Author Archive

Takata Airbag Recall: Get Your Car Fixed NOW!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusmail
An attempt to save money takes lives and ultimately costs millions in fines. Are you flipping mad yet? You should be. Updated January 19, 2018

Takata logoIn the largest auto recall in history, tens of millions of vehicles have been recalled to have 28.8 million airbags replaced. Takata airbag inflators have injured more than 100 people and killed 16 people: 12 in the U.S. and 4 in Malaysia, with the most recent being a 50 year old California woman on September 30, 2016. The woman was driving a 2001 Honda Civic and, according to Honda, several recall notices had been sent to the registered owners though the woman had bought the car at the end of 2015.

This story has been in the news for years and you’ve probably paid some attention to it just because of its frequency on the news, but with the media’s fixation on the election, disease du jour, ISIS, and so on, a few airbag deaths get left behind in our daily news consumption of dread.

What’s been happening is that the airbag itself isn’t killing drivers: it’s shrapnel from the explosive device used to deploy the airbag. These metal fragments explode out at such a force that they slice right through skin, eyes, arteries, and even spinal columns. This is happening when the airbags deploy in minor crashes, collisions from which the victims should be walking away.

Before you run out and disconnect your airbags (and I know some of you will), these explosive devices, or inflators, are needed in order to deploy the airbag. In fact, they’re in other safety devices throughout your vehicle and activate in crashes, but we’re focusing on airbags here. When the airbag sensors detect a crash, the inflators ignite, starting a chemical reaction that fills the airbag with gas. It sounds crazy scary, but airbags have saved thousands of lives. Between 2010 and 2013 (the latest year from which we have data), 9,554 lives were saved by frontal airbags. Many thousands upon thousands more lives have been saved since the frontal airbag was introduced in the ‘70s.

Background

Problems with exploding airbags initially cropped up back in 2004 in Alabama when a Honda Accord airbag exploded, injuring its driver. Because it was the first incident, both Honda and Takata chalked it up to being an anomaly and moved on without issuing a recall. According to the New York Times, Honda did report the incident to NHTSA, but didn’t elaborate in the report that it was an airbag rupture. Then again in 2007, three more ruptures were reported to Honda, and again, Honda did not elaborate in their reports to NHTSA that the airbags were exploding. In 2007, Honda told Takata of the ruptures and Takata went to work to find the cause: manufacturing problems at their Mexican plant. However, the ruptures continued and after more testing, Takata linked the problem to manufacturing problems at their Washington state factory.

Recalls began in 2008 and initially only driver’s side airbag inflators were recalled, but passenger airbag inflators were added as those started to rupture as well. Then in August 2015, side airbag inflators came under inspection when a Volkswagen Tiguan’s seat mounted side airbags ruptured after a collision with a deer. GM also reported a rupture to NHTSA. This “SSI-20” inflator is found in Volkswagen and GM vehicles and has been recalled in those vehicles too.

Takata Timeline

The recalled Takata inflator assemblies use a propellant made of ammonium nitrate, which is susceptible to long-term heat and humidity. Takata is the only airbag manufacturer to use ammonium nitrate, an inexpensive chemical. According to a New York Times article, engineers within the company even expressed concern to management about using it. Ammonium nitrate is compressed into small tablets similar in size to baby aspirin, or into wafers. It becomes unstable when it absorbs moisture from the atmosphere and when temperatures vary from day to night, which any vehicle owner knows can happen to a vehicle left outside in the sun. Other manufacturers use guanidine nitrate, a more expensive but stable propellant, and Takata has followed suit for its new inflators.

