By now, I’m sure you have heard about the large-scale recall regarding Takata airbag inflators. In fact, you may be sick of hearing about it (if that’s the case, sorry for bringing it up again...). However, with nearly 34 million vehicles involved, it’s still a very relevant topic.
First, a Simplified Explanation of the Problem:
The Takata airbag inflators in question do not perform as intended during airbag deployment. In general, during an airbag deployment, the propellant contained in the inflator undergoes a chemical reaction in a rapid but controlled manner to generate (typically) nitrogen gas to inflate the airbag.
The issue is these inflators use a non-desiccated propellant (ammonium-nitrate) to inflate the airbag. A desiccant is a drying agent that absorbs and/or dissipates moisture. The Takata inflator design allows moisture in the form of humid air to enter the inflator. The moisture, combined with high heat, degrades the propellant over time. The degraded propellant does not undergo the necessary chemical reaction in a controlled manner, and can result in a ruptured inflator that can produce deadly shrapnel during airbag deployment.
The Recall Timeline
If your vehicle was recalled before May 4th 2016, you should have received a recall notice from your manufacturer. If you are unsure, you can do a recall search by VIN from NHTSA, or contact your manufacturer.
NHTSA has published a list of all of the vehicles with affected airbag inflators. This list can be found here. However, due to the shear number of affected inflators, NHTSA and Takata are replacing the inflators recalled after May 4th, 2016 in stages. NHTSA identified three zones (zones A,B,C), determined by the general heat and humidity each state or territory experiences. This, combined with the age of the airbag inflator, determines when the recall for a particular vehicle becomes active.
A description of each zone, and the time to significant inflator degradation can be found below:
It should be noted that if your vehicle was ever registered in higher priority zone, even if it isn’t registered there now, your vehicle still follows the recall timeline of that higher priority zone.
Vehicles ever registered in: Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands (Saipan) and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Time in service until significant degradation may occur: between 6-9 years.
Vehicles ever registered in: Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
Time in service until significant degradation may occur: between 10-15 years.
Vehicles ever registered in: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Time in service until significant degradation may occur: between 15-20 years.
The Recall Schedule
The vehicle recalls currently stretch until at least 2019, with the defect filing date referring to when the recall becomes active. If you noticed your vehicle was listed as being affected by this recall, but have not received a recall notice from your manufacturer (the situation I’m in), this is most likely the reason.
It should be noted that the last row of the table refers to replacement parts, meaning those those intended for accident repairs. This is a bit of a concern, or at least something to be aware. I would imagine that Takata and/or NHTSA are keeping track of the use of these replacement parts, but I do not know that answer.
This is an unofficial guide, and is not intended to replace information provided by Takata, NHTSA, or your vehicles manufacturer. Information is correct as of 8/29/16. Not affiliated with Takata, NHTSA, or Subaru of America, Inc.
Thanks to Subaru of America, Inc. and NHTSA for source information