Takata Is Still Under Investigation for Faulty Airbags
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Airbags play a crucial role in a car’s road safety. Airbag inflators react almost instantly in a collision, filling a large cushion with gas to protect passengers from injuries. The inflators use chemicals as a propellant to help the cushion expand more quickly.
According to Insurance Journal, Takata faced issues with the chemicals in their inflators, which resulted in major vehicle recalls. Takata filed for bankruptcy in 2017 after this safety scandal, but its problems have not gone away.
What was wrong with the original Takata airbags?
Takata, a Japanese airbag company which was taken over by China’s Joyson Electronic Corp., has made airbags for cars since the 1980s. Millions of drivers depend on Takata airbags for safety.
Takata inflators use a chemical called ammonium nitrate. This particular chemical tends to break down in hot, moist environments, as reported by Insurance Journal. Ammonium nitrate can become unpredictable and explosive in extreme temperatures.
Some of Takata’s original airbag inflators would unexpectedly rupture. This can send metal shrapnel through the cabin and potentially cause severe injuries or even death.
Vehicles using Takata airbags faced massive recalls
Takata discovered the first inflator rupture in 2003. Insurance Journal reported that Takata employees changed some test data to hide this issue from automakers. It was only five years later that vehicles with Takata airbags started being recalled.
About 4 million U.S. vehicles from Honda, Toyota, Mazda, Nissan, and BMW were initially recalled for this safety issue. By 2016, the recall had ballooned to 67 million vehicles, which made it the biggest in the history of the U.S. Honda confirmed in 2021 that it had recorded 16 deaths and more than 200 injuries related to Takata airbags.
How did Takata try to solve this issue?
Finally, in 2015, Takata rolled out a solution to the airbag safety issue. They kept the ammonium nitrate in the inflators, but added a drying agent to keep the chemical stable. This new mixture was designed to keep moisture at bay so that the ammonium nitrate would not start to break down.
Takata built original equipment and replacement inflators which they installed in vehicles that hadn’t been recalled. So far, there have been no reports of any ruptures with the new inflators. It’s not clear how well this solution will hold up long-term.
Takata airbags are still under investigation
Despite the track record of their new technology so far, Takata isn’t quite out of the woods. In September 2021, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened a new investigation into Takata airbags. The NHTSA said they would examine inflators made with the drying agent to evaluate any potential risks.
Owners of vehicles with the new inflators will be able to rest easier knowing that safety regulators are making sure their airbags are reliable.
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