Because child car seats can be expensive, you want to get as much use as possible out of your child’s seat before you replace it. After a motor vehicle accident, though, the seat may have sustained damage, and safety issues may not be immediately obvious.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advises parents to replace car seats if they have been through a moderate or severe crash. But how do you know if your recent collision was serious enough to damage your child’s seat?

Identifying a minor collision

While you should not continue to use the same car seat after a moderate or severe car accident, the seat is likely to be fine after a minor collision. Before you begin shopping for a new seat, consider the five-part test the NHTSA provides to determine if your accident was minor.

If all the following apply to your situation, your child’s car seat is probably safe to use:

  • The car seat appears to have sustained no damage.
  • The impact site is far from the door nearest your child’s car seat.
  • You and your passengers suffered no injuries in the collision.
  • You drove your car away from the accident scene.
  • None of your car’s airbags deployed during the accident.

Inspecting your child’s car seat

Following a car crash, you are likely to have many things on your mind. You should not, however, forget to check on the integrity of your child’s car seat. Even if your car accident meets the above criteria, you do not want to leave your child’s safety to chance.

Therefore, you should always carefully inspect your child’s car seat after any type of accident. If you see cracks, tears, missing parts or other signs of damage, you should replace the car seat immediately. The product’s user’s manual may also have information about continuing to use seat after a collision.