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New Federal Regulations Regarding LATCH Weight Limits – What Parents Need to Know

We’ve been waiting for clarification of this final ruling for an entire year and we’re just getting details this week – days shy of the Feb 27, 2014, implementation date. Many CPS Technicians and advocates have been aware that these changes were coming but we were also aware that there were petitions pending so we were all waiting for the final word from NHTSA. There was much speculation that implementation of these changes would be delayed or that NHTSA would increase the weight limits, but none of those things happened.

So… in a nut shell, here is what parents and caregivers need to know:

There are two changes to federal safety standards going into effect this week that will affect some carseats manufacturered on or after Feb 27, 2014. First is a new label requirement. While that doesn’t sound like a big deal – it actually is. NHTSA has ruled that carseats with a 5-point harness should not be installed using the lower LATCH anchors if the combined weight of your child and the carseat exceeds 65 lbs. In these cases, you should discontinue using the lower anchors in your vehicle to install your carseat and switch to a seatbelt installation instead when your child reaches a certain weight. The label will tell you at what point you should make that switch.

The concern is that the lower LATCH anchors in your vehicle may not be strong enough to restrain a very heavy child in a very heavy carseat under severe crash loads. It makes sense – mass is mass regardless of whether it’s the mass of the child or the mass of the carseat. Both are going to exert forces on the lower LATCH anchor bars when they are loaded in a crash.

If your carseat was manufactured before Feb 27, 2014 and the 5-pt harness has a weight limit of more than 40 lbs. please check your carseat instruction manual for guidance on LATCH weight limits. There may or may not be limits listed  - Dorel and Evenflo don’t generally list LATCH weight limits but Graco and Britax do. Also check this link to find out if your vehicle manufacturer has LATCH weight limits

Since parents probably don’t know how much their carseat weighs, going forward NHTSA is going to require the carseat manufacturers to “do the math” for you if there is any chance that the combined total of kid weight and carseat weight may be more than 65 lbs. Many carseat manufacturers are already listing LATCH weight limits on their seats with high harness weight limits.  Pictured below is the current Chicco NextFit label. The NextFit is rated up to 65 lbs in the forward-facing position but it weighs almost 25 lbs. Therefore according to the NextFit instructions you must switch to a seatbelt installation (plus tether) once your child reaches 40 lbs.

Not all carseats will have LATCH weight limits but it will be the responsibility of the carseat manufacturer to list one if necessary. For example, Graco knows exactly how much each of their carseats weigh and they know the maximum weight limits on the 5-point harness for each of their seats too.

  • The Graco ComfortSport harness is only rated to 40 lbs. and the seat itself definitely doesn’t weigh more than 25 lbs. so the new label requirement doesn’t apply to this seat. You can use LATCH (rear-facing or forward-facing) to the weight limits of a ComfortSport without concern.
  • The Graco Classic Ride is rated up to 50 lbs. with the harness but the seat itself weighs less than 15 lbs. so once again – the new label requirement doesn’t apply here and you can use LATCH (rear-facing or forward-facing) to the weight limits of a Classic Ride.
  •  A bigger, heavier seat like the Graco Nautilus will require this new label that tells parents when to switch to a seatbelt installation. The 5-point harness on the Nautilus is rated up to 65 lbs. and the seat itself  weighs about 20 lbs. so the label will probably tell you to discontinue installation with the lower LATCH anchors and switch to installation with seatbelt (plus tether) once your child weighs 45 lbs.

It’s up to you to keep track of how much your child weighs and to make the switch to seatbelt plus tether once your child exceeds the listed LATCH weight limit. It’s important to point out that this new requirement addresses weight limits for the lower anchors in your vehicle but does NOT impose a weight limit on the tether anchor. This is important because we always want you to use the tether if a carseat is installed forward-facing in a seating position that has a designated tether anchor.

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Currently there are no infant (rear-facing only) carseats that are so heavy that they could exceed the new 65 lbs. combined LATCH weight limits.  So if you have a kid in a rear-facing only infant seat – don’t worry about these new limits.

However, there are a few exceptionally heavy convertible seats that also have high rear-facing weight limits and consumers who buy these seats (manufactured after 2/27/14) will find labels and instructions telling them what the LATCH weight limits are for rear-facing (and separately for forward-facing). Convertible seats that will be required to have rear-facing lower anchor weight limits will include Diono convertibles, Graco Smart Seat & Clek Foonf.  In some cases the rear-facing LATCH weight limit could be as low as 25 or 30 lbs. child weight.

The second change to federal safety standards that is also being implemented this week involves testing with the new 10 year old Hybrid III dummy. This dummy weighs about 78 lbs. and is 51″ tall. Any carseat manufactured after Feb 27, 2014 that has a 5-point harness rated beyond 65 lbs. will be required to fit this 10 yr old dummy and also be required to pass certain crash test performance standards using this dummy. Since the 10-yr-old dummy is huge – it won’t fit in most convertible seats, which is why you’ll see many carseat manufacturers backtracking on the maximum weight limits of their convertibles and some higher-weight combination seats too. Seats that may have been rated to 70 lbs. or higher in the past may now have a weight limit of 65 lbs. Some manufacturers have already backtracked to 65 lbs., others will be doing so shortly as the new requirements are phased in this week.

