Derry Journal Motoring with Jim McCauley: Safety Concerns

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Vehicle owners are being advised to be wary of crash data clearing services being carried out by operators who falsify if a car’s airbags have been deployed. Data experts at HPI are warning that crash data clearing is on the rise and have identified numerous instances of the service being offered by online providers for as little as £30.

It is the latest in a series of unscrupulous practices to affect the motor industry ranging from clocking, cloning and, more recently, the introduction of ‘mileage blockers’, a type of scam tool that alters a car’s true mileage reading using smartphone technology.

Crash data clearing involves firms offering to bring life back to locked airbag modules after the airbags have gone off, potentially saving hundreds of pounds just on airbag module repair alone. Even when the airbags and seat belt pre-tensioners are replaced following an accident, the car’s airbag light will still flash because the airbag module locks up, so they can’t redeploy. The online providers will reset the airbag control module so that it appears that nothing had happened to the vehicle.

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As with other car scams under UK law, the practice itself is a grey area and not technically illegal. However, it is illegal to sell that car without disclosing any known accident or recorded damage information to the buyer or falsifying its instrumentation data and withholding that from an unsuspecting potential buyer.

Crash Scene Investigators.Crash Scene Investigators.
Crash Scene Investigators.

Speaking of the dangers of this latest risk to car buyers, Jon Clay of the car history checking company HPI said: “If crash data is reset, this makes it very difficult to pinpoint exactly why the airbags were deployed in the first instance, with the vehicle receiving significant damage or even being written off.”

The revelation poses a further risk to car buyers highlighting the importance to have any private purchase checked out by companies such as HPI, the AA and RAC.

In the Republic, an almost 50% failure rate in NCT testing in 2023 highlighted the potentially unsafe conditions of the 747,820 cars that turned up for the test in an unroadworthy condition.

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While many of the causes for failure may have required workshop rectification for engineering, lighting or electrical faults, 10% of cars that failed were turned down because of tyre concerns. This represent 75,000 vehicles where the owner / driver should have checked beforehand for what is a simple solution to lessen the potential for an accident while also guaranteeing a pass.

Checking tyre safety.Checking tyre safety.
Checking tyre safety.

In addition to tread wear exceeding the required 1.6 mm minimum, other tyre failures include sidewall damage such as cuts or bulges, and unmatched tyres on the same axle relating to size, aspect and type. Most motorist are unaware that tyres are dated and it is recommended that their use should not exceed six years. Interestingly, tyre checks can be done by the owner, and professional advice is normally a ‘no charge’ service by the major tyre depots.

Of the NCT depots in Donegal, the one in Derrybeg, at 56%, recorded the second highest failure for the 50 centres across Ireland. Carndonagh and Donegal Town centres were within the average fail bracket with the one in Donegal Town, achieving a near 50:50 pass / fail rate.

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