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Child Seat in older car

Last year I bought a beautiful old 1984 Mercedes 300SD. It only has 320,000 miles on it, and I’m in the process of making biodiesel to do my part for the environment. This car runs beautifully, and I love driving it.

Here’s the rub: my wife and I are expecting a baby in August, and she insists that this car is not safe to drive an infant in. She points out, correctly, that it has no ABS, airbags, or vehicle stability control- all those modern safety features. She also points out that the actual bench seat in the back is soft (not terribly comfortable), and believes that it is not structurally sound for a child seat.

But in my mind, the child rides in the back seat, facing backwards, and as long as the seat belt is compatible with a modern child car seat, then they should be OK. This car is built like a tank, and I’m a safe driver. So, do I have to give up my biodiesel baby dreams, or can I tell my wife that the car is safe enough? Please note, I don’t drive this car in winter, as I want to save the body from rust. Thanks for your help!

A child seat that only needs a lapbelt will work perfectly with your Benz. The seatbelts are secured as well if not better than on a modern car, and the seat padding is irrelevant. I really liked it when the kid was still riding in child seats because she could ride with me in my really old wrecks that only had lapbelts. Now that she’s older, her ma’ says she can only ride in the ones with shoulder belts with a booster seat. How dull!

I’m sure one of our favorite posters Craig58 will be on shortly to express his opinion as to whether your old diesel Benz is better than a new car with all sorts of safety gizmos.

Witness the power of marketing! Your wife believes all the hype about modern “safety” nannies. There’s nothing wrong with these systems, but they will not save a bad driver from his or her mistakes, and they do not guarantee ANYTHING. The driver is still the most important safety feature on any vehicle. Are you buying vehicles to DRIVE, or to crash?

You should NEVER place a child in front of an airbag, so forget the airbag argument. Most people never engage their ABS system, so what’s the big deal with that? Stability control? You have to be driving WAY beyond your, or my, abilities before this system will ever kick in, and you don’t sound like that type of driver.

Your '84 Benz is, indeed, a tank, and would probably crush most newer cars if there were a collision. I’d be completely comfortable transporting a child in the rear seat of this car (rear-facing child seat, properly belted, of course). The softness of the rear seat is irrelevant because your infant will ride in a special child seat, and will not be sitting on the seat cushion itself.

Mercedes Benz has always been at the forefront as far as vehicle safety is concerned. I wouldn’t spend too much time worrying about my safety, or the safety of passengers (regardless of age) in a 1984 300 SD. It’s a TANK. They don’t make cars like that anymore. Your child will be perfectly safe in the rear seat of this car, or at least as safe as it’s possible to be in a car. ANY car.

Fear not, and tell your wife to fear not. The Benz will protect you, your wife, and your child. Just remember to buckle up. Seat belts save lives.

I mostly agree with greasy, from a structural integrity point of view you will have trouble finding anything (new or old) that will compete with your SD. The air bags are not relevant to a child’s safety. The seat-belt mounting is as good as any new car, I would use the center belts in the rear for a car seat (in any car).

The only “disadvantage” is the lack of ABS and stability control; these systems are intended to avoid accidents, not survive them. Personally, I prefer cars without these systems (btw, the SD is really a 4000 pound “tank” and has very good brakes), but if you really feel you need these systems to drive safely you should look for a newer car. I am very comfortable carrying my kids in my old benz.

Three point belts are a hindrance when securing a child seat. A two point (lap) belt is best. When you use a three point belt, the shoulder strap is often secured to the lap belt to allow you to mate the clasp to the belt.

The other safety items are not as important as you are. If you drive defensively and at moderate speeds, you will have the best chance of avoiding situations where ABS or stability control are necessary. Air bags will protect your child when she is old enough to ride in the front seat; about 14 years from now. If you still own the Benz, good for you! And remember that bigger is safer. All that extra mass and size provides a place to absorb impact energy if an accident occurs.

“Three point belts are a hindrance when securing a child seat. A two point (lap) belt is best. When you use a three point belt, the shoulder strap is often secured to the lap belt to allow you to mate the clasp to the belt.”

I agree, the center belt in the back of that car is a simple lap belt (the best place for a child seat anyway). The other advantage is that you can actually put (post-car seat age) kids in the front seat because you don’t have to worry about the air-bag, and the front seat of that car is probably safer than the back seat of most cars in an actual accident. I always thought it was silly to own a car where you couldn’t have your older kids ride in the front.

