U.S. officials overseeing the safety of cars and trucks are urging owners of certain Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors vehicles “to act immediately” on recall notices to replace defective Takata airbags.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the mechanism that inflates the air bags can rupture, causing metal fragments to fly out when the bags are deployed. These fragments can act as projectiles that can be deadly.
Nearly 8 million vehicles are involved in these recalls, which have been tracked as far back as 18 months ago and as recently as Monday. On Wednesday, the NHTSA added 3.1 million vehicles to an initial warning covering 4.7 million cars and SUVs.
So many vehicle owners were checking their vehicle identification number (VIN) to see if they qualify for the recall, that the NHTSA’s website, safercar.gov, crashed on Tuesday. The website was still having intermittent issues late Wednesday.
Such urgency tied to any recall is rare. This time vehicle owners who live in warm or humid climates are more affected by the air bag malfunction. The areas most at risk include Florida, Puerto Rico, limited areas near the Gulf of Mexico in Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana, as well as Guam, Saipan, American Samoa, Virgin Islands and Hawaii.
The inflators in the air bags are made by Japanese parts supplier Takata Corp. Reportedly at least four people have died from the malfunctioning air bags, which safety advocates claim could affect more than 20 million cars nationwide.
Vehicle owners can call the NHTSA Safety Hotline: 1-888-327-4236. Or they can try input their VIN on Safercar.gov
Consumers can also contact their vehicle manufacturer’s website to search by their VIN to confirm whether their individual vehicle has an open recall. Owners that have been contacted by their manufacturer should contact their dealer’s service department and make arrangements for the repair.