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Unsafe Graco Car Seats Grow by 403,000 in Expanded Recall

The voluntary Graco child seat recall continues to grow, adding 403,000 seats to the previous millions with malfunctioning harness buckles.

In February, Graco issued a voluntary recall of approximately 3.7 million child safety seats, due to the products’ malfunctioning harness buckles. According to a statement from Graco, “As part of our continuous product testing and improvement process, Graco identified that some harness buckles can become progressively more difficult to open over time or become stuck in the latched position. Therefore, we have decided to conduct a voluntary recall on the harness buckles used on select toddler convertible car seats and harnessed booster seats.”

Now, according to the AP, Graco Children's Products has added more than 403,000 child seats to the original 3.7 million. Still, the dispute with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration continues, with the NHTSA wanting Graco to add 1.8 million infant seats to the recall. These seats apparently have the same buckles as the seats already recalled, the AP indicated. The NHTSA was also not satisfied with the Graco description of the problem with the buckle previously, as indicated in a February 11th letter from Jennifer Timian, Chief, Recall Management Division (Office of Defects Investigation, Enforcement) at the NHTSA to Sean Beckstrom, Vice President-Legal Affairs, Graco Children’s Products, Inc.:

“NHTSA rejects Graco’s description of the defect. It is inaccurate. Graco incorrectly implies that the defect exists only if the buckle is not properly ‘maintained.’ Instead, the defect appears to occur through normal and foreseeable use of the car seat. Furthermore, Graco inadequately describes the defect as ‘difficulty unlatching the buckle.’ However, the information available to Graco clearly indicates that the actual defect is that users may be unable to unlatch the buckle at all. This condition prevents a parent or caregiver from removing a child from the car seat in certain circumstances, including, and most significantly, in circumstances following a crash or other emergency situation when time is of the essence. Moreover, 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.”

Graco continues to maintain that, “our car seats are safe and effective in restraining children. You can continue to use your car seat while waiting for your new buckle,” referring to the replacement buckle owners of the seats can request from the company.

For more information on exact models included in the Graco recall, a list of frequently asked questions by consumers on this issue, and instructions on how to contact Graco about the safety seat you own, visit the Graco website.

Image: Graco


John Goreham    March 13, 2014 - 6:47PM

I like the picture. Not to defend the Graco BS, they need to be designed to accept abuse, but I have never seen one of those buckles without a crust of chocolate chip cookie, milk, sour gummy bears and a little bit of spit up coating them. They look so shiny and clean! To tie back to your emergency kit story of today, I never had to pack food in my emergency kit for years. I planned to just move the car seats and gorge myself on the 2,000 calories of crumbs and roll-away Oreos underneath.

Aaron Turpen    March 13, 2014 - 11:30PM

In reply to by John Goreham

Ya, I've noticed that a side-effect of having to move the safety seats to a new test vehicle every week is that they seem to stay a lot cleaner than they did when we just left them in the van all the time. lol

By the way, regulations shouldn't hinge on child weight or size, but on dexterity. I figure once the kid can undo their child safety restraints, they've grown out of the child safety seat. Otherwise, one of these seat makers is going to have to invent one with a physical key.

Mechele Dillard    March 14, 2014 - 8:30AM

In reply to by Aaron Turpen

LOL--you know, Aaron, if you WERE having trouble w/ your car seats gumming up in a new test vehicle each week, I would have to wonder if you were just giving the kids jars of PB&J to snack on while you rolled.

Excellent point about kids "unseating" themselves; do any of the vehicles you've tested contain some type of adjustable seat belts that can allow for smaller child sizes to be safely buckled in w/o compromising the actual function of the belt? I think a lot of times as kids get older, they would stay in a restraint if it was like what the "grown-ups" were wearing; they just don't want to be put in those seats.

Aaron Turpen    March 14, 2014 - 11:11AM

In reply to by Mechele Dillard

A few weeks ago, I was sent a little device from Ireland called a BeltLock for review. It goes over the regular seatbelt clip (female receiver) before the regular latch (male insert) clicks in. It then covers the button so the seatbelt cannot be released unless you have something to put through a small slot to press the release button. Something like, say, a car key which you probably have with you anyway. It's one of those genius things you see and think "Wow.. I can't believe I didn't think of that!"

The problem with what you're describing is that federal laws do not allow booster seats until the child is a certain size or seatbelt modifications of any kind. Child safety seats have to have five-point harnesses. My solution would be to put five-point harnesses in all of the seats instead. Like a race car. lol

Mechele Dillard    March 14, 2014 - 11:19AM

Yes, you're right, of course, but I think your race-car-harness solution has promise--just keep the doors swinging open. I have enough trouble getting in and out of my car w/o having to climb thru a window. :D