The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issues vehicle recalls when it learns of defective vehicle components that pose a safety risk to drivers or passengers. Sometimes these recalls are minor, affecting only a few vehicles and dealing with less serious safety issues, while others involve millions of cars and cover defects that are potentially catastrophic.
The Takata airbag recall is in the second category. It is the biggest auto recall in history and getting larger. Finding out if your car’s airbag is recalled might not be easy even though it is something you need to know.
What Is the Takata Airbag Recall?
This recall affects cars featuring airbags made by the Japanese company Takata. These metal inflators in these defective airbags have the potential to explode without warning, expelling shrapnel into the vehicle cabin at a high rate of speed.
According to the NHTSA, “Long-term exposure to high heat and humidity can cause these air bags to explode when deployed.” This debris can strike drivers and passengers, potentially causing serious injury or even death.
Millions of vehicles have Takata airbags. Toyota, Ford, GM, Honda, Nissan, Volkswagen, and just about every major car manufacturer have installed Takata airbags in some or all of their vehicles. As of May 2018, as many as 37 million cars, trucks, and SUVs were on the recall list for this issue.
How Do I Find Out if My Vehicle Is on the List?
The government operates a website, NHTSA.gov, where car owners can enter their vehicle’s VIN (found just beneath the windshield on the driver’s side of the dash) and learn about any recall lists their car is on.
One problem that arises is that not all of the vehicles with Takata airbags have timely made it into the website’s database, and more recalls are expected through December 2019.
Why Are Cars with Takata Airbags Absent from the List?
The government has decided to allow a phased-in recall approach, prioritizing vehicles by geographic location and age. The NHTSA relied on expert reports finding that the affected Takata airbags, while defective, do not pose a danger to consumers until they have been in the field for at least six years.
Because newer cars will not pose a danger for several years, according to the reports, and because Takata cannot replace all the affected airbags at once, certain vehicles are absent from the list for now and will be added gradually to handle the volume of recalls.
What Does This Mean for Consumers?
For one thing, it means that many of us are driving around in cars with defective and potentially dangerous airbags right now. In fact, as many as one in four of us might have defective airbags in our cars.
It also means those of us who have defective airbags of which we are unaware cannot make informed decisions, choices that could have critical implications for our and our families’ safety. Do we replace the car? Do we swap it out with another vehicle? Lacking this knowledge can pose a threat to the ability to keep our families as safe as possible.
What Can I Do to Keep My Family Safe?
The government might start updating NHTSA.gov to include more cars on the Takata recall list. You need to know if your car’s airbag was recalled. One way to do this is by checking the website.
While it is prudent to continue to check the site periodically, adding all the vehicles to the list will not happen overnight. As stated, it could be as late as the end of 2019 before all affected cars become available on the public list.