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April 5, 2009

Helpful Hints from joeeze: How to find out if the airbag in a used car still works

Beth DeCarbo's March 24, 2009 Wall Street Journal "Quick Fix" feature has the dope, and follows.

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An Air-Bag Check

Problem: You're looking to buy a used car and want to know if the air bag in it works.

Solution: First, inspect the steering wheel and dashboard for signs of tampering, says Ron Nagy, owner of Nagy's Collision Centers, with three auto-body shops in northeastern Ohio. Thieves often make dents and dings in the interior plastics as they pry out the air bags. Also, the air-bag indicator light in the dashboard should glow briefly when the car is first started -- part of the car's diagnostics system. If the light never comes on or continues to glow, the air bag probably isn't functioning. Next, safercar.gov, a government-run Web site allows, drivers to type in the vehicle's identification number, or VIN, to see if one or more air bags have been permanently deactivated. Click on "Air Bags," then under "Air Bag Basics" on the left, click on "Air Bag - VIN number" to search the database. There may be gaps in the data because the site relies on third parties to report whether an air bag has been removed or disabled. If you're still unsure, have a trusted mechanic inspect the car for air bags — as well as the engine and other systems. "We have a scanning tool to look at the system and see if there are any faults" that emerge, Mr. Nagy says. There may be a nominal fee, but since replacement air bags can go for $600 to $800, it may save money in the long run, Mr. Nagy adds.

April 5, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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