Like other automotive manufacturers, Subaru is recalling millions of their vehicles to replace Takata airbags that may have defects that could cause deployment failures. This is a global problem, potentially affecting at least 34 million cars, trucks and motorcycles in the United States alone. Although there have been relatively few deaths and accidents due to defective Takata airbags, to offset the potential risk of failure, at least 100 million recalls have been issued so far.
Subaru Airbag Recall
These recalls began years ago, when it was discovered that many airbags produced and supplied by Takata had failed to deploy properly. Defects in the airbags caused hundreds of injuries and some deaths around the world. The Subaru airbag recall is general, applicable to vehicles regardless of their geographic location. Subaru also claims that their replacement parts are readily available.
While it is true that vehicles that are in hot, humid climates like Florida and the Gulf Coast are more likely to have deterioration of chemical elements that are inside the airbag inflators, Subaru has issued broad recalls to all geographical regions. The main reason they do not focus on any specific climates or regions is because second owners of vehicles may have no idea about where a previous owner lived or drove that vehicle.
In recent recall expansion as of July 2016, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced recalls based on a priority rating that is prioritized according to geographical locations of the vehicles. The highest prior is placed on vehicles located in areas of high heat and humidity. NHTSA found that airbags had different timelines for deterioration, from 6 years to about 20 years, according to those geographic factors.
Airbag Deployment Failures
An airbag system has several parts that could malfunction during use or even when a vehicle is not moving or turned on. The defects affect airbag efficiency, effectiveness and safety. The worst issue involves the inflators, which house two chemicals that are activated by a sensor. If the sensor is defective, it can cause premature activation of the airbag when it is not needed. Sensor activation can also be caused if some loose piece of metal generates a short in the circuit.
The chemicals within the inflator are affected by moisture, which is why they are more prone to failure in areas with high humidity and hot temperatures. If the inflator explodes with too much force, it could fracture and also cause a nearby wiring harness to fracture, sending metal fragments into the vehicle. These shrapnel-like metal pieces can cut into the driver or passenger, causing injury or death.
Another deployment failure is seen when the side door airbags inflate prematurely or without cause. Sometimes this happens when a passenger leans against the door panel or when the vehicle is brushed by something on the side area of the door. An exploding airbag can hurt passengers, especially children who are small. If any of the airbags inflate and the venting system fails to allow some of the contents of the airbag to release, the airbag can become a danger due to its solidity. Drivers and other passengers are advised to sit at least 10 inches away from the airbag container to avoid possible damage to the chest and facial areas.
Airbag Failure Injuries
Airbags are an important and relatively simple part of vehicle safety equipment. A folded nylon airbag is hidden behind a removable panel on the steering wheel or door side. Inside the airbag is an inflator mechanism. It houses two chemical agents, sodium azide and potassium nitrate. When combined, these chemical form hot hydrogen gas, which then inflates the airbag and dislodges the cover at very high speeds up to 100 mph.
If any of the chemicals escape from the inflator or airbag into the air, it could result in skin burns or harm to the eyes of occupants. This could also result in lung problems such as asthma or inhalational chemical pneumonitis. The bags are also designed to have vents that allow some of the contents to escape, so the airbag is somewhat flexible. This helps to avoid impact injuries to the chest, or facial areas, including fractures of the ribs or sternum.
The worst possible injuries can result in death, as has happened to several people. In Texas, a 17 year old girl died when metal fragments blew out into the vehicle compartment from an airbag inflator that ruptured during a slow speed accident. These shards lodged in her neck jugular vein and carotid arteries, and she bled to death at the scene. She was unaware that the borrowed Honda she was driving had a recall notice issued.
Airbags provide a safety cushion, especially in head-on collisions. They were first created to protect pilots from harm during crash landings. If an airbag does not activate when it should, this could cause injuries as occupants collide with hard surfaces or a steering wheel in the vehicle. Side door airbags have also been recalled for various failures, including premature rupture not caused by an impact situation.
Subaru Model Recalls
Subaru currently is owned by Fuji Heavy Industries; Toyota is a minority partner. Subaru is recalling the vehicles as a precautionary measure and for cooperation with a government investigation. Millions of recalls have been issued for these Subaru models and a Saab model made by Subaru. Certain recalls only are for the passenger side front airbags, and not driver side airbags that did not contain Takata inflators.
- 2003-2006 Baja – Passenger side
- 2003-2011 Forester – Passenger side
- 2003-2011 Legacy – Passenger side
- 2003-2011 Outback – Passenger side
- 2004-2011 Impreza (include WRX/STi) – Passenger side
- 2006-2011 Tribeca – Passenger side
- 2005 Saab 9-2X made by Subaru
VIN Number Verification
If you do not have a mail recall notice, you can obtain relevant information at the Subaru website or by calling your local Subaru dealer. It is important to schedule an appointment for replacement as soon as possible; Subaru says they have replacements available. The company also recommends checking the recall listings every three months in case there are future recalls.
You can also verify your VIN Number online as these websites to determine if there has been a specific recall issued for your vehicles:
Airbag Recall Subaru Vehicles
This manufacturer also has issued a Takata airbag recall for some of its models from 2003-2008, including the Baja, Impreza, Legacy and Outback.