DOT Issues Counterfeit Vehicle Air Bag Safety Advisory

 On October 10, 2012, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a safety advisory to alert the public about the possibility of counterfeit air bags being installed in passenger vehicles that required a replacement due to vehicle crash.
Experts believe this issue affects less than 0.1 percent of the U.S. vehicle fleet. Only vehicles which have had an air bag replaced within the past three years by a repair shop that is not part of a new car dealership may be at risk.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is urging first responders to review the NHTSA safety advisory and take additional safety measures and precautions when responding to motor vehicle crashes involving the vehicles identified by NHTSA. PHMSA also requests that first responders notify NHTSA or PHMSA if they believe that a counterfeit airbag may have been involved in an accident.
The counterfeit air bags look nearly identical to original manufacturers’ equipment parts—including bearing the insignia and branding of major automakers. NHTSA tests have shown consistent malfunctioning of these devices ranging from non-deployment of the air bag to the expulsion of metal shrapnel during deployment. NHTSA is not aware of any deaths or injuries connected to counterfeit air bags.
However, it is important to remember that air bags are considered explosive devices because of the actuators, and they must be handled and transported in accordance with the hazardous materials safety regulations.
For questions about transporting these devices, please call PHMSA’s Hazardous Materials Information Center at 1-800-467-4922. For more information and updates, please visit