UPDATE: Last spring there was a huge recall of air bags, after the death of six people. This month, even more cars have been added to the list of cars that may be affected by the recall. Check the official list from the NHTSA to see if your car is in danger.
UPDATE: The massive air bag recall that began last year doubled this week from 16.6 million to almost 34 million vehicles, now making it the biggest car recall in U.S. history. The air bags made by Takata Corp. have been responsible for six deaths and more than 100 injuries because they can explode when they deploy and shoot shrapnel into the car. Honda has the most vehicles with the faulty driver- and passenger-side air bags installed, but check below for the types of cars affected to see if your family might own one of them.
Takata expanded the recall under pressure from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). The company had been denying that its air bags were defective until now.
Did the headline about more than five million cars having defective air bags (that could explode and shoot shrapnel into you and your car) cause you to panic? Or did you see that the air bags are responsible for four deaths and dozens of injuries and worry for the safety of your family? Did you get to the government site to check if your vehicle was affected only to find out the search wasn’t working? Ugh. Did you try to act immediately as the federal safety regulators recommended, only to find out your dealership didn't have the part to repair it? While you clearly don't want to delay getting your car repaired if it is on the list of affected vehicles, before you have a full-blown panic attack and decide to camp out at your dealership until you can get a part, take a deep breath and ask yourself a few of these questions first.
Was your car made after 2008, or before the year 2000?
The airbags in question were primarily installed in cars during 2000-2008. So if your car is from the 2009 model year or newer, or conversely is from the last millennium, you should be OK.
Is your car one of these brands?
The companies that used the problematic Takata of Japan air bags are BMW, Subaru, Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Honda, GM, Ford and Chrysler. If you drive a different make of car, you should be safe.
Do you live in an area that is extremely hot or subject to high humidity?
The instances of failure of these devices (which are terrible stories) occurred in humid areas. So if you live in New Jersey, you are not nearly at risk as much as our friends in Florida or Hawaii or Puerto Rico.
Is there a way to protect your family until you get this repaired?
Sort of. GM contacted owners of certain models of the Pontiac Vibe and the Saab 92X and informed them they shouldn't allow passengers to sit in the front seat until the air bag inflator device has been replaced. If you own any of the affected brands and models, and live somewhere humid (or maybe even if not, if you want to be extra cautious), it might be a safe practice to keep your passengers in the backseat. Though reports are conflicting, GM and Toyota say this issue is affecting only the air bag inflator on the passenger side, while other automakers like BMW are fixing both sides of the vehicle.
Can I find out if my model is on the recall list?
The government site is the first place to check. Or call the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration's hotline at 1-888-327-4236. But if the site is down, or you are put on hold, this NBC News story has the NHTSA's current list of affected models.
Did you know this recall has been going on since June?
While the amount of affected cars has recently been greatly increased, many of these car companies have been dealing with this recall since June, reaching out to their customers and urging them to come in for repairs (especially those in high-risk areas). The reason this is a big deal now is because of the NHTSA's announcement to "act immediately on recall notices." That, and the fact that this week alone they added millions of new vehicles to those that are affected by this defective inflator.