JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s the biggest auto recall in U.S. history: nearly 50 million Takata airbags so far, with roughly 20 million more still to come -- that were installed in cars, trucks and SUVs, from 19 different automakers.
The Takata airbags have defective inflators, which can turn the very device designed to protect people into a miniature shrapnel bomb -- prompting a recall that actually began back in 2008.
But only about half of these airbags have been replaced. So why are so many of these deadly airbags still on the road? Auto experts at Consumer Reports say they shouldn't be, and the time to take care of the problem is now.
QUICK LINK: Is my vehicle on the airbag recall list?
Faulty inflators in Takata airbags have led to 15 deaths and hundreds of injuries in the U.S. alone. And more than 26 million potentially deadly airbags still need to be replaced.
“The highest risk areas are places with a lot of humidity and warm temperatures. Think Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, and parts of California,” said David Friedman, Consumers Union Director of Cars, Product Policy.
David Friedman was acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, when the recall went nationwide. He is now the director of cars and product policy for Consumers Union -- the advocacy division of Consumer Reports.
Manufacturers need to do more to help people understand how deadly these airbags are. But at the end of the day, it’s your responsibility to get your car fixed right away, if it’s got one of these defective Takata airbags,” Friedman said.
Jen Stockburger, director of operations at Consumer Reports Auto Test Center, said finding out if your vehicle is involved in the recall is simple.
“Look for your VIN on the lower left hand side of your windshield, or on your door jamb, and plug it into NHTSA's (National Highway Safety Administration) website at www.NHTSA.gov/recalls, and it’ll let you know if your vehicle is on the list,” she explained.
Consumer Reports warns the list of recalled cars is growing. So even if you’ve checked your VIN before, it’s important to check it again to see if your vehicle has been added to the list. If your vehicle is listed, contact the dealer to arrange a free replacement as soon as possible.
According to the NHSTA, additional airbags are scheduled to be recalled by December 2019, bringing the total number of affected airbags to around 65-70 million.
FULL LIST: Current Takata Airbag recalls
Ford and Mazda have both now issued warnings to stop driving their 2006 Ford Ranger and Mazda–B series pick-up trucks and have the vehicles towed to the dealership to replace the airbags for free.
Also, be aware that airbags in certain Honda and Acura models, from 2001, 2002 and 2003 also show a far higher risk of exploding in a crash.
NHTSA said that if a dealer refuses to repair your vehicle, you should notify the manufacturer immediately. You can also file a complaint with NHTSA here. You will need to provide as many details as possible, including the name of the dealership and any personnel involved.