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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has known for many years about the sales of counterfeit air bags, and have identified it as a serious problem nationwide. At Mike's Towing & Collision Center, Inc., we are a very safety-conscious shop and we often see serious accidents here in Danbury and all over the state of CT, so we're always aware of things such as counterfeit air bags and yes—we're very concerned.
While these fake air bags look exactly like certified OE parts, with the proper insignia and branding, testing conducted by the NHTSA showed some frightening results. They discovered that these faux air bags were regularly malfunctioning. On the most serious side, they failed to deploy and on the tragic side they shot metal shrapnel throughout the interior of the vehicle upon deployment. The NHTSA has not reported any fatalities related to counterfeit air bags, but if this epidemic continues, it's only a matter of time, the organization has reported.
While the full picture of this problem is still unclear due to insufficient data, the NHTSA has identified certain brands where counterfeit air bags are more likely to be present. Although they believe that this issue only affects roughly 0.1% of the U.S. vehicle fleet, criminals are beginning to see that they can make serious money selling fake air bags. Only cars that have had an air bag replaced within the past 3-4 years by a repair facility are at risk, so if you have an older car, don't worry—be happy, for now.
The NHTSA is presently gleaning information from car manufacturers in order to devise a worldwide system to verify and authenticate replacement parts. They are also working closely with the industry to keep the driving public aware of the probable safety risks posed by counterfeit air bags. Moving forward, the agency will continue to scrutinize consumer complaints, police accident reports and other news and media sources for an ongoing flow of information.
If this list, provided by the NHTSA, includes you, then you're all right:
• If you purchased your vehicle new and have not had your air bags replaced.
• If you know the entire history of your used car (including whether or not it has been in a crash within the last three years and sure that the air bag was replaced at a new car dealership).
Conversely, if you're on this list be wary:
• If you have had your airbags replaced within the past three years.
• If you bought a used car whose air bag may have deployed prior to purchasing it.
• If own a vehicle with salvage, rebuilt or reconstructed title.
• If you purchased replacement air bags from eBay or other non-certified sources for a low price (less than $400, for example).
Stay vigilant and make sure your car does not have a counterfeit air bag, so that you can drive safely and without getting injured (or even killed). Air bags save lives, so always keep them operative and never go to a shady, third-party reseller to buy an air bag unless you know that it's 100% real.