A Charlotte Guide to the Airbag Recall
A frightening airbag malfunction in millions of U.S. vehicles – and a shortage of parts to fix it – has consumers rattled in Charlotte and across the country.
Owners of almost 8 million vehicles should act immediately to replace Tanaka airbags, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said. Those airbags can explode when they inflate, sending plastic and metal fragments into passengers.
“We’ve got all kinds of people calling and wanting their airbags replaced,” says Ethan Tucker, service manager at the highly rated Ben Mynatt GMC in Concord.
There’s a shortage of parts and new airbags, however, and it might take months for car owners to get their vehicles fixed. “They may have not even been made yet to replace them,” Tucker says.
What should consumers do? Here are some answers to questions you might have.
Is my vehicle in the recall?
If it is, you probably already have received notice in the mail. “The automakers have to notify you right away if your vehicle is in the group that is affected,” Tucker says. The NHTSA has listed the makes and models involved in the recall, but Tucker cautions that not all vehicles in the affected groups have defective airbags. To find out for sure, call the NHTSA’s hotline at 1-888-327-4236 or check your car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) in the agency’s recall database.
If parts are unavailable, what does the NHTSA mean when it says to take immediate action?
If your car is on the recall list, you should take it to a dealership immediately and get the airbag parts checked out and possibly deactivated. Taking that step also will help the agency determine whether the problem is limited to areas with high humidity, such as states near the Gulf of Mexico, said NHTSA deputy administrator David Friedman.
The next step?
“Owners will receive another notification when parts are available,” Tucker says.
Some dealerships in Charlotte and around the country are reporting delays of just days, but parts availability varies by make and model.
So that means I have to drive a dangerous vehicle until then?
“As time goes by, we’ll get more parts, but that delay is hard at the beginning,” Tucker says.
Until then, at least one manufacturer, Toyota, has recommended disabling the passenger side airbag and keeping that seat empty until the part can be replaced.
Another option: “If a customer feels unsafe, they may be able to get a loaner vehicle, depending on the safety level of the recall,” Tucker says.