• Thu, Feb 13 - 3:30 pm ET

3.8 Million Carseats Recalled Because They Can Trap Your Baby, Graco Thinks It’s No Big Deal

B005WHQKG4_1Graco is recalling almost 3.8 million carseats because of a buckle issue that may make it hard to free a child from the seat in the event of an emergency, the company announced this week. It’s one of the biggest recalls of its kind, and the company is currently contesting a government request to recall nearly 1.8 million more.

The issue? The red release button in the middle of the harness can become stuck, especially with the accumulation of food and dried liquids, making it impossible to remove a child quickly in the case of an emergency. The company insists this is “not a new issue” and that they have been “working to help consumers for some time now.” Is that supposed to make parents feel better? From The New York Times:

One parent complained to the safety agency that it took 45 minutes to free her toddler and that worked only after the straps were loosened and the girl was squeezed between them. “It is extremely unnerving to have this happen to your child,” she wrote. “What if we had a car fire or a car accident?”

The company is contesting the recall of its infant seats, claiming that rear-facing infants are not given food or liquids while riding so the seats should not encounter the same problems. Whatever. Do you have more than one child? Have you ever seen the havoc a toddler can wreak on a backseat? I wouldn’t count on anything in a two foot radius of a three-year-old not to have some residual crap all over it. Also, they claim rear-facing infant seats can be detached from the base and freed that way. We all know not all people use bases at all times – especially those commuting in and out of car services in the city. And anyway – I would like to be able to remove my child any and every way, Graco. What the hell?

According to Graco’s website, the affected models include the toddler convertible car Seats: Cozy Cline, Comfort Sport, Classic Ride 50, My Ride 65, My Ride 70, My Ride 65 with Safety Surround, Size4Me 70, My Size 70, Head Wise 70, Smart Seat and the harnessed booster seats: Nautilus 3-in-1, Nautilus Elite and Argos.

The seven models that Graco isn’t recalling despite being asked to do so by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are all infant seats: Snugride, Snugride 30, Snugride 32, Infant Safe Seat-Step 1, Snugride 35, Tuetonia 35, and Snugride Click Connect 40.

Graco is offering ”a new and improved replacement harness buckle to affected consumers at no cost.”  People can obtain one by calling 800-345-4109 or emailing consumerservices@gracobaby.com.

(photo: Amazon)

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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  • Lauren_Alli

    I already sent off a request for a new buckle, even though mine isn’t currently a problem. I think they have a “nonchalant” attitude about it because it doesn’t affect the effectiveness of the seat, it’s more of just a PITA. I mean, obviously some kids have gotten stuck, but you’d have plenty of “close calls” before that to realize, “hey, this buckle might need cleaned” type of thing. I’m all for getting a new one in case a problem does arise, but I’m not really worried about it I guess. If it was “sticking” at all, my first reaction would be to clean it….but maybe that’s not a normal response. Who knows!

    • Natasha B

      Yep…when our son spilled milkshake all over his Nautilus…we (gasp!) cleaned the buckles, because, sticky.

  • Kay_Sue

    Both of my sons’ seats were on the list. Luckily, we no longer use the buckle for the Nautilus. The Smartseat though we will have to get a replacement for…

    I cannot wait to be DONE with carseats.

    I also think it’s kind of bullshit that the government can be like, “Hey, you should recall that,” and a company can be like, “Nuh uh.”

    • Megan Zander

      I did a project on recalls in grad school, it is disgusting what it takes to get a company to do a recall. It’s basically a numbers game, if the cost of paying off the wrongful death lawsuits is cheaper than the recall, they rarely recall.

    • Kay_Sue

      I have heard that on TV before, and I have always secretly hoped it wasn’t true, honestly. Kind of saddening to have it confirmed. It’s just a shame to think that anyone’s potential loss of life could be reduced to numbers like that.

      I can understand freak accidents, and I definitely don’t think companies should pay for people being morons. But if your product has a flaw that legitimately could result in a death…it just seems like making sure that flaw is corrected should be important.

    • Rachel Sea

      It’s the system. A publicly traded company is beholden to it’s bottom line. If they do anything that cuts into shareholder profits, the shareholders can sue and take over. Ethics don’t stand a chance against that.

    • Kay_Sue

      I know. That’s probably the saddest part.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

    This includes my kid’s seat. and her seat has a CUP HOLDER built in so it’s pretty ridic that they are saying kids shouldn’t be given drinks.

    • Kay_Sue

      Both our Nautilus and our Smartseat have built in cupholders too, so that does seem silly.

    • Natasha B

      I know! And those little side cubbies are perfect snack stash spots. His seat requires a hose down once a week….

    • ted3553

      you’ll be in the same boat as I am though. This recall isn’t good for Canada. They are deciding if they need to recall the Canadian seats. I tried to go through the American channels and request the replacement buckle but they only ship to US addresses.

  • Lauren_Alli

    Oh, and since I just finished up with mine today….here is the site to submit your request:

    http://www.pages02.net/newellrubbermaid/buckle2014recall

    That’s pretty much what they will send you after you email them, so, I’ll save you a step ;)

    • Megan Zander

      Thanks for posting this! calling had been on my list to do and since I’m sure they would have referred me to this link you just saved me a step.

    • SusannahJoy

      Thank you for this! I just submitted a request for my snug ride!

    • Natasha B

      Thank you for posting this!!!!!

  • Bethany Ramos

    GD Graco!!! Why did I buy everything you make?

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      Same reason I do; only one I can afford? :)

    • Bethany Ramos

      Totally!! But I have an even cheaper Cosco car seat that has not been recalled for my toddler. Yay. :)

  • CMJ

    “You can just detach the car seat from the base…..just leave your kid in the seat….all day…NBD.” – Graco.

    • Nikki

      Not necessarily. Detaching the car seat from the base in an emergency would get the kid and the car seat out of the car and buy the parent time to unbuckle the kid.

  • momjones

    My daughter gave me this car seat to use in my car. I told her 2 years ago that I had difficulty undoing the buckle on one of these. One time it took me five minutes before I finally figured out that I had to press down on the buckle with two hands (fingers) at the same time to open it. When I complained and expressed alarm about it, everyone teased me and said I was just being a cranky grandma. Furthermore, since neither of my granddaughters eat or drink when I am driving them, food in the mechanism was never the issue. When my daughter heard about the recall, she said she and her husband looked at one another and said, “Mom was right!”

  • http://www.max-logic.com/ maxfab

    It’s bullspit. I have a 14 month old who is still riding in her Graco infant seat because she is too tiny to move up to the “big baby” seats. And guess what? She eats and drinks in that seat all the time. Guess what else? It’s nearly impossible to open a buckle. I have to push on it with a key and I’m just waiting for the day I slip and gouge her poor little baby thigh.

  • Natasha B

    We’ve had the boy in the nautilus for about 2 yrs now and no issues with the buckle yet, but guess we’ll be getting new buckles!

  • MaebykittyRN

    We still use the infant seat. I don’t think anything has ever been spilled on the main buckle, but it is usually hard as hell to open it.

    • Kay_Sue

      On two of our three Gracos, we had no issues unbuckling until they got dirty (and they can be cleaned, which I did). On the third, which was our convertible one, it has stuck since well before he ever had any food or drink anywhere near it. Really, I don’t remember it ever *not* sticking.

  • Katherine Handcock

    I have mixed feelings about this…don’t get me wrong, I think the recall needed to happen, because the buckles shouldn’t be that hard to open, but I think implying that it’s DANGEROUS is a bit over the top. If there was a real emergency situation, you’re talking get the baby out of the car, and it doesn’t matter if they’re still in the car seat or not. Take it off the base or undo/cut the seatbelt holding the infant seat, and worry about getting baby out of seat later.

    Also, I have a certain amount of empathy for the people who design the buckle: design that sucker so it loosened over time, and parents would be finding the buckle popping loose while the baby was in the car. That would ALSO lead to not very happy parents (again, justifiably, and possibly more so because now you’re into actual dangerous territory.)

    • AmazingAsh

      What if you can’t get to the latch to undo the base and the seat/base are wedged in the car after an accident?

    • Katherine Handcock

      Honestly, if the seat and base are wedged in so that you can’t get them out, you cut the straps – that car seat is a write-off anyway, because after an accident, you have to replace it. But if the accident is that severe, you may very well have to cut the car’s regular seatbelts too — their buckles can get jammed after a crash.

      Like I said, I’m not saying that the recall shouldn’t have happened. The buckle shouldn’t be that hard to undo. It is a defect, and Graco needs to correct it. But to me, the scenarios in which it’s actually a dangerous defect (as opposed to a real PITA, which should have been caught in quality control) are not as common as some of the news reports etc. are making them sound. And I think we need to reserve real outrage for defects that are really dangerous — those do and have existed. If we treat every defect as if it’s a true fatal flaw, it dulls public response to the really scary ones.

    • Rachel Sea

      Cars do not come standard with a seatbelt cutting tool. In an accident, compartments get jammed, and stuff goes flying, so it’s not likely that even if you own a seatbelt cutter or a very sharp knife, that you will have timely access to it in an emergency.

  • Nikki

    OK, maybe I’m just underreacting because I don’t actually have kids, but what exactly is the problem? Is the problem that Graco said it’s not a new issue and they’re working with parents to solve it or that they’re not recalling the baby seats? If it’s the former, I don’t see a problem. If you have an affected seat you order a replacement buckle. Done. If it’s the latter, I agree to an extent. They should send out replacement buckles for the baby seats too.

  • Justme

    I’m going to be THAT mom and say…my child isn’t allowed to eat in my car. No snacks and no drinks in the car. My daughter’ scar seat and surrounding area stays pretty clean because of it, too. It’s not that I’m some food-Nazi – my dad is an auto-body repairman and an all-around car fanatic. We were NEVER allowed food in the car and all cars growing up were impeccably clean. I can’t help but twitch at the thought of my car getting that gross.

    Not really relatedness to the Graco debacle. Just something that bothers me – dirty cars.

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