The obvious solution to the exploding inflators problem is to not use ammonium nitrate, but since it’s such a major component of Takata design, it can’t be completely eliminated right away. Other airbag manufacturers, such as Autoliv, TRW, and Daicel, are helping supply fixes, but since their designs are different than the Takata design, their replacement inflators must be specially fitted to work. In the meantime, Takata has incorporated a desiccant to absorb extra moisture to make it less likely a rupture will occur. We find desiccant packets in everything from pill bottles to shoe boxes to purses, but will this simple fix work in an airbag? The next testing step for the ITC is to see if the desiccant is helpful. NHTSA has given Takata until the end of 2019 to prove it’s safe; it’s not allowed to use ammonium nitrate on new orders, but it can to fill existing orders. This leads to an interesting question: what is an existing order? Is a new model year vehicle an existing order or a new order? Can Takata continue to place ammonium nitrate inflators in new vehicles simply because it fulfills an outstanding order that was placed years ago?

Vehicle manufacturers can take some responsibility in the matter and some have. Honda, which owns a minority stake in Takata, stopped using Takata airbags in its vehicles in late 2015. All but one of the deaths so far have been in Honda vehicles; a man from Georgia died in December 2015 in a 2006 Ford Ranger. Nissan, Ford, Mazda, and Toyota have also fired Takata as a supplier of airbag inflators in their new model vehicles, following Honda’s lead.

What Is the Connection to Child Passengers?

Scott Yon, Chief of the Vehicle Integrity Division in the Office of Defects Investigations at NHTSA, hinted that they’re at little risk of injury because they’re not driving. Passenger side inflator ruptures have injured, but not killed, so far. This is because the passenger side inflator is buried inside the dashboard housing and deploys in an upward motion first, then toward the passenger. However, since there have been injuries recorded, this is another incentive, a very strong one indeed, to keep children in the back seat.

When asked if any shrapnel was found in the back seat, where children under 13 should be sitting at all times in proper restraints for their size and age, NHTSA replied that none was seen. NHTSA also stated that there was no evidence of shrapnel in the roof liners of vehicles where inflators had exploded, which indicates that all damage remained in the front seats. That doesn’t mean that it will always be that way, though, since inflators for side curtain airbags can be found at the A pillar, in the roof line, or at the C pillar, behind the back seat.

Inflator locations

Why

When answers weren’t forthcoming as to why these inflators were exploding, a group of 10 automakers calling themselves the Independent Testing Coalition (ITC), led by former NHTSA Administrator David Kelly, hired Orbital ATK, a rocket science and defense company, to run independent tests and found that failure of the airbags is likely due to a combination of the use of ammonium nitrate as a propellant, the construction of the inflator assembly, and the long-term exposure to humidity and heat found in many southern states. The ITC consists of Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Ford, GM, Mazda, Fiat Chrysler, and BMW, and formed in 2015 when it became clear that their vehicles would be affected by the recalls.

inflator explosion graphic

You know when certain chemicals react to water there’s an awful reaction (e.g., trying to put a grease fire out with water)? What NHTSA also found in its testing was that ammonium nitrate doesn’t age particularly well. So add heat and humidity to an unstable chemical and we’ve got a recipe for disaster.

What does long-term exposure to high heat and humidity mean anyway? In testing the recalled inflators pulled from fixed vehicles, it became obvious to Takata there was a zone in the U.S. where most of these vehicles had spent a significant amount of their time. The southern Gulf Coast states, well-known for high absolute humidity—eastern Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and Georgia—had vehicles where the inflators exploded on testing. Interestingly enough, there were inflators tested in other parts of the U.S. that exploded without explanation; that is, until it was discovered that these vehicles had come from a Gulf Coast state. Being in a warm, humid climate for a vacation, or even for a winter isn’t enough for the propellant to break down. Ruptures start happening in the window between 5-10 years, so we’re talking a significant amount of time.Takata rupture map

Recall Priorities

Vehicles manufactured before 2008 have priority for repair in the recall of the inflators because of the aging propellant issue. NHTSA has mandated that these vehicles have their replacements before the end of 2017. It’s not that easy, though. They may get their replacement, but may also need another before it’s all said and done. Because there are so many inflators that need to be replaced posthaste, newly designed parts simply aren’t available; this is called an interim remedy. Rather than allow defective inflators to stay in vehicles, vehicle manufacturers are replacing them with newer versions of the same Takata inflators. This essentially sets the clock back to 0 and gives Takata and other inflator manufacturers time to design a new inflator that won’t react to environmental issues.

