Replacement airbags could malfunction or explode, says NHTSA

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The NHTSA has issued a warning that some cars might have counterfeit replacement airbags, that could fail to work in the event of a crash. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a caution that a number of people who get replacement airbags after a crash are at risk. The bags in question are counterfeit air bags, installed due to being incredibly cheap and have been found to not work, partially work or explode if activated.

Fake replacement airbags in unknown number of vehicles

A warning has been issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to motorists about counterfeit replacement airbags, which aren’t likely to keep a driver safe in the event of a crash, according to AutoGuide. The agency found in a recent test of 11 different brands of counterfeit airbags that most did not inflate in crash testing. A few partially worked and at least one exploded, spraying the cabin of the test car with shrapnel.

The issue only affects cars that have had an airbag replaced after a crash. The NHTSA estimates 0.1 percent of cars on the road in the United States are affected, but there is a potential danger of people continually being at risk since the supply of said airbags has not been shut down.

Cheap Chinese knockoffs

Counterfeit parts has always been and will likely always be an issue within the automotive industry, replacement airbags included. However, where the danger lies is that a person doesn’t know if they received one, especially if their car has been repaired after a crash.

Most of the counterfeit airbags were made in China. They all had one thing in common, namely that they are very cheap, which a repair shop would have an interest in procuring. Knockoff airbags can cost anywhere from $50, according to NBC News, to $400, according to the Wall Street Journal. An OEM airbag, from the manufacturer, can cost $1,000 or more.

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Not only that, but even a mechanic might not be able to tell the difference. Many of the counterfeit bags have all the same logos and markings of OEM airbags, according to AutoGuide, making it nearly impossible to discern. However, the risk is much higher for people having repairs done at independent shops. If a person took a wrecked Corolla to a Santa Monica, Detroit, Milwaukee, or Bellevue Toyota dealership for repairs, they probably don’t have to worry.

Since independent shops have less access to manufacturer’s parts, it’s therefore easier to unknowingly purchase a counterfeit.

Vehicles repaired in last three years most susceptible

A number of raids have busted counterfeit rings with faked replacement airbags. One such raid this August, according to NBC News, in North Carolina resulted in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement seizing 1,163 fakes. It isn’t known how many are out there, only that they are.

The NHTSA cautions that vehicles repaired in the past three years are most susceptible and has also released a list of about 100 vehicles most likely to have received a counterfeit replacement airbag. Most are later models, many are luxury cars and almost are 10 years old or less. The list is viewable on NBC News, the Wall Street Journal or the NHTSA website. The agency recommends anyone concerned they have such an airbag to have their vehicle inspected at a dealership, which could cost up to $100 if the car isn’t under warranty.



NBC News

Wall Street Journal


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