So you either got a notification from the manufacturer of your car or read an automotive website or publication to inform you your car has a potentially harmful airbag.
You rush to the service center but you’re told they’re out of replacement airbag inflator kits. Naturally, you feel frustrated and mad, even. If car manufacturers are aware of the problem and have initiated a recall, surely they will have enough inventory right?
Frankly, it’s not that simple. The airbag kits come from Takata Corporation and Takata’s ramped up production capacity will take a while to replace an estimated 34 million airbags (this is the largest recall in automotive history). Takata has also resorted to sourcing replacement parts from other airbag producers but even their production capacities cannot fulfill the demand immediately; there’s also the issue of compatibility which has taken time to rectify.
So what do you do in the meantime since you don’t have a bomb disposal suit at your… disposal? Some will suggest disabling the affected airbag but so far no manufacturer has recommended this move; only Toyota USA has recommended disabling the passenger airbag and keeping the front passenger seat unoccupied as stop-gap measures. Another (more sensible) idea is to replace the original steering wheel with an aftermarket one but you have to bear in mind that you’ll be driving a car without a supplemental restraint system (aka airbag).
The most ideal move is to not drive the affected car (or minimize driving) pending replacement of the airbag inflator. This is a good opportunity to carpool and bond with your neighbors or colleagues, or get familiar with our public transportation system (which has actually shown some improvement). Renting a car is also another possibility but isn’t financially prudent.
It’s also said that many of those hurt by the projectiles were shorter in height or sat close to the steering wheel. So in a household with an affected car, perhaps it’s best to let the taller person drive.
Just in case you didn’t know what’s happening with the affected Takata airbags, here’s a video to show you. FYI it’s not the airbag that harms you but the metal shrapnel flying out.
Below is a CBS’ news report on the recall from 2015: