buckle, it can become increasingly difficult to use and may even make the buckle stick in its [closed] position, according to the official recall notice.
Our experience with the buckle design covered in this recall is that it can be more difficult and less intuitive to use than competing products. The buckle not only takes more force to open than some others, but it is quite sensitive to the angle at which it is held and the position of forces against it. Our observations are consistent with the more than 6,100 consumer complaints that Graco has received regarding the buckle. For that reason, Graco was already in the process of phasing out these designs moving to newer, easier buckles.
Graco should “extend the recall and buckle replacements to its rear-facing infant seats” for the following reason, writes Consumer Reports: Graco says the fastest way to remove an infant in an emergency situation is to detach the removable carrier from the base; however, Consumer Reports‘ simulated crash tests often find that child seats can become damaged in a crash and will no longer detach from their bases.
Consumer Reports writes:
The detaching cannot be relied on as the only way to get a child out; the harness should also open. If you own an infant seat that you believe incorporates the buckle in question, we encourage you [to] contact Graco’s customer service to take advantage of the buckle replacement program or 800-345-4109.
The Office of Defects investigation tells parents to consider an alternative car seat for transporting children until their Graco seat is fixed, despite Graco’s claim that the seats are safe for continued use. Until the recalled seats are fixed by Graco, Consumer Reports gives the following advice to parents and caregivers:
There are ways to make the buckle easier to use.
The buckles in question have a release button that activates more toward the top than the center, and they are very sensitive to position. It can be very difficult to unfasten because the buckle has force against it from behind, due to the child’s body pushing onto it when the harness is tight or even from your hand behind it when holding it to unbuckle. Those factors can cause the buckle tongues to be in a “stuck” position.
To try and make unbuckling easier:
- Loosen the harness a bit before you unbuckle to try and reduce some of the force on the back.
- It’s natural to put your hand behind the buckle as a brace as you’re trying to push to open it, but that may actually make it harder to open. Try releasing the buckle by holding it but not pushing from the back.
- Push the release button more toward the top rather than the center. Graco covers some of this in an online video (we will post it at the end of this article). You may also try to clean the buckle per Graco’s instructions in the recall, if it still is very stiff to open.
Consumer Reports (CR) also cautions parents and caregivers to cut the harness straps only as a last resort, because the child will be at greater risk while traveling in the vehicle if there is no harness. CR suggests trying to loosen the harness completely, open the chest clip, and try to remove the child that way. Graco is not the only manufacturer using this style of buckle, Consumer Reports writes. Others, such as Evenflo, do as well, and NHTSA is looking into those other brands as part of its recall investigation.
Graco has redesigned the latches on more recent models, Bigelow reports, and will provide the new, improved replacement buckles at no cost. “Parents or caregivers can get one by calling 1-800-345-4109 or by emailing email@example.com,” Bigelow writes.
Here are two videos about this problem: