After months of disputing a safety problem even existed, Graco has agreed to recall 1.9 million children's car seats affected by defective buckles.
Officials with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had urged Graco to include these seats in earlier recalls of 4.2 million seats, which contained a potentially deadly defect with buckles that were difficult or impossible to unlatch. Graco had resisted until today, saying the remaining seats were subjected to "substantially different use conditions."

Collectively, the 6.1 million seats recalled over the latch problem mark the largest recall of children's car seats in history.

"After thorough analysis, we collectively reached a final agreement with NHTSA that is in the best interest of our consumers and underscores our shared commitment to child passenger safety," said Ashley Mowrey, a spokesperson for Newell Rubbermaid, Graco's parent company. A NHTSA spokesperson did not immediately have a comment on Tuesday's resolution.

Earlier, Graco had maintained the difficulty involved in unbuckling the car seats was not mechanical in nature, but a customer "perception" and "frustration" issue. NHTSA disagreed, citing more than 6,100 consumer complaints reviewed by the agency. Some customers resorted to calling 911 or cutting the car-seat straps to free children from the seats.

Graco said Tuesday it knew of no injuries associated with the problem. But the company was a named defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit filed in California, in which two-year-old Leiana Ramirez died in a car fire in 2011. Her mother and bystanders could not unlatch her from her car seat.

The company was a named defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit filed in California.

One witness, Salvador Martinez, suffered burns on his hands and arms while trying to remove the girl from the seat where she was trapped, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Documents filed in March detail Graco's resistance to the recall. Two-and-a-half years after Ramirez's death, Sean Beckstrom, Graco's vice president of legal affairs, wrote that, "in an emergency situation an adult is far more likely to remove the entire car seat from the vehicle rather than unlatch the car seat's buckle and remove the infant from the car seat."

Graco redesigned the affected car-seat buckles, and customers will receive a replacement buckle kit in the mail. Parents and caregivers can check and see if their car seats are included in the recall by looking at specific models affected at GracoBuckleRecall.com.

The company said it will also provide free buckles to customers who have infant car seats not included in the recall, but prefer the redesigned buckle. In the meantime, Graco says the seats are safe to use until the replacement buckles are installed (see video below).

NHTSA disagrees. In an earlier statement, the agency warned parents to use "an alternative car seat for transporting children until their Graco car seat is fixed."
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Graco Press Release

As part of our continuous product testing and improvement process, Graco identified that some of the harness buckles used on our infant and toddler car seats sold in the United States are difficult to open. In response, we are recalling the harness buckles used on select infant, toddler convertible car seats and harnessed booster seats.

There have been no reported injuries related to this issue or the safe use of the car seats. Graco will continue to offer a free replacement buckle to any consumer who has a toddler car seat or infant car seat not included in this recall, but would like to update their buckle to Graco's current buckle design.

Consumers can determine if their infant and toddler car seats are affected and order a replacement harness buckle using our online order form. While waiting for a replacement kit, it is safe to use the infant and toddler car seat. If the buckle becomes sticky or difficult to open, Graco recommends cleaning it by following the cleaning instructions as this will definitely make the buckle easier to use. Our car seats have been carefully engineered and rigorously crash tested to meet or exceed every safety standard set forth by the federal government.

Harness Buckle Recall - 2014 Announcement

FAQs

General Questions:
Q: What infant and toddler car seats are eligible to receive the replacement harness buckle?
Toddler car seats: Step 2, Cozy Cline, Ready Ride, 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 with Safety Surround, Smart Seat, Smart Seat with Safety Surround, Nautilus 3-in-1, Nautilus Plus, Nautilus Elite, Argos 70 and Argos 70 Elite
Infant car seats: SnugRide, SnugRide Classic Connect, SnugRide 30, SnugRide Classic Connect 30, SnugRide 35, SnugRide Classic Connect 35, SnugRide Click Connect 40, and Aprica A30

