About 33.8 million vehicles, made by 11 different automakers, have been recalled to replace frontal airbags on the driver’s side or passenger’s side, or both. The airbags, made by major parts supplier Takata, were installed in cars from model year 2002 through 2008. Some of those airbags could deploy explosively, injuring or even killing car occupants. (Look for details below on waits for replacement airbags and why other suppliers can't supply airbags.)
The different automakers’ notices to their customers have varied, depending on how many Takata airbags they installed and how long they believe it will take them to acquire replacements if they don’t have enough on hand. To provide guidance to car owners, we spoke with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Takata, and most carmakers.
Nissan’s explanation of the issue was one of the clearest: “The propellant could potentially deteriorate over time due to environmental factors [due to many years in high humidity conditions], which could lead to over-aggressive combustion in the event of an airbag deployment. This could create excessive internal pressure within the inflator and could cause the inflator housing to rupture.”
If the airbag housing ruptures in a crash, metal shards from the airbag can be sprayed throughout the passenger cabin—a potentially disastrous outcome from a supposedly life-saving device.
Visit our guide to car safety.
May 19, 2015: DOT released a statement saying that Takata acknowledges airbag inflators it produced for certain vehicles were faulty. It expanded certain regional recalls to national ones, and included inflators fitted in certain Daimler Trucks in the recalled vehicles. In all, the recall was expanded to a staggering 33.8 million vehicles. That number includes the roughtly 17 million vehicles previously recalled by affected automakers.
February 20, 2015: NHTSA fined Takata $14,000 per day for not cooperating fully with the agency's investigation into the airbag problems.
January 18, 2015: The driver of a 2002 Honda Accord became the fifth person in the United States thought to have been killed by an exploding airbag inflator.
December 18, 2014: Ford issued a statement adding an additional 447,310 vehicles to the recall.
December 9, 2014: Honda issued a statement saying it will comply with NHTSA and expand its recall to a national level. This brings the number of affected Honda/Acura vehicles to 5.4 million.
November 18, 2014: NHTSA called for the recalls to be expanded to a national level.
November 7, 2014: New York Times published a report claiming Takata was aware of dangerous defects with its airbags years before the company filed paperwork with federal regulators.
Six fatalities and more than 100 injuries have been linked to the Takata airbags, and in some cases the incidents were horrific, with metal shards penetrating a driver’s face and neck. As awful as they are, such incidents are very rare, and it doesn’t mean that airbags in general are a danger. The Department of Transportation estimates that between 1987 and 2012, frontal airbags have saved 37,000 lives.
Based on information provided by Takata and acting under a special campaign by NHTSA, the involved automakers are responding to this safety risk by recalling all vehicles that have these specific airbags. While the automakers are prioritizing resources by focusing on high-humidity areas, they shouldn’t stop there. We encourage a national approach to the risks, as vehicles tend to travel across state borders, especially in the secondary market.
How do I know whether my car is affected by the recall?
There are several ways to check whether your car is affected. For most methods, you’ll need your vehicle identification number. You'll find the VIN in the lower driver-side corner of the windshield (observable from outside the vehicle), as well as on your registration and insurance documents. Punch that number into NHTSA’s online VIN-lookup tool. If your vehicle is affected, the site will tell you so. NHTSA also has a list of vehicles available for a quick review, and the manufacturers have ownership sections of their websites for such information.
What is taking so long for my airbag to arrive?
Many affected owners are learning that it may take weeks or months for their replacement airbags to arrive. Takata’s assembly lines are at maximum capacity, but according to a recent Automotive News report, even with the higher production rate, it could still take as long as two years to build replacement airbags in the initial 10 million recalled vehicles. With the recalled vehicles now numbering more than 30 million, it will take years, even as other suppliers race to support this initiative.
Why can’t other suppliers step in to fill the gaps?
According to the Automotive News report, other suppliers are capable of assisting in production, but it is not as simple as merely switching over assembly lines to the Takata design.
For one, the Takata airbag design differs from the ones constructed by rival suppliers. Steve Fredin, president of Autoliv Americas, told Automotive News that an Autoliv-produced, Takata-designed airbag would require testing to ensure that it is safe. That would add months to the process.
