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BUYER BEWARE – Illegal “Car Safety Seats” for Children

Illegal Chinese Car Seat - death by bunniesParents – if you see something for sale online that claims to be a “child safety seat” or “booster” or “car seat” but it comes from a manufacturer that you have never heard of and it doesn’t say that it meets federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) please be suspicious and do some research. It may be a legitimate product but it may also be an illegal death trap.

Currently Amazon is FLOODED with products from China claiming to be child restraints that are being sold by 3rd party sellers. Please don’t be duped into thinking these are a safe alternative to a car seat or booster seat that meets FMVSS 213 standards. As much as the seller wants you to believe that this product is “Compact and reasonable design make it enjoy the safety of traditional child seat”, it is neither safe nor reasonable.

A few examples of what’s available through 3rd party sellers today on Amazon:

Child Safety Car Seat 3 Colors Portable /Kids/infant/children Baby Car Safety Booster Seat Cushion Multi-function Chair Auto Harness Carrier 5-15kg

Sold by ZheJiang PT Car Accessories Manufacturing Company

Illegal Chinese Car Seat - no name

Child Car Seat 6 Colors Vehienlar Thickening Seat Cover Car Portable Annbaby Child Safety Seat Infant/baby Car Seat (Dark Blue)

Sold by ZheJiang PT Car Accessories Manufacturing Company

Illegal Chinese Car Seat - vehienlar

docooler Convertible Car Safety Booster Seat Cover Cushion Harness Carrier for Baby/Kids/Infant/Child/Toddler

Sold by Docooler

Illegal Chinese Car Seat - docooler

Bluesky Home Need Child Safety Seat for Car (Auto Thick Cushion Cover Harness Protector)

Sold by Willtoo(TM)

Illegal Chinese Car Seat - bluesky

I could keep going because there are even more products than this on Amazon right now but hopefully I’ve made my point.

A few years ago Jennie got her hands on one of these types of products and did a lovely “review” of it:

YIREN-Trouble: A Review of an Illegal Chinese Car Seat

Illegal Chinese Car Seat

I know most of our readers don’t need any further convincing that putting a child in one of these contraptions in a moving car is a really, really, bad idea. But just to highlight how bad the outcome really could be – check out this video courtesy of Surrey County Council & Britax. 

The Wrong Belt Path!

Have you ever had your carseat installed by a well-intentioned family member or friend and it just seemed off somehow? When you went to put your child in the seat, it tipped really easily?

Duhn Duhn Duhn! It was installed using the wrong belt path!

wrong-belt-path-RF

Use the wrong belt path and the carseat won’t protect as it should. In a crash, it will rotate around the belt path and if that belt path is several inches away from the seat belt/LATCH anchors, the results could be disastrous.

Using the wrong belt path isn’t limited to rear-facers. It can be even more damaging to forward-facing kids if the tether strap isn’t attached. In these situations the child’s head can be slammed into the vehicle seat or front center console that’s in front of them, or even the side pillar structure of the vehicle.

Rear-facing or forward-facing – it’s vital to make sure that you are installing the carseat using the correct belt path!

wrong-belt-path-FF

Watch this video from the Child Passenger Safety Board demonstrating using the wrong belt path. The carseat on the left has the seat belt threaded through the rear-facing belt path (incorrect). The carseat on the right has the seat belt threaded through the forward-facing belt path and the top tether attached (correct).

What can you do? Look for labels marking the correct belt path. They’re there. Read the manual that came with the carseat. If you can’t find it, look online or call the manufacturer and they’ll send you a new one. Give your kid a fighting chance if the time comes that the carseat is needed as a safety device.

The Safest Booster Seat for Your Child: Can IIHS Ratings Tell You Which is the Best for You?

The IIHS released its 2014 Belt Positioning Booster Seat Ratings recently. The Institute released its first results in 2008. Thirteen models were Not Recommended that year. In contrast, this year only 3 models were added for a total of just 5 boosters on the Not Recommended list. In 2008, only 10 models rated a “Best Bet”. This year, 27 new models rated a “Best Bet” making a total of 62 top performing boosters. That is great progress in a very important evaluation of safety!

It’s still important for parents to understand that the IIHS booster ratings are NOT based on crash testing results. They are also not based on a wide sampling of real-world fit evaluations with actual children who move around on their own. The ratings are standardized assessments of how well each booster fits a specific crash test dummy (6-year-old Hybrid III) in four test configurations that simulate a range of popular vehicle designs. Of course, kids and vehicles may vary significantly. So, this rating system doesn’t guarantee that a ”Best Bet” product will fit your child better than a model that is listed as “Check Fit,” especially if your child is significantly larger or smaller than the 6-year-old Hybrid III dummy (which weighs 51.6 lbs, has an overall height of almost 45″ tall, and a seated height of 25″). The same goes if your car has unusual seating or seatbelt design.

IIHS Good Belt Fit

The bottom line is that if you know how to make sure a booster fits properly on your child, in your vehicle, only you can determine the best booster for your situation, even without ratings! This is done with a simple 5-step test you can do easily in a couple minutes on your own. We do think the IIHS ratings are a great place to start when looking for a booster, but they don’t tell you anything else about the booster in regard to features or value. For that, we always suggest that parents browse CarseatBlog’s detailed reviews! For example, some boosters have poor shoulder belt guides that can catch the seatbelt and prevent it from retracting, a potentially dangerous situation. This type of problem is not identified in the IIHS testing, but we mention it in our reviews if we observe it in our testing.

