FAQs on Takata airbag recalls

21 Sep 2017

A number of recalls have been announced in Australia for motor vehicles containing Takata airbags. The following frequently asked questions provide consumers with further information.

Is my car affected by the recall?

How do I know if my vehicle is included in the airbag recall?

If your vehicle is currently under recall, you should have received a notice in the mail from your vehicle’s manufacturer. If you haven’t received a notice, you can:

  • contact a dealership or the vehicle manufacturer and ask them to check your vehicle’s VIN
  • check the list of vehicles affected by the Takata recall, which is regularly updated.

If your vehicle is not currently affected, pay close attention to information from the ACCC and any correspondence from your manufacturer in case your vehicle is involved in a future recall. 

How will I know if my vehicle is added to the recall?

Vehicle owners should receive a notice in the mail from your vehicle’s manufacturer if the vehicle is recalled. You can also:

What is a VIN?

A Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) is an alphanumeric code that is unique to each vehicle. Most of the Takata related vehicle recalls on the Product Safety Australia website have lists of affected VINs or tables of affected VIN ranges attached.

Your VIN may be located at various places on the vehicle, such as the compliance plate, and may also be listed on your vehicle’s registration documentation. If you need assistance locating the VIN on your vehicle, contact a dealership or the vehicle manufacturer. Dealerships and manufacturers will be able to look up the VIN to see if the vehicle is affected by the recalls.

My VIN is listed on the Product Safety Australia website but my dealership is telling me that it isn’t affected. What should I do?

Owners can contact the manufacturer's head office to confirm whether their vehicle is affected.

The vehicle details published on the Product Safety Australia website, including the VIN range affected, were supplied to the ACCC by the manufacturers. However, there may be occasions where only selected vehicles within a VIN range are affected.

The ACCC is interested in knowing if dealerships are telling customers that the Product Safety Australia’s Takata web content is incorrect. If this occurs, please report it to us, including the make and model of the vehicle and the dealership's details.

My vehicle has been recalled overseas, why hasn’t it been recalled in Australia?

Vehicle models in Australia and overseas are usually not exactly the same, even if they have the same name and description. Manufacturers have listed those Australian vehicles currently affected in the Australian recall information.  If you are concerned, you can contact your dealer or the manufacturer for further information.

What should I do if my car is recalled?

What should I do if my vehicle is under recall?

Contact your manufacturer or dealer as soon as possible to make an appointment to get it replaced.  Contact information is included in each recall notice and on our website at Vehicle manufacturer helplines & contact details

I’ve been told I have to wait to get my airbags replaced. What should I do?

Manufacturers should be replacing airbags without delay. Please report it to us if you experience any lengthy delays.

Consumers should also contact the manufacturer’s head office with any concerns they have in relation to replacement airbag availability.

ACCC expects manufacturers to immediately replace all airbag inflators that may present a safety risk, with priority given to alpha affected airbags and vehicles six years and older, as the safety risk occurs after six years from manufacture of the airbag.  

Will this affect my vehicle registration or insurance?

We have been advised that the recall of the airbag in a vehicle does not make the vehicle unroadworthy or unregisterable. If you need to check further – contact your state or territory vehicle registration authority.

A vehicle recall should not affect your insurance. If your insurer states that there is a problem related to your car containing a Takata airbag – you should ask them to confirm their view in writing. Advise that you may need to seek advice from the Insurance Council of Australia and/or the ACCC. If the issue is not resolved, please report it to us and provide a copy of the advice you have received from the insurer.

Should I have my airbags disconnected while I’m waiting for a repair?

No. If the airbags are disconnected in a vehicle then the vehicle will be considered unroadworthy, can’t be registered and will not be insured. Disconnecting the airbag is not recommended by safety authorities either – if you are involved in a crash, it is far more likely that your Takata airbag will perform properly and protect you than that it will misdeploy and cause harm.

It is also extremely dangerous to attempt to open up or alter any airbag unless you are a licensed auto technician.

Some airbags are being replaced by the same types of airbag. I’m concerned about the safety of my replacement airbags as I’ve heard they may degrade over time.

You can ask your dealership or vehicle manufacturer what type of replacement airbag was installed in your vehicle and how long it is expected to last.

You should pay close attention to any correspondence from the vehicle manufacturer so that you stay informed about the possible need to have your replacement airbag replaced at a future time.

Based on the evidence we currently have from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (DIRD) and the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the age of the airbag is the critical factor in the likelihood of rupture.  An older airbag is more likely to rupture than a newer one. According to the best evidence available to the ACCC, the safety risk arises around six years after the manufacture of the inflator. If a supplier uses a 'like for like' replacement, then that replacement will itself need to be replaced in six years’ time.

Consumers should not postpone having their vehicle repaired with a new replacement airbag due to concerns that the replacement airbag may be the same or similar type as the old airbag. The older the vehicle, the higher the risk of misdeployment and the more urgent the need for replacement.

The ACCC has commenced a safety investigation to assess the recall campaign currently underway by manufacturers and will provide more information as it becomes available.

Some manufacturers have already moved to replacement airbags that employ different technology to Takata airbags. Consumers should not panic in the short term and should pay close attention to any correspondence they have from vehicle manufacturers.

