The Japanese based company Takata focuses on the production of safety elements for many car companies. They are best known for their high safety rated airbags, but recent airbag recalls are causing many to question how safe Takata really is.
Savetycar.gov recently preformed a safety inspection on several Hondas and Acuras. They focused their investigation on the air bags and found that in a collision these airbags were over inflating.
Several dangers of overinflated airbags exist. One, over inflation causes the bag to rupture which leaves the person with out a cushion to collide with on impact. This defeats the purpose of an airbag entirely. The second danger can cause more damage than the first. The second danger is that the over inflation leads to air bag explosion. An explosion isn’t something you would expect from something that was created with the intentions of keeping you safe.
Takata‘s web site states that “our dream is to reduce the number of fatalities of traffic accidents to zero”. This is a commendable dream, but what about the harm and injury that the safety devices cause? For roughly every 35 people saved by an airbag one person is killed by an airbag complication. The vast majority of these deaths are children, who now are warned explicitly on all labels to not sit in locations where an airbag will deploy in front of them regardless of the use of a child’s seat.
Airbags carry inherent burn risk. When functioning properly, the bag’s inflation is triggered by external impact, and the person is able to collide with inflated air rather than solid plastic of metal. In order to inflate the bag a propellant is triggered by the impact and it fills the bag with hot gasses; similar to the idea of a hot air balloon. The explosion is powered by propellants which are similar in make up to jet engine fuel, in order to inflate the bag in the split second between the impact of the car and your impact within the vehicle. These gasses are mixed with clay and silica for cooling within the bag and then slowly released through holes at the top of the bag. To avoid being burned by this release, experts are advising drivers to adjust their hand position on the steering wheel to 4 o’clock and 7 o’clock rather than higher up such as 11 and 1 o’clock. Aside from the risk of severe burns, “shot gun impact is also a concern. This is when either the person or the airbag collides with too much force. This can cause broken ribs and in some cases severe internal bleeding. Even under normal conditions those over or below average height and weight are warned against this danger. In the over expanding bags this becomes a concern for everyone, not just the ends of the spectrum.
The faulty Takata bags are expanding too much at the time of impact. Honda technicians believe that the over expansion is due to faulty propulsion. They originally claimed that it is due to increased moisture levels withing the component, which occurred during installation of the piece. However, upon recalls of other brands of cars who used the same components but different installation methods it became apparent that the issue itself was in the part, not the assembly.
Takata has examined the inflation parts which were recalled from Honda’s most recent recall of air bags the 09V-259 campaign. They found that all parts which they produced at the end of the 2000 calendar year have faulty stoke pressures. This means that it was not an issue of moisture. The propellant was found to be less dense than the optimal functioning parts. The lack of density causes the gas inflation to be overactive, thus causing explosive levels of expansion. Though this excessive expansion leads to many issues, the increasing chemical reaction burns up the toxic chemicals which are usually left behind in an air bag inflation. This would lower the risk of toxic poisoning which is also present in airbags.
Honda has recalled all of the vehicles which they say were effected. Luckily for drivers, the recalled parts do not effect diving functions of the car. If it weren’t for the thousands of accidents that happen each day, the defect would not have been caught. The repairs to the cars appear to be minimal, simple, and inexpensive. Honda is willing to work with their clients to replace the faulty propellant canisters.
Takata’s faulty airbags have been found in Honda, Toyota, GMC, and BMW. Takata’s stock has also reflected the recalls, dropping an average of 9% with each recall announced. They are hopeful that the recalls are coming to an end and that their new inventions, like a built in child’s seat will help them get back on track financially.
CNN Money reported the following recalls as a result of the Takata airbags:
“In the United States, the Honda vehicles involved in the recall include 2001 to 2003 Civics and CR-Vs and 2002 Odyssey minivans. Nissan is recalling 2001 to 2003 Maximas, Pathfinders, Sentras, Infiniti I35s and Infiniti QX4s in the U.S., while Mazda is recalling 147 2003 and 2004 Mazda6 sedans and two 2004 Mazda RX-8s. Toyota is recalling some 2001 to 2003 Corollas, Matrixes, Tundra pickups and Lexus CS430s. Toyota is also recalling the Camry, among other models, but in markets outside the U.S. General Motors is planning to recall an estimated 48,000 Pontiac Vibes”.
Typically the risks of airbags are far out weighed by the life saving benefits; however, if you would like to disable your airbags for fear of injury contact your local dealership for an airbag on/off switch to be installed.
In today’s world of ever improving technology and constant buying and selling of cars it is hard to know how safe your car really is. We suggest getting a car’s safety inspection report as well as doing your research prior to purchasing a vehicle. If you or someone you know has encountered harm or accident as a result of faulting auto parts call Christensen & Hymas at (801) 506-0800 for help.
Image courtesy of j_lai