Third time’s the charm?
The vehicles in question were first recalled after some had been on the road for more than a decade. The issue was the drying agent used to preserve the ammonium nitrate designed to inflate the bag. Time, heat and humidity conspired to make the ammonium nitrate unstable, so that the airbags inflated unexpectedly and with much greater force than necessary. An earlier attempt at remedy involved removing the desiccant. That appeared to have only compounded the problem, causing the ammonium nitrate to explode with force sufficient to scatter shrapnel throughout the passenger compartment.
Takata ultimately developed an inflator that did not use ammonium nitrate, but was unable to manufacture parts fast enough to meet worldwide demand. The short-term fix was to replace the deteriorating inflator mechanisms with newer, but otherwise identical parts.
Now, nearly eighteen years on for these trucks, Takata claims that it has sufficient ammonium-nitrate-free parts to complete the safe and permanent replacement of the inflators. Ford Ranger and Mazda truck owners might be forgiven for some frustration.
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A massive problem
The giant recall will ultimately affect tens of millions of vehicles globally and could take until 2023. The lawsuits and the expense of the repeated recalls ultimately meant the end of Takata, forcing the company into bankruptcy in June 2017. The automakers that used Takata parts may ultimately end up out-of-pocket for the cost of replacement.
Meanwhile the defective airbags have made their way into secondary commerce as spare and salvage parts, posing a risk for drivers and passengers who, without the benefit of recall notices, may be completely unaware of the hidden danger.