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Cheap auto parts could cost you your life. Is it worth it?

We've dedicated a fair amount of blog space to the issue of faulty airbags made by Japanese part-maker Takata. In one post we focused on the fact that an environment of confusion has apparently made this bad situation worse.

Even though regulators had been demanding action to correct the problem for years, Takata dug in its heels, denying that a major issue existed. That changed when it came to be learned that at least eight people have been killed and more than 100 have been injured by shards spewed into passenger compartments when bad bag inflators exploded in crashes.

Still, Takata doesn't seem to be willing yet to acknowledge full accountability for auto part defects. It recently rejected a call by one U.S. Senator to create a compensation fund for victims. The New York Times reported that Takata responded to the request by saying that "a national compensation fund is not currently required."

Another issue that muddies the waters of product reliability is the great number of fake, knockoff products that are available because of the Internet-supported global economy. According to a recent Consumer Reports article, the U.S. market, including Texas, is awash in counterfeit goods. Included among them are fake airbags and brake pads.

Officials say the phony airbags tend to be offered as replacements for spent, post-crash bags. They might look a lot like original replacement parts, right down to the brand or company logo. But they often don't work or deploy explosively, sending out deadly shrapnel.

The phony brakes tend to be made out of poor quality steel. And officials at Ford Motor Company say the pads themselves are often little more than compressed sawdust and wood chips.

Considering that it may be difficult to trace the actual manufacturer if you happen to be injured by such a product, what should you do? Here's what Consumer Reports suggests.

  • Be wary of great prices. If they appear to be too good to be true, consider that to be a red flag. 
  • Consider the source. E-commerce outlets may be the most common sources. Experts say to watch out for "copycat" websites that mimic well-known retailers. But they say fakes could also be offered through independent dealers. 
  • Be a conscientious consumer. If people refuse to buy fake parts, counterfeiters will have little incentive to stay in business. 

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