What Should I Do If My Vehicle Is Recalled for a Defective Air Bag?
Auto experts say the recent recall of millions of defective air bags shines a light on the importance of not putting off a safety recall.
Recalls occur frequently, but a safety recall could mean the difference between life and death.
The air bag recall comes on the heels of a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation into six reports of air bag inflator ruptures that occurred in Florida and Puerto Rico and led to four deaths — dating back 18 months with the most recent occurring in October 2014. The air bags can explode when they inflate upon impact, which may send plastic and metal fragments from their container into passengers.
Only approved new car dealerships are able to make repairs, but many auto mechanics nationwide are familiar with the issue. “A safety recall of this type should be taken care of as soon as possible, as there have been a handful of deaths in this matter,” says Jim Gilzean, owner of highly rated Jim’s Car Care in Garland, Texas.
Who’s affected by the air bag recall
Eight million drivers face a recall because of defective air bags.
The NHTSA announced on Oct. 20, 2014 that owners of certain makes and models of Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Chrysler, Ford and General Motor vehicles have defective side air bags manufactured by a Japanese company, Takata.
In total, 53 vehicle makes are part of the recall, with Honda being the largest manufacturer affected with more than 5 million vehicles recalled.
The NHTSA says there is even more urgency for owners of affected vehicles in Florida, Puerto Rico and areas near the Gulf of Mexico — including Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Louisiana — as well as Guam, Saipan, American Samoa, Virgin Islands and Hawaii. Officials say air bags are more at risk to explode in areas with consistently hot and humid weather.
How should I handle the air bag recall?
To find out if your vehicle is on the recall list and still needs to be repaired, search your vehicle manufacturer’s website by using your car’s VIN number. The VIN is a 17-digit number found on a metal plate on the front of the driver’s side dashboard. The number is also listed on the driver’s side doorjamb and on the title and registration. There is also a VIN lookup tool on the U.S. government’s safercar.gov website.
Or, vehicle owners can call the NHTSA safety hotline at 888-327-4236.
If contacted by the manufacturer, drivers are asked to call a local new car dealership service department that is authorized to service their vehicle make and schedule an appointment for the repair, according to the NHTSA. The fix involves replacing the defective air bag at no cost to the vehicle owner.
“Safety recalls, especially when the NHTSA gets involved, should never be taken lightly,” says Brian Kloster, service manager of highly rated Weaver’s Auto Center in Shawnee, Kansas. “The problem can be trying to get everyone taken care of at one time. There are only so many [air bags] available at the time of the recall.”
The National Automobile Dealers Association said in a statement to Angie’s List that dealers are scheduling repairs as quickly as possible once the parts are in the stock and the customer has requested an appointment.
“Dealership service centers across the country have been adding staff and expanding service hours to get the work done,” the NADA statement says. “We urge every car owner who received a manufacturer’s recall notice to contact his or her local new car dealership immediately to have the vehicle repaired.”
Some dealerships have reported being flooded with calls about the recall.
Other precautions with air bag recalls
Because delays have been reported at some dealerships, there could be a wait to replace the air bag.
Some manufacturers have received permission from the NHTSA to disable passenger-side air bags in those instances, with the recommendation that passengers sit in the backseat. According to media reports, a GM spokesman says the company will issue loaner vehicles rather than disable air bags.