The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a new probe into potentially faulty airbag inflators produced by Takata, according to Reuters. The original recall is the largest in U.S. history covering 19 automakers and tens of millions of vehicles.
Affected inflators potentially degrade with exposure to high heat and humidity causing them to explode and send metal shrapnel at vehicle occupants. A series of recalls have been issued throughout the years with more than 67 million inflators now included.
Despite the extensive recall, a 19th U.S. fatality due to a faulty airbag inflator was reported as recently as January of this year. According to Honda and NHTSA, the driver of a 2002 Honda Accord was killed on Jan. 9 when an airbag inflator ruptured after a crash in Lancaster County, South Carolina. More than 400 injuries have also been reported due to faulty inflators.
Old and new inflators at risk
The latest investigation by NHTSA involves an engineering analysis of 30 million potentially affected vehicles that were built from the 2001 to 2019 model years. It covers not just inflators installed during the original manufacturing process, but also some that were used in earlier recall repairs.
This new investigation specifically targets the desiccant, which is the drying agent used in the inflators.
There haven’t been any reports of issues with these vehicles, but NHTSA decided further evaluation was needed to determine the long-term performance of the desiccant. It will also be looking at Takata production processes as a part of its investigation.
Originally recalled vehicles still need repair
Even with extensive media coverage and outreach by automakers, there are still vehicles included in the original recalls with potentially faulty inflators that have not been repaired.
NHTSA estimates that 50 million inflators have been either repaired or accounted for, which leaves some 17 million in question. This new investigation has the potential to add to that number if it’s determined that the desiccant doesn’t perform as desired over time.
In addition to the Takata recall being the largest in U.S. history, it’s also the longest running. Advisories were issued as far back as 2001, with the bulk of the recalls issued withing the last few years. Initial repair efforts were hampered by a lack of replacement parts, but NHTSA brought on additional suppliers as Takata increased production.
Now, it’s only a matter of notifying owners that a repair is required. No timeframe has been announced for when NHTSA will decide if additional inflator recalls are necessary.