A growing trend in counterfeit auto parts

ARLINGTON, Va., (WUSA9) -- If you own a car, all roads inevitably end up at a repair shop.

Maintenance is essential to the health and safety of your car. And when it comes to paying for parts, experts say you shouldn't cut corners.

But, how many of us would know whether those replacement parts are the real thing?

"How would I know? How would I know, that's a good question," driver Timothy Sutter says.

"Even some mechanics would not be able to tell a legitimate one from a counterfeit one," says Bruce Foucart.

Foucart heads up the team of government investigators on the hunt to track down fake products that could put at risk. The director of the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center says for every legitimate part in a car, there's a dangerous knock off on the market, too.

We've seen counterfeiting in brake pads. We've seen counterfeiting in safety belts. That becomes a huge concern for us because you're dealing directly with the safety of the people in the car," Foucart says.

Fake airbags are one of the biggest items being smuggled into the U.S. and placed in cars today.

Foucart says, "We tested some of those airbags and found that there was an almost 100 percent fail rate. And, some of those airbags either exploded or failed to open up."

The results can be catastrophic, even fatal.

WUSA 9 anchor and consumer correspondent Lesli Foster says, "This is a counterfeit rim that completely separated during testing by an auto company. Law enforcers say it's hard to quantify the scope of this problem. Their best advice for us is to deal with reputable repair shops."

My reputation is on the line to put a quality part in your car," says co-owner of Bethesda Imports Specialist Mike Cunningham.

So, don't hesitate to ask about the source of that part, and be wary if the price is too low.

Many of these counterfeit parts are sold online. The IPR Center deals with theft trademarks and investigates each claim that comes in from either companies or consumers and looks into where the product was made and any safety concerns.

If you think you've been sold a fake auto part, reach out to the IPR Center through their hotline, 1-866-DHS-2ICE or website, www.iprcenter.gov.


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