DETROIT - The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a full list of vehicle identification numbers affected by the massive Takata air bag recall.
The recall involves 11 auto manufacturers, covering about 34 million vehicles.
If my car has one of the dangerous airbags, what should I do?
You should contact a dealership that sells your model of car to get the airbag replaced. Even if you don't know the dealership that originally sold the car, any other one that handles that brand should be able to help you. If you have a brand that's been discontinued, such as a Pontiac, you can contact any other GM dealer, such as Chevrolet or Buick.
It may take a while for your dealer to make a repair. There are not 34 million replacement airbags ready to be installed, and NHTSA is working with manufacturers and Takata to prioritize which cars should get repaired first. Those in states with high humidity will have a higher priority, as will the older cars, since humidity and age are believed to contribute to the problems caused by the airbag defects.
The airbags will be replaced at no cost to the owner, even if the car is no longer under warranty.
Should I have my airbag disabled if it can't be replaced right away?
No. Definitely not. Most mechanics are not allowed to disable airbags. Even if you're able to find one who would be willing to disable yours, safety experts say it's a bad idea.
"You save more lives by leaving the airbags in place than you would lose lives by the airbag exploding," said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety. Even if a driver is wearing a seatbelt, he said, airbags can provide life-saving protection in a crash. And only a small percentage of even the recalled airbags are likely to explode if they deploy.
Is there anything I can do if I have to drive a car with a defective Takata airbag for several months?
The closer someone is to an airbag when it goes off, the more at risk they are. So shorter drivers, who have shorter arms, are more at risk that taller drivers. For example, police reports about some of the accidents involving exploding airbags show some of the victims only a little taller than 5 feet.
"If a family has only one car, the taller person should drive," said Ditlow. He said if a family has two cars, one with a recalled airbag and one without, the taller driver should regularly drive the car with the recalled airbag. And that car should be left at home when possible.
While most of recalled airbags are on the driver side, a significant percentage are passenger side airbags. If you have a passenger airbag that needs to be replaced, passengers should sit in the backseat with their seat belts on.
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