Why steal air bags?

Last night there were thefts of steering wheels and air bags in neighborhoods near me. I assume they stole the steering wheels to get the air bags in them. Why would they do that? All I can guess is that they are after the initiators and explosives. I am not aware of precious materials used inside air bag systems. Any other ideas? Could someone actually make a bomb out of these stolen parts?

More than likely, they are selling the airbags to unscrupulous body shop owners who don’t mind buying questionable goods from shady vendors. Then, they can bill insurance companies for the full cost of a new airbag, even though they install these stolen airbags in customers’ cars.


From the National Insurance Crime Bureau
The Facts
Insurance industry statistics show that approximately 50,000 airbags are stolen each year,
resulting in an annual loss of more than $50 million to vehicle owners and their insurers.
Airbags have quickly become a primary accessory on the black market for stolen vehicle parts. A
new airbag, which retails for approximately $1,000 from a car dealer, costs between $50 - $200
on the black market.
Because of their portability, airbags can be easily removed and installed as “new” by
unscrupulous collision repair shops. These dishonest operators will then charge the vehicle
owner or their insurer the full price for the replacement, thus committing insurance fraud.

Yep, they’ll steal anything that has some resale value including computers, phones, etc. They seem to have slacked off on wire wheel covers though so we don’t need locks anymore. Interesting though that Pawn America in Minnesota is filing for bankruptcy so times must be tough out there.

I don’t have a locking gas cap, remember putting one on my car in the olden days.

Well, with plastic tanks, an awl or heated screwdriver accesses all your gasoline, so a locking gas cap is a bit like the Maginot Line: easily bypassed.

Yup . . .

Some of our fleet vehicles are based in VERY sketchy areas

Gasoline theft is rampant, and the preferred method is, as you said, to poke a hole in the plastic tank

Ok, I didn’t realize it would be so easy to put used airbags in as new ones. How does the garage or thief fake the invoice for new bags?

Those who are felonious will always be able–at least on a temporary basis–to come up with a good “fake”.

After all is said and done, this is how one wins an election for POTUS in this new era.


Got a computer and a printer? If you can print $100 bills, you can print invoices. Lots of guys in jail for fake invoices their company paid ending up in the CEO/manager/convict’s bank account. Major can plant I worked for had that problem. That’s why smart folks like us had a three way match of PO, Packing Slip, and Invoice, all handled by different people before any payment is made.

Yeah I remember when gas first started to be stolen and people thought they were smart putting the locking gas cap on. Then instead of losing $20 worth of gas, they lost $200 for a new gas tank.

There’s a non-improvement.


Nasty, nasty!

Why would a body shop need an invoice for a back-door transaction? The legitimate invoices for new and used parts aren’t shown to the customer, prices paid for parts are kept private.

Catalytic converter theft is a pretty common thing too, at least here in San Jose. Somebody needs their car to get to work, but it won’t pass emissions b/c the cat is bad, and they can’t afford a new cat.

George . . . ?!

With all due respect, the guys stealing the cats aren’t doing so because their own cars have failed smog due to high emissions

They’re stealing them because they’re worth money


You are absolutely right DB the guys doing the stealing are probably not the ones who need a cheap cat to pass emissions.

And the cats are sold to unscrupulous metal recyclers, which apparently pay good money for the precious metals

The theft of cats has nothing to do with cars failing smog inspections, IMO

Imagine your car fails smog, due to a worn out cat. You go steal a cat, weld it in, and it’s no better than yours. That’s a lot of risk to take, and for nothing gained


Good to know. I wouldn’t have guessed the reason to steal a cat was to sell it for the precious metal content. Does this mean an old used cat still has a lot of precious metal value? Is there a big core return fee for turning in your old cat you removed, when you buy a new replacement then?

This was a problem for a while in Minneapolis at the park and rides mainly. They knew the cars were there all day and a lot of them are high enough now to get under with no problem. They would just cut them off with a battery angle grinder.

Dang it, you just had to drag Obama’s birth certificate into this…


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