Graco recalled nearly 3.8 million child car seats this month in the fourth-largest car seat recall in U.S. history, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The recall was caused by a faulty buckle, which can make it hard to release the child from the seat in case of an emergency.
"It may be difficult to remove the child from the restraint, increasing the risk of injury in the event of a vehicle crash, fire or other emergency, in which a prompt exit from the vehicle is required," NHTSA warned in its car seat recall listing.
Graco told The Associated Press that its tests found that spilled food or drink can make the buckles sticky and harder to use over time. The company's rear-facing infant seats aren't being recalled because the entire seat is designed to detach from its base, so a child doesn't need to be unbuckled to be removed from the car. Even so, Graco will still send replacement buckles to owners of infant car seats who request them.
"It is extremely unnerving to have this happen to your child," one parent complained to NHTSA after she said it took her 45 minutes to free her toddler from her car seat. The buckle worked only after the straps were loosened and the young girl was squeezed between them. "What if we had a car fire or a car accident?"
The car seat recall may expand beyond Graco products. NHTSA began investigating similar complaints about child seats made by Evenflo.
So far, Graco says no injuries have been related to the recalled car seats.
The following 2009 to 2013 models are part of the recall: Cozy Cline, Comfort Sport, Classic Ride 50, My Ride 65, My Ride with Safety Surround, My Ride 70, Size 4 Me 70, Smartseat, Nautilus, Nautilus Elite and Argos 70.
Graco is replacing car seats for people who have had problems.