Consumers can verify if their infant car seat is affected by this recall and order a replacement kit by entering the model name and date of manufacture on GracoBuckleRecall.com or calling (877) 766-7470. This information can be found on the white label located on the bottom of the infant car seat carrier. Graco will continue to offer a free replacement buckle to any consumer who has an infant car seat not included in this recall, but would like to update their buckle to Graco's current buckle design.
Q: Is my car seat safe?
Yes, your car seat is safe and you can continue to use it until you receive your replacement harness buckle. This recall does not involve the entire car seat – just a single model of harness buckle, one that if kids spilled food or juice on them, may become difficult to open. If you find that your buckle is sticky, we recommend cleaning it by following the instructions and video available on GracoBuckleRecall.com. This will definitely make your buckle easier to use.
Q: Why is Graco not recalling all infant car seats?
The infant car seats affected by this recall used an older version of a buckle that some consumers found difficult to open. The infant car seats that are not included in this recall are already equipped with a new and improved harness buckle that is mechanically re-designed to make it easier to use. However, Graco will continue to offer a free replacement buckle to any consumer who has an infant car seat not included in this recall, but would like to update their buckle to Graco's current buckle design.
Q: Why didn't Graco recall the infant car seats at the same time of the toddler seat recall? What's happened during the past few months?
As the industry leader, our decisions about product safety have a far-reaching impact and we take this responsibility seriously. Therefore, making the decision to issue a recall without proper investigation would've been premature. As such, we met with NHTSA several times and provided them with the necessary data to evaluate this issue. Additionally, we assembled a team of recognized experts to review our testing protocol and car seat engineering practices. These included Chris Sherwood, former Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) leadership and biomechanics researcher; Arthur W. Hoffmann, Ed.D., registered professional engineer of child passenger restraints and automotive safety expert; and, Alison Jacobson, child safety expert. They concluded that our car seats are meticulously engineered and safe.

After thorough analysis, we collectively reached a final agreement with NHTSA that is in the best interest of our consumers and underscores our shared commitment to child passenger safety.
Q: Can I receive a new harness buckle for my infant car seat even though it is not a part of the recall?
If any parent – whether you have an old or a new buckle – is concerned, Graco will gladly send you a replacement buckle at no cost. This is the case whether or not your buckle is part of the recall. Consumers can place their order online at GracoBuckleRecall.com. You will need your car seat model name and date of manufacture, which can be found on the white label located on the bottom of the infant car seat carrier.
Q: I just bought a new Graco toddler car seat and the date of manufacture falls within the date range of the recent recall. Is my car seat affected by the harness buckle recall?
It is possible that some toddler car seats currently available at retailers will have a date of manufacture that falls within the date range of the recall. However, toddler car seats available at retailers all have the new and improved harness buckle regardless of the manufacture date. To make it easier for you to recognize these toddler car seats, we have placed a white sticker at the bottom of every car seat that lets consumers know that the buckle on the car seat is a new and improved model that has not been recalled. Here is what the sticker looks like:

Additionally, we have placed the following "new and improved buckle" sticker on the outside of the box so you can be assured the car seat inside is equipped with a new and improved buckle.

For additional questions, call Graco's customer service team at 1-800-345-4109 or through our Contact Us page.

