Non-Deployed OEM Airbags

Information from the Ontario Automotive
Recyclers Association

The re-use of non-deployed OEM airbags is an economical and safe alternative to new OEM airbags when airbags need replacing after an accident when proper care is taken to remove, store, catalogue, ship, and install an airbag.

The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) has endorsed Guidelines to safely re-use "recycled" OEM airbags. View Guidelines (pdf)

ARC supports the CCMTA Guidelines and is in the process of educating recyclers, insurers and collision repairers regarding the content and implementation of those Guidelines.

Note: the CCMTA refers to "recycled airbags" where ARC prefers to "non-deployed OEM airbags" so as to differentiate between remanufactured, used, or non-OEM airbags.

The Guidelines include:

  • If a recycled airbag or airbag system component is to be installed by a third party, the vehicle owner must be made aware of the intended use of a recycled component prior to its installation.
  • There should be no modifications to the airbag components including finish and colour except for those modifications carried out in accordance with a process approved by the original manufacturer of the vehicle.
  • The supplier must ensure that any recycled airbag system component supplied is a suitable interchange for the recipient vehicle. Interchange must be ensured through confirmation with published, recognized and approved interchange data (for example ADP Hollander or similar publication).
  • Suppliers of recycled airbag system components must use an established protocol for inspection of a recycled airbag system component, and must perform such inspections on all units prior to sale/installation. Only units that successfully meet all the requirements may be sold/installed. Units that do not meet the inspection protocol must be deployed and rendered unusable. Inspections must include at a minimum the following:
    1. The recycled airbag supplier must identify, record and report the donor vehicle information including vehicle year, make, model and VIN.
    2. Airbag module cover must be visually inspected and show no damage including nicks, scrapes, scratches or outer flaws which might lead to the refinishing of the module.
    3. Airbag system components must be visually inspected and show no signs of water contamination - including mould, mildew or water residue.
    4. If the donor vehicle has sustained any flood damage, a recognized and approved water contamination test must be completed on the recycled airbag module by an industry approved laboratory and the results documented. The test results must prove no signs of water contamination.
    5. Airbag module must be inspected and be free of loose parts or foreign objects.
    6. Reaction plate and propellant canister must be visually inspected and be free of defects including deformation, corrosion or damaged fasteners.
    7. Wiring and electrical connectors must be visually inspected and show no corroded, damaged or abraded wires, terminals or connectors.
    8. The shorting bar, if included, must be visually checked for correct operation.
  • Suppliers of recycled airbag system components must have at least one person on staff who has completed a recognized course, approved by the jurisdiction, on recycled airbag and airbag system components.
  • Persons involved in shipping and transporting of airbag system components (both recycled and new) are required to have the appropriate training under Part 6 of the TDG Regulations.
  • Jurisdictions may wish to develop an audit and compliance system to ensure suppliers are following the required standards
  • Upon sale, each recycled airbag system component must be accompanied by a supplier issued document including the following information:
    1. Identification of the supplier of the unit.
    2. Identification of the airbag module cover colour (and colour code if available).
    3. Identification of the donor vehicle, including VIN, year, make and model.
    4. Suppliers internal stock number or locator number for follow-up.
    5. Indication of source of interchange information (i.e. Interchange manual / part number, OEM information, etc).
    6. A supplier certificate indicating all the requirements of the inspection protocol have been successfully achieved and the identification of the person who completed the inspection.
    7. A document containing the vehicle description including the year, make and model for which the airbag system component is required when being sold to the end-user.
  • Once removed from the donor vehicle, airbag modules should be stored in a cool dry location with appropriate fire protection, stored cover side up and not stacked.
  • Suppliers of airbag system components must also be compliant with the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) requirements.
  • There is currently no evidence that recycled parts pose a safety concern; and at this time the information does not support the development of a specific process to deal with recalls. When tested, undamaged OEM recycled airbag modules performed similarly to new replacement OEM airbag modules.

