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Over Half of Defective Takata Airbags Still Not Replaced

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Thousands of vehicle owners have been inconvenienced over the past couple years by Takata airbag recalls. Many have taken their cars in only to be told that there weren’t enough parts to complete repairs. Others have had to rent cars. Still others have received new airbag inflators, only to realize later that the airbags would still need to be fixed again in the future.

Now, according to a December 2017 article from CBS News, fewer than half of the 41 million Takata airbags that have been recalled have been replaced. This could spell danger for vehicle owners and others on the road, as these airbags can explode upon deployment, causing life-threatening injuries.

Takata Recall Plagued with Issues Delaying Repairs

The Takata airbag recall is the largest recall in U.S. history. Because the issue is so dangerous, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has gotten more involved than ever before to encourage automakers to step up their efforts to notify consumers of the need for repairs.

The situation is not as simple as it may seem, however. First, there were problems with supply—there simply were not enough replacement airbag inflators available to fill all the recall orders. That compelled the NHTSA to work with Takata to create a schedule of repairs. It was determined that those vehicles that were most at risk for airbag explosions should be fixed first. These include older vehicles, and those that “live” in areas of high temperature and high humidity. Once these vehicles are fixed, the others will come up for repairs.

But even with this schedule, however, many vehicles have been repaired with airbag inflators that will have to be repaired again in the future. The NHTSA has determined that the fuel used in these airbags—ammonium nitrate—is inherently unstable, and has required Takata to remove these airbags in the future. In the meantime, because of the lack of supply, the NHTSA has allowed automakers to install newer airbag inflators that are no different from the older ones, simply because newer ones are considered less risky. (Instability typically increases with time.)

Honda Canvassing Neighborhoods to Find Defective Airbags

There is also the problem of vehicles with Takata airbags that end up in scrap yards, after which they can be repaired and resold. Estimates are that there are nearly 150,000 of these vehicles out there. They can be sold to unsuspecting consumers and end up causing injuries later.

Other older vehicles have changed hands so much that the current owners may not have received notification of the recall repairs needed. To help address this issue, Honda has actually sent employees out hunting for these vehicles. The employees are canvassing neighborhoods and performing repairs on the spot.

According to CBS News, Honda has removed about 80,000 defective airbags from salvage yards, and has repaired another 50,000 through their canvassing efforts.

Yet more needs to be done. The NHTSA reported on November 15, 2017, that only 19.6 million of the 41.8 million airbags had been repaired by the end of October. Faulty Takata airbags have been linked with 13 deaths in the U.S.