Will I be charged for the recall?

No. The cost of the recall should be covered by the vehicle manufacturer. You should not be charged. The ACCC is interested to know if you are charged – please report it to us if this is the case.

Why aren’t both the driver and passenger side airbags in my car subject to a recall?

Vehicle manufacturers do not exclusively use one supplier for airbags, and different airbags in one vehicle can be made by different manufacturers. It is possible that the driver and passenger side airbags in your vehicle have been supplied by different manufacturers and only one of them is affected by the recall.   

What should I do if I have an alpha airbag?

What is a Takata alpha airbag?

An alpha airbag is a Takata airbag which was manufactured by Takata and installed in some vehicles supplied in Australia between 2001 and 2004.  According to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), these airbags were not made as intended, and it is this defect which gives rise to a significant risk of injury or death. 

If your vehicle has one or more alpha airbags installed it is critical that you take immediate action to have the airbags replaced due to the significantly higher risk of injury or death associated with these airbags.    

Why does an alpha airbag pose a significantly higher risk?

Alpha airbags have been identified by NHTSA as posing a significantly higher risk of injury than other Takata airbags because they have been shown to misdeploy more frequently than other Takata airbags. According to NHTSA, the alpha airbags were not made as intended by their design, and this has led to the higher risk of mis-deployment and a significant risk of injury or death. This risk is present immediately, and is not dependent on the age of the airbag. There is no safe period in which a vehicle with an alpha airbag can be driven. 

How is this risk different to the other Takata airbags?

The other Takata airbags have been made in accordance with their design, but can still pose a risk of injury or death because moisture can degrade the propellant over time and subsequently misdeploy in an incident causing metal fragments to propel out of the airbag.     

I don’t feel safe driving my car with an alpha airbag. Can I insist that the manufacturer provide a loan car?

We recommend that you do not drive a vehicle affected by an alpha airbag recall, other than to drive directly to the dealer for the replacement airbag to be installed.

If you are uncomfortable or concerned about driving your vehicle to the dealership, you should contact the dealer or manufacturer to request that your vehicle be collected or towed away for a replacement airbag to be installed.

If the dealer is unable to replace the airbag within a reasonable time, you may wish to request the use of a hire or loan car as an interim measure. However, we now expect manufacturers and dealers to have made arrangements to be able to efficiently replace alpha airbags to minimise inconvenience to owners. 

While dealers and manufacturers are not currently required to provide you with a loan car, the ACCC is interested to know if you experience delay in having an alpha airbag replaced and the dealer fails to provide you with alternative transportation when requested to do so. Please report it to us if this is the case, providing the make and model of your vehicle, the VIN (vehicle identification number), the dealer you contacted, and whether your vehicle is fitted with an alpha bag.

What does the proposed compulsory recall notice mean?

How does the proposed compulsory recall differ from a voluntary recall?

Voluntary recalls are initiated by the supplier. A compulsory recall is ordered by the Minister for Small Business, The Hon Michael McCormack MP.

A compulsory recall specifies the manner and timing of the recall activity. All suppliers of the unsafe goods, including those who have previously initiated voluntary recalls, are subject to the requirements of a compulsory recall.

When will a decision be made about issuing a compulsory recall?

The Minister will make a decision about whether to issue a compulsory recall following a recommendation from the ACCC. This decision is likely to be made within the next two months.

If there’s a compulsory recall, will more cars be added? How many?

Based on the information currently available, there are approximately 877,000 additional vehicles in Australia with defective Takata airbags, which suppliers have not recalled to date.

This is in addition to around 1.5 million vehicles under voluntary recall that are yet to have their airbags replaced.

Some of the 1 million vehicles which have already had their airbags replaced may also need to have them replaced again in future. This is because some suppliers have used “like for like” replacements. 

It is possible that more vehicles will be added to the recall as the ACCC’s safety investigation continues and further consultation with suppliers occurs.

What do I do if my car is one of the 877,000 additional vehicles that have not yet been recalled?

If a compulsory recall is issued, those suppliers of the additional 877,000 vehicles would be required to contact owners of the affected vehicles and make arrangements for their recall and airbag replacement.

In the meantime, the ACCC is encouraging those manufacturers to immediately put in place arrangements to voluntarily recall those vehicles.

My car has already been recalled. Will I have more rights under a compulsory recall?

If the Minister decides to issue a compulsory recall, suppliers will need to comply with the requirements in the recall notice.

This may include mandatory conditions such as specified timeframes in which to replace the airbags and provision of alternative transport options such as a loan or hire car.

If suppliers don’t comply with the compulsory recall conditions, they may have to refund the market value of the vehicle at a consumer’s request.

What would manufacturers have to do differently under a compulsory recall?

If a compulsory recall is issued, manufacturers will be required to ensure dealers have the necessary parts and technical expertise available to them in order to meet the requirements of a compulsory recall.

There would also be a time schedule for when defective Takata airbags must be replaced.

What would dealers have to do differently under a compulsory recall?

Consumers would be allowed to take their vehicle to any dealer within the manufacturer’s dealer network for replacement of the defective Takata airbag in the vehicle.

Dealers would need to comply with the requirements in a compulsory recall notice, including the manner and timing of the recall.

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