These Guidelines do not include rebuilt, re-manufactured, or non-original equipment airbag or airbag system components. They do not include any airbag or airbag system component that has been disassembled, altered, repaired or had any parts removed or replaced.

The CCMTA wants to highlight the fact that acceptance of these Guidelines do not mean any jurisdiction is required to adopt the use of recycled airbags. The report provides the information should consideration be given to the adoption of such a program. The Guidelines also provide for consistency, where the use of recycled airbags is accepted.

Public Safety Alert - Defective Rebuilt Air Bags

This notice applies to owners of vehicles with air bags that have been replaced since January 1998.

Ontario's Ministry of Transportation (MTO), working with Québec's automobile insurance authority, has asked auto repair shops and parts suppliers to inform vehicle owners in Ontario about defective rebuilt air bags. The defective rebuilt air bags, from National Sacs Gonflables Inc., a Québec manufacturer, have been available since January 1998. Only those vehicles in which an air bag has been replaced with an air bag rebuilt by National Sacs Gonflables Inc. since January 1998 are at risk. About 1600 vehicles in Ontario are affected.

Vehicle owners who suspect they may have a defective rebuilt air bag are urged to contact their auto repair shop immediately. Vehicle owners should not attempt to inspect an air bag themselves. If a defective air bag cannot be replaced immediately, it should be temporarily deactivated, and a replacement air bag installed as soon as possible. This should be left to a qualified repair shop.

MTO is tracking the responses from repair shops and parts suppliers and will continue to provide the public with additional information as it becomes available.

For more information:

The public can contact MTO:
MTO INFO at 1-800-268-4686 or 1-416-235-4686 MTO Internet site:

Repair shops, parts suppliers, car dealers can call 1-905-704-2558

Québec has information on their web site in English at:
Québec has a phone number for inquiries: 1-866-867-8143

Airbag thefts raise safety flag for repairs Gangs plundering cars for expensive crash bag systems

Removal damage may render them useless, police say

Dec. 17, 2005

Organized gangs are prowling dealerships and parking lots in a dangerous but lucrative scam to steal airbags and resell them to unscrupulous body shops while putting drivers at risk, police say.

In fact, they have replaced stereo units as the No. 1 automotive theft target.

Aside from the damage to cars and the cost of replacing air bags - together up to $4,000 each theft - there are serious risks involved for those who buy black-market units to replace those deployed in collisions because the delicate units may no longer function.

On one November night alone, a gang pillaged a Scarborough car dealership, wreaking $180,000 damage and stealing air bags from 45 cars.

With new air bags costing between $750 and $1,500, stolen air bags are selling like hot cakes on the street.

"You can get 20 or 30 in a night and at $100 to $150 each, that's $2,000 to $4,500," said Detective Sam Cosentino of the Toronto Organized Crime Enforcement Unit.

Body shops typically mark up the bags and resell them, he said, and the sheer volume of thefts is costing U.S. consumers about $40 (U.S.) a year on their insurance policies, according to State Farm.

"We find them stacked up when we're investigating chop shops and those using stolen parts," he said.

In many cases the bags may not be functional, say police, with at least two deaths recorded in Canada because replacement air bags did not deploy in a collision. Also, they warn, many consumers are being charged full value for bags that were stolen in the first place.

Theft of the expensive safety systems has become a global phenomenon, but in both Canada and the United States, manufacturers and the insurance industry have not been able to come up with a winning counter-strategy.

They've instituted a database with serial numbers of authorized replacement bags sold but there's just no stopping the wave of thefts, which have now outpaced stereos as the most common item stolen.

No Canadian figures are available, but in the U.S. about 75,000 bags are stolen annually, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Despite the similar and apparent widespread problem in Canada, however, no one seems to be tracking specific numbers.

Cosentino said the incidents are listed as thefts from autos and there are no specific statistics readily available.

Damaged bags, or in some cases, missing bags replaced by "fake" ones, create a huge problem for drivers. In 2000, a 53-year-old Vancouver woman was killed after the air bag in her car didn't deploy.

