Used Airbags Should Be Deflated - BodyShop Business

Used Airbags Should Be Deflated

OEMs don’t recommend using recycled or used airbags. And you assume all liability. With those things in mind, I can’t in good conscience use them myself.

I haven’t run into the problem of insurance companies mandating the use of “recycled” or “used” airbags in my state yet, but with insurance companies tightening their belts and some states seeming to let them run away with every “cost-saving measure” they come up with, it could be right around the corner. Are you prepared to deal with it? Do you have a plan?

I understand that one insurance company experimented with using recycled and/or used airbags a year or two ago, but that got shot down very quickly. I guess the shops out west didn’t feel they were ready for that kind of liability.

Every OEM’s recommendations exclude the use of recycled or used airbags. Of course, they want to sell you an expensive new OEM set, but they have their own liability issues to face. I work on a lot of General Motors vehicles, and their bulletins are very specific about excluding the use of anything but OEM-replacement SRS devices. If someone uses a recycled Safety Restraint System device, they even exclude it, saying that it’s not a recommended repair procedure. Every manufacturer has some kind of Web site available for repair procedures nowadays (,  so it would only make good business sense to make sure you’re able to access the data you need to defend your position if cornered by an adjuster or appraiser.

Who’s Responsible?

A large number of employees and owners of body shops seem to be confused about who assumes liability for procedures, parts and repairs when mandated by Big Brother (insurance companies and their partners). I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but no matter what the insurance company mandates, it’s the repairer or installer who assumes liability for the parts or procedures used in the repair of vehicles, period. You may think that this is not a true statement, but in court, the insurance industry has been quick to say, “We are not the repair professionals, we just pay claims.” You all need to keep this in mind when repairing today’s high-tech vehicles. If you repair cars as per the “insurance estimate,” you’re on your own with no backup.

I’ve interacted with a lot of different people in this industry who still believe they’re not responsible for what they do when an insurer tries to dictate procedures and parts. But don’t think for a second that you’ll get any help from them whether you’re on their direct-repair program or not.

With this in mind, we can approach the use of used airbags and SRS components with a lot clearer thought on just who is responsible for these parts should they result in injury or death to the passengers. You have to ask yourself, could I sleep at night knowing I may have played a part in someone’s injury or death? I for one won’t take that chance with anyone’s life. My only hope is that a lot of you feel the same way after reading this.
Technical Glitches

There are several start-up companies trying to seize the moment and certify airbags that have been salvaged from a totaled vehicle. If they failed to deploy in a previous collision, does that mean they’ll be good in another? Could they be faulty? Were they dry the entire time from the salvaging of the vehicle? Were they dry the entire time they were harvested? Heck, even the delivery process could affect the deployment. I can’t take that chance with someone’s precious cargo.

If you repair cars as per the “insurance estimate,”
you’re on your own with no backup.

Most airbag inflators use an explosive charge fired in a millisecond by an electrical charge. This event is the result of a type of crash sensor sensing a collision, meeting a predetermined threshold and telling the airbag to deploy or explode. How can an outside entity ensure that this is going to happen the way the manufacturer intended? The vehicle’s SDM will self-diagnose the electrical connections, but even it can’t tell if the charge that inflates the bag is still intact and not damaged by moisture or other forces. Can someone else look inside and see if everything is in place for a deployment to occur? That’s an unlikely chance that I won’t take!

At this point in our careers, we should all be familiar with airbags, seat belts, knee bolsters and other safety devices in today’s modern vehicles. I have a basic understanding of the devices, their intent for occupant safety and their location in the cars and trucks we work on in our day-to-day business operations. If you aren’t familiar with SRS systems, there are many good I-CAR courses that will expose you to enough information to at least get you started. I revert to the OEMs’ repair information whenever possible and you should, too. Issues that carry this kind of liability should rely solely on the original equipment manufacturer of the vehicle involved.
Writer Bob Winfrey is owner of All Precision Collision Repair in Marshville, N.C.

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