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?

ABC 20/20 exposes CarMax’s sales of damaged cars and unsafe, recalled cars

CarMax Admits It Sells Unsafe, Recalled Cars
So — how can a car that’s so unsafe pass their so-called  “rigorous 125+ point inspection”? No one seems to know…and CarMax refuses to go on camera…


” CarMax says it has transformed the used car buying experience with no haggling pricing and financing and its “125+ point” inspection process to make sure drivers don’t end up with a lemon. But consumer advocates say CarMax sales reps don’t always disclose the complete history and condition of the vehicles they sell.

A 20/20 investigation found instances on two CarMax lots where vehicles were being sold with reportedly significant accident histories or unrepaired safety recall issues….

When it came to outstanding safety recalls, the Hartford dealership salesman was recorded on hidden camera telling Benitez that CarMax is unable to sell a car with a major safety recall. “We can’t even sell it until that’s taken care of,” he said. “We take care of any kind of safety concern prior to the car even being out here.”

However, a check of a federal government website revealed that the Toyota Camry at the Hartford CarMax dealership had three outstanding safety recalls on it at the time of our visit, including one for a power switch that could overheat and melt, possibly resulting in a fire. Five other vehicles sitting on the lot also had unfixed safety recalls, according to the government website.

CarMax declined an interview but told 20/20 in a statement that it doesn’t automatically fix recall vehicles before selling them and only does so if a customer requests it. CarMax says it does inform consumers about any open recalls and recently upgraded its website so customers can look up open recalls online through the government database. CarMax also says it retrained its staff on its recall policy.

A coalition of consumer and safety groups filed a petition with the Federal Trade Commission this June, urging the agency to investigate CarMax’s safety recall policy. Rosemary Shahan, head of Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety (CARS), is calling on the FTC to require CarMax to have all safety recall vehicles repaired before selling them to consumers. “CarMax sells vehicles that are under safety recall without bothering to fix them,” said Shahan. “If they wanted to do it right, it would be very easy for them to do it right.” (Emphasis added)

Read more: ABC 20/20:  What Do Some CarMax Sales Reps Tell  Consumers?