If there are airbags in your vehicle, you may feel a sense of security that if you are in an accident, they will deploy and protect you and your loved ones from being seriously injured.
Unfortunately, drivers around the world have had that sense of safety shaken because of a major airbag recall affecting millions. The debacle started years ago when suspicions were raised that major parts supplier Takata was aware of dangerous defects within its airbags, yet these faulty airbags were still on the road. With time, the number of vehicles housing these defective airbags were recalled, and that trend has recently grown into what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has declared the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history.
What Vehicles are Recalled?
The recall is affecting 50 million airbag inflators in 37 million vehicles from 19 manufacturers that were primarily manufactured between 2002 and 2015, according to the NHTSA. Originally only six makes of vehicles were included when Takata first announced issues with their airbags in April 2013. Recently Takata revealed that it really didn’t know which vehicles had defective airbags and which ones did not, which has caused more automakers to issue the recall.
The recall currently includes cars, trucks and SUVs made by Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, Tesla, VW, and others.
What Exactly is the Problem?
In order to work properly and deploy during an accident, airbag inflators contain chemicals. More specifically, this inflator is a metal cartridge that is filled with propellant wafers. The problem with the airbags from Takata is that the chemicals inside the airbag inflators can become unstable over time—especially if they have been exposed to large fluctuations in temperature as well as a lot of high humidity. The NHTSA has been able to narrow down the issue very specifically; airbags that have been recalled use ammonium nitrate-based propellant without a chemical drying agent. So, if the inflator housing ruptures during a car crash, metal shards from inside the airbag can be sprayed throughout the vehicle—which as you may expect can cause serious injuries.
Unfortunately, a number of deaths have been attributed to this issue; so far, 16 people in the United States have died due to faulty airbags; across the world, there have been at least 24 deaths and 300 injuries, reports Consumer Reports.
How is the Recall Going to Work?
As the NHTSA notes, through a series of scheduled recalls, all of Takata’s airbags that include a non-desiccated PSAN inflator—or, in other words, inflators that do not contain a drying agent—will be recalled by December 31, 2019. Vehicle manufacturers will let owners of the affected vehicles know when they can schedule service, and they will replace the airbags at no charge to the owner. If you own a recalled car, watch for updates from the automaker that the replacement airbags are available, and schedule a time for your vehicle to go in as soon as possible. Generally speaking, the goal is to get replacement inflators into the vehicles that are in the highest-risk areas—for instance, parts of the country that have high humidity. As the supply of the replacement inflators grows, more and more vehicles will be able to be brought in for service.
What Should I Do?
If you have questions or concerns about your vehicle’s airbags—and it is certainly understandable if you do—and/or you are unsure if your car is part of the massive airbag recall, the NHTSA advises checking for recalls on their site. All you need is to enter your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to see if your vehicle has been recalled. You can also sign up for recall alerts on the NHTSA website about any future recalls that may impact your car. If you discover that your vehicle is part of this massive recall, you may be worried about the overall safety of your car, truck or SUV. To ensure that important car components that are not part of a massive recall can still be fixed in the event of an issue, you may want to look into an extended warranty plan. For example, Protect My Car offers three levels of extended vehicle protection; with one of the policies, drivers pay only a $100 deductible and the company will cover the rest.
Watch for Updates and Stay on Top of the Situation
Clearly, this Takata airbag recall is a huge issue—both for the company that created the faulty airbags and the drivers who own these vehicles. But, as is the case in many situations, knowledge is power. By bookmarking this article along with the links to the NHTSA website, you can stay abreast of any additional information that comes out, as well as if your own car is impacted by the recall.