What to do if your car is one of the 4 million 'death traps'
AUSTRALIA'S biggest ever compulsory vehicle recall was issued on Wednesday, with the Federal Government ordering 2.3 million vehicles off the road to replace defective Takata airbags which have caused more than 230 serious injuries and at least 23 fatalities worldwide.
As one of the largest and most significant recalls in Australia's history, almost two-in-seven cars on the road are affected, which will leave many people wondering what to do next.
WHAT IS THE ISSUE?
A recommendation for the recall was made following an extensive investigation from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission into the dangerous airbags that shoot shrapnel toward passengers inside the vehicle.
The fault stems from high levels of moisture penetrating the airbag which alights the propelling mechanism too quickly, causing metal fragments to explode outwards.
In Australia, the faulty airbags have led to one death and one case of serious injury.
WHO IS MOST AT RISK?
The recall will be staggered according to urgency, with priority given to "Alpha" airbags found in older vehicles. It is understood there are about 27,000 vehicles fitted with these airbags, but it's not clear how many of these are still on Australian roads.
Spokesman for consumer body Choice, Tom Godfrey, said Alpha airbags had an almost one-in-two chance of firing shrapnel when deployed.
"If you own a car with alpha inflators, you should not drive it as these are particularly dangerous. Call your supplier immediately and arrange for them to tow your vehicle to repair it," he said.
Other high-risk airbags are those found in vehicles older than six years and cars with driver-side inflators.
Vehicles located in hot and humid areas - like the Northern Territory or Far North Queensland - will also be given priority.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I AM AFFECTED?
Currently, manufacturers BMW, Chrysler, Dodge, Ferrari, Ford Mustang, Honda, Jeep, Lexus, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Performax, Subaru and Toyota all have cars on the compulsory recall list, which can be found down the bottom of the this article.
The ACCC announced certain models from Audi, Volkswagen, Skoda, Ford, Holden, Tesla, Jaguar and Land Rover are being added to the recall campaign once more information becomes available - the list of exact models are yet to be released by the manufacturers.
To find out if your vehicle is one of those mentioned on the recall list you will need to know your vehicle identification number (VIN) - a unique 17-character serial number that can be found on your vehicle or in documentation such as rego.
With this information, you can contact the manufacturer of your vehicle or if the brand has added a VIN checker to their website you can check there to see if your car if affected.
It's also worth noting you should take care when typing your VIN when searching databases and lists, as errors could give you incorrect information about your vehicle.
If your vehicle is not currently under active recall, you will need to check again in the future as recall action may later be initiated for your vehicle.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF MY VEHICLE IS RECALLED?
If your vehicle is under active recall, contact the supplier as soon as possible to find out when you can get the defective airbag replaced.
Contact information for your supplier is included in recall correspondence, on the supplier's website or from the ACCC.
It's also worth ensuring your supplier has your correct contact details so you receive all correspondence regarding the recall - if you're not on the urgent list, they might contact you at a later date with a time frame when the issue can be fixed.
Furthermore, even if your airbag has previously replaced after a crash, you should still get your vehicle assess to see if was fitted with a defective Takata airbag.
WHAT ABOUT SECOND-HAND VEHICLES?
Regardless of whether you bought your vehicle brand new or second hand, you are entitled to receive a replacement airbag free of charge.
If you are not sure if you will be notified if your vehicle is subject to the Takata airbag recall, contact the manufacturer to ensure they have your current contact details.
Those selling affected vehicles will have to advise the new owner that the vehicle has an affected Takata airbag if sold before being replaced.
You should also contact the Australian office of the manufacturer to provide them with the new owner's contact details if given consent.
If your car was under active recall at the time you purchased it from a second-hand dealer, contact the ACCC as cars under active recall cannot be sold before having the defect replaced.
Vehicles yet to have the recall action initiated can still be sold, provided buyers are advised of the risk associated with the airbag both verbally and in writing.
WHO HAS TO FIX THE ISSUE AND WHAT COSTS ARE INVOLVED?
If you're vehicle is one of the many affected, the cost of replacement will fall on the manufacturer of the vehicle - not you or the dealer.
Those who bought the car in a very remote location and find it too hard to come in will be able to force the dealer to visit them to fix the issue.
If you are have to leave your car with the supplier for more than 24 hours in order to replace the airbag, then the supplier must provide you with a loan or hire car, or offer to fund reasonable alternative transportation if you request it.
Additionally, if you don't want to drive your car to the dealership, the manufacturer is obliged to provide towing for you.
Contact the ACCC if you experience delays, are asked to pay for the replacement or if a dealer fails to provide you with alternative transport upon request.
HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO WAIT?
The compulsory recall requires all suppliers of vehicles with defective Takata airbags to recall all affected vehicles in Australia, with all work to be completed by December 31, 2020.
With Alpha airbags and higher risk vehicles given priority, it could be years before all affected airbags are replaced.
RACQ's head of technical and safety policy Steve Spalding said the size of the problem and supply of parts would be major issue for Australian dealerships.
"When you think about the size of the problem there are significant logistic issues," he said.
"It's a staggering number of cars affected and dealerships are already running close to capacity, they don't have staff sitting around doing nothing.
"In some regional towns they might not have a dealership nearby ... it's a very big problem for consumers and dealerships."
By July 1, 2018, vehicle manufacturers are required to publish a recall initiation schedule and searchable recall database on their website
The recall database will allow you to check the recall status of your vehicle by searching for its VIN.
WHAT IS A 'LIKE FOR LIKE' REPLACEMENT?
A defective Takata airbag is at risk of rupturing between six and 25 years after it is installed in a vehicle, although this is lessened to six and nine years in areas of high heat and humidity.
Due to a global supply shortage of replacement airbag inflators, some suppliers may have to use new affected Takata airbags as replacements.
While these are considered safe, once the new airbags reach the six year threshold, they will also need to be recalled and replaced at a later date.
If you receive a 'like for like' airbag, your supplier will have to notify you verbally and in writing, and will have to contact you to arrange a second replacement at a later date.
The supplier is also required to place notice on your windscreen and in your engine bay stating that a further replacement is required.
SHOULD I DISCONNECT MY AIRBAGS WHILE I'M WAITING FOR A REPAIR?
Disconnecting the airbag is not recommended by road safety authorities as it is far more likely that your Takata airbag will perform properly and protect you than it will malfunction and cause harm if you are involved in an accident before it's replaced.
DOES THE RECALL AFFECT MY VEHICLE REGISTRATION OR INSURANCE?
The recall of the airbag in a vehicle does not make the vehicle unroadworthy or unregisterable, however if you disconnect the airbag yourself, this will be void.
Unless your insurer tells you otherwise, the recall should not affect your insurance.
If this changes, seek confirmation of your insurer's position in writing so that you may seek advice from the Insurance Council of Australia and/or the ACCC.
WHAT ABOUT IMPORTED VEHICLES?
The compulsory recall only applies to suppliers in Australia, so those with imports should contact the manufacturer's head office in the country the vehicle was purchased to see if the airbag requires replacement.
If you purchased the imported vehicle from a business in Australia, you should check with them to see if your car is part of the compulsory recall.