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Mar 21, 2016

What Is Airbag Fraud?

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Airbag fraud is incredibly serious. It is a scam perpetrated by dishonest repair people after a vehicle has been in an accident and the airbag has been deployed. Normally when a car has been involved in an accident and its airbag deployed, a technician will, or at least should, replace both the airbag cover and the all-important deployment system underneath.

Airbag Fraud

The deployment system is expensive and unscrupulous repairmen may cut corners, and costs. The results can be deadly. NPR’s A Weekend Edition reported on a series of incidences of airbag fraud in which mechanics scammed clients in a number of ways, including filling the steering wheel with old beer cans or Styrofoam peanuts, stuffing back in the old deflated airbag, or just leaving it empty altogether.

Here are some things you should know about airbag fraud and how to spot it.

Your airbag light is on. If you are seeing the airbag light on, something is not right. The airbag light should never be on unless there is a problem with the system. If you see the light, get it checked immediately.

Malfunctioning seat belts. Your car’s airbag system is designed to deploy as you fly forward during a crash and apply significant pressure to the seat belt, which then signals to the airbag system that your face is flying towards the steering wheel and you need the airbag to come out and protect it. If your seat belts seem slow to react to pressure, or if they don’t react at all, something could be wrong with your airbags.

Examine the dashboard when buying a new car. Carefully examine the area around the airbag compartment and check for small tears in the dashboard material that might signify the airbag has been deployed.

Take your car to a trustworthy mechanic. This is the most surefire way to ensure that your airbag is in good working order. It will not take a responsible and trained mechanic very long to determine whether or not any part of a vehicle is in good condition, and that includes the airbag deployment system and the surrounding area.

Make sure you are having new airbags installed by a reputable professional. The procedure of installing and calibrating a new airbag is actually quite complex and requires training and experience to do it safely and correctly. There is no way to confirm that all of the necessary steps have been taken simply by looking at the car or the compartments.

Before you buy a used car or a car from overseas, do your homework. There are companies out there, such as CARFAX, which have a comprehensive database which allows car-buyers to do research on a vehicle’s history before making a purchase, including information like whether or not a car has been in an accident, which should prompt you to inspect things like the airbag compartment before making a purchase. Follow the advice above to make sure that you are buying a car with proper airbags, or getting airbags correctly installed.

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