Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) Takata Airbag recalls have been around for several years now, but that doesn’t mean it’s shouldn’t still be a major news item.
Firstly, a bit of background. Auto supplier Takata provided airbags to 19 different auto manufactures from as far back as the late 1990s to as recently as 2015 with a potentially defective inflator. The primary problem with the metal cartridge inflator was that the propellant used required a chemical drying agent which was missing in the recalled units. As the airbag inflator ages, moisture and extreme heat may take its toll, causing some inflators to go off prematurely, explode with too great a force or send metal shards into the cabin upon deployment.
Co-ordinating a recall that affects more than 40 million vehicles is a monumental task. Consider the long time period and the fact that many of these vehicles have changed owners’ multiple times – and it seems nearly impossible. A report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from early 2020 says that at least 15 million defective airbags are still on U.S. roads. Given those statistics from south of the border, we can safely assume that many of these airbags are also still on Canadian roads. Despite the low incident rate in Canada, that may change in the future as these unreplaced, original airbags continue to age.
It gets even more complicated when you consider that during the early stages of the recall implementation, procedures and guidelines were just being sorted out. This means that some manufacturers used defective airbags as the replacement airbags. Early on, airbag recall and repairs required an inspection by a technician to physically look at the airbag and identify if it was a unit that required replacement. As the recall expanded, some of these initial “okay” airbags were then later included in the recall, along with those early replacement units.
However, these recalled airbags won’t turn on your vehicle’s SRS warning light and the onboard SRS control module cannot detect which airbags are installed. If this warning lamp is illuminated on your dashboard, this means that something is wrong with your SRS system. Considering the age of these vehicles, I think it’s safe to say that most have no remaining warranty, and you will have to have the system repaired at your own expense. I’ve been told by several dealer service advisors that many owners walk into their offices assuming that their SRS would be serviced for free, regardless of whatever else has failed. Please note, when your SRS light is on, your system is in a failure mode, meaning it may not function at all if you get into an accident.
If you are concerned, don’t call your manufacturer and say that Lou says that you have a defective airbag. Instead, please go your manufacturer website and check for any outstanding recalls or campaigns. You will require your 17-digit vehicle identification number (VIN) to do this. While you are visiting their site, this would be a good time to ensure that they have your current contact details, so that any further recalls or notifications can make it to your residence.
Your automotive questions, answered
I am considering buying a pre-owned Lexus IS300h which would be used daily, mainly on short runs up to 5 miles and perhaps twice a year on a long 1,500 miles trip. Would such car use be OK for the IS 300h hybrid battery?
Here are the battery warranty guidelines as per the Lexus Canada web page: “Hybrid High Voltage battery – This warranty covers repairs to the hybrid battery that is defective in material or workmanship under normal use and maintenance. – 120 months/240,000 km.” In my humble opinion, while short 5-mile journeys may not be the greatest for any vehicle, at least Lexus’ battery warranty offers ten years’ worth of worry-free battery life.
Therefore, whatever pre-owned vehicle you decide to purchase, be sure to find out its in-service date. This is the date that the vehicle originally went on the road and the warranty started ticking away. Subtract the in-service time from the original ten-year warranty and you will obviously have an idea of remaining warranty time
Keep in mind that most hybrids utilize their internal combustion engines for the first few minutes of driving from a cold start, so you likely won’t reap any great fuel economy rewards because of your short five-mile journeys. I believe a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) might be something for you to consider.
I have a 2012 Toyota Prius C that has been sitting in my family’s driveway for two years without being started at all. Is there any possibility that the hybrid battery is still alive? Does it need to be replaced for sure?
Depending on the mileage of the Prius and its in-service date as mentioned above, there may still be remaining warranty on its batteries. That being said, just because it hasn’t moved in two years does not automatically indicate that it will have a problem. Get in for service and basic maintenance and then put some miles on it to allow the high voltage batteries to charge. This will be the easiest way for you as a consumer to see if there is in fact a battery problem. If something is amiss with the battery system, be sure to get it in to a Toyota dealer immediately as time is of the essence.
Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.