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The Benefits of OEM Non-Deployed Airbags

Use of non-deployed, and properly installed OEM airbag modules is a viable, economical and safe alternative to the use of new, costly OEM airbags. Properly installed OEM non-deployed airbag modules are vital competitive alternatives for consumers who might not otherwise be able to afford airbag repairs to their vehicles.

Independent studies conducted by ARA, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) and Airbag Testing Technology (ATT) have consistently shown that the performance of undeployed, recycled OEM airbags are the same as new OEM supplied airbag modules for use in professional repair. ATT showed, based on studying forces and energy related to airbag deployment and occupant performance, that new OEM airbags and recycled airbags are statistically indistinguishable.

How can you tell if a vehicle is equipped with an airbag?

Look for the words “Supplemental Inflatable Restraint”, “Airbag”, or initials such as “SIR”, or “SRS” on the steering wheel hub for driver airbags and on the instrument panel (over the glove box) on the right side of the vehicle for passenger air bags. Other ways to identify if air bags are present include the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), a label under the hood, in the glove box, or on or near the sun visor(s). Still not certain? Check with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for their list:

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
1005 North Glebe Rd.
Arlington, VA 22201
(703) 247-1500

Fraud threatens airbag replacement safety 

Unscrupulous vehicle repair shops bill insurance companies for replacing automobile airbags — then either don’t do the work or do it improperly.  It’s a problem that earns con men thousands of dollars but could cost you your life.

Without a proper airbag handling protocol in place, it’s possible that unsuspecting consumers can find themselves caught in a scam in which instead of properly installing quality OEM non-deployed airbags in a vehicle, fraudlent automotive repair personnel either:

  • Simply stuff the steering wheel cavity with trash and put a purely cosmetic cover over the steering wheel;
  • Repack the spent, nonfunctioning airbag back into the steering wheel; or,
  • Replace the unit with a stolen or damaged airbag purchased on a growing black market.

There is a substantial “black market” in replacement airbags that is growing. Carfax, a commercial service that sells vehicle history reports to consumers, estimates that one out of every 25 airbags replaced on U.S. cars is either bogus or substandard.  The eBay auction site features thousands of replacement airbags for sale on any given day. And, police raids in New York and Florida have turned up thousands of stolen airbags in body shops and auto parts stores. The Insurance Information Institute, a clearinghouse for industry data, estimates that more than 75,000 air bags are stolen every year.

Uniform industry airbag handling guidelines 

A standard industry protocol covering the proper inspection of airbag units and inclusion of safeguards for the sale of quality OEM non-deployed airbags, along with monitoring of after-sale data, is what will stop this type of fraud.

In the first industry-coordinated effort designed to tackle and eliminate the fraudulent re-sale and improper use of airbags, ARA has developed the ARA Airbag Protocol providing industry guidelines for the use of OEM Non-Deployed Airbags.  The purpose of this document is to provide guidelines for the practice of removing an Original Equipment Non-Deployed Airbag from a salvaged vehicle for installation in another vehicle. The guidelines, which are made freely available to anyone in the industry, are provided in a number of sections that include the rationale for the guidelines along with additional explanation and examples.

Promoting proper airbag handling and technician training 

Airbag Resources.com is a new and exclusive software solution designed to enable ARA members to inspect and track OEM non-deployed airbag modules effectively and efficiently within their operations. Airbag Resources contains two software applications, one focusing on Airbag Inspection, and the other on Airbag Training. Both systems intend to provide a safeguard for consumers who wish to save money on the repair of their vehicles without putting their safety at risk.

The Airbag Inspection application is designed to enable technicians to examine and record all the data necessary to comply with the ARA Protocol (Guidelines for Use of OEM Non-Deployed Airbags ). The Airbag Inspection software is engineered to allow quick data entry, consistent and thorough inspection of the part, report printing for inclusion with invoices and quick report searching on any part.

A novel new feature of the Airbag Inspection software is the real time Air Bag Recall Check.  At the touch of a button, the software checks the government air bag recall notices and immediately warns the user if a recall campaign is in place saving time, effort,and adding to custumer satisfaction.

Prior to using the Inspection application, a technician must be a qualifed Certified Airbag Technician or CAT. The Airbag Training and Certification (ATC) application provides technicians with all the information they need in an easy to use training module which comes with a multiple choice test. Technicians may prepare for the CAT qualification by studying the training and instructional material. In addition, ATC provides training and instruction on the hazardous materials (dangerous goods) regulations and recommended procedures for packing, shipping document completion, safety and security awareness training (now required by the US DOT). Certificates are valid for one year, after which a CAT must renew his or her credentials in order to continue using the Inspection software.

The public is encouraged visit the Standards & Codes page on the ARA Web site to learn more about the ARA Airbag Protocol and other industry standards designed to provide common language for all parties selling, buying, and installing recycled parts.

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