Cars with deadly Takata airbags you may not even know about

Last March, Las Vegas teen Karina Dorado was in a low-speed crash that normally wouldn’t have resulted in serious injuries. But she was driving a 2002 Honda with a checkered past. It had once been in a crash and was “totaled” by the insurance company.  Some people might expect that to be the end of the road for that car.

But insurers auction off wrecked cars to the highest bidder. Those wrecks are often purchased by unlicensed, untrained rebuilders who lack the equipment, or the desire, to perform a proper repair.  It would be very expensive to fix the vehicles so that they are safe to drive.

Instead, they cut corners, leaving the vehicles with major problems that can cause death or serious injuries.

According to news reports, the Honda that Dorado was driving had a recycled recalled Takata airbag that was removed from a 2001 Honda Accord. It was not the original one that came with her car. Instead, it was a faulty airbag that was prone to exploding with excessive force, spraying metal fragments into the driver’s face and neck.  When her car was in the crash, metal from the recalled airbag punctured Dorado’s windpipe, almost causing her to bleed to death.

Under the the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act of 2000, it is illegal to sell a used automotive part that was recalled, but not repaired. However, the law is seldom enforced.

How can you avoid buying a car with a recycled killer Takata airbag?

  1.  Check the federal database of total loss vehicles established by the U.S. Department of Justice. Keep in mind that no database is 100% complete, and there are huge gaps in each of them.  This one includes ONLY vehicles that were “totaled” by the insurer, or self-insured company (such as a rental car company).  It does NOT include vehicles that sustained major damage, but were not totaled, or recalled cars.
  2. ALWAYS get any used car you are considering buying inspected by both a skilled mechanic and a reputable auto body shop of YOUR choosing BEFORE you buy. Make sure they check for signs that the car was in a crash that may have caused the airbags to deploy. Don’t trust the seller. Insist on getting your own inspection. If they won’t let you do that, walk away. They are hiding something. A good place to find a good mechanic and body shop: Car Talk’s Mechanics Files

More tips on how to buy a car, without having to go to a car dealership

Read more:  KSAT Investigative report: Why are recalled Takata airbags being recycled?

Lawsuit: Dealer sold “fake” warranties on used cars

Ever wonder what happens when you buy a warranty or service contract from a car dealer?  Unfortunately, some dealers just pocket the money.  Then if your car needs repairs, you are left with no coverage.  Some dealers have faced criminal penalties for engaging in this scam, but often it goes undetected.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of consumers in New Jersey alleges that a dealer in that state repeatedly sold so-called “warranties” or service contracts on expensive used cars, but failed to activate the policies.

See news report:

ABC 7 New York: Dealer of high-end used cars sold “fake” warranties

Don’t fall victim to car dealer scams.  CARS tips for how to get a good deal on a nice, safe, reliable used car — without having to set foot on a car dealer’s lot

 

Odometer fraud — the “Fountain of Youth” for high-mileage cars

A lot of people think that odometer fraud is a thing of the past, thanks to digital odometers. Unfortunately, that’s just wishful thinking. In reality — crooks have found ways to hack into vehicle computer systems and re-set odometers. All it takes is a simple gadget that you can buy online — and a lack of scruples.

Making matters worse:  thanks to incredibly stupid rules the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued years ago under the Federal Odometer Act, vehicles more than 10 years old are exempt from key provisions of the law. That never did make sense, since all it does is encourage fraud that hits low-income used car buyers the hardest. It makes even less sense now, when RL Polk says that the average age of all light vehicles on the road in the US has hit a record 11.4 years.

One of the worst things about odometer fraud:  an altered odometer can make the warranty void, or make any service contract you buy with the car worthless and void.

According to AOL Autos, a New York man was alerted by friends that his used car miraculously showed less mileage after he sold it on Craigslist:

http://autos.aol.com/article/buying-used-car-tips-odometer-fraud/

How can you avoid getting scammed by an odometer fraudster?

1. Insist on seeing the work orders showing past repairs — and look carefully at the mileage.

2. Call repair shops that worked on the car and are listed on the work orders to confirm the numbers.

3. Have the vehicle inspected by your own independent auto expert BEFORE you agree to buy it. They can hook it up to diagnostic equipment that will access the onboard computer systems — which may reveal telltale records of higher mileage.

Here’s a good place to find a good mechanic:

Car Talk Mechanics Files