Harness Buckle Replacement Questions:
Q: How can I order a new harness buckle?
Graco has and will continue to offer replacement harness buckles to all concerned consumers at no cost. Consumers can place their order online at GracoBuckleRecall.com. You will need your car seat model name and date of manufacture, which can be found on the white label located on the bottom of the infant car seat carrier.
Q: I have more than one Graco car seat, can I order more than one harness buckle?
Yes, the online order form will allow you to order a replacement buckle for each of your Graco car seats.
Q: When will I receive my replacement buckle?
We are doing everything we can to make sure our consumers receive their replacement kits as quickly as possible. Those requesting replacement buckles will receive them within a couple of weeks. Our infant car seats, like the toddler seats, are safe to use while waiting for a replacement buckle. If you find that your buckle is sticky, we recommend cleaning it by following the instructions and video available on GracoBuckleRecall.com. This will definitely make your buckle easier to use.
Q: What should I do while waiting for my new harness buckle?
Infant car seats, like the toddler seats, are safe to use while waiting for a replacement buckle. If you find that your buckle is sticky, we recommend cleaning it by following the instructions and video available on GracoBuckleRecall.com. This will definitely help make it easier to use.
Q: How do I install the replacement harness buckle?
Our Graco customer service team will include detailed instructions about installing your replacement buckle and you can also find helpful videos at GracoBuckleRecall.com. In most of our car seats, the process of replacing your harness buckle is the same as adjusting your harness straps and crotch strap position to accommodate a growing child or removing your cloth car seat cover to clean it.
Q: What is the difference between the old and new harness buckle?
As early as January 2013, Graco began equipping our infant car seats with a new and improved buckle. While some of the buckles look the same, the updated buckle has an improved design to make it easier to use and has been rigorously tested. This recall impacts only the older model of this buckle, used in car seats manufactured prior to May, 2013. The updated buckle (car seats manufactured after May 2013) is not being recalled, as it provides significantly improved usability and performance which are unique to infant car seats:
While it looks the same on the outside, two thirds of the internal mechanism has been updated, making it easier to use on infant seats.
The updated buckle is easier for parents to tilt and release the tongues from the buckle due to the reclined position of the infant seat and the improved ergonomic design of the buckle's button.
The size and shape of the buckle is more appropriate for infant seats and smaller occupants, including where the buckle rests on the child and the pressure exerted on the buckle when it is being used by a parent.
The redesign and the location of the buckle in relation to the child's hands and mouth on infant seats reduces the likelihood of the buckle becoming sticky from food and juice, which can make it difficult to open and close.
The improved design reduces the friction in the internal components, which reduces the likelihood of it becoming sticky if kids spill food and drink on it.
Graco will continue to offer a free replacement buckle to any consumer who has an infant car seat not included in this recall, but would like to update their buckle to Graco's current buckle design.


Other Questions:
Q: I have a Graco car seat but did not purchase it in the U.S. Is my car seat affected by the recall?
No. The recall only impacts the harness buckles on select Graco infant car seats sold in the U.S.
Q: Does this change my warranty?
No, your warranty will not be affected by this recall. Graco has created detailed instructions and a video to help consumers replace the harness buckle on their car seats. In most car seats, the process of replacing your harness buckle is similar to adjusting your harness straps and crotch strap position to accommodate a growing child or removing your cloth car seat cover to clean it.
Q: Can I return my Graco car seat?
This recall only affects the harness buckle on select infant car seats – not the entire car seat. As such, we will continue to offer replacement harness buckles to any concerned consumer at no cost but are not replacing entire car seat units. Infant car seats, like the toddler seats, are safe to use while waiting for a replacement buckle.
Q: How do I speak to Graco's customer service team?
If you have questions, you can call Graco's customer service team at 877-766-7470 (Monday - Friday, 9 am to 5 pm) or email us through our Contact Us page. Graco knows you have questions and we have an expanded customer service team dedicated to taking your calls. Please also consider the online form at GracoBuckleRecall.com to order your replacement harness buckle - it's easy to use and only takes a minute to complete.
Q: Have there been any injuries as a result of the harness buckles?
No. Aside from reports of buckles that sometimes become difficult to open, there have been no reported injuries or fatalities related to the safe use of the car seats.
Q: What is Graco's commitment to safety?
Graco has met or exceeded every safety standard set forth by the federal government through its 60-year commitment to rigorous engineering and demanding crash testing protocols. Each Graco car seat must withstand a critical crash test -- hundreds of times -- simulating a vehicle hitting a brick wall at 35 mph, which is double the force required by the government. Graco has conducted side impact testing on our car seats for nearly a decade before NHTSA proposed such a standard. Graco is also the only manufacturer to crash test our car seats under extreme temperatures – from 0 to 140 degrees F -- to ensure the materials maintain their integrity in even the most demanding conditions. Importantly, Graco car seats undergo an additional battery of tests by independent safety experts at the same lab contracted by NHTSA to set the safety standards for the entire industry.