I agree with the previous posts – your child in a proper car seat in the middle of the back seat is as safe as they’re going to be in any vehicle.

I know you should never have a rear-facing car seat in front of an air bag, but what is the cutoff point for front-facing or booster seats, or smaller children? Other than not having them sit too close to the air bag (same goes for tiny adults), when can that front seat be used by your child?

For the time 300SD was built very well. How it fairs in modern times compared to modern vehicles in side impacts and regular impacts is unknown. In general the depth of knowledge and tools available(CADD/Structural modeling) was not anywhere near what we have today.

I would feel quite safe as a parent placing an infant seat or child seat into this vehicle. Maybe when the new diesels are introduced in bulk you can graduate to a very clean modern diesel.

Not sure how a dirty old belching 300SD is doing your part for the environment but great on your thoughts for the environment.

Well, I’ve read a lot about biodiesel, that its emissions are much cleaner than regular diesel, and though this car is massive, it still gets 30 mpg. So, I figured a car that can run on waste oil from restaurants would be a good step towards energy independence and environmental responsibility.

Thank you all for your comments. Now, perhaps the biggest challenge: getting my wife to believe them!

This is an old TV commercial that shows the structure intact after a head on collision. I’ll take one of these over a new tin can any day:

To be clear on the bio-diesel thing, bio-diesel and waste veggie oil (WVO) are two different things. Commercial bio-diesel costs about the same as petro-diesel and can be used without any modification. Although benz only endorses B5 (5%), plenty of folks run straight bio-diesel (in warm weather) without any apparent problems. WVO generally requires modifications and has the potential of creating problems. Homemade bio-diesel can be as good as commercial bio-diesel if it’s done well. Personally, I would stick to commercially available bio-diesel, because homemade is lots of work. If you do it correctly, you new baby will be able to drive this car in about 17 years.

Where do you live? What part of the counrty? For dirving on snow and ice, ABS and stability control are more important than if you live in Arizona or Florida. If the child seat is in the back, it should face forward. If the seats are soft, make sure the seat belt that holds the child seat is very tight. Airbags don’t add to the safety of a chid in an infant seat.

If you drive on snow and ice every year, get something with ABS. If not, simply drive safely. How you drive can make you safer than what you drive, especially if conditions are safe and you have good tires and brakes.

If you drive on snow and ice every year, get something with ABS. If not, simply drive safely.

How about driving safely weather you have airbags or not…

Did I say not to? If I did, my bad.

How about forgetting about the ABS and just driving safely?

Regarding the seat facing forward or back, follow the directions for the car seat depending on the age of the child.

Have we talked your wife into keeping the 300SD yet? How do we seal the deal?

P.S. I drive a 2005 Honda Accord and I think your family will be safe in the Benz.

New cars are designed to turn to “tin” and absorb energy in an engineered fashion. Benz and Volvo were pioneers in this process but have advanced too along with the most of the auto world except maybe china and india.

A modern tin can in frontal collision >>>>
My tin can(Subaru WRX) and it feels like one>>>>
And for the people who think bigger is better>>>>>

ABS in my opinion is helpful but necessary. The one system that will likely save you is electronic stability control as there are so many unavoidable things that happen. The one I encounter is black ice.

You cannot knock this system if you have never experienced it. I did on purpose in an icy parking lot with sis in laws RAV4, it worked flawlessly albiet with lots of flashing and thrashing of the ABS pump.

I’ve had these systems in rental cars, and I hate the way they feel. I’m not going to tolerate any system that “takes over” when it decides that I didn’t really want to lock the brakes, etc. If I lock the brakes, it’s because I want them locked not because I don’t know how to drive on ice. If I can’t drive in the ice, I should stay home. If I had the misfortune of owning a car with these systems, I would kill them off. They may have some utility for new drivers, but I would prefer that they just learn how to drive instead of relying on these gimmicks. Simpler = Better, always.

How about forgetting about the ABS and just driving safely?

I was speaking to the mere mortals who might not be able to control their cars on ice as well as you can. I guess I should have said so. Some of us mere mortals can find ourselves driving on ice without realizing it until it is too late. If brownhousechris is a mere mortal and finds him/herself driving in conditions like this, my opinion is that ABS might be a good idea. To those who are superhuman, please disregard this and all of my future posts in this forum.