"It's not just the theft of air bag, it's the damage to the car," Cosentino said. "There're only four bolts to the driver's side, but for the passenger side or the side airbags, they'll rip through the dash or the seats."

A mid-November Toronto Police Services stakeout nailed three men in their 20s as they returned to a stash of stolen airbags taken a few nights earlier from Roadsport Honda in the Kennedy-Ellesmere Rds. area.

"They had hit 28 news cars and 17 used cars with about $4,000 damage to each car including the cost of replacement air bags," said Detective Rich Ryan of 41 Division Major Crime Unit. "We found they'd left a stash nearby and we staked it and nabbed them when they came back to get them."

The 401 corridor has become a rich vein for airbag thieves to mine, said Bill Cameron, national director for auto theft at the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

"They are going after the storage facilities used by auto manufacturers, in some cases getting hundreds of bags," he said.

Insurance companies should work more closely with manufacturers to reduce the cost of airbags and make them less attractive to thieves, said George Iny of the Canadian Automobile Protection Association.

"There are maybe three or four manufacturers of components and there is no universal solution so there's no aftermarket for airbags," he said. "And those making the parts have no incentive to bring the price down."

Consumers end up carrying all the risk and footing the bill, said Bill Davis, executive director of the Toronto Area Dealers Association.

He said there are no laws requiring airbags to be checked during a safety inspection and it's possible that stolen bags could be non-functioning.

"There's no requirement to tell any buyer of the car that the air bag was stolen or replaced."

He said removing the airbags is dangerous in itself since they have small explosive charges in them to trigger deployment.

While some cars have lights showing if the air bag is active, many installers simply short-circuit it so there's no way of knowing.

"It's a huge and ongoing

problem," he said.

Ford Launches Airbag Anti-Fraud Database

Ford has launched a program to assist insurers and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) in reducing airbag theft and inappropriate repairs to airbag systems.

The carmaker has created an Internet site that includes a database of serial numbers for all replacement airbag modules purchased by Ford and sold to its authorized dealers in the U.S. and Canada since Feb. 1, 2002. Authorized Ford, Lincoln and Mercury parts wholesaling dealers subsequently sell the replacement modules to collision shops.

Ford's concerns with stolen/ salvaged airbag modules

Source of Modules

There is no authorized source other than Ford dealers for Ford-approved replacement airbag modules. The primary sources for alternative airbags are theft and salvage.

  • Stolen components are removed with little care, and it is highly unlikely thieves are able to provide accurate vehicle application data for stolen components.
  • No one can accurately predict the stresses that undeployed airbag modules and components have undergone in total-loss accidents.

Part Application

Vehicle manufacturers make running changes using different airbag system components for the same model vehicle.

  • Most alternative airbag components are identified by make and model year only, not by vehicle build date making it possible for incorrect airbag system components to be installed, which could result in improper performance.

Flood Damage

Flood damage may allow water-borne materials (sand, conductive particles, acidic water) to soak into airbag assemblies.

  • Evaporated water may deposit foreign materials that cause short circuits.
  • Acidic water can degrade the airbag material over time. Currently, there are no tests to determine if these exposures have occurred.


Alternative airbag system components may be improperly stored (temperature, humidity, contaminants, etc.).

  • Currently, there are no tests to determine if these exposures have occurred.
  • Tests cannot identify if improper handling of components (for example, carrying by wire harnesses) has stressed individual components and degraded performance characteristics.
  • Expandable gas is used in certain airbag inflators. Helium gas is incorporated for leak testing during the airbag assembly process. The only way to determine if the gas has not leaked is to weigh the container. This requires disassembly of the entire airbag assembly.

Thermal Plastic Doors

The type and thickness of finish on airbag doors allows the airbag to deploy with precise timing. Acquiring alternative airbag components sometimes requires the doors to be re-painted for color match.

  • Paint on airbag doors can affect the performance of the doors and possibly result in fragmentation of the doors in a deployment.
  • Repairing scratches or marks on airbag doors can weaken the doors and cause improper deployments.


The record trail for owner notification of recalls is often broken when alternative airbags are installed.

