Counterfeit Airbags – Should You be Worried?

As if we didn’t have enough things to worry about whenever we leave the house and get into our cars: Did I close the garage door? Did I brush my teeth? Did I feed the cat? Those perplexing questions can eat at us all day until we get home. But, if you want something to really gnaw your fingernails over…get this. It seems the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would like your attention, please. It’s been investigating the sale of counterfeit airbags used as replacement parts for vehicles involved in a crash – very troubling to car insurance companies.

If you purchased your vehicle new and haven’t had a major automobile accident with it, you’re not at risk. However, according to the NHTSA, motorists who have had their car’s airbags replaced following a crash should be careful, though it‘s not a cause for panic.

While the NHTSA stresses it’s not aware of any reported deaths or injuries tied to counterfeit airbags, there is still some cause for concern as its fairly unclear at this point whether police accident investigators have the expertise to tell the difference between a counterfeit airbag and a genuine one. That’s because the counterfeiters have done their homework and made it very difficult to spot the fakes. The bags typically look similar to those of the automakers themselves and even bear the stamp of the manufacturer’s logo.

Once the fakes were discovered, the NHTSA conducted its own tests and found that many of the bags consistently malfunctioned, with issues reportedly ranging from non-deployment, lack of inflating or a failure to inflate properly, to plastic shrapnel being projected during deployment.

airbags on inside of car counter fit airbags

It’s estimated tens of thousands of car owners could be driving vehicles with counterfeit airbags. If you’ve had any airbags replaced over the past three years following a frontal or side-impact, you could be one of them. But, here’s the catch. Your car could have as many as eight airbags and the fees for checking all the bags that may have deployed in an accident could be quite expensive, unless your car insurance company wants to foot the bill.

Airbags replaced by a dealership-affiliated body shop are less likely to have been swapped for the counterfeit ones. Car dealerships that operate their own repair shops are usually required by their franchise agreements to buy their parts, including airbags, directly from the automaker.

To compound the problem, many consumers whose vehicles have been damaged in an accident are referred by their car insurance companies to panel shops that aren’t affiliated with an automaker, leaving you completely in the dark. The same goes for those of you who may have purchased a used car that has a history of front and/or side damage from a collision or who own a car with a title branded salvage, rebuilt, or reconstructed.

It’s a guessing game at best. Wondering if you have one of these counterfeit airbags? You may want to check the list compiled by the NHTSA to see if your car year, make, and model has been identified as one of the vehicles on which these replacement airbags are often used. The agency is continuing its aggressive investigation of criminal suppliers and, thus far, believes that only less than 0.1 % of all cars in the U.S. are affected.

Better safe than sorry… and while you’re checking things out, make sure you’re getting the best rate possible on your car insurance. Get a free car insurance quote today online, over the phone, or at one of our offices near you.

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