If it seems like the Takata airbag recall has been going on for a long time, there’s a reason for that: It has. In fact, the most extensive recall of automobile parts ever is not a single event so much as a continuous series of problems and recalls that have taken place over the last 12 years.
According to a historical timeline put together by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the first report of an inflator rupturing within a Takata airbag occurred in May 2004 – although the manufacturing problems that led to the device’s malfunctions extended back much further.
The first recalls, however, did not take place until 2008, when Honda issued a tiny recall of just under 4,000 vehicles, after a series of incidents occurred within a several-month period. Both Honda and Takata insisted that the problems affected only a very limited number of vehicles.
Boy, were they wrong.
Jump forward to today, and it appears that approximately 70 million vehicles have been recalled, according to one report – a disproportionate number of them being Honda models. Of those, the NHTSA is estimating that only about 9.3 million airbags have been repaired. That leaves a lot of airbags still to be fixed.
How many more, however, is impossible to tell at this point. As part of the whole recall mess, the NHTSA is now requiring Takata to submit “Defect Information Reports” for the type of airbag inflators that have caused problems heretofore. This testing will continue for at least another three-and-a-half years, through the end of 2019.
And if the NHTSA doesn’t like the reports Takata submits, it’s entirely possible that the agency will order a whole new round of recalls. We could easily be seeing recalls for defective airbags into the 2020s.
As if that isn’t bad enough, the NHTSA also recently identified more than 300,000 vehicles with a subset of airbag inflators that have as much as a 50 percent higher risk of malfunction than others. These include airbags found in:
- Acura CL – 2003
- Acura TL – 2002-2003
- Honda Accord – 2001-2002
- Honda Civic – 2001-2002
- Honda CR-V – 2002
- Honda Odyssey – 2002
- Honda Pilot – 2003
The good news is that about 70 percent of the vehicles in this subset have already been repaired. However, that still leaves about 93,900 vehicles in the higher-risk group that are still driving with potentially defective airbags.
What Can People Do Now?
Although it’s impossible to know how big the Takata airbag recall could eventually grow, there are many a number of things that you can do to make sure you stay safe while driving.
First things first, if you are not one of the millions of people who have had their airbag inflators fixed as part of the recall, you should check to see if your car is part of the recall. You can do this by visiting the NHTSA’s recall check tool at SaferCars.gov. Simply enter your vehicle identification number (VIN) and Note that the tool will check for ANY recall on your vehicle, not just a Takata airbag recall.)
Secondly, if you are looking to purchase a used car, then you should be aware of the makes and models that are part of the recall. The NHTSA has created a list of “priority groups” of vehicles that are affected by the recall. When scouting out used automobiles, check potential buys against this list to make sure you aren’t buying one that may be defective. If you do choose to buy a car on this list, get verification that the airbag has been repaired as part of the recall.
Finally, check with a dealer or certified auto repair shop to see if your car has any other outstanding recalls. Safety-related recalls will often be repaired and/or replaced for free. There is no reason to wait until something goes wrong – being proactive will help you and your family stay safe from potentially dangerous situations.