Automobile recalls are issued pretty much on a daily basis. However, parts installed by the original auto manufacturer aren’t always the only component of a vehicle that can pose a threat to public safety. As recently evidenced, the parts that are installed in vehicles by repair shops can also endanger the occupants of a vehicle if the safety of those parts can’t be verified.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is warning consumers all across the country that the safety of their vehicles may be compromised by counterfeit airbags. There’s not one single vehicle manufacturer that this safety warning affects, but rather numerous major automobile companies. Instead of the safety issue coming from airbags issued by the original manufacturers, these potentially defective airbags were installed by repair outfits following an automobile accident where the original airbag was deployed.
If your vehicle contains one of these counterfeit airbags, then there’s a good chance that it won’t go off in a collision. And that’s not the only hazard. There’s also a risk that the airbag will just outright explode. Occupants of the automobile would then be in danger of being hit with metal shrapnel thrust outward from the exploding airbag.
The NHTSA conducted tests to ascertain the potential threat. That same agency is warning consumers and mechanics that there would be no way to distinguish the fake airbags from the real thing, as the counterfeit units still carry the brand name and signage that come standard with the non-counterfeit version of the product. The NHTSA is partnering with other government agencies, such as Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Justice’s Intellectual Property Rights Division, to try to figure out what caused this dilemma and determine how it can be avoided moving forward.
There are two categories of people that might be at risk. The first is anyone who, in the past three years, has had to bring their automobile into a mechanic in order to get a new airbag. Excluded from this category are those persons who brought their vehicles in for service at a dealership that sells new automobiles. The other people who might be at risk are those who have purchased a used automobile recently and have reason to suspect that their vehicle was involved in an accident at some point in the past three years.
Persons contained within either category can get in touch with a call center that has been set up by the NHTSA. There is actually a different phone number to call for each particular automobile manufacturer, so consumers should consult that list of numbers. Owners should also realize that, because this is not technically a recall, the cost of any potential repairs are the responsibility of the vehicle owner.