The death of a lady involved in a minor car accident last week brought the issue of defective Takata airbags to the forefront once again. There is already a massive recall underway, of course. But it’s taking far too long, and people are worried that their airbags may kill them before they are replaced!
How To Disable Takata Airbags
Now, well-meaning but misguided, mechanics or motorheads are teaching people how to disable their Takata airbags while waiting for replacement parts. Check out the most recent effort on Facebook by Norazlan Jamian, but please DO NOT do it!
Step 1 : Look at the steering wheel.
Step 2 : At the side of the steering wheel is the cover for the airbag socket. Open this cover using a pen or screwdriver.
Step 3 : Once you remove the cover, you will see a yellow-coloured socket.
Step 4 : Pull out the yellow-coloured socket.
Step 5 : Make sure the car ignition is turned off, and push the black-coloured tab upwards.
Step 6 : Push the black-coloured tab all the way until the end.
Step 7 : This will release and disconnect the socket.
Step 8 : Stuff the disconnected socket back into the compartment.
Step 9 : Replace the cover.
Step 10 : You will notice that the airbag warning on your dashboard is now lit, which means the driver’s airbag is now disabled
Now, let us tell you why you should NOT do that.
Exploding Takata Airbags
Since 2013, various car manufacturers have issued recalls for cars that use Takata airbags, after it was found that they may, in some occasions, deploy explosively and send fragments into the cabin. This has caused at least 10 deaths and more than 100 injuries so far.
On June 26, 2016, a minor accident in Kota Damansara, Malaysia, caused the airbags of a Honda City to deploy. Unfortunately, the lady driver was hit by shrapnel from her airbag and died at the scene.
The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has determined that the problem is caused by moisture seeping into airbag inflators that use ammonium nitrate-based propellants that lack a chemical drying agent. The moisture, compounded with changes in temperatures, can make the propellant unstable and more liable to explode and rupture its metal container. This is therefore a bigger problem in hot and humid climates.
That sounds scary, right? But the truth is – disabling your airbags, even if they were made by Takata is EVEN MORE DANGEROUS!
Reason #1 : You Are Putting Yourself At GREATER RISK
The problem was “allegedly” known to Takata in 2004, and since then, there has been 10 deaths and over 100 injuries in the US. That means about 10 defective Takata airbags will explode and injure/kill someone every year.
On the other hand, the US NHTSA reports that airbags save an average of 2,200 lives in the United States every year. Takata has a 22% market share, so that means Takata airbags save an average of 484 lives in the US every year.
In other words, even if your airbag has a potentially defective Takata ammonium nitrate inflator, it is 48X more likely to SAVE YOUR LIFE*, than to kill or injure you.
* Our earlier calculation of 220X was inaccurate, because it was based on airbags from other manufacturers as well. The more accurate figure is 48X. Thanks to Fun Mun Pieng and Desmond Lee for alerting us to this statistical inaccuracy.
Reason #2 : The Airbag May Still Inflate Spontaneously Anyway
Even if you disable the airbag, the inflator may spontaneously explode anyway.
In April 2010, Kristy Williams stopped at a traffic light in Morrow, Georgia, when both the driver and passenger airbags of her 2001 Honda Civic spontaneously exploded and sent metal shards into the car. One piece sliced her left carotid artery.
Unrelated to the Takata airbags, there have been a number of cases of spontaneous deployments of airbags, particularly in the 2003 and 2004 Honda Odysseys – 41 as of June 2013.
Reason #3 : You Will Likely Void Your Warranty & Insurance
Disabling the airbag yourself will probably void your car’s warranty. It may also give your insurance company reason to void any claims related to your “modified” vehicle. You will also greatly weaken your legal case, should you wish to sue your car manufacturer for failing to replace the defective airbag in time to prevent death or injury of a loved one.
Reason #4 : Do You Even Know If Your Airbag Is Defective?
Many people are assuming that their car has a defective Takata airbag. The problem is no one really knows who has a defective Takata airbag. Not even the car manufacturers who use Takata airbags. That’s because Takata has many factories, and the problem is apparently restricted to their Monclova factory in Mexico (operated by their subsidiary, TK Holding Inc.).
Instead of figuring out which cars are using airbags made at which Takata factory, they are recalling entire models just to be safe. It doesn’t mean that they all have defective Takata airbags. It just means that some of them might be defective.
What Should You Really Do?
Instead of wasting your time disabling your airbags, and putting yourself and your family at GREATER RISK, focus on getting your car manufacturer to address the problem expeditiously.
- Write in to your car manufacturer and ask them whether your car is possibly using a defective Takata airbag.
- If your car is potentially using a defective Takata airbag, ask them for their recall program schedule.
- Register yourself with your car manufacturer, if you have not already done so.
- Check and update your records with your car manufacturer. Otherwise, they won’t be able to reach you to inform you about any recalls.
- Keep writing to your car manufacturer to keep the pressure up, so they will expedite the replacement of potentially defective Takata airbags.
- Be extra cautious when you drive. Although the airbag may spontaneously trigger itself, most cases happen during accidents. So if you avoid accidents, you greatly reduce the risk of injury from an exploding Takata airbag.
If you are extremely worried, stop driving the car and switch to a different model that is not affected by the recall. At no point should you disable your car’s airbags.
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