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Government warns about the dangers of counterfeit car air bags

Consumer Reports News: October 10, 2012 01:08 PM

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a consumer warning involving the sale of counterfeit air bags that were used as replacement parts for vehicles involved in a crash. The fake air bags look like certified, original parts with automaker branding, but they may not inflate properly or could deploy pieces of metal shrapnel.

"Anytime equipment that is critical to protecting drivers and passengers fails to operate properly, it is a serious safety concern," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a statement. "We want consumers to be immediately aware of this problem and to review our safety information to see if their vehicle could be in need of inspection."

While NHTSA says no deaths or injuries have occurred from these air bags, the agency wants consumers to contact their vehicle manufacturer if they have replaced their air bags at a repair shop (factory-backed car dealership repair shops not included) within the last three years; those who have purchased replacement bags online; or consumers who bought a used car that may been in an accident where the air bag deployed before their purchase. (See list of phone numbers.) Consumers will then need to take their vehicle in for inspection and replace the air bag at their own expense.

The agency is investigating the scope of the problem and has tested the fraudulent air bags (see video). Many of the counterfeit air bags come from China. Last winter, Chinese businessman Dai Zhensong pleaded guilty to importing counterfeit air bags. A separate trial is also pending in North Carolina after federal agents seized counterfeit air bags in August, according to the Detroit News.

Make Model years Model
Acura 2009-2011 TSX
Audi 2006-2009 A3, A4, A6, A8, Q5, Q7
BMW 2007-2009 X5, 5 Series
  2008-2010 5 Series, 528i, 535i
  2004-2007 5 Series, 525i, 530, 535, E60, E61
  2007-2011 3 Series
  Not listed 3 Series
  2007-2011 X5
  2004-2007 525i, 530, 535
  2011-2012 X3
Buick 2010-2011 LaCrosse
Chevrolet 2011-2012 Cruze
  2006-2010 Aveo
  2011-2012 Volt
  2012 Camaro
Ford 2012 Focus
  2005-2009 Mustang
Honda 2003-2012 Accord
  2006-2011 Civic
  2002-2011 CR-V
  2007-2011 Fit
  2009-2011 Pilot
  2009-2011 Crosstour
  2011 Odyssey
Hyundai 2007-2011 Elantra
  Not listed Genesis
  Not listed Sonata
Infiniti 2007-2011 G35, EX35
Kia 2010-2011 Soul/Forte
  2004-2009 Spectra
Land Rover 2012 Range Rover Evoque
Lexus 2006-2011 IS250, IS350, IS-F
  2003-2008 GX470
  2007-2009 RX350
  Not listed ES350
Mazda 2004, 2010-2012 Mazda3
Mercedes 2009-2011 C, GLK
  2010-2011 E350, E550
  2006-2008 S550
  2006-2009 ML
  2009-2010 GL, ML
Mitsubishi Not listed Outlander
Nissan 1992-2002, 2010-2011 Quest
  2009-2011 Cube
  2007-2010 Versa
  2009-2010 Murano
  Not listed Altima
Subaru 2008-2009 Forester
  2008-2009 Impreza
  2008-2009 Outback
  2010-2011 Legacy
Suzuki 2007-2010 SX4
Toyota 2002-2006, 2012 Camry
  2009-2011 Corolla, Matrix
  2007-2011 Yaris
  2004-2011 Highlander
  2004-2011 Sienna
  2004-2011 Tacoma
  2010-2012 Prius
  2003-2006, 2007-2011 Tundra
  2003-2006 Sequoia
  2003-2010 Land Cruiser
  2004-2007, 2008-2010 Highlander
  2004-2009 Solara
  2005-2011 RAV4
Volkswagen 2006-2010 Jetta
Volvo Not listed XC60, XC70
  Not listed V70, S60, S80

If you are buying a used car, it's important to inspect the vehicle thoroughly by an independent mechanic to make sure it wasn't a rebuilt wreck. Our research shows that not all crashes make it to the vehicle history report and not all totaled cars are issued a salvage title. (See our report "Don't rely on used-car-history reports.")

If you've been in an accident and need to get your air bags replaced, make sure you go to the dealership or a reputable independent shop. As we've seen in this report, cutting corners on repair can literally blow up in your face.

Related:
California passes new law to stop air bag repair scams
Car repair and maintenance estimates
Guide to car maintenance
Guide to car safety

Liza Barth

   

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