If you plan to have your vehicle inspected for counterfeit air bags, you should know that replacing the air bag could be costly.
On Oct. 10, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed that since 2009, some independent automobile-repair shops inadvertently installed counterfeit replacement air bags in vehicles that were damaged because of a crash. Vehicles that were repaired at dealerships aren’t affected.
Although the air-bag alert affects less than 0.1 percent of vehicles, consumers who need a replacement air bag can expect to pay about $2,000 to have one air bag installed, says Ed Kizenberger, who is the executive director of Long Island Auto Body Repairmen’s Association. He says it could cost $4,000–$5,000 to replace a driver-side and passenger-side front air bag or a set of side air bags. Kizenberger says the cost includes installation.
Consumers Digest contacted the automakers whose vehicles are affected by NHTSA’s alert and they confirmed that automakers won’t cover air-bag replacement costs because the costs aren’t related to a recall or to the vehicle’s warranty.
However, experts say it’s possible that your automobile insurance company will cover at least some of the replacement cost, although the amount will vary by company. Individuals who have replaced a deployed air bag at an independent body shop since 2009 as part of an insurance claim should contact their insurance company to determine whether their policy will cover any replacement costs, says Mark Romano, who is the director of Insurance Claims’ Projects at Consumer Federation of America.
If you didn’t own the vehicle when the air bags were replaced as part of a repair, insurance won’t cover the cost of a new replacement, Romano says. So if you purchased a used vehicle in the past 3 years and are uncertain whether the vehicle’s air bags were replaced, you should call the automaker to determine whether the vehicle is a candidate for an air-bag inspection.
Each automaker has a hotline for vehicles that are on NHTSA’s list. Vehicle owners must answer a series of questions to determine whether the vehicle requires an inspection. An inspection will result in at least one air bag being replaced, because an automobile mechanic will have to cut open the air bag and inspect its inner material to determine whether it’s counterfeit, says Honda spokesperson Chris Martin.
– K. Fanuko