Whether a child safety seat can be repaired or not is a question that any mum or dad might ask following a collision. Most collisions tend to be rather minor and have no lasting effects on passengers beyond the initial shock. A similar concern may be raised if the child seat has been dropped or damaged during everyday use.
On the other hand, the question may never occur to parents because they are unaware that there might be an issue. However, just as with motorcycle helmets or regular seat belts for adults, extra caution is required following a collision, ensuring that all restraints and protection systems are thoroughly inspected. But the question remains: who should perform such an inspection?
A collision can cause imperceptible damages to harnesses, buckles and the structure of a CRS
As a general rule, properly certified child restraint systems are tested to withstand a single collision event. In other words, assuming that they are properly fitted and secured to the car seat, a CRS is guaranteed to protect its occupant in a single collision. But there are no guarantees beyond that single event. This is because of the strains and stresses that the harness, buckle and anchoring systems are required to withstand.
In a collision a CRS has to endure enormous forces, which may cause structural damage to the system, warp steel elements or create invisible fissures that will be overlooked in a simple inspection. These are the most compelling reasons to recommend that a CRS should not be repaired, unless done so by its manufacturer, which is in the best position to determine the scope of any damages.
Furthermore, if the ISOFIX system is not used and the CRS is secured using rear seat belts, the latter may also be damaged in a collision and should also be checked. Therefore, in the event of a crash it is worth thinking about replacing the entire child restraint system, just as a simple precaution.
Another case entirely is any deterioration to the padded materials, for example, or other aspects of the CRS that have nothing to do with the harnesses, buckles or fasteners. These can be repaired by specialists. However, should any sensitive part of the CRS be damaged, the entire system should be replaced.
Safety recommendations in other countries, such as the USA, suggest that a CRS be replaced in the event of moderate-to-serious collisions, but would not be necessary in the event of minor collisions. How can you tell whether a collision is minor? The following should all be true:
- The vehicle is able to continue to operate with no problems;
- The door closest to the CRS has suffered no damage whatsoever;
- No-one in the vehicle has any injury;
- The airbags were not deployed;
- There is no visible damage to the CRS.
In such cases, a CRS will not usually need to be changed. However, we recommend that the child restraint system be checked thoroughly should there be the slightest doubt, preferably by a specialist.
What about a second-hand CRS?
The arguments stated above on whether to use a CRS following a collision indicate that a second-hand device may not be entirely trustworthy. And not just because it may already have been involved in a crash; it is also impossible to get a complete picture of the device's history.
Child restraint systems may well have had an eventful background, and people selling on their restraint systems rarely offer any kind of safety certificate or have a log of any accidents that the device has been involved in. They may even have been subject to a product recall, and you will never know.
Just like cars, CRS may be recalled by manufacturers should a factory issue be identified. The manufacturer then withdraws the product from stores and is able repair or replace the same without affecting the guarantee or undermining safety.