Any time a person is seeking to buy a used car, it is imperative that he or she do a thorough background check on the vehicle. This should go well beyond the typical declaration of “Show me the Carfax”, because there’s so much more to a vehicle’s history than just accidents. Obviously, an accident history is crucially important knowledge, but so is the vehicle’s repair and maintenance background. If an automobile has been repaired by any company other than an authorized dealership and mechanic, then the consumer has the right to know, because it could mean that unsatisfactory parts were used.

This is relevant today because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced that some drivers may be at risk of being exposed to counterfeit air bags. It has yet to be determined who is producing these air bags or how they are being distributed. Fortunately, the NHTSA was able to identify the problem, despite the counterfeit bags being identical to the real bags, and begin putting together a list of vehicles that may be affected.

If consumers have purchased their vehicles new with factory-installed air bags, or they have a full knowledge of their automobiles’ repair histories and know that the air bags have not been replaced, then they are nearly certainly safe. However, if consumers have had their automobiles’ air bags replaced within the last three years at a non-dealership repair facility, purchased cars that have an accident history or have been rebuilt, or individually purchased air bags from questionable sources like eBay, they are urged to contact a dealership immediately for an examination.

The NHTSA is currently working with various government agencies to bring attention to the dangerous practices of importing and implementing the fake air bags.

“We expect all motor vehicle equipment to meet federal safety standards — and air bags in particular play a central role in keeping drivers and passengers safe in the event of a crash,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “That’s why it’s critical that vehicle owners work with their automotive dealers and repair professionals to ensure they use the appropriate, original equipment parts in the event they need to replace their air bag.”

A full list of vehicles that the NHTSA has identified as possibly affected is available at the association’s website. Among them are some of the most popular brands among consumers, including the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Ford Focus.