Recalls Archive

Takata Airbag Recall: Get Your Car Fixed NOW!

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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

Chrysler Recalls 2017 Pacifica Minivan for Engine Stalling

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Chrysler has issued a recall of more than 150,000 Pacifica minivans due to engines stalling the van is being driven. A problem with the engine control module causes the stalling, requiring drivers to turn the car off and then back on.

According to a New York Times article, the stalling issue most often happens when the vehicle is idling, starting up, turning, or moving at low speeds, but some drivers have reported issues in intersections and on highways. Chrysler said it is aware of one crash potentially caused by this problem, but no injuries.

The recall affects gas-powered Pacificas (not the hybrid model) from the 2017 model year. The fix consists of an update to the vehicle’s engine control software. The company will notify owners when the update is available, and dealers will install the update for free.

As of Monday afternoon, no information was available on the NHTSA website, but we will update as more details become available.

Honda’s latest recall and what you need to know about it

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2011-2017 Honda Odyssey Recall

Got an Odyssey? Then get ready for a NEW recall notice in the next month or so for model year 2011-2017 Honda Odysseys. We addressed a similar recall that was first announced in December of 2016, so be sure to update yourself on that as well if you are not aware. This upcoming recall affects the second row seats just like last year’s recall, only this time it has to do with the vehicle seat latches possibly not connecting fully when reattaching the seat or moving it from the inner most position to the neutral or outermost position. This recall does not involve the lower LATCH anchors used to attach carseats. If the vehicle seat is not latched to the car, it can tip forward during moderate to severe braking and hurt a passenger. According to NHTSA there have been 46 reported (minor) injuries.

To emphasize: If you had a already recall fix done to your Odyssey during 2017 for 2nd row seat release lever that remains unlocked, that is a DIFFERENT RECALL.  This is a NEW recall that is similar to the one from earlier in 2017.  All 2011-2017 owners will be mailed a NEW recall notice starting in late December, 2017.

Over 800,000 Odysseys from model years 2011-2017 have been recalled. Visit Honda’s website with your VIN to check if yours is affected.

What you need to know according to Honda:

-Right now there is no fix available and Honda is currently working toward a resolution.

-Mailed notifications will be sent by Honda to owners in late December, 2017

-When a fix is available, Honda will notify consumers. The repair will be free of cost.

-In the meantime, Honda’s website has step by step instructions for making sure your seat is latched down properly for safe use. You can view those steps here: Instructions for Properly Installing/Positioning the Second Row Outer Seats and Confirming They Are Securely Latched.

-Honda does not recommend tipping the second row seat forward for access to the third row because it increases the chances of it not latching properly when placing it back down.

-Most dealerships are honoring a stop-sale on all Odysseys that fall within this recall and will not sell them. However keep in mind that this recall is very new and a lot of dealerships are not yet aware. So if you are in the market for a used Odyssey, keep in mind that you will not be able to purchase one from those model years from a dealer until the fix is issued. If your local dealer is selling them, know that any model between 2011-2017 is affected.

The second row seat may not anchor fully to the floor and tip forward during hard braking.

You can see where the latch of the seat connects to the bar on the floor. Visit Honda’s website for full instructions on how to ensure the seat is latched properly.

 

To check if your vehicle is affected, please visit Honda’s website to put in your VIN number, or call (800) 999-1009. More information should be forthcoming.

 

NHTSA Campaign Number: 17V725000

Manufacturer Honda (American Honda Motor Co.)

Components SEATS

Potential Number of Units Affected 806,936

Diono Recalls Certain Radian, Rainier, Olympia & Pacifica Carseat Models

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Diono Radian RXT, Radian R100, Radian R120, Rainier, Pacifica & Olympia Car Seat Recall

Diono is recalling certain Radian R100, Radian R120, Radian RXT, Olympia, Pacifica, and Rainier convertible+booster carseats. Approximately 500,000 seats are affected. When the carseat is secured to the vehicle forward-facing using just a lap belt and without using the top tether, the seat may not adequately protect the child from injury in the event of a crash. As such, these seats do not conform to the specific requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 213. This is a voluntary recall. There are no reported injuries or deaths associated with these seats in these use modes. Owners of affected seats can continue to safely use their Diono carseats until the “recall remedy kits” are mailed out in about 6 weeks.

