Third-party Aftermarket Products for Children's Restraint Systems

Baby content in carseatDuring the past few years, third-party aftermarket products for car seats have become very popular. Soft and cute bumpers, pads and covers touted to make your baby more comfortable may actually be a safety threat. Regulatory boards are concerned that many of these products could be a safety risk when added to an infant seat, a child seat or a booster cushion.

What is a Third Party Aftermarket Product?

A third-party aftermarket product is one that is designed to be used with the car seat but was not supplied with the car seat or by the manufacturer of the car seat.

Safety Risk

Collisions in which two different aftermarket products were used in conjunction with an infant seat may have contributed to the serious injury and/or death of the infants. Major manufacturers of children's restraint systems have raised concerns about how these third-party aftermarket products may interfere with the safety features of their car seats. While the actual restraint systems are regulated, there are no regulations or standards that regulate the third-party aftermarket products. Car seat manufacturers generally state in their instructions that no third-party aftermarket products should be used with their restraint systems.

Why Aftermarket Products Might Be Dangerous

Some aftermarket products can cause safety issues ranging from inducing slack in the shoulder harness system to adding compressible material behind the child, which during a crash will allow for slackness in the harness system. The resulting slack in the harness may cause the child to be either partially or fully ejected from the restraint system, in the event of a crash or sudden stop.

In other instances, the third-party aftermarket product may position a hard surface in front of a child that could pose an injury to the child should the child make contact with it in the event of a crash. When choosing one of these products it is always advisable to first check with the car seat manufacturer concerning safety issues that may be posed with the use of the product.

Common Aftermarket Products

Harness Strap Covers: These covers wrap around the shoulder harness system of the restraint. These products can prevent the chest clip from being positioned at the armpit level of the child. The chest clip is required at this position to ensure that the harness straps stay in place holding the child in the restraint in the event of a crash or sudden stop. Without the chest clip located at the proper place on the child's body, there is an increased risk of the child being ejected.

Child restraint with aftermarket strap coversHarness strap coversChild restraint with aftermarket strap covers

In addition, some of the harness covers available have hard teething products velcroed onto them. The addition of hard objects is not recommended as they can injure the child in the event of a crash or sudden stop.

Add-on trayAdd-on Trays: These products that add-on to forward-facing restraints and booster cushions may incorporate a footrest and a hard plastic tray. The unit is attached to the restraint system by the weight of the restraint and the occupant resting on the device. Any hard object placed in front of a child may result in a head injury should a crash or sudden stop occur.