If you got a great deal on your replacement air bag, it may be a fake.
Federal safety regulators on Wednesday warned that thousands of car owners may be driving with unsafe, counterfeit air bags.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a video of a counterfeit air bag exploding rather than inflating, sending flames and shrapnel at the head of the crash-test dummy.
The fake airbags could be installed on a small number of late-model cars that were repaired after an accident that deployed their factory-installed air bags. NHTSA says the counterfeits were available for only a small number of models (the full list is below), and only over the last three years.
The agency is warning:
- Drivers who have had air bags replaced within the last three years, but not at a new-car dealership.
- Drivers who have purchased a used car that may have had an air bag-deploying crash. (Carfax, which sells vehicle-history reports to used-car buyers, has set up a free air-bag deployment check.)
- Drivers who own a car with a branded title, sometimes called salvage, rebuilt or reconstructed.
- Drivers who bought replacement air bags through eBay or other non-certified sources, especially at very low prices.
If you own a vehicle that has undergone air bag replacement in the last three years and is a model included on the list below, NHTSA has arranged call centers for manufacturers to answer questions and to direct you to a dealer who can examine your car to determine if the airbag is safe.
Who pays for a new air bag?
Unfortunately, the inspection is at your own expense. NHTSA says that could be $100 or more.
An air bag replacement could cost at least $1,000. Most newer cars have at least five, and many have twice that number. (See “How many air bags does a car need?”)
If you car was repaired at a new-car dealership, it shouldn’t be affected, NHTSA says. New-car dealerships typically are obligated to buy only original-equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts.
If your car was repaired at one of your insurance company’s preferred shops, says CarInsurance.com consumer analyst Penny Gusner, the work is generally guaranteed for as long as you continue to own the vehicle. She suggests calling your insurance company to find out if it will cover any additional needed repair.
If your car was repaired at an independent shop, the mechanic may have used a new, OEM air bag or a non-deployed air bag salvaged from a wrecked car. Either might be perfectly safe. But if your car turns out to have a counterfeit air bag, paying for the replacement is probably between you and the owner of the shop, Gusner says.
Don’t repair shops have to use factory parts?
Most states allow insurance companies to use aftermarket parts instead of factory or original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts. Most states require that repair estimates note the use of non-OEM parts, and some will require your consent.
If your car has been wrecked, your insurance company can't insist that repairs use only aftermarket parts. But you may be asked to pay the difference between OEM and aftermarket costs, which can be substantial.
Some companies allow you to specify use of OEM replacement parts for a higher premium.
If you do decide to use aftermarket replacement parts, your repair estimate typically will note their use. It may call them “like kind and quality” rather than aftermarket or non-OEM. You should look for a sticker from the Certified Automotive Parts Association, which has devised standards for collision repair parts.
|Audi||2006-2009||A3, A4, A6, A8, Q5, Q7||1-800-253-2834|
|BMW||2007-2009||X5, 5 Series||1-800-831-1117|
|2008-2010||5 Series, 528i, 535i|
|2004-2007||5 Series, 525i, 530, 535, E60, E61|
|Not listed||3 Series|
|2004-2007||525i, 530, 535|
|Land Rover||2012||Range Rover Evoque||1-800-452-4827|
|Lexus||2006-2011||IS250, IS350, IS-F||1-800-255-3987|
|Volvo||Not listed||XC60, XC70||
|Not listed||V70, S60, S80|