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Honda Announces Additional Takata Air Bag Recall of Over 650,000 Vehicles

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Honda has announced that it’s recalling over 650,000 more vehicles—this time, in Japan—because of potentially defective Takata air bags. That will raise the total number of Hondas recalled because of these air bags to about 51 million worldwide.

The automaker said the recall is part of their efforts to include those air bag inflators that do not contain “drying agents,” and which are believed to be more susceptible to changes that increase risk of rupture. Takata air bags that are exposed to high temperatures and high humidities over a long period of time are more vulnerable to exploding upon deployment, sending shrapnel into the vehicle and causing potentially life-threatening injuries.

Honda Beefs up Takata Air Bag Recall

Back in May 2016, Japan’s transport ministry ordered automakers to recall additional vehicles in Japan equipped with Takata air bag inflators that do not contain a “drying agent.” A drying agent is a substance that promotes drying and is used to absorb moisture. Takata engineers added a drying agent in the Takata air bag inflators to help stabilize ammonium nitrate, the propellant used in the inflators that is believed to be the main cause of Takata air bag ruptures.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determined in May 2016 that long-term exposure to environmental moisture and wide temperature fluctuations over time could degrade the propellant, making it more likely to cause an unexpected explosion. They called on automakers then to recall air bags containing the propellant, which resulted in a further expansion of previous recalls.

Air bag inflators with a drying agent, however, have so far been allowed to remain in vehicles, as it’s believed that these air bags are less susceptible to changes that can lead to rupture.

Japan has followed the same logic as the U.S., ordering automakers to recall air bag inflators that do not contain a drying agent. Honda responded by adding 668,000 new vehicles to its list of those needing Takata air bag replacements. These include vehicles produced between 2009 and 2011—the Fit subcompact hatchback, and Civic and Accord sedan models with potentially defective passenger-side air bags.

Honda has stated that it will no longer use Takata air bags in its vehicles.

Air Bag Inflators Replaced According to Priority Climate Areas

About 70 million Takata air bag inflators are expected to be recalled by 2019. Older vehicles located in warm states, like Florida and Alabama, have been named as first priority when it comes to repairs, because of the link between warm temperatures and high humidities and increased risk of air bag explosions. Back in November 2015, the NHTSA required automakers and Takata to replace these air bags first, and then provided additional deadlines for the rest of the replacements.

The administration split the states into three climate regions, and then projected how long it would take the propellant inside the air bag inflators to degrade. Areas of “high absolute humidity,” which are considered top priority, include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Puerto Rico.

The second group covers states that have moderate temperatures and humidity, and include Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and others. These states will be priority two when it comes to air bag replacements.

The remaining states—those with lower temperatures and humidities—are in the third group. The vehicles there will be the last on the list to be replaced. States include Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and more.

As of August 2016, about 10 million air bags had been replaced. Many of these are so-called “interim fixes.” Because the demand for new air bag inflators is higher than the supply, many old Takata air bag inflators are being replaced with newer Takata air bag inflators that will then need to be replaced again in the future. (Newer Takata air bags are believed to be safer than older ones, as they have not had time to degrade.)