Exampleof a Honda car emblem. Photo via Pixabay
Exampleof a Honda car emblem.
Photo via Pixabay

Hundreds of thousands of Southern California residents driving certain 2001-2003 Honda and Acura models were urged Monday to take advantage of a free recall repair service to replace possibly defective Takata airbag inflators that could rupture during a crash and cause potentially fatal injuries.

While the nationwide recall affects as many as 42 million vehicles and 19 different automakers, the airbag inflators in some Hondas and Acuras pose the most urgent threat, with up to a 50 percent chance of exploding upon deployment, according to the community group Airbag Recall: Southern California.

The vehicle models at issue include the 2001 and 2002 Honda Civic, the 2001 and 2002 Honda Accord, the 2002 and 2003 Acura TL, the 2002 Honda Odyssey, the 2002 Honda CR-V, the 2003 Acura CL and the 2003 Honda Pilot.

Owners of affected vehicles should schedule their free repair immediately by calling Honda at (888) 234-2138.

Any Honda or Acura dealership will provide free towing service to the dealership and perform the free repair.

“With as high as a 50 percent chance of a dangerous air bag inflator rupture in a crash, these vehicles are unsafe and need to be repaired immediately,” according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Southern California leads the nation in fatalities caused by defective airbags. The risk for serious injury or death is particularly acute in Southern California due to high temperatures that exacerbate the defect in the airbag inflator, according to Airbag Recall, which held a news conference at Los Angeles Trade Technical College.

Honda encourages owners of all affected Honda and Acura vehicles to check their vehicle identification number and, if the repairs have not been made, to seek the free recall repairs immediately, as replacement parts for all affected models are available at authorized dealers nationwide.

At least 11 people — including three in California — have been killed by defective airbag inflators, and about 180 others have suffered serious injuries, including cuts or lacerations to the face or neck, broken or fractured facial bones, loss of eyesight and broken teeth.

The victims from California were each driving an older, higher-risk Honda or Acura, and airbag explosion was triggered by a minor collision that the driver should have been able to walk away from, according to the community group.

Thousands of the higher-risk vehicles are still on the road in Southern California, but have yet to be repaired.

“In Southern California, many of us drive or ride in a car every day, several times a day,” said Kenn Phillips, president and chief economic officer of the Valley Economic Alliance.

“If your vehicle contains a defective airbag, this part of your daily life could threaten your life,” he said. “To confront this issue head-on, the Valley Economic Alliance has partnered with auto-body shops throughout the area to check drivers’ vehicles for outstanding recalls and to educate them on how to get their airbags replaced free of charge at a local dealership.”

Residents can find out whether their vehicle has a defective airbag inflator at www.AirbagRecall.com.

Southland residents who may be waiting for replacement parts for their vehicle, or who are not affected by the current recall, are also encouraged to call their local dealer to confirm that their contact information is up-to-date so they receive recall-related updates going forward.

Honda said in a statement that 2001-2003 Honda and Acura models originally equipped with the first-recalled Takata driver’s front airbag inflators — called “Alpha” inflators — represent a particularly high risk to drivers and passengers with up to a 50 percent chance of an inflator rupture in a crash.

“Tragically, Honda has confirmed 10 deaths in its vehicles due to ruptures of Takata airbag inflators in the United States, and all but two of these involved `Alpha’ inflators,” the company said. “Honda continues to recommend that unrepaired `Alpha’ vehicles not be driven except to an authorized dealer for repair.”

The company said that although 74 percent of “Alpha”-equipped vehicles have been fixed to date, other owners of the vehicles have not yet sought the free recall repairs.

“The only place your `Alpha’ vehicle should be driven is to an authorized dealer for repair,” the company advised. “If you’re uncomfortable or unable to drive your car in for repair, we will pay to tow it — even a non- running vehicle — to the nearest dealer for free.”

Honda also offered to provide a free loaner or rental car on the day of the vehicle’s repair.

“Please don’t delay,” the Honda statement reads. “Everyone is busy, and we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience, but this repair could save your life!”

—City News Service

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