When to Replace a Car Seat After an Accident Checklist | 2023

Posted by Julie Monson on


Car seats are lifesaving devices designed to handle one major accident. It may not be able to perform optimally if it were to be involved in a second crash. A car seat that has been involved in a moderate or severe car crash, whether occupied or not, should definitely be replaced and not used again. Some car seat manuals state that a car seat involved in a collision as slow as 10km per hour should be replaced. Although it may look fine, there may be unseen damage that may compromise its safety. 

The NHTSA in the USA advises “Crash damage is not always visible to the naked eye. There are some scans and X-rays that can find hidden damage, but the cost of these tests is usually greater than the cost of the most expensive new car seat. Without this type of test, no one can inspect your car seat and certify it as safe after a crash

These tests are NOT available in South Africa, and without them, no-one can verify if a seat is safe to continue using after a crash.


These car seats may look undamaged, but they have sustained severe forces and are not be safe to use again.


Just as seatbelts should be replaced after a crash, a car seat may need to be replaced too. You will also need to consult with your car seat manual for what your specific car seat manufacturer advises. If you are unsure , please contact the manufacturer of your specific car seat. ALWAYS FOLLOW YOUR MANUFACTURER'S RECOMMENDATIONS.

Many car seats need to be replaced if they were in a vehicle that is involved in a crash, even if the child was NOT in the car seat  during the crash. This is because manufacturers may not have conducted additional crash testing on their car seats that have been involved in crashes. Without these additional crash tests, they cannot guarantee that their seats will provide sufficient safety in a second crash, and to be safe advise that the car seat should always be replaced. 

Crash forces can be extreme. The seat will withstand some crash energy even if the seat were empty and even more so if the car seat was occupied. In a substantial crash, the crash forces may be enough to bend the steel in your car’s frame, therefore, obviously enough to damage the plastic in your child’s car seat, even if you cannot see the damage with the naked eye.


In the past the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the USA recommended to replace a child restraint if it was involved in any type of crash, no matter how minor.

However, NHTSA has revised that recommendation in an attempt to reduce the number of children without a child restraint while their crashed restraint is being replaced and reduce costs for parents and insurance companies. The NHTSA cited several international studies which showed that after minor vehicle crash tests, the restraint still performed well in subsequent crash tests. However, if your car seat manual states differently, always adhere to what it says.


  1. The vehicle was able to be driven away from the crash site;
  2. The vehicle door nearest the safety seat was undamaged;
  3. There were no injuries to any of the vehicle occupants;
  4. The air bags (if present) did not deploy; 
  5. AND There is no visible damage to the safety seat



If your crash meets ANY of these criteria, it should not be used again:

  • Check 1: The car was towed away
  • Check 2: The vehicle door closest to the car seat was damaged
  • Check 3: A person in the car was injured in any way
  • Check 4: Any airbag in the car was deployed
  • Check 5: There is visible damage to the car seat (cracks, stress marks etc)

We understand that it is not always possible to buy a new car seat due to financial constraints. But if finances allow, to keep your child safe it is best to buy a new car seat following an accident if your manual advises to do so and/or if your accident meets the criteria of a moderate to severe crash. 

If you don't already have insurance on your car seats, it is advised that you add it to your policy.


If your car seat has been determined to be unsafe, one thing you should NOT do is donate it or sell it. The idea that it is better than nothing is not correct. The manufacturers set limits on their seats, after extensive and expensive testing. If they no longer guarantee a seat will work to save a child’s life, please don't take the chance. No child then deserves that unsafe seat.

Some people may see your car seat in the dustbin and may try to salvage it, so you must actively protect the now useless seat against either well-meaning recyclers or dumpster divers.

You can leave it at any Renault Dealership in Gauteng or any InspectaCar nationwide in South Africa for Wheel Well to collect. Please mark it clearly that it has been in an accident and should not be used again. Be sure to cut the harness and destroy the buckle. They will dispose of it properly, by recycling the plastic parts and making it unusable by anyone else. They donate the covers to animal shelters to use as blankets. 





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