More constraining is the maxed-out production capacity at airbag suppliers. Fredin said that the supplier would have to build an entirely new production facility to help Takata meet the demand of this massive recall—all while still being able to fill ongoing new-vehicle airbag contracts. Such a facility would take 10 to 12 months to construct. Autoliv also wants assurances that such a major capital expenditure would be covered, either by the government or by future airbag-contract guarantees. Those negotiations will take time as well.
How important is that I respond to the recall?
All recalls, by definition, are concerned with safety and should be treated seriously. As with all recalls, we recommend having the work performed as soon as parts are available and the service can be scheduled.
Does it matter where I live?
According to NHTSA, yes. The Takata inflators seem to be vulnerable to persistent high humidity and high temperature conditions, such as in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, the Gulf Coast states, Hawaii, and island territories.
How are repairs being prioritized?
Automakers are getting the replacement parts as fast as they can, and most are sending them to the high-humidity areas first. Northern and less-humid areas might need to wait longer for parts availability, depending on the brand. Contact your dealership to learn how soon the work can be performed.
What if I spend only a certain part of the year in a humid climate?
People who travel to the higher-risk areas in times of low humidity (such as snowbirds) are not at the same level of risk as those who live in those areas year-round, according to NHTSA.
Are the airbags in my car definitely defective?
It is by no means certain that the airbags in every recalled vehicle are defective. Since 2002 only a very small number of nearly 8 million cars have been involved in these incidents. Still, Takata has told the automakers that a range of manufacturing dates could potentially be defective, and the automakers have recalled certain vehicles and model years out of caution. At this point it looks like there’s no way to be sure whether the potential defects are confined to small batches that weren’t assembled right or to large numbers. Since sustained high humidity is thought to exacerbate the problem, regions of high humidity are the primary focus for recalls right now.
I’m worried about driving, what should I do until the fix is made?
If the recall on your car involves only the front passenger-side airbag, then don’t let anyone sit in that seat. But if you use the VIN-lookup tool and it says that the problem involves the driver’s side, you should do what you can to minimize your risk. If possible, consider:
- Minimizing your driving.
- Carpooling with someone whose vehicle is not affected by the recall.
- Utilizing public transportation.
- Renting a car.
Renting a car until yours is repaired can prove expensive and ultimately might not be the ideal solution. Asking your dealer whether they will provide one, or a loaner vehicle might be worth a try if it accomplishes nothing else than putting some pressure on the manufacturer. If you do get a rental car, as with any new vehicle or rental, take some time to familiarize yourself with its operation before driving.
What about shutting off airbags until the replacement parts arrive?
Right now only Toyota is recommending this course of action. Each brand is handling the recall in a slightly different manner. Consumer Reports has concerns about the recommendation from a safety standpoint.
Why can’t my dealer just use another supplier’s airbag if the Takata replacement is available?
The recalled airbags were designed specifically for your car, including being sized for the specific packaging, calibrated for the automaker’s performance parameters, and engineered to mate with the car’s sensors and software. There is no handy, off-the-shelf alternative. Besides that, we are told by supply-chain experts that there is very little excess factory capacity and tooling anywhere that could be pressed into service quickly to make these specific parts.
In 2012, NHTSA issued a warning to alert consumers to the presence of counterfeit airbags in the market. Some recalled airbags are on this counterfeit watch list. Owner of those affected vehicles are advised to work with an authorized dealer to avoid this kind of situation. Some dealers may refuse to work on an airbag they deem to be counterfeit, to avoid putting their technicians in danger. If put in that situation, affected consumers should ask to speak to the automaker’s regional service manager or technical adviser for assistance.
Should I expect to pay any money to get the recall fix?
While the airbag itself and all the necessary parts that require are free under the recall fix, the customer might have to pay for replacement parts damaged while performing the recall work. Parts such as the airbag clock spring or plastic trim pieces, are fragile due to environmental factors during the life of the car, and damage may not be covered by the recall. The vehicle owner should check with dealer’s service advisor when dropping off the car to see what costs are covered and which are not.
Affected owners in Florida, Hawaii, or Puerto Rico have been prioritized in this recall and will receive parts first. If you live in these regions, make sure to contact your local BMW dealer immediately to schedule an appointment to have your front passenger airbag replaced. The driver’s airbag is not included in the BMW recall. BMW recommends that no one sit in the front passenger seat until that airbag is replaced.
