Counterfeit air bags pose safety threats
Photo: Video by kgun9.com
Reporter: Kevin Keen
Web Producer: Mekita Rivas
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - As a fake air bag deploys, a dummy sitting behind the wheel gets a face full of fire and pieces of metal.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warned Wednesday it's identified shody, counterfeit air bags in about a quarter million cars around the country.
"These airbags don't work," said John Morton, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director. "They aren't going to save you in an accident. They are a fraud and danger from start to finish and you don't want them in your car, period."
James Chavez, owner of Certified Auto Electric in Tucson, explained that "black market" parts are reverse engineered overseas, installed by shady mechanics and are not to be trusted.
"It's unfortunate that those black market devices are out there," Chavez said. "People use them to save money."
Nine On Your Side asked Chavez what risks using these air bags entail. They're often installed after a crash in which air bags deploy then, afterward, need to be replaced.
"Death would be the worst thing, of course," Chavez said.
Luckily, officials said there have been no confirmed injuries -- and they want to keep it that way.
Wednesday's nationwide alert warns drivers who replaced their air bags within the past three years somewhere other than a dealership. Also on alert: drivers who bought a used car that may have been in a crash or drivers who bought airs bags online. Read the complete list of who could be at risk.
The NHTSA said those with a new car or a car with its original air bags are in the clear. If you've had air bags replaced by a dealership, the NHTSA reported, you're also in the clear.
Vehicle manufacturers have hotlines consumers can call with questions about specific air bags.
Homeland Security agents have confiscated hundreds of the fakes, but more are out there.
Some advice for consumers: find a trustworthy mechanic, dealership, auto body collision center or other car care facility that uses quality certified parts.
"Most reputable places are aware of these things," said John Polaski of Brakemax in Tucson. "If you find a facility that's trustworthy, then you know they're going to do their best to make sure it's safe."
"That's a good start, but do diligence when you're dealing with safety equipment like that," Chavez said. "It wouldn't hurt at all to ask where the components came from."