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Consumer Reports: Takata airbag fix is only 'short-term'

Posted September 12

Takata airbag recall
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— Explosive Takata airbags are linked to at least 11 deaths and more than 100 injuries, and tens of millions still need to be replaced. Now, experts are saying that even the airbags that have been replaced are only a short-term solution.

When a truck carrying parts for Takata airbags crashed and exploded last month, it reiterated the power of Takata airbag inflator parts. One person died in the crash, and four were hurt.

Those parts were intended for millions of vehicles whose owners are now still waiting for airbag replacements.

The one-year-old recall includes at least 14 major car makes, including Toyota, Ford, Honda, Mazda, BMW and Audi.

On the list is Carolyn Blaney's Honda CR-V.

“I got a recall notice, a letter from Honda, saying, more or less, that I should not drive my car because I might get in an accident and die," said Blaney.

Blaney was told her airbag won’t be fixed for months. After receiving the recall letter, Blaney fought hard for a rental car, afraid of what could happen if she got in a wreck.

Once Blaney's airbag is replaced, her worries will be over, but that’s not the case for everyone. A congressional report revealed more than 60 percent of faulty Takata airbag inflators are being replaced with new Takata inflators that will eventually have to be recalled as well.

That sounds crazy but, according to regulators, the inflators in the airbags only become faulty with age and with prolonged exposure to to heat and humidity. Since they are considered safe when they are first shipped, they are still distributed to car makers.

“There’s also a shortage of airbags because so few companies make them," said Jon Linkov, an auto engineer with Consumer Reports. "There’s no law preventing car makers from using Takata airbags whether as replacements or on new cars.”

Several companies have acknowledged they used the dangerous airbags. Fiat Chrysler, Toyota, Volkswagen and Mitsubishi say some of their new cars will be recalled to fix faulty airbags.

Unfortunately, there's an issue with that recall, too. Studies show that 30 to 35 percent of the airbags will never get replaced because some cars never get fixed. That’s because the cars may have been scrapped, stolen, sold or exported.

Officials say car owners should pay attention to recalls and take care of them as soon as possible. For more information, drivers can refer to Consumer Reports' "everything you need to know" guide to the Takata recall.

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