What you need to know about the airbag recall

October 23, 2014

That airbag recall just keeps getting scarier. Just in time for Halloween, the alarming news is spreading for owners of vehicles with Takata airbags, with a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recall at 7.8 million vehicles and counting. Two deaths have already been linked to the airbag defects, with Takata notifying the NHTSA  that the propellant — intended to burn quickly and produce gas to inflate the air bag — is defective. When a crash occurs, the propellant can rupture its container, shooting metal parts at the driver or front-seat occupant.

Yesterday, the NHTSA released a list of affected manufacturers and models and provided a page of links to manufacturers VIN look-ups.

As this Reuters graphic shows, Hondas are most at risk, with over 5 million vehicles affected by the recall, but Toyota, Nissan, BMW, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors all have cars on the list—and today Audi said it is voluntarily  recalling 850,000 A4s worldwide.

Tests have shown that the airbags are at higher risk of failure in high humidity, so the NHTSA said, “The message comes with urgency, especially for owners of vehicles affected by regional recalls in the following areas: Florida, Puerto Rico, limited areas near the Gulf of Mexico in Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana, as well as Guam, Saipan, American Samoa, Virgin Islands and Hawaii.”

Frustratingly, the recalls are so widespread that replacement parts are sparse, and a GM spokesperson says the process takes six hours. So this could take a while. Even more frustrating, Takata  did not disclose the danger of exploding air bags for years after the first reported incident in 2004 and three additional ruptures reported to Honda in 2007,

Meanwhile, the NHTSA appears to be doing its best to fall down on the job. The New York Times reported Tuesday that “calls to an operator on the agency’s hotline — 1-888-327-4236 — were routinely put on hold” and the industry-wide VIN look-up tool on safercar.gov is down due to “intermittent network issues.” Seems like one of those cases where there isn’t enough blame to go around.



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