About 37 million vehicles made by at least 19 different manufacturers were equipped with defective Takata airbags, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The defective airbags are being recalled because long-term exposure to heat and humidity can cause them to explode when deployed, often shooting pieces of metal at the vehicle’s occupants. These defective airbags have already caused numerous serious injuries and deaths.
Although the recalls for Takata airbags began several years ago, NHTSA calls them the “largest and most complex vehicle recalls in U.S. history.” Because the recalls affect so many vehicles, they have been conducted in phases, and additional recalls will continue through December 2019. NHTSA data from September 2018 indicates there are over 15 million affected airbags that have not yet been repaired.
Vehicles kept in warm climates, like California, have a higher risk of explosion because the defect is exacerbated by heat exposure. Additionally, vehicles with the “Alpha” model of Takata airbags have a much higher risk of airbag explosion, and should not be driven, unless it is directly to a dealer to have the airbags repaired. Vehicles that may have the “Alpha” model airbag include 2001-2002 Honda Civics and Honda Accords, 2002-2003 Acura TLs, 2002 Honda CR-Vs, 2002 Honda Odysseys, 2003 Acura CLs, 2003 Honda Pilots, and 2006 Ford Rangers and Mazda B-Series trucks.
Regardless of what you drive, you should check or recheck to see if your vehicle has recalled airbags installed in it. Because heat exposure is a factor in the performance of these airbags, it is especially important for Californian drivers to make sure their vehicles are not on the recall list.
If your vehicle does have recalled airbags in it, you can set up an appointment with your car dealer to make the repair for free. If the list does not show your vehicle is currently affected, you still should remain vigilant. NHTSA expects additional airbags to be recalled by December 2019, so it is a good idea to continue checking the recall list or sign up for recall alerts through the NHTSA website.