What you don't know about the airbag recall CAN hurt you!

Posted at 7:43 PM, Sep 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-13 09:06:08-04

There's a lot you may not know about the Takata airbag recall — and it could hurt you!

After three years, less than half of the 44 million vehicles recalled had airbags replaced, and that worries forensic investigator Bill Williams.

Williams works with victims attorneys through his South Carolina business.

And he's spent three years working on Takata injury cases. 

Williams showed video he took of the inflator without the airbag. It ruptures, sending metal pieces towards the driver.

There have been more than a dozen deaths and more than a 100 injuries linked to those ruptures.

Last year, the National Highway Traffic Administration acknowledged it's the inflator propellant, ammonium nitrate, that is the potential danger. Mixed with heat, humidity and time, some inflators can explode outside of its casing.

Williams works with attorneys like Kevin Dean of the Motley Rice law firm also in South Carolina.

Dean says he believes more cars with the ammonium nitrate propellant need to be recalled and taken off the streets.

Instead, recalls have taken place gradually over time.

And here's the scary part for a lot of you. Even if your car is not being recalled yet, or you had the airbags replaced or maybe you bought a new car to avoid the problem,  you could still have it.

Last year, Florida Senator Bill Nelson's committee investigation showed NHTSA allowed Takata airbags to be installed in 2016 and some 2017 model cars. 

And they were even used as recall replacements. 

Dean says "even today in some of the recalls there are the bad, new inflators going into these vehicles that will have to be replaced." 

It already happened. 

In August, Mazda recalled some vehicles for the second time, having "replaced older Takata inflators... with the same parts." 

It had been thought that Takata's inflator design that included a drying agent called a desiccant may not have the same issues. 

It was supposed to take away the moisture issue that's part of the inflator danger.

But then in July, 2.7 million cars with an older version of that desiccant were also recalled.

Takata has until 2019 to prove newer versions are safe.

But Senator Nelson warned, "this recall now raises serious questions about the threat posed by all of Takata's ammonium-nitrate based airbags." 

In an email, a Takata spokesperson tells me: "Takata still produces inflators with phase-stabilized ammonium nitrate (PSAN) propellant for new vehicles and service kits.  All current production PSAN inflators for the U.S. market contain a desiccant material.  This includes inflators for new vehicles and service kits.  Takata is working with its OEM customers to transition away from PSAN inflators to guanidine nitrate (GuNi) propellant.  Over two thirds of the inflator service kits today use non-Takata replacement inflators, which do not contain PSAN propellant."

NHTSA sent these recall statistics as of July 2017:

  • AFFECTED - 44,115,630
  • REPAIRED - 17,037,034
  • UNREPAIRED - 27,078,596

Because of the scope and parts availability, NHTSA set up a staggered system for replacements based on the most dangerous areas with the highest temperatures and humidity.

Arizona is in the second and third zone.

By now, 2009 recalled models should have gotten airbag replacements. By the end of this year, 2010 models will be included. And all models should be ready by the end of 2018.

But some owners say they're driving around rental cars, because the parts are not ready when they should be.

And some automakers are now paying for those rentals.

Honda, Toyota, Nissan, BMW, Subaru and Mazda have settled class action lawsuits totaling more than a billion dollars.

Most of that money comes from Honda with the most recalled vehicles.

While the settlements may differ, most include:

-free rental cars while waiting for repairs
-a possible payment of up to $500
-reimbursement of expenses like transportation

If you have a recalled car and haven't received a notice, contact your automaker.

And all owners should go to the NHTSA website, put in your Vehicle Identification number and check your car.