Do Your Air Bags Need to be Replaced?

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Takata airbags need to be replaced


Automobile airbags have been a crucial advance in driver and passenger safety, but they can cause injury or even death if not used properly or not replaced when needed.

As many as 30¬†million vehicles in the United States could potentially have dangerous air bags. Are you driving in one of them? As many as 10 different automakers have been recalled to replace frontal airbags on the driver’s side, passenger side or both. The airbags, made by major parts supplier Takata, were mostly installed in cars from the model 2002 through 2008, although in some cases the recall has been expanded to 2014. Some of the airbags could deploy explosively, injuring or even killing the occupants in a vehicle.

To see the what makes and models are included in the recall see below. 

The heart of the problem in the airbags is the airbag’s inflator, a metal cartridge loaded with propellant wafers, which in extreme cases has ignited with explosive force. If the inflator housing ruptures in a car crash, metal shards from the airbag could be sprayed throughout the passenger cabin — a potentially deadly outcome from a seemingly life-saving device.

The cause for such incidents has been tough for Takata and automakers to determine. It appears now that there are multiple causes, as well as several contributing factors, including poor quality control in manufacturing, several years of exposure in high heat and humid regions and even the design of the car itself.

The most recent update on the recall comes on November 3, 2015 in which NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) imposed a record civil penalty of up to $200 million against Takata. Of that $200 million $70 is a cash penalty, with an additional $130 million charge if Takata fails to meets its commitments. The government will also require Takata to phase out the manufacturer and sale of inflators that use the risky propellant and recall all Takata ammonium nitrate inflators currently on the road — unless the company can prove that they are safe and/or can show it has determined why the inflators are prone to rupture.

Danger on the Road

Seven fatalities and more than 100 injuries have been linked to the Takata airbag recall and in some cases the incidents were horrific. However, most of these incidents are rare. In June of 2015, Takata stated that it was aware of only 88 ruptures in total; 67 on the driver’s side and 21 on the passenger side of what is calculated to be just over 1.2 airbag deployments spread over the last 15 years. Despite these figures, airbags in general are not a danger. The Department of Transportation estimates that between 1987 and 2012, frontal airbags have saved over 37,000 lives.

Is My Car Affected by the Recall?

There are several easy ways to check and see if your car is affected by the Takata recall. You will need your vehicles identification number (VIN) found in the driver-side corner of the windshield, as well as insurance and registration documents. You will put that number into NHTSA’s online VIN Lookup Tool. If your vehicle happens to be affected the site will tell you so.