James Quiggle, director of communications for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud (CAIF), says the estimates of yearly airbag theft range from 50,000 to 75,000. But without dismantling the airbag covers in the vehicles of every automobile in the country, there is no way of knowing, Fleet Maintenance reports. There are several types of airbag fraud, according to George Kirchoff, president of the Automotive Occupant Restraint Council (AORC). A crooked mechanic can install a false airbag, filling the cavity with cloth or paper, a salvaged airbag that has been restored to work again after being previously deployed or can dismantle the airbag to make it look as though it was deployed in an accident even if it wasn’t. Lastly, crooked body shops can install devices that override the airbag alert light. Both CAIF and AORC are involved with efforts to publicize and counteract airbag fraud, for which fleets are often a target leading to excessive charges against the fleet’s insurance policy, according to Fleet Maintenance. CAIF recommends:
  • checking to make sure the body shop uses certified mechanics.
  • after a crash, check the black box that's installed in the car to see if the airbag has been deployed.
  • have an outside mechanic do diagnostic tests on the airbag module. Ford’s concern about the issue led the company to create a database of all airbag serial numbers in Ford vehicles. To learn more about Ford's OE airbag database, visit www.fleetmag.com.