33.8 million vehicles have been recalled for exploding airbags. That’s 1 out of every 7 cars currently on U.S. roads!
A few years ago, rumors arose that one of the largest manufacturers of airbags, the Japanese company Takata, had been producing defective airbags for as long as a decade. While many automobile companies have now issued recalls for about 17 million vehicles affected by the Takata airbags, yesterday Takata buckled under pressure from federal regulators and declared that nearly 34 million vehicles (almost twice as many had already been recalled) in the United State are equipped with defective airbags that can explode and shoot shrapnel upon deployment.
Now, everyone wants to know whether or not their car is affected by the Takata airbag recall. So much so that the NHTSA’s auto recall website has been overloaded with recall queries in the past 24 hours.
How big is the recall?
This recall is the largest automotive recall in American history, with ~34 million cars affected. Moreover, this recall is believed to be the largest single consumer product recall in our nation’s history. To put this in perspective, that’s 1 out of every 7 cars on the road today. Honda is the most affected car company, and the company is looking to find other manufacturers to produce their airbags going forward.
Also affected by the announcement are Nissan, Chrysler, Daimler Trucks, General Motors, Ford, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Lexus, and Toyota.
The recall specifically affects the passenger and driver-side airbag inflators. 16.6 million cars were previously recalled for the same issue, and this recall is viewed as an expansion of those previous regional and national recalls.
Prior to this recall, the largest automotive recall in history had occurred in 1981 when 21 million Ford vehicles were recalled for faulty parking gear.
When was this problem discovered?
Takata has been producing defective inflators for more than ten years and some engineers realized there could be a problem with them a decade ago. Former Takata engineers expressed concern over the formula used in the inflators, yet their concerns went unheard. Further, leaks make the propellant even more volatile and although Takata now admits that such leaks exist, a former Takata consultant, George Neff, has revealed that he recommended the company use different leak testing methods back in the early 2000s, yet Takata ignored his recommendations:
“We found a lot of leakers… I told them that I thought their leak-test methods were crude,” Mr. Neff said. “In a period of a year or two years or certainly five years, those devices could reach 100 percent equilibrium with the environment around them.”
Takata is not the only one taking heat for this mistake, though. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) could have discovered this problem a decade ago. But Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center of Auto Safety believes he knows why the problem was allowed to persist: “NHTSA didn’t pay enough attention to Takata.”
Should you keep driving your car?
Right now, the manufacturer recommends that everyone keep driving their cars, but urge drivers to check with their dealership to see if their cars are affected by the recall. However, it could take a very long time for all the repairs to be completed because of the scale of the recall. Initially, there will not be enough parts to repair all of the affected cars, so it will may likely take years to complete all the repairs.
The danger arises primarily when the propellant in the inflaters degrades over time due to humidity and changes in temperature. When this propellant degrades, it becomes prone to “overagressive combustion.” When this happens, a metal canister in the airbag can explode, sending shards of shrapnel into the car.
The propellant used in the initial set of inflators was apparently susceptible to humidity. According to Bloomberg, Takata secretly changed the propellant in 2008 – around the same time as Honda’s first airbag recall.
So far, six deaths have resulted from these manufacturing defects, all involving Honda manufactured vehicles.
Which vehicles are affected?
Below is the most recent list of vehicles affected by the recall. Note that this list is not official as the NHTSA is waiting on manufacturers to provide a complete list of affected vehicles. The NHTSA’s communication director, Gordon Trowbridge, said that “Until the auto companies are able to process the information from Takata’s filings yesterday, (NHTSA) will not have VIN data that reflects these expanded recalls… We expect to have that data sometime next week.”
- Acura: 2002–2003 TL; 2003 CL; 2003–2006 MDX; 2005 RL
- BMW: 2000–2005 3-series sedan and wagon; 2000–2006 3-series coupe and convertible; 2001–2006 M3 coupe and convertible; 2002–2003 5-series sedan and wagon; 2003–2004 X5
- Chevrolet: 2007–2008 Silverado 2500/3500
- Chrysler: 2005–2010 Chrysler 300, 300C, SRT8; 2007–2008 Aspen
- Daimler: Exact models affected not yet announced.
- Dodge/Ram: 2003–2008 Dodge Ram 1500; 2003–2009 Ram 2500; 2005-2011 Dakota, 2004–2008 Durango; 2005–2010 Charger, Magnum; 2003–2009 Ram 3500; 2004–2010 Ram 4500; 2008–2010 Ram 5500
- Ford: 2004–2006 Ranger; 2005–2006 GT; 2005–2008 Mustang
- GMC: 2007-2008 Sierra 2500/3500
- Honda: 2001–2007 Accord; 2001–2005 Civic; 2002–2006 CR-V; 2002–2004 Odyssey; 2003–2011 Element; 2003–2008 Pilot; 2006 Ridgeline
- Infiniti: 2001–2004 I-series/I35; 2002–2003 QX4; 2003–2005 FX35/FX45; 2006 M35/M45
- Lexus: 2002–2007 SC
- Mazda: 2003–2008 Mazda 6; 2006–2007 Mazdaspeed 6; 2004–2008 Mazda RX-8; 2004–2005 MPV; 2004-2006 B-series
- Mitsubishi: 2004–2006 Lancer; 2006–2010 Raider
- Nissan: 2001–2003 Maxima; 2001–2004 Pathfinder; 2002–2006 Nissan Sentra
- Pontiac: 2003–2004 Vibe; expansion will likely include 2006–2007 Vibe
- Saab: 2005 9-2X
- Sterling: 2008-2009 4500/5500 Cab Chassis
- Subaru: 2003–2005 Baja, Legacy, Outback; 2004–2005 Impreza, Impreza WRX, Impreza WRX STI
- Toyota: 2003–2007 Corolla, Matrix; 2004–2005 RAV4; 2003–2006 Tundra; 2002–2007 Sequoia;
We will continue to update this list as more information becomes available.