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TheStreet Open House

Who Pays To Replace Counterfeit Air Bags?





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.

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