Should I drive my car without airbags?

How risky is it really?

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From the November 2016 issue of the magazine.

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Q: I was advised by letter last year that the driver’s side airbag needs to be changed. To date, my dealer tells me they have not received the replacement parts. Do I take a risk driving my car?

—Ludovic, Montreal

A: Your car is part of a giant recall of defective airbags supplied by the Takata Corp.; it affects different models from the majority of automakers going back to 2001. The airbags were made without a desiccant to keep their powdered contents dry; over time, in climates with high heat and humidity the airbag propellant can become unstable and explode with too much force. Replacement airbags, which are in short supply, are being sent to the most vulnerable markets first. In Canada, the risk of an airbag deploying with too much force is slim. To date, there has not been a single incident related to this type of recall, while almost all the deaths and injuries attributed to these sudden deployments have concerned vehicles more than seven years old. Some automakers may reimburse the cost of renting a replacement vehicle for those customers who find that the uncertainty around the delay is causing them stress, but this is on a case-by-case basis. You may be surprised to learn that a few brand new 2016 and possibly 2017 models are sold with this defective airbag design, including the 2016 Audi TT, Mercedes E-Class, Jeep Wrangler, Toyota 4Runner and Volkswagen CC. The APA recently found that some dealers selling these vehicles are making deceptive statements, claiming the airbags are not part of the recall. Transport Canada has a list of all new and older model cars covered by the recall on its website, but these newer models did not appear on this list when I recently checked it. If you have moved since buying your vehicle, or are not the original owner, contact your automaker or dealer for updates.

—George Iny, president of the Automobile Protection Association


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