Consumer Alert: Recycled airbags

Posted: Updated:

You could have dangerous, recalled airbags in your car and have no idea. The problem: airbags that are recycled and moved from one car to another.

About 69 million Takata airbags were pulled off the market because they can release dangerous shards of metal in an accident. But there's a flaw in the government's safety effort.

Thousands of drivers may have recalled airbags in their cars right now and not know about it, because the airbags were recycled from other cars.

"Without the recycled airbags being properly checked, they can be put into cars almost anywhere," says Chris Basso, of Carfax, a website that provides vehicle history reports.

The problem is that you can only search the government's recall database using your car's VIN, or vehicle identification number. Parts that started off in other car's won't show up in a search.

Earlier this year, a woman from Las Vegas almost died after an exploding airbag punctured her trachea; her family had bought the car used and had no idea it had a recycled, recalled airbag.

So what can you do to protect yourself? For one thing, avoid cars with "salvage titles" since they were totaled and are often rebuilt with salvage yard parts.

Also, check a vehicle's accident history. Did the airbag deploy? If it did, your current airbag is a replacement.

If you think you have a replacement airbag, the only way to know it's safe is to have your mechanic check the brand and serial number, and that can cost a couple hundred bucks.

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