Each affected vehicle manufacturer was asked by NHTSA to prioritize its recalled vehicles into four risk groups:

Priority Group 1: Highest risk vehicles, generally the oldest from model year 2008 or older, have spent time in the high absolute humidity region, and have either a recalled driver’s inflator or both recalled driver’s and passenger’s inflator; parts must be on hand for repair by March 31, 2016, and total completion of remedy must be by December 31, 2017
Priority Group 2: Intermediate-high risk vehicles that include all vehicles with recalled driver’s inflators not in Group 1, and vehicles with passenger inflators that have higher rupture frequency and have spent time in the high absolute humidity region; parts must be on hand for repair by September 20, 2016, and total completion of remedy must be by December 31, 2017
Priority Group 3: High risk vehicles, generally outside the high absolute humidity region, with only passenger inflators or those with certain passenger inflators that have a lower risk of rupture; parts must be on hand for repair by December 31, 2016, and total completion of remedy must be by December 31, 2017
Priority Group 4: Vehicles that will require an interim remedy because alternate parts are not available. Risk of rupture is very low in the years following the fix.

However, NHTSA is concerned about 2 types of owners in response to the interim remedy: the type who will wait years with a dangerous airbag unit until the final fix is available and the type who will get the interim remedy fix and never go back for the final fix. Both would be driving potentially deadly vehicles and what about when they sell or trade-in those vehicles? It then becomes the next potentially unaware owner’s problem. It’s imperative that if a vehicle qualifies for an interim remedy, it should also go back for the final remedy.

Culture of Non-Safety

Proper Harness Use Graphics

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

Looking for pictures of correct harness use? Look no further. We’ve got what you need here for a rear-facing only infant seat, convertible seat, forward-facing seat, and booster seat.

 

2018 Graco Extend2Fit Review: The “Shut Up and Take My Money” Convertible Carseat

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusmail
Best in class legroom? A 50 lbs. rear-facing weight limit?? Superb height limits??? Under $200???? Extend2Fit is a winner!

Extend2Fit SpireWhat’s the one thing most people say when faced with an older rear-facing toddler? “What about their legs? Aren’t they uncomfortable?” Well, no, actually, but Graco has taken the bull by the horns and addressed this issue with their new Extend2Fit convertible carseat. Their engineers have designed a unique tray that slides out to accommodate growing legs as a child sits rear-facing, giving epic legroom while still maintaining legroom for the adult in the front seat. They gave it a 50 lbs. rear-facing weight limit then added 2 (count ’em!) cup holders! How do they do it and for a reasonable price point? Keep reading and see if the Extend2Fit is the seat for you and your child.

Weight and Height Limits:

  • Rear-facing 4-50 lbs. AND child’s head is 1” below gray harness height adjustment handle
  • Forward-facing 22-65 lbs., 49″ or less, at least 1 year old*

*We recommend following the American Academy of Pediatrics minimum guidelines of rear-facing to at least age 2 before turning your child forward-facing. It’s safest to rear-face past the minimum of age 2 and with a seat that has such a high rear-facing weight limit, why not?

Extend2Fit Overview:

  • 50 lbs. rear-facing weight limit—a leader for Graco’s convertible line!
  • 4-position leg extension for rear-facing comfort: adds up to 5″ extra legroom!
  • 10-position headrest with no re-thread harness
  • Fuss Free Harness Storage pockets on both sides of seat for storing buckle tongs out of the way
  • 2 crotch strap/buckle positions
  • 6-position recline
  • Steel reinforced frame
  • InRight LATCH system
  • Two cup holders
  • Machine-washable cover
  • FAA-approved for use on aircraft
  • 10 yr lifespan before seat expires

Graco also offers four other versions of the Extend2Fit. Here’s a quick overview of the differences:

Extend2Fit with RapidRemove: Has all the E2F features plus an easy-to-remove cover. MSRP $219.99

