UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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If there is one thing that we, as drivers, have come to expect from our vehicles, it is that if we are ever involved in an accident, our vehicle’s air bag(s) will deploy. However, if you own a vehicle equipped with air bags that have been replaced following an accident, you may be expecting too much. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently discovered that a significant number of replacement airbags are counterfeit, and those may not deploy. In some cases, the counterfeit airbags may even thrust hot shrapnel toward the driver if deployed.
The NHTSA has issued a warning to drivers who have had air bags replaced following an accident, and while the NHTSA has yet to discover the full scale of the problem, they have been able to identify certain vehicle makes and models for which the fake air bags were available. Fortunately, the NHTSA believes the issue affects less than 0.1% of vehicles in the U.S. Additionally, only those who have had an air bag replaced within the past three years by a repair shop that is not part of a new car dealership are at risk.
Another issue that makes the presence of counterfeit airbags so disturbing is the fact that they look almost identical to the original equipment parts that came on the vehicle, even down to the insignia and branding of several major automakers. Despite bearing the original markings, the counterfeit models tested by the NHTSA showed consistent malfunctions. While the NHTSA’s testing of the counterfeit air bags themselves confirmed the dangers of the counterfeit products, they are not aware of any deaths or injuries connected to the products at this time.
Consumers who may be affected by counterfeit airbags, such as those whose vehicles were involved in an accident resulting in the deployment of their vehicle’s factory air bag, and subsequently had them replaced by a repair not affiliated with a new car dealership (or if the air bag was purchased by the consumer themselves online), are advised to contact a call center created by the various affected auto manufacturers. Individuals who purchased the air bag from eBay or for less than $400 are believed to be particularly at risk. Vehicle owners who suspect that they have purchased a counterfeit air bag can set up an appointment to have their vehicle inspected at their own expense.