Driver's side only in humid states (Florida, Puerto Rico and Hawaii) (14V-348)
2004-2006 BMW 325Ci
2004-2006 BMW 325i
2004-2005 BMW 325Xi
2004-2006 BMW 330Ci
2004-2006 BMW 330i
2004-2005 BMW 330Xi
2004-2006 BMW M3
Passenger side front airbag (13V-172), plus driver's airbag on models with the and Sports Package steering wheel shown in photo.
2000 - 2005 3 Series Sedan
2000 - 2006 3 Series Coupe
2000 - 2005 3 Series Sports Wagon
2000 - 2006 3 Series Convertible
2001 - 2006 M3 Coupe 2001 - 2006 M3 Convertible
Chrysler is going to replace the airbag in cars based in Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It is currently working on accumulating a supply of replacement parts, and is contacting customers as they become available.
Chrysler stresses that its vehicles are equipped with inflators that differ from other vehicles. The American automaker is saying that these inflators are not faulty.
2005-2007 Chrysler 300 - Driver’s side airbag
2007 Chrysler Aspen - Driver’s side airbag
2005-2007 Dodge Charger - Driver’s side airbag
2005-2007 Dodge Dakota - Driver’s side airbag
2004-2007 Dodge Durango - Driver’s side airbag
2005-2007 Dodge Magnum - Driver’s side airbag
2004-2007 Dodge Ram 1500 - Driver’s side airbag
2005-2007 Dodge Ram 2500 - Driver’s side airbag
2006-2007 Dodge Ram 3500 - Driver’s side airbag
2005 Dodge Dakota - Passenger side airbag
2005 Dodge Magnum - Passenger side airbag 2003-2005 Ram Pickup - Passenger side airbag
Contact your local Ford dealer to schedule an appointment to have the airbag replaced in affected vehicles. Ford states that it has not seen any issues in its vehicles, but under advisement from NHTSA, and with information from Takata, the company is recalling specific vehicles, including the 2004 Ford Ranger and 2005-2007 Mustang.
Following the recall of an additional 447,310 vehicles Ford is now in compliance with NHTSA's call for a nationwide recall. The total number of Ford vehicles affected by this recall is 538,977.
2004 - 2005 Ranger - Driver’s and/or passenger side airbag
2005 - 2006 GT - Driver’s and/or passenger side airbag 2005 - 2008 Mustang - Driver’s side airbag
Double check that your vehicle is actually involved. It was first announced that many Buicks, Cadillacs and Oldsmobiles were affected by the recall. It turns out that was an error in reporting by NHTSA. Most of those vehicles were part of an unrelated recall years ago.
Interestingly, the two remaining vehicles were actually produced by other automakers and rebranded under former GM makes: the 2003-2005 Pontiac Vibe (built alongside the Toyota Matrix) and the 2005 Saab 9-2x (a Subaru-built vehicle rebranded as a Saab). Both vehicles should be taken to a current GM dealership for repairs.
2003 - 2005 Pontiac Vibe - Passenger side
2005 - Saab 9-2X - Passenger side (Subaru WQM-49)
Honda has the most affected vehicles, with more than five million cars being recalled. If you haven’t already, go to Honda’s recall site and enter your VIN. If your vehicle is included in this recall, the site will provide a description of the problem and instructions on how to proceed.
If you have a vehicle that was first sold in, or is registered in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands—take immediate action. If you haven’t already received notice in the mail, print out the results of your VIN search and contact your nearest Honda dealer. They have allocated the replacement parts to these high humidity areas and will replace the part once you’ve made an appointment. Honda will be sending notices to other areas on a rolling basis as the parts become available.
Honda will comply with NHTSA and expand its recall to a national level. This brings the number of affected Honda/Acura vehicles to 5.4 million.
On January 18, the driver of a 2002 Honda Accord became the fifth person in the United States thought to have been killed by an exploding airbag inflator in a minor two-car collision in Spring, Texas. Although that Accord had been recalled to replace its driver-side airbag inflator in 2011, the recall work was never done, Honda has acknowledged. The driver who was killed had bought the car used less than a year ago and may never have received the recall notice. Consumer Reports urges all car owners to respond right away to safety-defect recalls.
