Is your child's car seat expired?

Car seat expiration date / Courtesy: NBC News

We all know about expiration dates on food, but many parents don't realize there are expiration dates on their children's car safety seats. It's important to be aware of this because it could help save your child's life.

Allison Patton has three children and is expecting twins. Trying to control the cost of parenthood, she wanted to use a car seat purchased in 2003, but was told it may be expired. That caught her by surprise. "They don't tell you that at the store when you buy it. I never saw it on the package. I had never heard of it," Patton said.

She checked the seat, and embedded into its plastic frame was a warning, "Do not use this car seat after December 2008."

Lesley Seaton, with Safekids Northeast Florida, says there are common mistakes with child safety seats, including using expired ones. "They do expire. It varies on different brands the shelf life of a car seat," Seaton said.

She says parents should always check the seat's manual for an expiration date or check the seat. It needs to have a shelf life for a number of reasons. "The shell inside that we cannot see internally can be broken down and worn out," Seaton said. "The harness strap itself that holds the child in safely can be frayed and torn but look okay."

You can see in the YouTube video above how an expired child safety seat can fail you when you need it most.

Now, Patton is spreading the word to every mother like her -- check your child's car seat for an expiration date. "If you had a kid within the past five years and you're just having another, you need to go and look at all your equipment," Patton said.

Did you realize child safety seats have expiration dates? Do you reuse them even after they expire or do you buy a new one? Are you concerned about the safety of expired car seats? Leave your thoughts below.