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The U.S. government and Honda issued a ‘Do Not Drive’ warning on Friday for about 8,200 older Acura and Honda vehicles that still have Takata Alpha airbag inflators, urging car owners to have them immediately repaired because the defective airbags make it dangerous to drive the vehicles they are installed in.
The urgent warning relates to various 2001-2003 models with Alpha airbags, including Honda Accord, Civic CR-V, and Odyssey, Pilot, and Acura 3.2CL and 3.2 TL vehicles.
Owners can check to see if their cars are covered by going to https://www.nhtsa.gov/recalls and keying in their 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN).
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said owners of those vehicles should not drive them until they get the free repair by contacting their dealership or Acura/Honda customer service. Honda will provide free towing and a free loaner vehicle if it is needed.
According to the safety agency, the risk to drivers and passengers is dire because the Alpha inflators have a 50 percent chance of rupture in a car crash. If the inflators explode, they can shoot shrapnel toward the driver’s face which could kill them or cause serious injuries.
“These inflators are two decades old now, and they pose a 50 percent chance of rupturing in even a minor crash,” NHTSA Acting Administrator Ann Carlson said in a statement.
Takata used ammonium nitrate to create a small explosion to inflate air bags in a crash. But the chemical can become more volatile over time when exposed to moisture in the air and repeated high temperatures. The explosion can rupture a metal canister and hurl shrapnel into the passenger compartment.
Honda said on Friday it has attempted to reach owners more than 18.3 million times including mailed notifications, emails, phone calls, and door-to-door visits. Honda has to date replaced or accounted for more than 99 percent of the “Alpha” inflators.
Since 2009, the exploding air bags have killed at least 33 people worldwide, including 24 in the United States.
Over the last decade, more than 67 million Takata air bag inflators have been recalled in the United States by more than 20 automakers and more than 100 million inflators worldwide, in the biggest auto safety callback in history. The exploding air bags sent Takata Corp. of Japan into bankruptcy.
Honda by far had the highest number of vehicles with Takata inflators.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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