Things to Know: Takata air bag recall

Takata
FILE - This Oct. 22, 2014, file photo, shows the North American headquarters of automotive parts supplier Takata in Auburn Hills, Mich. Cars and trucks from the 2008 model year or older that were originally sold or registered in high humidity areas along the U.S. Gulf Coast are getting top priority for repairs as the government commences the massive Takata air bag inflator recall. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

DETROIT (AP) — The Takata tally: 42 million vehicles to be recalled, up to 69 million air bag inflators to be replaced.

That’s what the government said Friday will be the end result of the series of recalls of defective air bag inflators made by the Japanese auto parts supplier.

The inflators can explode with too much force and spew shrapnel into the vehicle. They are responsible so far for at least 11 deaths and about 180 injuries in the U.S., and at least 5 deaths in Malaysia.

Here’s what car owners need to know about the recall.

  1. What is wrong with these air bags?

Three independent reports concluded that the chemical Takata uses to ignite its air bags — ammonium nitrate — can degrade after long-term exposure to environmental moisture and high temperatures. If the ammonium nitrate degrades substantially, it can cause the inflators to become over-pressurized and rupture during air bag deployment. In the air bags being recalled, Takata didn’t use a chemical desiccant, a drying agent that can counteract the effects of moisture.

  1. How can I find out if my car has been recalled?
  2. NHTSA released a complete list of models covered by current and future Takata recalls. The full list can be found inan announcementissued Friday. Click on “Amended Coordinated Remedy Order” and scroll to “Amended Annex A” at the end to search for your vehicle.

The government also has a website (http://www.safercar.gov) that lets drivers search for open recalls. Owners should input the car’s vehicle identification number, or VIN, which can be found on the title or registration card, or on the driver’s side dash or door jamb. The VIN check page will be updated as automakers announce more recalls.

  1. Which cars are most at risk?
  2. The government says vehicles younger than six years old aren’t currently at risk of an air bag inflator rupture even if they’re in a high humidity region, because it takes time for the ammonium nitrate to degrade. But the risk grows as the vehicle ages. The government added sports car maker McLaren to the list of automakers with Takata recalls, bringing the total to 19.
  3. How long will I have to wait for a replacement?
  4. Years, potentially. Only about 12.5 million inflators so far have been replaced, and some of those will have to be replaced again because they are also Takata inflators without a drying agent. Other manufacturers are also supplying replacement air bags.

Remaining recalls are being phased in through the end of 2020. The phases are based on the age of the vehicles and exposure to high humidity and high temperatures. Owners will be notified when there is a remedy available and should get the repair immediately.

Some automakers are offering loaner cars until replacement parts are available.

  1. How can I see if a used car has had the recall repair?
  2. Dealers can legally sell used cars without notifying customers about open recalls. The government’s VIN search goes back 15 years, so check the NHTSA website. Carfax, which sells vehicle history reports, also lets people check open recalls for free.
  3. Should I disable my air bag while I’m waiting for a repair?

A. No. If you’re in a crash, it’s far more likely that the air bag will protect you than hurt you. NHTSA estimates that front air bags have saved 43,000 lives since they were required in the 1990s.

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