Recycled airbags could be recalled without you realizing it

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) –  Airbags are supposed to protect you in a crash, but a Las Vegas teenager says a recycled airbag almost killed her.

Karina Dorado, 18, was in the hospital for weeks following crash in March. Her Takata airbag deployed, but the inflator malfunctioned, according to her attorney, Billie Marie Morrison.

“Shards of metal went through her throat,” Morrison told our sister station KLAS.

Morrison said Dorado’s father had no idea when he purchased the car, that it had been in a previous wreck and had been sold to a salvage company.

“They took the airbag, a recalled airbag, out of one car and put it into this car and resold it,” Morrison said.

In-Depth Coverage: Takata Airbag Recall »

Federal law prohibits the sale of recalled parts taken from wrecked cars for auto repairs, but industry experts say it’s rarely enforced.

“It’s up to each individual salvage yard to know which airbags are recalled,” said Michael Brooks, acting director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety.

Chris Basso, from Carfax, said about 750,000 airbags are replaced every year. Many of them are recycled.

“They’re an inexpensive alternative to new manufacturer airbag, but unfortunately some of the recalled airbags that are recycled can slip through the cracks if they’re not properly checked.”

So Basso said the first thing you should do is check to see if your vehicle has been involved in a crash where the airbags deployed. There are several vehicle history search tools, including Carfax’s airbag check.

If you find out about a previous wreck, take your vehicle to a trusted mechanic.

“They can open the airbag compartment and see if a recycled airbag was used to replace it and if that recycled airbag has been recalled,” Basso said.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 42,000,000 vehicles have been impacted by Takata airbag recalls.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.