By on October 10, 2012


Was your airbag replaced within the past three years? Did you buy a used car that sustained air bag deployment before you bought it? Did you buy a car with a salvage, rebuilt, or reconstructed title? Did you get a great deal on an air bag? In that case, be suspicious of your airbag, because it could kill you.

Gadzillions of cars could be driving around with airbags that fail to inflate during an accident, or that throw shrapnel at you when they do deploy, says the NHTSA.

The agency says ”the full scope and scale of the problem of counterfeit air bags is uncertain from currently available data,” but it “believes this issue affects less than 0.1 percent of the U.S. vehicle fleet.” At 250 million registered vehicles on the road, that would be around (or less than …) 250,000 cars with possibly lethal airbags lurking in the dash.

It also could be a big boon to new car dealerships. The NHTSA says that airbags replaced by new car dealerships are safe, but you should worry if and independent workshop did it.

Airbags are hidden away and cannot be checked by amateurs. The NHTSA recommends that possibly affected customers call their manufacturer and “have their vehicle inspected at their own expense and their air bag replaced if necessary.“

A dealer inspection likely will cost $100 or more. Replacing an airbag could go into the thousands.

The NHTSA released a list of nearly 100 vehicles that could have counterfeit air bags. Most popular brands and makes are on it.

The NHTSA does not say where the counterfeit airbags are from, but the Detroit News already fingered the usual suspects: “Most, if not all, of the replacement safety devices were made in China.”

Fake airbags are not the only problem. “Crooked body shops are stealing airbags from vehicles to make a quick dollar at your expense,” warns a website by the Coalition Against . Insurance Fraud. “Mechanics can easily remove your airbag without your knowing it.” They could even bill you $2,000 or more for “replacing” a good one with a fake one or none at all.

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15 Comments on “Beware Of The Killer Airbag From China, NHTSA Says...”

  • avatar

    The video in unbelievable. I never laughed so hard. What was he thinking? (^_^)….


  • avatar

    This is another good reason to avoid cars that were previously in accidents.

  • avatar

    I can see getting a cheap substandard airbag installed in your car after an accident if your car has been repaired at a shop of dubious reputation but I cannot imagine that, “Mechanics can easily remove your airbag without your knowing it.”

    Cars today are loaded to the nines with these blasted (or hopefully unblasted) things and you’d have to take the interior completely apart, mostly destroying a lot of it (dash, headliner, seats et al), to harvest this desireable quarry.

    I also know from experience that you can’t just unplug the bag and make off like a thief in the night with the bag without first shunting the electrical circuit that’s attached to it. The airbag light will illuminate and stay on indefinately; that should alert even the most clueless, texting operator that something is up. The “shunt” has to, at minimum, replicate the electrical resistance that the airbag does. Seems unlikely that Mr. Badwrench would either go to the trouble or have the expertise.

    • 0 avatar

      Or just de-bulb the airbag light.

      • 0 avatar

        Doesn’t work. The airbag light comes on during the bulb check just like the check engine light, and then turns off if everything is OK.

        It’s how the WA State Patrol determines that your airbags have been replaced after an accident (I had to get my car inspected by them as I bought it as a totalled vehicle due to airbag deployment).

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I never liked air bags anyway. From what I could find out from NHTSA data in the 90s, air bags were given way too much credit for reducing the severity of head on accidents. In fact, there were some cases where the accelerometer data showed that the air bag hit the dummy and registerd a decleration spike meaning extra damage to the driver over just a seat belt.
    I believe that air bags gained so much traction because they game the crash tests. They are a cheap way of looking good in crash tests compared to designing the car as a strong box inside a soft box. Also, they “solve” the problem of protecting the potential organ donors who don’t want to wear seat belts.

    • 0 avatar

      well…I agree.And ditto on the helmet laws. You wanna take chances…OK. But you cannot sue!
      Wear your damn seat belt or shut up.

      But its really the spirit of the whole thing.
      The cheating and corner cutting has got to stop.

    • 0 avatar

      As a seat and restraint engineer for an OEM, I did quite a bit of crash testing work with and without airbags. I wouldn’t say they’re a “cheap” way to compensate for poor design of passive safety systems. A true race car is relatively easy to work with- fixed seats, head restraints, 5-point harnesses, etc. provide a lot of means to control how the occupant moves during a collision.
      A 3-point belt allows a surprising amount of excursion during a crash impulse. Add that to the adjustment range of the seat and steering wheel, and you end up with huge variability in where the occupant (most importantly, their head) will end up. In SOME scenarios, we could get lucky without an airbag and see the head land between the steering column and rim- then your head and neck injury (HIC and NIC) numbers squeak a passing grade without an airbag. In most cases, the face slams into the steering column or directly into the rim- those numbers don’t look so good. Sometimes the head doesn’t hit anything and the belts exert tremendous chest compression, measured in inches. When you add an airbag to that system, it suddenly doesn’t matter where the occupant ends up as they have a large, soft, (usually) safe contact area.
      I would absolutely prefer crashing a Formula 1 car into a wall than a pass-car, but the realities of anthropometry in the general population, visibility, driver experience, comfort, and driving environment necessitate a different approach.

      • 0 avatar


        Yours is an excellent and very insightful comment.

        My roommate in college had a Sunbeam Alpine, and voluntarily put in a 5-point racing harness, but was still worried about what his head was going to do in a crash in that little car. So he (as a mechanical engineer) devised a little tethered semi-helmet restraint (not purely HANS). It was sort of like a baseball cap with a rope attached, in principle….and didn’t look bad at all. He wore it faithfully.

        One day, some drunk ran full-on into him, frontal collision. He walked away. I was impressed. Somehow, I think that much of this elaborate air-bag stuff is just meant to compensate for our own laziness in not using already-existing restraint technology that doesn’t involve a 200-mph abrasive canvass slamming into you head. (I heard of a guy in an Audi, who had an frontal accident, and Audi’s 4-circle metal emblem got engraved into his forehead!)


  • avatar

    Man…all this damn cheating!
    I really worry about my so called Generic drugs!
    I swear sometimes I get a new prescription filled and the pills are fake.
    I wonder really who is monitoring all this after market/generic drug stuff.
    After all…the FDA KNEW about the horrible contaminations going on in the drug mixing business and STILL did nothing! They even hired the main whistle blower from 10 yeras ago…who eventually quit because she could NOT get the FDA to move at all.I was listening to her complain today on Bloomberg radio.
    The result?
    A whole lot of people died last year and this year from tainted injections.
    Really some poor shit here.

    • 0 avatar

      Most likely the problem with the generics is variation from one manufacturer to the next. Try to get them filled at the same pharmacy and ask the pharmacist who manufactured the drugs and if they changed suppliers. Here is a good write up on it

  • avatar

    Maybe there should be a law that prohibits insurance companies and Medicaid from paying medical bills for people injured in accidents who didn’t wear seatbelts. Same for motorcycle drivers without helmets.

    • 0 avatar

      well…they certainly should not be allowed to sue IF they didn’t follow the rules.
      Then again…healthcare insurance companies should not be forced to carry people who do not try to care for themselves.
      Tthe earth’s rotation is being effeced recently because the average weight of people here in the southern MO Ozarks has become 350LBs.
      Pork is King!
      Yet they are now all supposedly going to get med care….Hmmmm?
      What a country!

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    Re the vid, After 80 years of soviet rule it takes a lot for it’s former comrades to get a laugh…

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