Extend2Fit 3-in-1: Has all the E2F features plus the capability of being used as a highback belt-positioning booster seat from 30-100 lbs. MSRP $249

Extend2Fit 3-in-1 with TrueShield: Has all the E2F 3-in-1 features plus TrueShield technology, an extra layer of side impact protection. MSRP $279.99

4Ever Extend2Fit: Has all the E2F features, plus the capability of being used as both a highback booster from 30-100 lbs. and a backless booster from 40-120 lbs. MSRP $349

 

 

Extend2Fit SpireExtend2Fit KenzieExtend2Fit Campaign TargetExtend2Fit GothamExtend2Fit Mack TargetExtend2Fit Rosie TargetExtend2Fit Valor WMExtend2Fit SolarExtend2Fit Davis

Extend2Fit Measurements:

Harness height: 7”-18”
External widest point: 19.625”
Shell height with headrest: 27”
Shoulder width: 13.75”
Crotch strap depth: 4.5”, 6.5”
Seat depth: 12”
Seat weight: 18.4 lbs.

Installation

Installation was amazingly easy in my ’11 Acura MDX using either the vehicle seat belt or the lower LATCH strap. The LATCH strap is attached to the inside right side of the carseat with a metal bar, so it will never get tangled in the harness straps. The E2F comes out of the box set up with the LATCH strap set in the rear-facing belt path, so unless you are using it for an older child who will be forward-facing, there’s no need to move it. To move the LATCH strap, lift the cover and slide the strap up to the forward-facing belt path.

Extend2Fit LATCH move Extend2Fit LATCH install

The lower LATCH connectors on the Extend2Fit are the deluxe push-on style, called the InRight LATCH system by Graco, which easily snap onto the vehicle’s anchors and remove with the push of a button.

Rear-Facing Installation

This is a feature-rich carseat and as such, there are several things to keep in mind when setting the Extend2Fit up for rear-facing.

4 rear-facing recline settings: Infants 3 months and younger must have a recline that allows the ball in the recline angle indicator to be fully in the light blue circle, but after that age, you can make the recline as upright as your child is comfortable. The recline handle is on the very bottom of the seat and you pull on it to engage the mechanism.

4-position extension panel: If you would like additional legroom for your child’s tootsies, squeeze the handle under the front of the seat and pull the panel out to one of 4 positions. To be fair, there are really 3 extended positions, since position 1 is fully retracted. For kids over 40 lbs., any of positions 2-4 must be used (any extended position). With the extension panel fully extended, it’s the most legroom of any convertible carseat on the market.

Extend2Fit LATCH install extend Extend2Fit RF seatbelt extend

80% of the base must be on the vehicle seat: To achieve a more upright installation and allow more room for the extender to be in positions 2-4, you can move the E2F base out on the vehicle seat. However, you must maintain at least 80% of the base on the vehicle seat at all times. I don’t know about you, but I don’t walk around with a ruler in my back pocket and Graco doesn’t expect you to either: they’ve put a handy dandy sticker on the base showing you the exact amount of E2F base that needs to be on the vehicle seat for both rear- and forward-facing installs. Cool!

Extend2Fit RF overhang sticker Extend2Fit FF overhang sticker

Forward-Facing Installation

There are also some attributes to keep in mind when using the E2F forward-facing.

Use recline position 4 only for children weighing 22-40 lbs.: This is a very reclined position for forward-facing and will leave very little legroom for many kids in most vehicles. Unless your child has outgrown the carseat by height, it’s worth it to leave them rear-facing in this weight range. Kids over 40 lbs. must use recline 5 or 6.

 Extend2Fit ff recline 4 Extend2Fit FF upright

Move the crotch strap to the forward position: The crotch strap has to be all the way out when forward-facing.

No extender: Put that leg extender away. It’s for rear-facing only! No exceptions.

No harness covers: Remove the harness covers and put them in a safe place when using the E2F forward-facing. It’s as if Graco wants you to use this seat rear-facing!

As always with any forward-facing installation, don’t forget to use the top tether regardless of whether you install the Extend2Fit using the seat belt or lower LATCH strap.

