If you own a Honda or Acura car from 2001 or later, you should check right away to find out if you're affected by not one but two new recalls which together affect more than 1.6 million cars, one for faulty airbags on older vehicles, and another for faulty backup cameras on newer ones.
Honda, which owns the Acura brand, is recalling 1.4 million cars due to concerns over a faulty air bag inflator. If exposed to high heat and humidity over long periods of time, the air bags are at risk of exploding during a crash sending shrapnel into drivers and passengers. Drivers with affected cars should contact their dealerships immediately so that the airbags can be replaced for free.
The recall is part of a truly massive recall effort initiated by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to replace air bags made by the Japanese company Takata. Takata airbags are used in some 19 car brands--nearly every brand you can think of, including American and European cars as well as Asian ones. So far, at least 23 people have been killed worldwide by these exploding airbags, and at least 180 have been injured.
Overall, about 100 million cars worldwide will need to be recalled and have their airbags replaced by the end of 2019. Perhaps not surprisingly, Takata has filed for bankruptcy protection in both Japan and the U.S. as a result of the prolonged recall.
The recall appears to affect some Honda and Acura cars sold between 2001 and 2014. You can check here to find out if theirs is one of them. For the most accurate information, have a VIN handy.
And then there are backup cameras.
If your Honda is newer than 2014, you likely don't have to worry about an exploding airbag, but you should be aware of another recall of 232,000 2018 Accord and 2019 Insight hybrid models due to faulty backup cameras. It turns out these cameras might not accurately show what's behind you, meaning that a driver could collide with an unseen obstacle. A free software update will fix the problem.
It seems ironic to say the least that airbags and backup cameras--two features that so greatly increase safety that both are required by law--could actually make driving more dangerous. Although you're still better off with a Takata airbag than no airbag at all, as the NHTSA makes sure to say on its website.
It's even more interesting to note that, over the past few decades, cars have gotten safer and safer, thanks to the growing use of backup cameras and airbags, but also sensors that tell drivers when they're drifting out of a lane, hands-free mobile phone use, and any number of other improvements. At the same time, the number of cars recalled has been mostly on the rise. That's because cars are getting more and more complicated as manufacturers add more options and--yes--safety features.
U.S. auto recalls hit their highest level (so far) in 2016 with 53 million vehicles recalled, thanks in large part to the Takata airbags. In 2017, recalls dropped to 30.7 million. That's still a very huge number, particularly when you consider that only 17.6 million new cars were sold that year. In other words, manufacturers are recalling nearly 75 percent more cars than they're selling. Which doesn't sound like any way to run a business.