August 14, 2002
Counting on your air bag to save you in an accident? Not a good idea, especially if you bought your car used or if it's ever been in an accident that caused the air bags to deploy.

An industry group today issued a warning that many air bags are being refurbished with false or faulty replacements, putting unsuspecting customers at risk. In some cases, rags, towels, cans and other debris have been found stuffed in air bags. In other cases, examiners have found the air bags were rebuilt with inferior parts.

The warning comes from a group called the Automotive Occupant Restraints Council, a trade association representing manufacturers of -- what else? -- air bags and seat belts.

"Consumers should be aware that some disreputable repair facilities around the nation are installing false air bags in vehicles after original air bags have been deployed and need to be replaced," the council said. The council said it knows of two deaths that were attributed to remanufactured air bags last year.

Consumers may be surprised to learn that most states don't require air bags to be replaced once they have deployed. It could, however, be a violation of consumer fraud laws to sell used vehicles without notifying consumers that the air bags are missing or defective.

Fourteen states have laws that prohibit remanufactured or false air bags.

The vehicles most likely to have defective air bags and other problems are those that have "salvage" titles. This means they have been declared a total loss by an insurance company following an accident or natural disaster, such as a flood.