Mowrey said the company has issued cleaning tips for the buckles, and began sending replacement buckles to owners last summer. Graco is also sending instructions for how to replace the buckles and posting a video on its website to show parents how to replace them.
In documents sent to NHTSA, Graco estimated that less than 1 percent of the seats involved in the recall have had buckles that were stuck or difficult to unlatch.
Mowrey said there have been no reported injuries due to the defect.
Parents should check seat buckles and contact Graco for a free replacement, NHTSA said. The agency also said people should get another safety seat for their children until their Graco seat is fixed.
NHTSA, in the letter to Graco, also accused the company of soft-pedaling the recall with “incomplete and misleading” documents that will be seen by consumers.
The agency threatened civil penalties and said that Graco should delete from its documents “any statements that may lead the public to discount the seriousness of the safety risk presented by this defect.”
In addition, NHTSA said that last month, it started investigating four models of Evenflo child safety seats, which have a design similar to the recalled Graco seats and may use buckles made by the same manufacturer, AmSafe Commercial Products Inc. of Elkhart, Indiana.
“NHTSA is also in contact with AmSafe to identify any additional child seat manufacturers that use harness buckles of the same or similar design,” NHTSA’s statement said.