According to NBC News, some auto industry experts and government officials are starting to believe that airbags may need replace on every vehicle after a certain amount of time, regardless of the supplier.
The recent massive airbag recalls, including Takata and ARC, have been due to the overinflation during a crash and the volley of shrapnel that follows. However, separate recalls since April 2016 have targeted vehicles whose airbags may not function at all, posing a risk of its own.
Research done by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration shows Takata airbags dating back to 2001 – 2003 model years may have a failure rate of 50 percent, according to NBC news. Newer models are expected to see similar failures as they age, too.
The reason why the Takata airbags are prone to these failures is because of the chemical used to inflate the airbags. According to NBC News, it has been found that ammonium nitrate, which has been to blame for the explosion of shrapnel in Takata airbags, is especially sensitive to extended use in hot, humid climates, but will eventually break down even in cooler areas.
Takata airbags now contain a desiccant – a substance to absorb moisture – but experts are unsure if that will prevent breakdown of ammonium nitrate over the entire life of a vehicle.
The issue of airbag functionality decay is really brought about by the length of time Americans keep their cars on the road. According to J.D. Power and Associates, the average age of vehicles on American roads is 11 years, with millions over the age of 15.
NBC News reports that airbags of all kinds, including ones with explosive or compressed gas inflators, will be prone to fail at some point.
Experts have offered a few potential approaches to solving the airbag conundrum:
Even if some airbags have caused injuries and fatalities, the NHTSA says airbags potentially save thousands of lives each year in the United States, reports NBC News.
The following information is provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).