All that said, the IIHS booster ratings have become a powerful shopping tool in the last 6 years. Witness the introduction of the Britax Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 a year ago. We evaluated them among the top combination booster models on the market, and they fit a wide range of children very well in both harness and booster mode. Unfortunately, the IIHS initially rated them a “Check Fit”. Many shoppers may not realize that this rating means that many kids may still fit very well in this booster in some vehicles, as we discussed in our coverage of the 2013 IIHS ratings. Britax even offered owners of the original Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 models a free SecureGuard clip that not only improves booster fit, but also provides a unique 4th point or restraint for the child.

BritaxPioneerIIHSSide2Even so, consumers have driven manufacturers to achieve the “Best Bet” rating. A few months ago, Britax released updates to these models along with the Pioneer 70, in order to obtain the top rating. You can see the design change in the photo (right). In our real world evaluation of fit, we found that the improvements from “Check Fit” to “Best Bet” can be very modest, especially on larger children who would be most likely to use booster mode in these products (photos, below).

BritaxPioneerIIHSoldA BritaxPioneerIIHSnewA


Like the IIHS vehicle crash testing program, the booster program has become an industry standard and has driven design. Some manufacturers now work with the IIHS to make sure their products will achieve Good Bet or Best Bet ratings. While the IIHS can’t predict if any specific booster will be the safest for your child, in your own vehicle, it does give you a good idea which models have the best chance to fit well! Savvy parents will also check out CarseatBlog’s detailed reviews and Recommended Carseats list for many details that the IIHS does not provide. But there’s always the question that concerns every parent:

 Should I buy a different booster because the one I have didn’t get a “Best Bet” or “Good Bet” rating?

If your kid is riding around in a booster that has a “Not Recommended” rating then you probably do need to get a different booster seat. You should still assess the situation first because there is a slim chance that maybe it’s positioning the seatbelt correctly on your child in your vehicle. But there is a good chance that it isn’t. Some seats that have been included in the “Not Recommended” list are notorious for doing a lousy job in booster mode. There is nothing wrong with them if they are combination seats being used with the 5-point harness, but in booster mode these models just don’t do a good job of positioning the seatbelt properly on many kids.

If your booster didn’t receive a “Best Bet” or even a “Good Bet” rating, it may still provide good protection for your child, but regardless, you need to check the belt fit.  If it doesn’t fit optimally, try a different seating position in your vehicle to see if it works better in a different spot. And make sure you read the instruction manual that came with your booster! You would be shocked at the number of mistakes many parents make when using booster seats. The IIHS goes strictly by the manual when it evaluates boosters and so should you, if you want your booster to perform as well as it did in their testing!

Consumer Reports on Potential Britax ClickTight Boulevard & Marathon Convertible Carseat Safety Issues

Britax ClickTight convertiblesSome New Britax ClickTight Convertible Carseats May Have Loose or Detached Harness Straps

Today Consumer Reports published an article detailing safety concerns over the new Britax Boulevard ClickTight and Marathon ClickTight convertible seats. Although not mentioned in the article, it is possible that the Advocate ClickTight models may have the same issues. We want to emphasize that this only applies to the brand new “ClickTight” convertible models. All other Britax convertibles, such as the “G4″ models, are NOT affected. Frontier 90 and Pinnacle 90 Combination seats with ClickTight are also NOT affected. 

Link to full CR article:

Two Britax car seats could pose safety risk
Consumer Reports finds potential problem with the Britax Boulevard ClicktTight and the Britax Marathon ClickTight

Fortunately, this should be easy for customers to remedy. In fact, the five-point harness design allows for repositioning the straps on their anchors to adjust for different-sized children. Our car seat installation experts found that if they followed Britax’s online instructions for adjusting the harness length, they were able to properly re-secure the harness strap themselves, paying particular attention to engage the straps inside the hook.

Here at CarseatBlog, we agree completely with the advice to check your Britax CT Convertible models and make a correction if necessary. Once the straps are properly secured to the anchors they should NOT be able to free themselves from the anchor. The thickness of the harness strap webbing combined with the shape/design of the anchor makes it highly unlikely that the strap could free itself from the anchor if it was attached properly in the first place. We’re not in the business of speculation but it seems highly probable that the issue with these seats is an error somewhere in the factory assembly process. 

Britax CT Infographic

 

We’ll keep you posted on this issue as more information becomes available from Britax in the near future. Parents can find basic instructions and video on how to locate and adjust the harness straps at the Britax USA Website. These videos show the basic procedure to attach the harness straps in the shorter or longer length as needed. They also demonstrate how to reattach a loose harness strap if yours is not secured properly:

In the mean time please share this info with your friends and family so we get the word out to as many Britax CT convertible owners as possible. There does not appear to be an immediate need to stop using the carseat, as it only takes a minute or two to re-attach the harness strap if it is found to be loose. In this case the only thing we need to keep children safe is information on what to look for and how to fix it!