In designing each element of the car seat, the primary focus of our engineers is infant and toddler safety. The harness buckle -- a critical part of the car seat -- is opened and closed more than 15,000 times, the equivalent of 50 years of use, to ensure it meets our industry-leading safety qualifications. We also pull the harness buckles to withstand a force of over one ton, which is three times more than what is applied during a typical high-speed crash test. While there continues to be no reported injuries or fatalities related to our harness buckles, we have continued to upgrade buckle design as part of our ongoing product evaluation and improvement process.

We assembled a team of independent experts to review our testing protocol and car seat engineering practices to provide an objective perspective. These individuals included: Chris Sherwood, former Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) leadership and biomechanics researcher; Arthur W. Hoffmann, Ed.D., registered professional engineer of child passenger restraints and automotive safety expert; and, Alison Jacobson, child safety expert. All of these experts concluded independently and collectively that our car seats are meticulously engineered and safe.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 14 Comments
      The Driver
      • 5 Months Ago
      1.9? Thats it?
      Sergey R
      • 5 Months Ago
      1.9 coz one of 2 seats has a bit defective buckle...
      Revis Goodworth
      • 5 Months Ago
      Didn't know total recall motors did car seats too.....
      owen brown
      • 5 Months Ago
      Are they own by GM?
      ffelix422
      • 5 Months Ago
      Are they related to GM? No? Oh, ok... lol
      • 5 Months Ago
      I would like to see a comparison of total recalls by Graco compared to other child product companies. Their products seem to be recalled very often. I have always refused to buy Graco products even before I realized how many recalls they have, you can physically see that the quality of their products is very poor. I'm glad I always stuck to my guns and never purchased their products, my wife was often wowed by their fancy features.
      • 5 Months Ago
      Did the moron from Graco actually say that in an emergency an adult would be more likely to remove the whole seat? Is this guy for real? Muscle memory.....you will undo the buckle and remove the child from the seat. Not to mention it is damn near impossible to remove the seats through a small opening even without a child in them. On top of all of that, the mechanics to unhook the seat from the LATCH anchors can be very time consuming, and with adrenaline going there is just no way.
        CentralControl
        • 5 Months Ago
        For infant seats (not the toddler seat pictured) removing the seat isn't as unusual as it may seem given the mis-matched picture. Typically, the base is left in the car and the seat is removed -- which only requires pushing one button. Graco's "Click-Connect" system sells strollers and other attachments that the seat clips into. Although it may be easy (and even common) for many to remove the seat, I don't think that's any excuse to allow faulty buckles for those who are NOT used to removing the seat seconds may count. Once you remove the seat, what's next? Just leave your crying infant in the seat until you can find something to cut them out at the scene of an accident?
          Jesse Gurr
          • 5 Months Ago
          @CentralControl
          Since this story is about a 2 year old, a toddler seat like that pictured, would have been more likely.
        clquake
        • 5 Months Ago
        The normal LATCH anchors are the very reason I went with Evenflo, their seats have a quick release that makes moving the seats from car to car incredibly easy.
      Jesse Gurr
      • 5 Months Ago
      From the video, it looks like you have to tilt the buckle down before pressing the button. That seems like a good idea until you are in an emergency situation and there is not enough slack to tilt it down to get it unbuckled.
      dUN
      • 5 Months Ago
      Graco products are poorly designed and constructed with minimal material just do a comparison with brands like maxi cosi or stokke,
      Matt Mossberg
      • 5 Months Ago
      I, not a parent but I would think in emergency situations you would take children out of the car seats and not take the car seat. I'm not defending the company (and know there was a defect) but this story should remind all parents with toddlers to make sure you know how to use the car seats and read any necessary instructions for any car seat so in case of emergency they can save their child with or without taking the car seat with them. If I had a problem with a car seat that took a long time to get undone on several occasions, it would be replaced with one that worked. The whole point of car seats is safety and reliable latches would be my number one concern as a manufacture and as a customer.
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