The Britax Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 will retain their 90 lb. harness weight limits as those seats are already tested with the 10 yr old dummy. We know Graco is working on a new Argos 80 (we reported on it from ABC) which will be taller than the current Argos 70 combination seat and will be reinforced to pass testing with the new dummy. When we have more details about other higher-weight harness combination seats, we will share them here.

10 year old Hybrid III dummy

 

Want to know more? Dive deeper with our 2nd article on the new LATCH limits.

Graco Buckle Recall: Convertible and Combination Carseats

Graco is recalling buckles on nearly 3.8 million carseats, according to the Associated Press.  CarseatBlog has some coverage on cleaning buckles and ordering replacement buckles as well as instruction videos for parents on how to replace the buckle system if they have experienced difficulty releasing a child.  Graco reports that no injuries have been reported as a result of this issue.   For parents who have difficulty releasing their child from the harness system, we advise that you attempt to clean the buckle and contact Graco for a replacement using the email or telephone contact information below.

According to Graco Baby:

As part of our continuous product testing and improvement process, Graco identified that food and dried liquids can make some harness buckles 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 all toddler convertible car seats and harnessed booster seats manufactured from 2009 to July 2013.

As a solution, Graco offers a new and improved replacement harness buckle to affected consumers at no cost. Graco would like to stress this does not in any way affect the performance of the car seat or the effectiveness of the buckle to restrain the child. We encourage all consumers who are experiencing difficulty with their harness buckles to contact our customer service team at 800-345-4109 or consumerservices@gracobaby.com. All Graco SnugRide infant car seats are excluded from this recall.

For more information on this recall including a list of affected models and photos of the original and new harness buckles, please go to http://www.gracobaby.com/safetyandrecall/pages/safetyandrecallarticle.aspx?recallID=41&page=SafetyAndRecall.

Graco Nautilus with recalled "Signature" buckle   Graco Recalled Harness Buckle

Specific details on the products impacted are as follows:

  • Toddler Convertible Car Seats: Cozy Cline, Comfort Sport, Classic Ride 50, My Ride 65, My Ride 70, My Ride 65 with Safety Surround, Size4Me 70, My Size 70, Head Wise 70, Smart Seat
  • Harnessed Booster Seats: Nautilus 3-in-1, Nautilus Elite and Argos

 

NHTSA’s Proposed Side-Impact Testing Standard – the good, the bad and the interesting

SI Test - NTHSA  ProposedThis week many of you may have heard through mainstream media outlets that NHTSA’s long-awaited “NPRM” on a Federal Side-Impact Standard for Child Restraints was about to be unveiled. Here at CarseatBlog that was practically an excuse to break out the bubbly since we’ve been waiting for this announcement since the end of summer 2013 when they promised us it was going to ready! To be honest, we’ve actually waited over a decade for this but I’d rather not remind myself how quickly the last decade has flown by. Anyhow, we didn’t want to just regurgitate a press release or some bare-bones news article with no nitty-gritty details because we know you expect more than that from us, so we sat on our fingers for a few days until the actual NPRM was released.

The proposed test is interesting in so many ways but it can be really confusing too if you don’t understand all the technicalities and nuances of what they’re proposing. My advice is not to get too fixated on anything in particular because you have to consider the whole picture. There are always going to be pros and cons and almost every upside comes at the expense of something else. It’s just the way it is.

In writing this update I was torn over whether to keep it simple or go all out and try to help you make sense of everything. The latter seemed like an overwhelming task but I’m also not a keep-it-simple-kind-of-person. In the end I compromised by doing a bit of both. I tried to outline the main points (the stuff that most people would care about) in the beginning, and then I tossed in some stuff that only the die-hards with a serious coffee or diet-soda-induced caffeine buzz could manage to get through. I hope that pleases everyone. :)

Quick Overview for Parents and Caregivers:

What most parents need to take away from this is that the government standards, set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), now have just a minimum pass/fail requirement for a typical frontal crash test only. This proposed rule will add a minimum pass/fail side-impact test that manufacturers must pass in order to sell a child safety seat in the USA. Side impacts are the most deadly types of crashes to properly restrained passengers, adults and children alike. So, this testing is potentially a big step forward in protecting our littlest passengers from head injury in particular.

This proposed test would simulate a small car moving through an intersection at a low speed and being “T-boned” by another car going about 30 miles per hour. A carseat with a child-sized dummy will be measured for injury in the rear seat, on the nearest side that is struck by the simulated oncoming vehicle. Please note that this will NOT be a 5-star comparative type of rating for either crash safety or fit to vehicle; those are separate mandates that have all but disappeared from public discussion. It’s also not yet in final form, so the public has 90 days to comment before the final rule is set. For example, the proposed test omits some key scenarios, including installation with a seatbelt, installation without a top tether and installation for children using a 5-point harness above 40 pounds. These are all very important issues, especially given the shift to seatbelt use because of the new 2014 labeling required on carseats that limits the use of LATCH system, due to concerns about the strength of the hardware.

