Do Your Vehicle’s Air Bags Need to be Replaced?

OCH-Air-Bag-BlogAs many as 11 million vehicles in the U.S. could have potentially dangerous air bags. Are you driving one of them?
If you’re not sure, that’s understandable.
It’s been more than 19 months since Japanese auto parts manufacturer Takata first announced the potentially life-threatening fault with air bags it manufactured 2002-08, and a lot of information — some of it conflicting — has been released since then.
As the recall has grown in scope, some vehicle manufacturers continue to disagree with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about how broad the recall should be.
Last week, Honda became the first, and to date only, vehicle manufacturer to comply with the NHTSA’s call to expand the recall to a national level. Honda plans to replace the driver’s side air bag inflaters on about 2.6 million vehicles nationwide.
Here’s more information to help you understand the situation, determine if your vehicle is affected and, if so, learn how to get the faulty air bag(s) replaced.
What’s the Problem?
The air bags in question contain defective inflator and propellant devices that may, in the event of a crash, deploy incorrectly and spray metal pieces throughout the passenger cabin of your vehicle. Four fatalities and 100 injuries have been linked to this problem.
How Do I Determine If My Vehicle is Affected?
There are several resources available; in most cases, you’ll need your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which is located in the lower driver-side corner of the dashboard (it’s easiest to read the VIN from the outside of the vehicle) and on registration and insurance forms.
The NHTSA provides an easy-to-use website that provides recall information based on VIN. Go to the web site, choose your vehicle make and enter your VIN. If your vehicle is affected, the site will tell you so. You can also search for recall information by entering the vehicle make, model and year.
How Do I Get My Air Bags Replaced?
The auto makers are working as fast as they can and prioritizing repair work. The defective air bag inflators appear to be affected by heat and humidity, so the auto makers are prioritizing high heat and high humidity states and territories, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Hawai’i, Louisiana, Mississippi, Puerto Rico, and Texas.
If your vehicle is affected, contact your dealership regarding repairs.
Should I Shut Off My Air Bags Until They’re Replaced?
So far, Toyota is the only manufacturer recommending that drivers turn off their vehicle’s air bags until they can be replaced. A number of groups think this is a bad idea. Consumer Reports is one, and provides these alternate recommendations based on how your vehicle is affected:

  • Passenger side only: “(D)on’t let anyone sit in that seat.”
  • Driver side: Limit use of your vehicle, arrange to carpool with others and use public transportation.

Where Can I Learn More?
Consumer Reports and Car and Driver have both provided extensive and valuable information.