Safety has become a significant issue for the Automotive Industry. Manufacturers and clients are concerned about the level of protection that cars can provide to their passengers during an accident. On the other hand, government and independent agencies are diligently investigating any malfunction that can occur on those safety systems.
Over the years, cars, in general, have become more reliable and safer. However, year after year, problems during the assembly process or defective components are frequently detected by safety regulatory agencies. It’s important to point out that nowadays, faults often not only involve the specific car or brand in which they were originally detected, but they spread among various manufacturers that had the same supplier.
Hyundai and Takata airbags were no exception. Failures in safety systems detected by the National Highway Traffic Safe Administration have occurred repeatedly since the brand started selling vehicles in the US. Some claim that further back in 2004, problems with Takata airbags started; defective triggering components provoked injuries in passengers when airbags inflated. The main inconvenient identified so far, involved a failure in the deployment process - in most cases in the passenger's side airbags -, that allowed an unwanted rupture of the inflator system - mainly because of a violent inflation of the airbag - provoking steel or plastics pieces to hit the occupants at really high speeds, causing fractures, cuts, bruises, etc.
In the beginning, Takata stated that malfunctions were caused by the reaction of the airbag's components with the environment’s humidity. Thus, Ammonium Nitrate - the chemical compound that instantly inflates the airbag - was reacting improperly - too explosively - because of moisture inside the airbag's systems. After that initial recall of 2008 and several more that came after it, Takata declared that other factors that caused that particular malfunction were inadequate assembly procedures and wrong storage of parts made by the company's plant in Mexico.
Nevertheless, although the 2008 recall was targeted on some specific models and brands, it was found that Takata had been supplying airbags for Hyundai - and several more brands - for many years, making the problem even bigger and complicated. For instance: in 2016, a 2009 Hyundai Elantra was involved in a deadly crash accident in Canada; it was found that malfunctioning components of the car's airbags were produced in China, but not by Takata; in 2017, another considerable recall involved Hyundai's line up, in this case, defective inflators - manufactured by a US company - faulty broke inside a full Takata airbag system.
Attempts to replace the airbag without dealership involvement is highly discouraged, as is non authorized repair using a Hyundai factory service manual. Repairs should only be made by a Hyundai dealership directly.
Since 2008, recalls have not stopped to come out, and because those problems don't look to have a near end, consumer's awareness in every recall is the best step to take. For that, the NHTSA has developed numerous tools to inform drivers about problems detected on cars that are currently cruising on the road.
One of them is a newsletter that publishes safety ratings for new vehicles in the market, the results of inspections performed on different models and brands and nation-wide recalls and their respective follow-ups.
Another one is a very complete and easy-to-use system of recall detection, where the driver can be aware of general manufacturing defects that can affect its particular vehicle and how dealers are managing to repair them, only by typing the car's VIN on the NHTSA's web page.