One of the largest car seat recalls in the history of these types of recalls may expand further. Graco issued a recall of almost 3.8 million 2009 through 2013 toddler and booster child restraints at the request of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration because of a problem with the harness buckle.
At press time, Graco infant seats with the same buckle had not been recalled, though they were under investigation. Evenflo car seats that use the same or a similar buckle are also under investigation.
The recall is being issued because of a problem with the harness buckle that may cause it to stick or to require excessive force to release, which could impede removing the child from the seat in an emergency situation.
NHTSA has received 135 reports of difficulty unlatching the buckle or not being able to unlatch it at all, while Graco has received 6,100 consumer reports of the same issue. There is also a class-action lawsuit against Graco pending as well as a wrongful death lawsuit of a 2-year-old that was killed in a fire after a car accident, where Graco is named as a defendant.
Graco's position is that the harness buckle problem is caused by spilling of liquids or foods, which results in contamination that requires extra force to release the buckle. NHTSA contends that such contamination should not affect the performance of the buckle and that, if it does, it is a safety defect.
There are 11 Graco car seats affected: 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. All recalled seats are from the 2009 through 2013 model years and are designed for toddlers or are booster seats for older children. There are several models of Graco infant seats that use the same harness buckle that remain under investigation and have not yet been recalled.
Separately, four models of 2011 through 2013 Evenflo cars seats -- models Chase, Maestro, Secure Kid and Titan -- also are under investigation by NHTSA for the same problem. NHTSA believes that these seats use the same or a similar harness buckle that is part of the Graco recall.
Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.