The Three Problems with Child Car Seats
I've got two cars and two kids. In the last eight years, I've spent a lot of time with child car seats.
Throughout this time, I've noticed three common problems that I'd like to address here, in my personal complaint forum.
Complaint #1: There isn't a lot of padding on child car seats.
At first glance, a child's car seat might look like a cozy embrace. It has pads on the seat, pads on the back, pads on sides. There are even pads on the side of the head rest. It looks padded.
Unfortunately. There isn't much padding on the seat. If you've ever washed a child car seat cover, you know that they are thin.
In many cases, the foam on the seat is the same thickness as the other foam, in the case of this $200 Graco car seat, just 1/4" thick. That's the same thickness as my mousepad, but my mousepad is neoprene, a superior foam.
Can you imagine driving to Grandma's house on a chair with 1/4" of foam? I imagine it would be a lot like driving in a metal folding chair. Great for 10 minutes, but not very comfortable for a longer ride.
This pitiful volume of butt padding is accepted because kids don't know better or can't talk.
The shape of the seat is one of a well-padded chair, but that's an illusion. The shape is created with hard plastic. If adults had to sit in these tiny chairs, they'd revolt almost immediately.
Complaint #2: Child car seats are too fragile
These rugged seats, designed and built to protect our children in car accidents, have a reputation for being extraordinarily delicate. After almost any collision, an insurance adjuster will prompt you to replace the child car seats in the car, even if they don't seem to be damaged.
From the Graco Car Seat web page FAQ:
A: Yes. You need to replace your child's car seat if it was involved in any accident - even a minor one - no matter what. Even if there is no visible damage to the car seat , the impact and force of a collision can cause unseen structural damage. Any such damage may prohibit your car seat from properly protecting your child in the event of a sudden stop or crash. Some insurance carriers will reimburse you for the replacement of a new car seat if it was in a crash. Check with your insurance provider for details on your policy.
No matter how minor the accident, Graco requires that you replace their car seats. Can you imagine? These car seats are so succeptible to damage that you should replace them, even if they are completely untouched by the accident. These car seats are protected by the entire structure of car itself, yet they are damaged in any collision.
Before I read this on the Graco website I thought, "Well, obviously they don't mean a little parking lot fender-bender, or a door ding, a collision with a shopping cart, or a hailstone strike. Even a soap bubble inside the car would likely be unharmed in such a minor collision." As incredible as it seems, the car seats more fragile than a soap bubble.
Complaint #3: Harness Connection at the Child's Crotch.
My biggest complaint about child car seats is that there is always a buckle connection right between the legs, at the kid's crotch.
This main latch has a strong spring, so that the kid doesn't accidently unbuckle himself, which means that you've really got to get your hand in there and squeeze it. This means that you're going to have to choose between slipping your hand behind the latch for support, or pressing the latch into your kids' groin, so that his or her genitals are providing the resistance for the unlatching procedure.
It's bad enough when it is your own child, but it really sucks when it is someone else's kid, when you'd really prefer to keep your distance. Is this the only place they can position this latch release?
1. Not enough seat padding
2. Too easily damaged
Thank you for reading this article. I hope these concerns can be addressed by the child car seat manufacturing community.