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Q: What do I need to know about vehicle recalls and how they affect me?

A:

As consumers in the United States, we enjoy high standards and expectations for the products we buy. By law, we are entitled to products that are reasonably safe when used correctly for their intended purposes.

With the sheer volume of products we consume as Americans, factories around the world pump out huge quantities of goods for our country—everything from toys to appliances. Every passing day, the demand for goods grows, which places pressure on manufacturers to find ways to increase output without sacrificing quality—a challenge with increasing obstacles.

Vehicles have been affected by this, in particular. Individual components may be faulty or dangerous, and to protect consumers, a recall is issued that allows owners of affected vehicles to fix the problem free of charge. Usually, a recall will affect a particular part or component and a time-frame in which it was produced. Whether it is a design flaw, a production flaw, or another problem, either the company that manufactured the part or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will issue a recall to protect consumers.

When this happens, every effort is made to contact the owner of the vehicle through standard mail or email to alert them of the recall with an official notice that states what the problem is and how to fix it. The manufacturer of the defective part will be held financially responsible for the repair or replacement of the recalled part. If a driver is concerned that they car may be affected but has not received notice, they may look up their vehicle’s VIN to find out if there are any recalls out on their specific car.

Takata Airbag Recalls: The Latest in Major Auto Recalls

Late last year, buzz began to circulate about a possible defect in Takata airbags, found in several different types of vehicles, which would cause the airbag to rupture and spray metal shards. Auto makers explained the defect as an issue with the propellant that causes the airbag to deploy; the propellant deteriorated in extremely humid conditions, which led to explosive force when the airbag was deployed.

To date, over 100 injuries and five deaths have been caused by these airbags, but there is much public concern—as well as concern from NHTSA—that the scope of the recall may be too great to handle in a timely manner. About 17 million vehicles were affected, and, although Takata is producing at maximum capacity, it is thought that it will take about two years to replace every airbag.

As is the case with many massive recalls, the cars most affected will be tended to first—in this case, cars in the humid southeast, especially. Cars in climates like our own here in Pennsylvania are at a lower risk, so we will likely be on the back end of the priority list.

Just because you expect a wait does not mean you should wait to address the issue—speak with your vehicle’s dealer as soon as possible to create a plan of action and follow their suggested safety precautions while you wait for your airbag to arrive. It may mean banning any travel companions to the back seat (the airbags affected are primarily passenger-side), but it is always better to be on the safe side!

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