In 1988 airbags became required safety devices in all automobiles. Combined with proper seatbelt use, an airbag greatly reduces the risk of injury in a car crash. Still, airbag issues such as the recent Takata airbag recall remind us that mechanical devices may be subject to failure and poor design. Another important issue is airbag fraud which can cost a car owner thousands of dollars if not detected before purchase. Let’s find out more.

Buy a used car with confidence. Get a pre-purchase vehicle inspection from CARCHEX for any used car before you buy.

What Is Airbag Fraud?

Numerous accounts exist about people who buy a used car only to discover that the airbags don’t work or are no longer installed. After a vehicle has been in an accident, airbag repair can be very expensive. Sadly, some dishonest repair shops or used car dealers will pocket the money instead of performing the proper repairs. Repairing or replacing an airbag is expensive, but not doing so will expose you and your passengers to an enormous safety risk.

How To Spot Airbag Fraud

You should always shop at a reputable auto dealer. However, sometimes good dealers are misled and receive a car with missing airbags. Fortunately, there are telltale signs of past airbag deployment that you can look for yourself. It takes a keen eye, so take your time.

Carefully examine the dashboard, steering wheel, side panels and any other location that may have housed an airbag. Car designers hide these spots very well, so it might not be initially obvious where the airbags are hidden. Look for irregular seams, bulges or burn marks on any interior surface. Also, if you see an airbag cover that looks discolored or that does not have the automaker’s logo, this may mean that the airbag was deployed.

Other Methods To Check For Airbag Fraud

Another way to check for airbag malfunction is to look at the dashboard display. When starting the car, the airbag light should come on for a moment then turn off. If the airbag light comes on and stays on, or blinks continuously, there may be a problem with one or more airbags.

Finally, test the seat belts. If they stick or don’t return smoothly, this could also be a sign of past airbag deployment or malfunction.

Deployed Does Not Mean Fraud

Remember, just because an airbag was deployed doesn’t mean there has been airbag fraud. If the proper repairs were completed, everything should be fine. Still, it might be difficult to tell on your own. When in doubt, ask a trusted mechanic or vehicle inspection expert to look over the vehicle before you make a bid or purchase.

Have an expert do it for you. Get a 155-point pre-purchase vehicle inspection with CARCHEX before you bid on or buy a used car.