   

To clarify, only seats made in the date range listed below are recalled and the problem only relates to the installation of these models in the forward-facing position if the seat is installed in an older vehicle with just a lap belt and no top tether. If your Diono convertible was made during the recall period but your seat is installed rear-facing, or if it is installed forward-facing using the tether, you don’t need to be overly concerned but you should make sure your seat is registered with Diono so you can receive your recall remedy kit which will include several items. More on that below.

To determine if your Diono seat is recalled, find the sticker label on the side of the seat which includes the model number and the date of manufacture, then check to see if falls into the date range listed below. If you purchased your Diono convertible seat sometime in the last 4 years, there is a good chance it’s now part of this recall.

Model Name Model Numbers Dates of Manufacture
Diono Radian RXT 16900 or 16000 11/25/2013 – 9/5/2017
Diono Radian R100 16600 or 16000 1/3/2014 – 9/5/2017
Diono Radian R120 16800 or 16000 1/3/2014 – 8/30/2017
Diono Rainier 30300 or 30000 4/12/2014 – 9/5/2017
Diono Pacifica 30400 or 30000 3/5/2014 – 5/24/2016
Diono Olympia 30100 or 30000 4/12/2014 – 3/03/2015

My seat is affected by this recall. Now what?

The recall is expected to begin November 22, 2017. At that time Diono will begin notifying registered owners and will provide a free remedy kit to those who request it. If you know that you never registered your Diono carseat, you can register it online here. If you’re not sure, you can contact Diono customer service at 1-855-215-4951 to confirm the registration and to make sure they have your current mailing address. 

The remedy kits won’t be ready to ship until the end of November.

What will the Remedy Kit contain?

The free remedy kit will contain an updated instruction manual, an energy-absorbing EPP foam insert that goes under the child and a new style of chest clip. These additions are only necessary when installing your Diono carseat forward-facing with a lap-only seatbelt and no top tether. This is an unlikely scenario for most parents unless you drive a vehicle more than 15 years old, or a school bus.

Do I really need the Remedy Kit?

If you are currently using your Diono carseats forward-facing in a seating position with just a lap belt and no top tether, you will want to add the EPP foam insert and new chest clip as soon as possible. Or, better yet, look for a different seating position that may have a tether anchor you can use!

For the vast majority of Diono carseat owners who are either using their seat rear-facing or have it tethered forward-facing, you don’t really need the remedy kit but should probably order it anyway just in case you wind up needing to install your seat in an old vehicle with lap belts and no tether anchors someday.  Or, maybe on a school bus. 🙂

You can pre-order a remedy kit by calling Diono customer service at 1-855-215-4951. Just keep in mind that the remedy kit won’t ship until late November or December.

Additional information from the Diono website:

https://us.diono.com/safety-notice/

Diono is a leading designer and manufacturer of child safety seats and other juvenile products.  We are committed to improving safety for babies and young children traveling in cars.  As a result of our rigorous quality control, and ongoing product testing, we have established that if our convertible child safety seat is installed forward-facing in vehicles with a lap-belt (type 1) only without top tether, it crosses into a technical non-compliance.  If our convertible child safety seat is being used with a lap and shoulder safety belt (type 2) or with our SuperLATCH system, or top tether the child safety seat is unaffected.

Please Note: In September of 2005 a U.S. law passed requiring a three-point belt in every back seat for all cars manufactured after 2007 – most vehicle manufacturers complied well before that date.

It is highly unlikely that you will be affected by this voluntary recall.  To check if you are, please answer the following questions.

A) Is your child safety seat installed forward-facing with the lap and shoulder belt, or with our SuperLATCH system, or using the top tether?  If the answer is yes you are unaffected by this notice.

B) Is your child safety seat installed forward-facing with the lap belt only and top tether. If the answer is yes you are unaffected by this notice.

C) Is your child safety seat installed forward-facing with the lap belt only? If the answer is yes, you might be affected by this notice.

If the answer to C is yes you are only affected if your seat was manufactured after 11/25/13.  You will be able to locate this information on the manufacturer’s label on the product.

The Diono Safety Team is ready to assist any concerns, questions and inquiries from concerned parents, customers or advocates who need our support while we implement this voluntary recall. We have a toll-free number set up for any consumer inquiries 1-855-463-4666.