More Vehicle Air Bags Recalled –  What Virginians Need to Know

By Nancy B
May 29, 2024

Years ago, we received a recall for the air bags in one of our cars and checked the others online. None of them had the air bags—or so I thought. Then I heard in the news that 3.3 million more cars were recalled for the same bad air bags. I immediately went online, and sure enough, three of our family cars were identified as having defective air bags. I wanted to know what to do, so I did a little digging, and here's what I found out.

The ever-expanding Takata recall

In 2016, the NHTSA expanded its open 2008 recall, ordering Takata to replace ALL air bags manufactured with the chemical PSAN or phased-stabilized ammonium nitrate. The chemical creates a small explosion to facilitate the air bag's inflation during a collision. They found that prolonged exposure to heat and humidity was causing the chemical to burn too quickly. This resulted in the unintended explosion of a metal canister component inside the airbag, sending dangerous shrapnel directly at the driver and front seat passenger.

Takata Airbags Recalled

Photo credit: Alexauto321, Wikimedia Commons

What should be a protective lifesaving device has caused 20 documented fatalities and numerous injuries. Takata has faced criminal convictions and bankruptcy. According to CARFAX data, 10 years after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) mandated the recall of Takata air bags nationwide because of the risk they pose to drivers and their passengers, more than 6.4 million vehicles in the U.S. still have those air bags.  

Virginia is in Zone B

Map based on NHTSA data

What Virginians need to know about airbags

I also found out the NHTSA has prioritized notifications and replacements for consumers based on risk to handle the staggering number of dangerous air bags. The risk is a combination of time, temperature fluctuations, and humidity. Therefore, the vehicle's age and location determine when the owner is alerted of the recall and the availability of a replacement. You can see the zones for vehicle age at the NHTSA's site. Virginia has been designated as Zone B—"less hot and humid" for temperature and humidity than our southern neighbors. 

Do not delay replacing your vehicle's air bag

Today, many vehicles have been added to the recall list and may even have a Do Not Drive warning. Test data on the defective Takata air bag inflators in these vehicles show a far higher risk of ruptures during air bag deployment than for other recalled Takata air bags. If you have one of these vehicles, do not drive it until the repair is completed and the defective air bag is replaced.

The most important thing I discovered is that Virginians can and should take proactive action to get all their affected vehicles' air bags replaced. It's dangerous to delay the replacement of your car's air bag. It could be your friend, your mom, or your child. And even if you've checked your car's VIN for the recall before and it wasn't identified, it may be today and more will most likely be added. Keep checking!

How to see if your car's air bags have been recalled

Replacing your car air bags is completely free, and you don't have to wait for notice to ask for a replacement.  Here are a few simple steps you can take.

  1. Get the necessary information for your car. Find your car's 17-character vehicle identification number (VIN). The easiest place to look is on your NNINS insurance card or on your Virginia car registration. You can also look inside your driver's side door frame or on your car's windshield and snap a picture with your phone!
    Insurance CardDMV Registration
  2. Look up your car online. Go to NHTSA's online look-up tool and enter your VIN. 
  3. Check for recalls and make sure your current contact information is correct. FAQs are here.
  4. If your car is identified, contact your local car dealer's service department, alert them of your recall, and schedule an appointment. It takes some time, so plan on dropping your car off and leaving it for the rest of the day. 
  5. If your car is not identified in the recall, set a reminder to check back in six months and sign up for notifications.

How to get your car's airbag replaced

Most dealership service departments will accommodate your replacement right away. If your local dealer tells you to wait because they prioritize higher-risk vehicles, ask them when you can schedule to bring it in and tell them you wish to as soon as possible. Automakers are required to replace air bags promptly in compliance with the NHTSA's protocol. Keep checking back with them or try another dealership. 

My family is all set now. I'm so glad our cars are safe to get us safely to school or work and home again. With a recent recall of 1.7 million new cars, it's important to check yours. Knowing your cars' air bags will protect you and your family.

1/22/20 Important Update

Toyota will recall 3.4 million vehicles worldwide because of an electronic defect that can result in air bags not deploying in crashes. The recall, which includes 2.9 million U.S. vehicles, covers 2011-2019 Corolla, 2011-2013 Matrix, 2012-2018 Avalon and 2013-2018 Avalon Hybrid vehicles and is tied to a report of one fatal crash.

1/11/18 Important Update: 

NHTSA is urging owners of 2006 Ford Rangers to stop driving immediately due to having high-risk air bags. Ford will send mobile repair teams to owners’ homes, tow the trucks to a local dealership for repair, and provide loaner vehicles–all free of charge. 

2/12/18 Update:

MY 2006 Ford Ranger and Mazda B-Series trucks have been identified as an immediate risk to safety and owners are urged to stop driving them and contact the manufacturer.

2/8/19 Update

1.7 million additional air bags are being recalled including Subaru, Tesla, BMW, Volkswagen, Daimler Vans, Mercedes and Ferrari models.


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