2003-2006 Acura MDX - Driver’s side airbag
2002-2003 Acura TL - Driver’s side airbag
2003 Acura CL - Driver’s side airbag
2005 - Acura RL - Passenger side
2001 - 2007 Honda Accord - Driver’s side airbag, 2003 on passenger side, too.
2001 - 2006 Honda Civic - Driver’s & passenger side airbag
2002 - 2006 Honda CR-V - Driver’s side airbag
2003 - 2011 Honda Element - Driver’s side airbag
2002 - 2004 Honda Odyssey - Driver’s side airbag
2003 - 2008 Honda Pilot - Driver’s side airbag 2006 - Honda Ridgeline - Driver’s side airbag
Mazda has focused its recall on vehicles sold or registered in Florida, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. The automaker will replace the front and/or passenger airbag inflators.
2003 - 2007 Mazda6 - Driver and/or passenger side airbag
2006 - 2007 MazdaSpeed6 - Driver and/or passenger side airbag
2004 - 2008 Mazda RX-8 - Driver and/or passenger side airbag
2004 - 2005 MPV - Driver and/or passenger side airbag 2004 - B-Series Truck - Driver and/or passenger side airbag
If you see that your car as part of this recall, Mitsubishi advises owners to act immediately in scheduling an appointment to replace it. If the dealer does not have the part yet, they will provide instructions on how best to proceed until the part is available.
2004 - 2005 Lancer - Passenger side (recall number: 14v-421)
2006 - 2007 Raider - Driver's side
Nissan has notified owners of affected vehicles to bring their vehicle in for inspection and potential parts replacement. Extra attention is being paid to “some areas” of Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands. Nissan says they have a sufficient supply of airbags to keep up with demand. Most are covered under recall number: 13V-133.
2003 - 2005 Infiniti FX - Passenger side
2006 Infiniti M35/M45 - Passenger side
2001 - 2004 Infiniti I30/I35 - Passenger side
2002 - 2003 Infiniti QX4 - Passenger side
2001 - 2003 Nissan Maxima - Passenger side
2001 - 2004 Nissan Pathfinder - Passenger side 2002 - 2006 Nissan Sentra - Passenger side
Call your local Subaru dealer and schedule an appointment to have the airbag replaced. There is no wait for parts to arrive and no special emphasis on localized climates or regions. Because second owners may not know where the previous owner of their vehicle lived/drove, Subaru does not want to focus on any particular region.
2003 - 2005 Baja - Passenger side
2003 - 2005 Legacy - Passenger side
2003 - 2005 Outback - Passenger side 2004 - 2005 Impreza (include WRX/STi) - Passenger side
Immediate action is recommended if your vehicle registered in the coastal areas around the Gulf of Mexico, including Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Or if the car is in Florida, Puerto Rico, Guam, Saipan, American Samoa, Virgin Islands and Hawaii.
Toyota will replace the front passenger airbag. If the part is not available, the dealership can disable the front passenger airbag until a replacement part is available, and then recommends that the front passenger seat not be occupied.
Toyota also says that if you do not follow the instructions in the owner letter to have the work performed, then you should not drive your vehicle.
If you must use the seat after airbag deactivation, we advise that extra care should be taken to ensure passengers wear a seatbelt.
Owners outside those areas can likewise contact your Toyota dealer to have them disable the front passenger airbag.
When the parts become available, owners will be notified by mail to bring their vehicle in for the proper fix.
Finally, if you are uncomfortable driving your vehicle to the dealership to have the work performed, contact your local Toyota dealer, and they will arrange to have the vehicle picked up. Search recall number: 14V-312.
2002-2005 Lexus SC - Passenger side
2002 - 2005 Toyota Corolla - Passenger side
2003 - 2005 Toyota Matrix - Passenger side
2002 - 2005 Toyota Sequoia - Passenger side 2003 - 2005 Toyota Tundra - Passenger side
• Check for recalls on your car
• The truth about recalls
• Guide to car safety
• Guide to models offering advanced safety features
Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this website. Copyright © 2006-2015 Consumers Union of U.S.