The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a warning about counterfeit air bags, which are being sold as replacement parts. What's the danger in counterfeit air bags, you ask? Explosions. Big, shrapnel-launching explosions.
According to the NHTSA, counterfeit air bags look nearly identical to the real deal, making them hard to spot. Often times, the fake air bag will bear the manufacturer's branding and other identifications marks. Upon testing, the counterfeit air bags consistently performed poorly, at best failing to deploy, and in the worst cases, bursting with an impressive explosion of metal bits and flames.
There are no known deaths or injuries that have resulted from counterfeit air bags, which are estimated to be present in less than 0.1% of vehicles in the United States. Any car that has had the air bag replaced within the last three years by anyone other than a dealership is at risk, however. If you're worried that your car may be home to a counterfeit air bag, you can call a call center associated with your manufacturer and pay to have the air bag inspected.
The NHTSA is actively gathering data from auto manufacturers so that a system can be set up that more easily allows counterfeit air bags to be identified. The agency is working wtih several other government agencies to identify where and how these fake air bags are entering the country, and how to stop them.