How To Disable Takata Airbags, And Why You Should NOT Do It!

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!

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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.

  1. Write in to your car manufacturer and ask them whether your car is possibly using a defective Takata airbag.
  2. If your car is potentially using a defective Takata airbag, ask them for their recall program schedule.
  3. Register yourself with your car manufacturer, if you have not already done so.
  4. Check and update your records with your car manufacturer. Otherwise, they won’t be able to reach you to inform you about any recalls.
  5. Keep writing to your car manufacturer to keep the pressure up, so they will expedite the replacement of potentially defective Takata airbags.
  6. 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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12 Comments

  1. SS

    Your statistics are US statistic. The % of cars affected in US may be lower than in Malaysia.And I figure that the total of accidents in US is significantly higher than Malaysia, so 2,200 saved may not be significantly high and its good that the air bags saved lives than taking them.
    I agree that not all Takata air bags are defective but the % of defective takata air bags is still an unknown number. Although I think Takata may know it but they are not sharing it. So, of course we assume our is a affected one based on the worst case scenario.
    And the replacement program sucks, with problem since 2003, they should have started the recall/replacement earlier, not after a “wait and see if there is any accident” attitude.
    Lastly, everyone needs to drive, so I think disabling the air bag is a calculated risk to mitigate the unknown/uncertainty and removing harm out of the way. Practising extra caution while driving is a must regardless if there is an air bag or without.

    Reply
    1. kadajawi

      Really? What makes you think so that fewer cars are affected in the US? Only airbags made in Mexico happen to be affected. What are the chances that parts produced in Mexico will appear in cars sold in Malaysia, vs cars sold in the US? Which tend to be made in the US, which is, like, right next to Mexico instead of on the other side of the globe? If anything, chances of having a faulty airbag in Malaysia are lower than in the US.

      The number of accidents doesn’t matter. On one hand you have 10 people killed within 12 years (1 a year!), vs 2200 saved. Even if the number of people killed is much higher (say 10 a year), it still speaks for airbags… even for Takata airbags.

      Disabling the airbag is a terrible calculated risk… in order to stop something very unlikely you take a big risk.

      Reply
    2. Dr. Adrian Wong

      SS, unless you have Malaysian statistics, we have to use what is available – US statistics.

      And unless you have evidence that Americans have more car accidents than Malaysians, you can’t just make up a conclusion that “the total of accidents in US is significantly higher than Malaysia”.

      There is NO WAY to know the % of defective Takata airbags, but we do know how many injuries and deaths have been attributed to defective Takata airbags. We also know how many people were saved by airbags.

      We have to base our analysis and opinions on the facts, not what we THINK is true.

      Sure, disabling the airbag is a calculated risk. I’m pointing out that the risk of not having an airbag (that you may think is trivial) is actually much worse than retaining the airbag, even if it’s a potentially defective one.

      I would also like to point out to you that there is no way to know if your car’s airbags come from the Mexican factory in which all of those defective inflators were made, even if you know that your car uses Takata airbags.

      Reply
  2. SS

    My question is how many of 2200 saved are Takata air bags?
    If Takata or Honda can’t determine if bags in Malaysia are made in Mexico, we can’t be certain that chances are lower. And if they are sure (or confident), they will definitely make the facts public and calm the public.

    The number of faulty air bags maybe low now. That’s because it is a reliability issue and I won’t wait until the number is higher. The root cause investigations has show that time and humidity is the enemy here. Until I replace my air bag, I rather disable air bag and drive carefully.
    Even NHTSA now is telling Honda 2001-2003 owners not to drive their car immediately as it poses 50% risk of explosion. As you can see, older models are at a higher risk.

    Disconnecting air bag is a personal call based on car age, care, and usage. The risk is really up to the individual.

    Reply
    1. Dr. Adrian Wong

      SS, it’s already stated in the article :

      “…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.”

      Your logic is flawed. No one ever said that neither Takata or Honda knows if the airbags made in Malaysia were made in that Mexican factory. They certainly do. But in a recall, they cannot just call individual owners. They make a GENERAL RECALL of whole model years.

      Does this mean they will have to replace airbags that were not made in Mexico? Yes.

      Why? Because it’s easier to issue a recall of whole model years, than individual batches or cars. Because it also makes for better PR.

      That’s your right in Malaysia to disable your airbags (not in other countries though), just as it’s your right to smoke 20 packs a day, have unprotected sex with strangers and choose alternative medicine to treat your cancer.

      However, it doesn’t mean you are correct. Neither does it mean you have the right to advise people to be equally reckless with their lives. 😀

      Yes, the NHTSA has issued a new warning for very specific models have have a much higher risk. As you yourself pointed out, they only affect the 2001-2003 Honda models. But note that the NHTSA did NOT advise them to disable their airbags. 😉

      If you are worried about your airbags, the answer is NOT to disable the airbags. It’s to SWITCH to a different car with functional airbags.

      Reply
  3. VDC

    If you say 10 deaths since 2004 vs 484 lives saved per year, won’t the saving rate be 484x? Since assuming only 1 death per year.

    Reply
    1. Dr. Adrian Wong

      In addition to 10 deaths, there were also more than 100 injuries blamed on the Takata airbags since 2004. I averaged that out as 10 deaths / injuries per year.

      Yes, it’s skewed markedly in favour of disabling defective airbags, but when so, it is FAR SAFER to keep using a “potentially defective” Takata airbag.

      Reply
  4. Rps Abque

    So Tokata figured out the problem, fixed it and the new airbag, still from Tokata is different? Then why are still making cars with the “bad airbag.” How do i know they aren’t just putting in a new “bad air bag?” I think i’m going to remove the entire airbag everything in my 2003 Acura and be done with this bullshit. It sounds kinda fishy for some reason…..

    Reply
    1. Dr. Adrian Wong

      As the article pointed out, the defective airbags came from just ONE Takata factory in Mexico – their Monclova facility.

      Takata has many factories all around the world, and none of them make defective airbags. The replacement airbags are from those facilities.

      Please check with your insurer and the law in your jurisdiction. You may lose your insurance, or run afoul of the law, if you remove your car’s airbags.

      Reply
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