For fun, I put the E2F in my dh’s Tesla Model S and it fit nicely both rear- and forward-facing. In fact, it fit better rear-facing because the back seat doesn’t have the side bolsters like my back seat does, so the Extend2Fit was able to sit further back on the vehicle seat, leaving more room for the front passenger seat. Using the E2F in its tallest position, though, won’t work in this vehicle because of the low ceiling height. Even though our back seat is stained with red softball dirt, I didn’t want to risk damaging the headliner by installing the E2F and extending the headrest to it’s uppermost position. I did get it to one position below the highest.

Extend2Fit RF Tesla Extend2Fit FF Tesla side Extend2Fit FF center Tesla

Rear-facing and forward-facing LATCH weight limit: 45 lbs.

Center LATCH installations with Non-Standard Spacing:
Graco allows LATCH installation in the center seating position if the vehicle manufacturer allows it and the LATCH anchor bars are spaced 11” apart when measured at their centers.

Inflatable Seat Belts
Graco has determined that the Extend2Fit CAN be installed with inflatable seat belts found in some Ford Motor Company vehicles. Other types of inflatable seat belts are still incompatible for use with the Extend2Fit.

Locking Clip
Like most other convertibles of its generation, the Extend2Fit does not come with a locking clip. If your seat belts do not lock at the retractor or at the latchplate, you will need to contact Graco for a locking clip.

Fit to Child

The Extend2Fit is designed to fit children from 4-65 lbs. and to fit small babies, a body support and head pillow are included. The body support must be used if the baby’s shoulders are below the bottom harness slots, and it must be removed when the E2F is turned forward-facing. The harness pads also must be removed upon forward-facing. The head pillow can be removed at any time. Though it looks puffy, the pillow actually compresses pretty easily so bigger noggins will be comfy with it too.

My 4 lbs. preemie doll did not fit well in the Extend2Fit; this is not a carseat that will work for a very small newborn. The harness was too high and there was too much space around the hips and crotch. My doll, Romeo, is about the size of an 8-9 lbs. newborn and he fits well without the body support. In the rear-facing fit section, the instruction manual specifies that the harness height must be at or below the child’s shoulders.

Extend2Fit preemie front Extend2Fit preemie side Extend2Fit Romeo closeup Extend2Fit Nora legroom Extend2Fit Emma legroom

Nora, left, is 1 and around 25 lbs. Emma, right, is 4 and about 30 lbs. You can see the abundant legroom the Extend2Fit offers both girls.

Extend2Fit Emma FF

Here’s Emma forward-facing. At age 4, she’s very safe to ride in this position.

Cover/Maintenance/Ease of Use

The cover that shipped on my seat wasn’t the easiest to remove. It was attached in 4 places with tight elastics that had me saying some not-so-nice things and since this is a family blog, there’s no need to impress you with my knowledge of sailor vocabulary (no offense to sailors intended!). Two of the elastics are attached under the extender. If you undo one of those to lift the cover to expose the rear-facing belt path, it is impossible to reattach if the extender is retracted. It is nearly impossible to reattach if the extender is extended at all. I don’t think that over time a child will work the cover up in that location getting in and out of the seat since it’s so tightly attached around the cup holders, but it is poor design.

I also don’t like elastics because they’re hard to thread through tiny holes or slits to attach to hooks and they don’t last more than a single hot season here in Las Vegas. OK, so I’m clearly not a fan of the logistical design of this cover, though I do like the look. I’m especially fond of the seafoam blue-ish Spire cover on the sample I was sent; it’s lovely, though all the E2F covers are sharp-looking. Some of the covers are mesh in the seating area and my experience with mesh is that crumbs can be ground into those little holes and never see the light of day again, so stay on top of the snacks. The cover can be washed in the washing machine on cold and air-dried.

