AUGUST 2009

Recycled airbag modules found to be safe

A recent review conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of 1,446 fatal accidents from 2001 and 2006 found that in an alarming 255 instances – almost 18 percent – airbags that should have been replaced following deployment in a previous crash were missing. This data points to a significant issue of ensuring that individuals who complete vehicle collision repairs and insurance total loss vehicle rebuilds restore critical safety components as part of the repair and rebuilding process. Airbag omission (the practice of repairing vehicles without replacing deployed or missing airbags) is a serious problem with real negative consequences for the safety of American car owners.

Some associations have voiced support for the reuse of non-deployed airbags which have met specific industry standards and claim that those evaluated, recycled airbag components are a safe, economically-smart repair alternative to restore vehicles to their pre-accident condition. “The use of these evaluated components is a cost-effective option for a consumer,” said Michael E. Wilson, executive vice president of the Automotive Recycler’s Association (ARA), “but, more importantly, extensive research and years of experience have proven them as a safe alternative as well.”

Lacking any statistical information, some industry groups continue to push arguments regarding the use of recycled airbag modules. These groups continue to rely essentially on personal opinions rather than on any specific technical analysis. A look at comprehensive safety tests on non-deployed OEM air bags conducted by Garwood Laboratories, Inc., Pico River, California (in accordance with SAE Inflator Restraints Standard SAE J1630 and Manufacturers Deployment Standards) reveals that recycled airbag use is indeed a solid alternative that protects the American consumer.

Based on this scientific data combined with years of real world experience, the ARA stands by the use of non-deployed, recycled OEM airbags as viable, economical, and safe alternatives to the use of new, more costly OEM airbags. In fact, recycled airbag modules are currently being used in insurance collision repairs in parts of Canada. Both the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) and Saskatchewan General Insurance (SGI) have been successfully using recycled airbags in repairs for many years. The test conducted by ICBC compared recycled and new air bags. The mix consisted of recycled airbags from domestic and Japanese manufacturers. New Ford, General Motors, Chrysler and Honda airbags of the same application as recycled ones were purchased from local dealerships for comparison to the recycled ones. The results of the test were that effective April 2001, ICBC and body shops began utilizing recycled previously undeployed airbags supplied by ICBC/ARA “certified” Automotive Recyclers.