Airbag Recalls are Serious Business

airbag deploying on dummy
Don't ignore airbag recalls!. Getty images

There has been a lot of attention on airbag problems since the massive Takata airbag recall. If you don’t remember it, this was the ongoing case involving airbags that had a likelihood of sending shards of metal flying toward driver or passenger in the event of airbag deployment. While this was a serious, and huge, recall that got a lot of publicity, any airbag recall should be taken seriously. There have been numerous recalls issued involving vehicle airbags, and if your car or truck is involved you should absolutely have it repaired. Safety recalls like the Toyota accelerator pedal issue can be a big deal. 

Chevrolet Colorado Truck Recall

A vehicle’s airbag system is a carefully calculated system that involves timing, power, precision and restraint. That sounds poetic, but if you’ve ever seen an airbag inflate, it’s quite the violent performance. It’s also very quick, which is why everything needs to happen at the right time and with the right force to keep your soft head from coming in contact with anything less soft. In the case of the 2016 Colorado trucks, there is a chance that the airbag may not inflate enough. This may seem like a less than tragic malfunction, but if the airbag can’t fully stop your flying head there’s a chance it could impact the steering wheel, and also greater risk of neck injury due your head being whipped forward and then back in a major collision. With less than 1,600 vehicles expected to suffer from this under inflation, the likelihood of your Colorado being at risk is fairly small. Not only is your vehicle less safe in the event of a crash, it will have more resale or trade-in value if you’ve responded to anything that has come up during your term of ownership. GMC’s hotline for these recalls is 800-462-8782, so if your truck fits the bill, don’t skip the recall. 

BMW 740 and 750

New BMW sedans are the subject of an airbag recall involving what appears to be every air bag in the vehicle. The problem affects the Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) control module — basically the airbag computer — and can prevent the airbags from deploying even in the event of a full frontal collision. This can, of course, be serious. The problem is intermittent, which means it’s not a full and permanent failure of the system, but if the collision occurs at the wrong time in the cycle of computer weirdness, you might not have any airbag deployment. The computer weirdness involves an electrical short that causes the airbag control module to reset itself during normal operation. It’s basically like restarting your computer, there’s always that minute or so when you’re looking at a black or pointless screen and waiting for the reboot so you can do something useful. The restart of the control module is probably much faster than your computer, but if you are unlucky enough to be involved in a crash while the module is resetting, it doesn’t know to alert your airbags to deploy. The likelihood of this may seem similar to the chance of being hit by a lightning bolt, but you still don’t fly kites in thunderstorms. The vehicles affected are 2016 model BMW 740Li, 750Li and 750 Lxi. If one of these is yours, you should contact your dealer service center to schedule a free replacement of the air bag control module. Since so few vehicles are involved, there probably won’t be much of a waiting list, if any.

Chevy Malibu

Not all airbag recalls can be blamed on electronics. Owners of the 2016 model year Chevrolet Malibu have a different type of airbag recall to worry about. The recall states that fractured weld studs on side airbags can cause the airbag to shift its position inside at some point, so that when it’s called on to deploy, it may partially malfunction. in layman’s terms, this is saying that the part of the car’s chassis that the airbag assembly is bolted up has a weakness that is causing the airbag to shift a little bit. If it goes off, it might be slightly aimed incorrectly, which General Motors is saying may cause an injury. Airbags are very carefully aimed inside the car so that they cushion a potential blow to a passenger’s body in a very specific, and safe way. If any of these calculations are off, the airbag could potentially cause an injury rather than prevent it. Likewise, if the calculations aren’t adhered to thanks to a faulty stud that allows the airbag to shift out of position before it goes off, it could hit the passenger incorrectly, or cause some part of the car’s interior to break away and go flying toward the occupants. Another bad scene. Specifics of this recall can be discussed by calling GM’s  customer service department at 1-800-222-1020. 

Honda Accord

Drivers of ’04-’07 Honda Accords may need to take their vehicles in to have the airbag system inspected. According to the recall information available, the cars may have had the wrong passenger side airbag module installed, which can cause the system to malfunction. How somebody figured out more than 10 years later that there might be the wrong part in some Accords is a wonder. With all of the attention being given airbag problems these, days, I’m guessing manufacturers are going through their old data and rethinking the decision on whether or not to take action when a small problem is apparent. This recall affects only 11,602 vehicles at this point, which is a very small number when you think of how many Honda Accords are on the road. Still, they should be applauded for taking the high road and calling those cars back for a free inspection and repair. It’s always a bad idea to skip an airbag repair, whether the decision is being made by the owner of the vehicle or the manufacturer. After all, you probably didn’t know that your reliable Accord might be falling short in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 208, in the realm of Occupant Crash Protection. You should contact Honda’s customer service line at 1-800-999-1009. They’ll be able to guide you through the process.

Ford Transit

You can’t go anywhere these days without seeing a Ford Transit hauling something or other to a delivery. While these aren’t generally family vehicles, this doesn’t mean that the driver or passenger should be driving around with an unsafe airbag system! The 2015-2016 Transit is the subject of a manufacturer recall involving the side curtain airbags. This is the airbag that drops down over the side windows in the event of a side impact collision (or any crash that triggers the sensor). A revolutionary addition to a vehicle’s supplemental restraint system, I can’t imagine how many head injuries have been prevented by this side impact technology. That’s why, if yours isn’t working properly or has any chance of malfunction, you should get it repaired. In the case of a recall, the repair is free, so you have zero excuses. The problem with the Ford Transit’s airbag involves the fact that is was “folded and packaged incorrectly,” according to the report issued by the National Highway Transportation Safety Authority (NHTSA). I can’t help picturing somebody sitting at the edge of their bed folding passenger side airbags carefully. Somebody wasn’t doing it right, and the next thing they know they’re being rapped on the knuckles by a stout woman with a ruler. Digression aside, if you have a Transit you should contact Ford to have the repairs made. 1-866-436-7332.

Chrysler 200

Owners of the Chrysler 200 should be alerted to the fact that there is an airbag recall for your vehicles, too. the recall actually involves seat cushions, which wouldn’t necessarily seem like a safety concern unless you consider the amount of nagging a passenger or driver can throw your way if their bum starts to hurt on a long trip. In the case of this recall, some passenger side cushions were not replaced at the same time the airbag computer was replaced. Why is this a big deal? The passenger seat cushion contains a sensor that measures how much passenger is in your passenger seat. This is used to determine whether the seat is empty or if it contains a passenger, then it decides whether the passenger is a child or an adult. The little brain that decides this is the Occupant Classification Module (or OCM). Even the cushion has an acronym — it’s called the SCF for Cushion Seat Foam. Wow. According to the recall, if these two parts — the brain and the cushion — were replaced at different times they might not be speaking to each other correctly. They need to be reintroduced via the OCM-SCG Service Kit. This is a free repair. As with any airbag recalls or repairs, you shouldn’t skip it if your vehicle is involved!