Counterfeit airbags could cause injury, death

Posted at: 10/12/2012 11:09 AM
By: Christina Lusby

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warns that tens of thousands of people could be driving cars with counterfeit airbags.

The Administration issued that alert Wednesday, saying hundreds of different car models are at risk.

This problem has plagued the car industry for decades and more than 250,000,000 fake airbags have been seized.

But recent tests uncovered a new batch of counterfeits and many drivers are worried.

Experts we spoke with say anyone driving a car without its original airbag should be wary. And those who've had it replaced by independent shops should double check the receipt.

"Documentation - every legit body shop in Fort Myers has receipts," said Kevin Lipscomb, owner of Jack's Paint and Collision in Fort Myers, Florida.

When reading it, you want to see the part number, where the shop got it and the date. The receipt for the part isn't typically something that comes with a purchase. Customers have the right to ask to see it. "If you are in doubt go back to that repair shop," said Lipscomb.

The visit could save your life.

Millions of fake airbags have been distributed and seized. Many times, the counterfeits won't deploy or inflate in a crash. There are even reports some faulty bags sent shards of metal flying. So how do you spot a fake?

"Unfortunately you won't know. They're just so good at what they do. It's impossible for us to decide to see if they're legit or not," Lipscomb explained.

One precaution you can take is never to allow a used airbag to be installed in your car and make sure it came from a legit manufacturer. The alert focuses on airbags changed in the last three years.

Auto shops say anyone who's car doesn't have an original should be concerned. If you find out that it's a fake, report it and replace it.

Independent repair shops must operate using a business license, but the mechanics don't have to be licensed - meaning the person installing your airbag may be highly skilled or have zero professional training.