Participants in the pilot program obtain from the collision repairer the serial number of the module specified for the repair, access the website to verify the legitimacy of the module, and check off the serial number so that its disposition is noted in the database. Serial numbers for modules installed in new production vehicles will not be in the database, thereby alerting investigators to the potential of stolen modules. Repairers unable to provide module serial numbers also will come under scrutiny.

Ford says that according to law enforcement authorities, airbags have surpassed stereo equipment as the most frequent target of thieves, creating a black market being tapped by unscrupulous repairers. Compounding the problem is a growing number of inappropriate repairs in which legitimate airbag modules are not used. At least two people have died in auto accidents as a result of this practice, according to the Automotive Occupant Restraint Council (AORC)., the internet vehicle inspection firm, estimates that 1 in every 25 repairs requiring airbag module replacement ends up with installation of a bogus airbag, or no airbag at all.

"Insurers pay the bill for about 85% of collision repairs and damages resulting from theft," said Steve Nantau, Collision Repairs Supervisor for Ford Customer Service Division's Aftermarket Engineering and Remanufacturing Operations. "They have a vested interest in reducing these problems but, up until now, have had very few tools to help them. We believe the website will be a valuable resource insurers can access at will to strengthen existing post-repair auditing processes."

Nantau points to a study conducted completed in 1996 by State Farm, after which it concluded airbag theft alone cost the auto insurance industry $253 million annually. The problem has grown since then, as the data suggests, and is one factor that drives up the cost of auto insurance, according to Nantau.

Robert M. Bryant, President and CEO for the NICB, believes information contained in the database will be extremely useful to NICB Special Agents and insurance investigators. The NICB represents the interests of more than 1,000 U.S. auto insurers and serves as the intermediary between the insurers and law enforcement agencies.

"The information in the database will provide those involved in insurance investigations with another resource to validate the adequacy of completed repairs and to better determine the need for potential investigations," Bryant said. "We applaud Ford for addressing this growing problem and see this initiative helping to improve the overall quality of collision repair and policyholder satisfaction."

The program will ultimately serve to protect vehicle owners, who are unlikely to be able to detect problems with airbag systems.


CCMTA’s Board has approved- waiting for legal review

August 6, 2004

After discussions with stakeholders and members, the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA), Drivers and Vehicles Airbag Project Group, has printed their new national guidelines for “salvage” air bags, after their meeting of May 11, 2004

Salvage air bags are non-deployed original equipment airbags that have not been disassembled, altered, repaired or had any parts removed or replaced.. A number of public insurers in western Canada have been investigating and some using “salvage” air bags in vehicle repairs. Some were concerned that if air bag covers have been painted or if the air bag had been exposed to water contamination that the “salvage” air bag may not operate exactly as planned.

Discussions on the standards for salvage air bags came about as part of the more urgent earlier discussions related to some dangerous “rebuilt” air bags being sold in the Canadian market. Many provinces, inclusion Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec banned rebuilt air bags, with Quebec also banning salvage air bags.

Air bag standards became a major issue for the Drivers and Vehicles Committee of CCMTA, after it was found that a Quebec-based company had been manufacturing and selling “rebuilt” air bags. Ontario's actions in banning rebuilt air bags, mirrored steps taken in the province of Quebec after the Societe de l'assurance automobile du Quebec (SAAQ), the province's automobile insurance board successfully obtained an injunction ordering a firm that specialized in rebuilding and selling rebuilt air bags to cease production. The firm - National Air Bags Inc. ( National Sacs Gonflables) and Coussins Gonflable Demers Inc., were accused of assembling airbags with gunpowder, and other explosive substances as an igniter that "literally exploded" according to the Board's petition.

Some 1600 rebuilt air bags were sold to 547 shops and auto parts suppliers in Ontario, based on company records

Currently, the CCMTA Board subject to legal review has approved the standards.

For the copy of the proposed standards please see: this link

CCMTA is the official organization in Canada for co-coordinating all matters dealing with the administration, regulation and control or motor vehicle transportation and highway safety.