But how defective are we talking, exactly? Do the airbags not fully deploy? Do they have a seam that inadvertently looks like a nipple while inflated? How bad could it be? At worst, they could only fail to save a life, right?
Nope! Turns out they "may or may not shoot metal debris into the car cabin upon inflating." Takata uses a gas called ammonium nitrate to inflate their airbags quickly during accidents. The problem is that ammonium nitrate is volatile and breaks down over time. To quote the experts, it "may lose density especially in the presence of moisture or humidity. It is believed that in some circumstances, the density loss may lead to less predictable performance criteria." To put that in layman's terms, ammonium nitrate might explode directly in your face.
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The only way this could be any less effective is if the bag itself was just a giant whoopee cushion.
This is not merely a potential hazard, either; there have been at least 10 deaths in the U.S. and three overseas, and at least 100 injuries have been linked to these airbags. The company's known about it for a while, too. A former Takata engineer alerted them about this issue multiple times, but was ignored.
Ammonium nitrate is now being phased out, like your crazy militant uncle Bob from your family's Thanksgiving dinner. However, your dealer is still legally allowed to sell you new cars with ammonium nitrate airbags, as long as they promise to do a recall before it becomes dangerous.
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"They double-pinkie-swore. What more do you want?"