Giant Air Bag Recall
What’s the Deal??
A Japanese company, Takata, is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of automotive safety products, including the air bags supplied to a huge number of cars. Cars and trucks manufactured by BMW, Chrysler, Ford, GM (non-GM made cars only), Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota are included. Most models affected were manufactured between 2000 and 2008. For a complete list and to see if there is a current recall on the air bag in your car, see nhtsa.gov and use their “vin search” function to check your car. Right now the list may be incomplete, so please check again in a month or two.
So what’s the deal? Right now (November 21, 2014) the best information suggests that the explosive material that deploys the bag is affected by high humidity, and over time it can absorb enough moisture to change the chemical properties of the propellant. Instead of deploying in a controlled , timed release, inflating the airbag just in time to slow you body as it accelerates forward in a frontal collision, the air bag apparently just explodes instantaneously, not only popping the bag, but hurling pieces of the mechanism towards the driver or passenger. Cars that live in southern states that have year around high humidity are most affected. It is possible that as time goes on, a wider geographic area may be found to be affected as well.
What’s the risk? Graphic news descriptions of “shrapnel” blowing all over the interior of the car in even a minor accident might cause you to consider riding a bike instead of driving (always a good idea anyway). However, the probability of it happening to you, specifically, and your being injured by shrapnel as well, is somewhat lower than your winning the Mega Millions lottery. Basically, if the car you are driving has spent its life out west, it is probably safe. Personally, I would not disable either the passenger side or my own air bag, particularly when I consider that the likelihood of my being in an accident and being saved by the air bag is far greater than being injured by it! If I won the lottery more often, I might reconsider, but as you can probably guess, since I am not writing this from my cottage on the beach in Hawaii, that’s not happenin’.
For more information, see http://www.safercar.gov/Vehicle+Owners/vin-lookup-sites , NHTSA.gov , http://www.nhtsa.gov/About+NHTSA/Press+Releases/Vehicle-owners-with-defective-airbags-urged-to-take-immediate-action
If you bought your car used, be sure and make use of the page in the owner’s manual that informs the manufacturer of your ownership and how to get a hold of you so that if you vehicle is involved in a recall, you will hear about it.