(Reuters) - U.S. vehicle owners will find some answers to their questions about the ongoing - and still growing - recalls of millions of cars with defective Takata air bag inflators:
Q: If the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has determined that the air bags in my vehicle are at risk of rupturing, why hasn’t my vehicle been recalled?
A: NHTSA says the highest-risk vehicles — generally older models in areas of extreme humidity and temperature variations — already have been recalled. The agency is working with manufacturers to phase in recalls of vehicles in other parts of the country where humidity and temperature extremes are not so great.
Q: Exactly how is NHTSA staging these recalls and what is the rationale behind its schedule?
A: In cooperation with the vehicle manufacturers, NHTSA has developed a formula to phase in the recalls in five stages. Vehicles located in nine states with high humidity and temperature extremes – designed Zone A – are the first priority. Those states are Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas. Because lengthy exposure to heat and humidity increases risk, NHTSA also has targeted inflators in older vehicles. The entire process is expected to take at least three and half more years, through December 31, 2019, in part to give the manufacturers and their suppliers sufficient time to make replacement parts.
Q: Even if my vehicle has not been recalled, how can I tell if the air bags are at risk of rupturing?
A: NHTSA and the manufacturers are still in the process of determining which vehicles contain Takata air bags that might be at risk, including the recent addition of 35 million to 40 million inflators made with ammonium nitrate, but without a drying agent to mitigate exposure to moisture. Moisture contamination of the ammonium nitrate propellant is one factor officials have identified as a reason why Takata inflators have ruptured.
Q: How can I tell if my vehicle has been recalled for defective Takata air bag inflators?
A: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) maintains a complete list of vehicle recalls (www.safercar.gov), including a special section on Takata air bags. Vehicle owners also can use NHTSA’s online VIN lookup tool to see if their Vehicle Identification Number is included in the Takata recall database.
Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Nick Zieminski