Buyer Beware: Faulty or Fake Airbags Plague Some Used Cars | DC Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog

If you’re in the market for a used car, shop carefully.  Just because the dealer indicates that a used car is “certified,” that’s not necessarily an indication of whether there has been a thorough inspection or even if a supposed warranty has been voided.  California state estimates suggest that one in 25 used cars involved in an accident has had stolen, fake, or salvage airbags installed, in part because new ones can cost upwards of $3,000.

You can search the airbag deployment history of any vehicle for free on the Carfax website (other Carfax services require a fee), but beware — there’s no guarantee that all airbag deployments have been reported to that database.   A reality check by an independent and reputable inspector should always be done before any potential used car purchase.

General information about air bags is available on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website and the Insurance Industry for Highway Safety (IIHS) website.

Consumer notes that unlike new car purchases made from a dealership, no safety standards protect used car buyers from falling prey to unscrupulous re-builders who may install replacement airbags incorrectly, or who don’t actually replace them at all.

If you’re buying a used car, the Automotive Occupants Restraint Council (AORC) recommends that you watch for the following signs that its airbags are missing, re-manufactured, or fake:

  • “Peeling paint or paint and glue drips on the airbag cover.
  • Unclear, illegible, or messy lettering or logos on the outside.
  • Uneven or lopsided look to the airbag cover.
  • Torn, frayed or warped cover.
  • The outside color of the airbag module does not match the rest of the vehicle’s interior colors.
  • The airbag warning light remains on or the warning light does not illuminate during vehicle startup.  (During vehicle startup, the airbag warning light on the instrument panel should illuminate and stay on for four to seven seconds, then remain off.  This brief illumination indicates a normal self-diagnostic check of the airbag wiring system.”

If you or a family member has been involved in an automobile accident case, please contact us on-line at Regan Zambri & Long or call us at (202) 753-4272 for a free consultation.  If you would like to receive our complimentary electronic newsletter, please click here.