Question: What Are Car Seat Labels?
Answer: Car seat labels are just what they sound like - stickers on the sides, back or bottom of the car seat that give you information about car seat features. Many parents ignore the labels on the car seat, though, when they actually carry lots of important information. Here's what you can find on the various car seat labels.
Some parts of the car seat labels are written or diagrammed in a specific way because there are federal requirements for what the labels must say, and how it must be said.
One required element is labeling that shows you that the car seat meets all applicable federal safety standards. These standards are known as Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) 213.
The labels also must tell you what the weight and height limits are for the car seat. If the car seat can be used rear-facing and forward-facing, you'll usually find separate labels that talk about minimum and maximum weights and ages for using the car seat in each mode. The same goes for combination car seats - you'll find different labels for the harnessed mode and the booster mode.
There will be some basic installation instructions on the labels. There will be instructions for each mode the car seat allows. If there are rear-facing and forward-facing belt paths, the labels will show you which is which. It would be impossible to fit every single installation detail on those tiny labels, though. You should still read through the instruction manual to figure out how to install the car seat, and then use the labels as a reminder if you need to move the car seat to a different vehicle.
The labels also must tell you when the car seat was manufactured, and must have the model number and manufacturer name and contact information, usually the address and phone number. Some manufacturers also include their website address. You can often find the manufacturer's expiration date for the car seat on a label, too.
If an expiration date isn't listed, use the manufacture date and check the instruction manual for the number of years to expiration.
Air bag warnings are required on car seat labels. These should be prominent, and you may find them printed right on the car seat cover, up near baby's face. The manufacturers don't want you to miss this valuable information. Rear-facing babies should never, ever be placed in front of an active air bag.
If your car seat is approved for use on an airplane, there will be an FAA label, too. Not all car seats can be used on planes, so it's good to check for this label before you travel. Booster seats do not carry the FAA label because they cannot be used with a lap-only belt. Some other car seats may not be approved for airline use because of their size or shape.
You may find some other, non-required labels on the car seat. At least one manufacturer has started labeling the harness strap covers with information on where to place the harness for proper fit when rear- or forward-facing.
If the required labels fall off of your car seat, you should contact the manufacturer and ask for new ones. If you visit a car seat checklane or inspection station, you'll be asked whether the labels are missing or damaged.
If you can no longer use the labels to verify the manufacture date or model number, you shouldn't use the car seat any more because you will be unable to check it for recalls.