Carseats required to pass the new testing are a long way from the market. Once the final rule is passed, we probably won’t see officially compliant models for up to 3 years. So, if you are in need of a new carseat now, this proposal does not affect you at all. Also, parents shopping for carseats in the mean time should know that most of them already adhere to voluntary side impact testing standards and many have incorporated side impact protection features for years. These vary from one manufacturer to another and will be different from the government testing, but it is important to know that manufacturers are already designing products with side-impact protection in mind.

More Details on the Proposed Rule for CPS Technicians and Advocates:

Notice of Proposed Rule Making: Amendment to FMVSS 213 – Side Impact Testing Standard

“SUMMARY: This NPRM proposes to amend Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 213, “Child restraint systems,” to adopt side impact performance requirements for all child restraint systems designed to seat children in a weight range that includes weights up to 18 kilograms (kg) (40 pounds (lb)). NHTSA is issuing this NPRM to ensure that child restraints provide a minimum level of protection in side impacts by effectively restraining the child, preventing harmful head contact with an intruding vehicle door or child restraint structure, and by attenuating crash forces to the child’s head and chest.

 

 

In a Nut Shell:

The proposed test procedure would simulate the full-scale vehicle-to-vehicle side impact crash replicated by FMVSS 214.

  • Dynamic sled test would simulate the MDB (Movable Deformable Barrier) test of FMVSS 214 which has the striking vehicle traveling at 30 mph (48.3 km/h) impacting the struck vehicle traveling at 15 mph (24 km/h)
  • Tests CR in near side impact
  • First test of its kind in the world for testing CRs in a sled system that simulates vehicle acceleration and intruding door of a small passenger car
  • Door intrusion known to be a factor for moderate and severe injury in side impacts
  • Proposed test based on acceleration sled system developed by Takata

 

Specifics:

  • CRs for children rated up to 22 lbs would be tested with CRABI dummy
  • CRs for children 22-40 lbs., including boosters, would be tested with Q3s dummy
  • Forward-facing CR installed with LATCH (lower anchors and tether)
  • Rear-facing CRs installed using lower anchors only
  • Belt-positioning boosters (those rated for children under 40 lbs.) installed with lap/shoulder belt
  • Center of CR positioned 300mm from edge of the sliding seat next to the intruding door – simulating a near-side seating position
  • Armrest on door located 32mm from edge of seat towards CR

 

Rational for limiting testing to under 40 lbs.:

  • No appropriate test dummy for representing kids over 40 lbs. right now
  • NHTSA determined that seated height of children over 40 lbs. is typically sufficient to take advantage of the vehicle’s side impact protection system (including curtain airbags)

 

ATDs:

  • Q3s is the side-impact version of the 3-yr-old Q Series dummy developed in Europe (weighs 32 lbs.)
  • CRABI – 12 month old dummy used in current frontal crash testing (weighs 22 lbs)

 

Most parents can stop here unless they are looking for a cure to their insomnia! Technical geeks and die-hard advocates looking for in-depth commentary are warned that it’s about to get more technical!

Chicco NextFit Convertible Updates – October 2013

All Chicco NextFit convertible carseats made during or after October 2013 have some minor updates. The harness strap covers are now entirely optional and remove easily thanks to Velcro on the sides. These new strap covers lack the grippy material that lined the back of the original strap covers. The new strap covers are also slightly shorter as you can see in the comparison picture.

 

 

The 2-position chest clip can now be used in either the more narrow or wider setting with no restrictions – use your best judgement. Newborns and younger babies with narrow shoulders will benefit from the more narrow setting which will draw the harness straps closer together and keep them positioned properly over the baby’s small shoulders. Older babies and bigger kids can use the wider setting. When you switch is entirely up to you.

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The crotch strap has also been lengthened just a little bit. The new crotch strap is almost (but not quite) 1″ longer. Replacement [longer] crotch straps will be available after March 1.

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You can order NEW style harness pads directly from Chicco here.

Chicco NextFit -new harness strap covers

If you own a Chicco NextFit made prior to October 2013 – you may remove the harness strap covers that came with your seat, if desired. Please carefully follow the removal directions provided by Chicco here:  http://www.chiccousa.com/nextfit/pdf/NextFit_Pad_Installation.PDF

The replacement directions in the link above were written prior to the update so you can ignore the language that says “Never use your NextFit car seat without shoulder pads”. Just follow the directions on how to remove them, put the chest clip and buckle tongues back on properly and reattach the harness safely. *At the end of the process, once the harness pin has been fully re-inserted, check to make sure that the plastic tab is back in its original position preventing the pin from moving forward again.

There is also a video detailing the process here: http://www.chiccousa.com/nextfit/installation.aspx  (the link to the video can be found in two places: on the left side of your screen under “Shoulder Pad Replacement Kit” or under the Rear-Facing Videos “Installing Shoulder Pad Replacement Kit”) Again, this is an existing video meant to detail the process of swapping out the original harness strap covers with identical replacement strap covers so you can ignore the language that warns you to never use this product without the harness pads.