The harness is one long length, but it has a butterfly attachment in the middle under the child’s bum area, so there’s not a possibility of one side being longer than the other. It can be cleaned like any other: dip a washcloth in water and use a drop of mild soap (Dawn, Dreft) to clean it. Be sure to wipe off that soap with the wet washcloth and let the harness thoroughly dry. Set it in full sun if it still stinks. But . . . the harness *is* replaceable, so if it’s just that nasty, buy a new one!

Graco has gone to a 1-harness-slot design on their no re-thread convertibles, which means that it will be more difficult to tighten and loosen the harness in lower “slot” positions because the headrest is pushing on it, causing friction. As your child gets older and taller, there will be less friction and it will be easier to use.

Extend2Fit without cover Extend2Fit back

FAA-Approval/Lifespan/Crash Guidelines

The Extend2Fit is FAA-approved, but you will most likely need to raise the armrests on the airplane seat to get it to fit because of the cup holders.

The Extend2Fit has a lifespan of 10 years and Graco wants you to replace it after any crash.

Advantages

  • 50 lbs. rear-facing weight limit—a leader for Graco’s convertible line!
  • 4-position leg extension for rear-facing comfort
  • 10-position headrest with no re-thread harness
  • Fuss Free Harness Storage pockets on both sides of seat for storing buckle tongs out of the way
  • 2 crotch strap/buckle positions
  • Replaceable harness
  • 6-position recline
  • Steel reinforced frame
  • Push-on LATCH system
  • Easy install in both rear-facing and forward-facing positions
  • Two cup holders
  • Machine-washable cover
  • FAA-approved for use on aircraft
  • 10 yr lifespan before seat expires

Disadvantages (In fairness, these aren’t necessarily problems but I list them here to inform potential consumers of specific Extend2Fit issues)

  • Lacks a lockoff device for installations with seat belt
  • Seat takes up more space rear-facing when the legrest panel is extended
  • Harness strap covers cannot be used when child is forward-facing
  • Recline position #4 is required when the seat is installed forward-facing for a child weighing less than 40 lbs.
  • Cover difficult to remove and reattach in front
  • Made in China

In a carseat universe increasingly dominated by All-In-One carseats, the standard Graco Extend2Fit is a great convertible carseat that is also a tremendous value when on sale.  Not surprisingly, it is one of our 2017-2018 Editors’ Picks Recommended Carseats.

Thank you to Graco for providing the Graco Extend2Fit used for this review. No other compensation was provided. All opinions expressed are those of CarseatBlog.

2017 Graco Sequel 65 Convertible Carseat Review

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusmailFacebooktwittergoogle_plusmail
2017 Graco Sequel Convertible Carseat Review and Comparison to Graco Extend2Fit Convertible Carseat

The Graco Sequel 65 is a mid-priced convertible seat with easy-to-use features such as a smooth harness adjuster and an open forward-facing belt path. It’s a tall seat—great for tall kiddos—and is similar to the Graco Extend2Fit, but doesn’t have the E2F’s higher rear-facing weight limit or leg extension tray. It’s compact front to back, which makes it a great option for tight spaces.

Weight and Height Limits:
  • Rear-facing 4-40 lbs. AND child’s head is 1” below gray harness height adjustment handle
  • Forward-facing 22-65 lbs., 49″ or less, at least 1 year old*

*We recommend following the American Academy of Pediatrics minimum guidelines of rear-facing to at least age 2 before turning your child forward-facing. It’s safest to rear-face past the minimum of age 2 and with a seat that has a high rear-facing weight and height limit, why not?

 

Sequel 65 Overview:
  • 10-position headrest with no re-thread harness
  • 2 crotch strap/buckle positions
  • 6-position recline
  • Steel reinforced frame
  • EPS foam
  • Two cup holders
  • Machine-washable cover
  • FAA-approved for use on aircraft
  • 10 yr lifespan before seat expires
Sequel Measurements:

Harness height: 7”-18”
External widest point: 19.625”
Shell height with headrest: 27”
Shoulder width: 13.75”
Crotch strap depth: 3.5”, 5.5”
Seat depth: 11”
Seat weight: 16.4 lbs.

Comparing the Sequel to the Extend2Fit Convertible