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After 3 car deaths, NHTSA warns of dangerous replacement air bag inflators

The NHTSA warns people who own or are considering buying used vehicles to be sure to learn the histories of the vehicles and to make sure they have genuine air bag inflators. File Photo by Daria Nepriakhina/Pixabay
The NHTSA warns people who own or are considering buying used vehicles to be sure to learn the histories of the vehicles and to make sure they have genuine air bag inflators. File Photo by Daria Nepriakhina/Pixabay

July 10 (UPI) -- Following three deaths and two life-altering injuries, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Wednesday warned motorists about cheap, substandard air bag inflator replacements that could cause death or serious crash injuries.

Three people were killed and two suffered disfiguring injuries in the past nine months due to the faulty aftermarket replacement air bag inflators, according to the NHTSA.

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"In all five cases, the vehicles had previously been involved in a crash, and their original equipment air bags were replaced with defective, substandard inflators, in most cases confirmed to have been manufactured overseas," the NHTSA said in a statement. "These dangerous aftermarket parts malfunctioned in subsequent crashes, sending large metal fragments into drivers' chests, necks, eyes and faces, killing or severely injuring drivers in otherwise survivable crashes."

The NHTSA specifically warned people who own or are considering buying used vehicles to be sure to learn the histories of the vehicles and to make sure they have genuine air bag inflators.

"If their vehicle has one of these inadequate replacement parts, it could kill or critically injure them in a crash," the NHTSA statement said. "Additionally, these inflators may deploy partially or too slowly, failing to protect an occupant's head from striking the steering wheel or dashboard."

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The warning doesn't involve new cars.

The NHTSA urges people buying used cars to get a vehicle history report and -- if there have been air bag deployments -- to have the vehicles inspected to ensure the replacement air bags are genuine.

Consumers also should make sure to only do business with reputable mechanics and dealerships and to always ask about replacement parts installed in a used vehicle they are about to buy.

The NHTSA also said if consumers find a vehicle with the suspect inflators, they should contact their local Homeland Security investigations office of the FBI to report it.

The faulty air bag parts are often made by foreign companies "with little to no reputation of quality manufacturing or experience, sold at prices far below the cost of quality genuine equipment, ordered online and shipped to the United States, and installed by those other than reputable repair shops or manufacturer dealerships," according to the NHTSA.

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