Graco has announced a voluntary recall affecting toddler and booster seats for model years 2009 – 2013. Infant seats are not affected. The recall covers 11 car seat models (listed below), which encompasses 3.7 million units.
At issue is the red release button on the harness, which becomes stuck from food and dried liquids. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has received at least 80 complaints about the seats from parents who sometimes had to resort to cutting children out of the seats. No injuries have yet been reported from the harnesses being stuck, but the NHTSA warns it could be a safety hazard in the case of fire or other emergency.
The NHTSA explains the problem this way:
“The alleged defect involves difficulty in unlatching the harness buckle. In some cases, the buckle becomes stuck in a latched condition so that it cannot be opened by depressing the buckle’s release button.”
Users can contact Graco to receive a replacement harness system at no cost. Graco stresses that the harness problem hasn’t otherwise compromised the safety of the seats – they retain their ability to protect children in car crashes. While Graco encourages parents to continue using the seats while waiting for the replacement piece, the NHTSA recommends that parents and caregivers should “consider acquiring an alternative car seat for transporting children until their Graco seat is fixed.”
Dispute Ongoing Between NHTSA and Graco
Graco has voluntarily recalled only 11 of the 18 car seats that the NHTSA initially identified as having problems. In addition, Graco claims that infant seats are not affected because infants don’t eat or drink in their seats, which is the primary cause of the release button getting stuck.
Meanwhile, the NHTSA has threatened the company with civil penalties. It issued a letter to Graco accusing the company of downplaying the seriousness of the problem. The NHTSA began investigating the problem in the fall of 2012, said the investigation remains open.
The 11 seats recalled, for model years 2009-2013, are: Cozy Cline, Comfort Sport, Classic Ride 50, My Ride 65, My Ride with Safety Surround, My Ride 70, Size 4 Me 70, Smartseat, Nautilus, Nautilus Elite, and Argos 70.