Airbags: The New Target for Thieves

Airbag, vector illustration

Here’s a quiz for you: which item is most often stolen from vehicles?

Is it:

  1. Stereo
  2. Wheels
  3. Airbag
  4. DVD System

If you said stereo, that used to be the right answer. It might surprise you to learn that airbags have now become the biggest target for theft. Approximately 50,000 airbags are stolen yearly in the United States.

Why Would Thieves Want an Airbag?

If you’ve ever had your airbag replaced, you know they’re expensive—a new airbag costs around $1,000. Since new airbags cost so much, there’s demand for them on the black market. They’re easy to remove from vehicles and easy to hide. Unscrupulous auto shops can purchase black market airbags illegally for around $50 – $200, charge the customer the full price, and then pocket the rest of the money. Airbag theft has become so lucrative that some repair shops have started removing customers’ airbags while their cars are being serviced. Reportedly, 1 in 25 airbag replacements are stolen or salvaged airbags—or there may be no airbag installed at all.

To make matters worse, stolen airbags have started to make their way back into vehicles that have been in an accident. One of the dangers of this is that you can’t be sure whether they were installed correctly or will work right when you need them. When an airbag deploys, the bag needs to be replaced, along with any damaged components, sensors, electronics, and dashboard parts. Airbag installation is very labor-intensive and needs to be done by a trained technician.

How to Avoid Airbag Theft

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to reduce the chances of having your airbag stolen:

  • Use a reputable auto repair center, like EuroCar Service, that employs ASE-certified mechanics
  • Park in well-lit, high traffic areas
  • Keep your car locked
  • Keep valuables that might attract thieves out of plain sight
  • If you have your airbag replaced, check the invoice to make sure the repair shop purchased the airbag from a reputable manufacturer, dealer, or recycler
  • If you have a chance to see the airbag before it’s installed, it should be packaged in a sealed container from the manufacturer or recycler
  • If you’re buying a used car, make sure to have your auto shop inspect the airbag
  • Keep an eye out for the SRS (Supplemental Restraint System) light when you first start your vehicle. This will let you know the airbag system is activated. If you don’t see the light, there’s a problem with the system.
  • Purchase a steering wheel locking device

One important thing to remember—never inspect or try to repair an airbag yourself! Accidentally deploying the airbag can cause serious injury. Airbag inspections and replacements should always be performed by a qualified technician.

If you have questions or concerns about your airbag or the possibility of airbag theft, EuroCar Service is here to help. We specialize in all European makes and models, including BMW, Audi, Land Rover, Mercedes, Mini-Cooper, Saab, Jaguar, Volkswagen, Volvo, Smart Car, and Fiat. Give us a call at (206) 527-8828 or request an appointment online.