Exploding Air Bags

I replaced more than 100 Takata airbag inflators between Sep. "13 and June '14 on Lexus SC430’s. In June the recall was suspended, in July the recall was revised. All airbags on 2002-2003 SC430’s will be replaced including the airbags that were inspected (bar code serial no.) and determined “Not affected”.

The second issue of the recall is to be conducted in phases, beginning with vehicles registered in Florida, Hawaii, Guam and the Virgin Islands. The second phase was to begin in late summer 2014. The second phase has not started, the latest news adds more to the recall.

The delay is blamed on a lack of supply, too many vehicles, the manufacture can’t meet the demand. We have five airbag inflators in stock and two Florida registered vehicles have been returned to their owners in the last five weeks with defective airbags because they are not currently in Florida. It seems this recall will take years to complete, partially due to corporate restrictions.

The defect was claimed by Toyota to be a manufacture error with the inflator wafers that can cause personal injury when the airbag is deployed. The truth is the airbag inflation cylinder has a section of holes, vents on one side to inflate the bag. Upon deployment this area tears apart sending metal fragments towards the occupants. The inflator wafers may be the problem and affected by humidity but it is the shrapnel that should be feared.

Steve, these guys would have to be smarter to be morons.

Out of millions of inflators in service, how many have exploded or otherwise malfunctioned and injured people?? .0001% ?

The explanation is that the humidity increased the pressure in the airbag mechanism so high that it causes spontaneous explosions, and the associated shrapnel.

@Caddyman, the more relevant question is, “Out of the thousands of inflators that have been triggered, how many have exploded…?”

Because most of the inflators in service haven’t been triggered yet. And if there’s even a 10% chance that my airbag will perforate me with shrapnel if/when it goes off, I’d sure want to have it replaced.

Really, really stupid. And if you have the right salvage Takata airbag for a stunt like that, it could even skewer you with shrapnel. What’s next, hooking a shotgun up to a trip wire to surprise your ‘friends’?

Though I admit I snickered a bit when I saw the one with the guy on the couch…

I cannot think of a better place for the shrapnel problem to rear its ugly head than in the butt of one of the guys in the video.

Nothing is funnier than trauma to the groin… of someone else! Get your Darwin detector out and see if there’s anyone in need of some bleach in their gene pool.

I hope those guys have had all their children already…

I think @jesmed1‌ phrased the question correctly. Since most of use spend a small percentage of the day in our cars, the airbag canisters are more likely to explode when we are not in the car. But the possibility of death or severe injury makes the issue much worse. Toyota and GM both said that if your car is involved in the recall, don’t have passengers in the front seat until the airbag is fixed.

boy, letting gm fold seems like it would have been the better choice more and more…

It would be kinda nice to know which dang cars are involved. I’ve seen 01-03 Hondas, Toyotas, and some GM and then they said it is expanding but never listed the dang cars. Something not making sense here if it doesn’t involve later model cars yet they haven’t exactly figured out why the things are doing what they are doing. Maybe no one uses that brand anymore.

Here is a link to NHTSA/ vehicle list;


Waiting for the recall letter, planning not to have an airbag deployment in the meantime.

I’m clear. At least from what I’ve been able to gather so far.

“boy, letting gm fold seems like it would have been the better choice more and more…”

I disagree. Only 2 models are involved from GM, the 2005 Saab 9-2 and 2003-2005 Pontiac Vibe. The Vibe was built by Toyota. The Saab was actually built by Subaru under contract and is really an Impreza. Not a surprise that the comparable Matrix and Impreza are recalled as well. Why would you suggest that over 200,000 people lose their jobs over this issue?

@jtsanders, you said earlier that "Since most of use spend a small percentage of the day in our cars, the airbag canisters are more likely to explode when we are not in the car. "

Just to clarify, the problem is not that the airbag canisters are exploding spontaneously. The problem is that when they are triggered in an accident, some of the propellant wafers are burning too fast, causing the canisters to rupture.

Thanks for the link, Nevada. It’s nice to know my car isn’t involved… at least not at this point in time.

An article I read stated that moisture gets inside the canister causing an over-pressure condition. That leads to a failure, which could be called a spontaneous explosion, even during a minor accident. I take this to mean that the airbag would not have deployed, except for the higher pressure due to moisture infiltration.

Some of the articles don’t do a very good job of explaining what’s happening, possibly because the writers themselves don’t quite understand the failure mode.

Yes, moisture gets into the propellant wafers (in some cases by faulty manufacturing, and in other cases in humid climates) and causes the wafers to crack. However, the cracked wafers do not spontaneously ignite/explode. What happens is that, when the airbag is triggered, the cracked wafers burn faster than normal, because the cracks in the wafers increase the amount of burning surface area, and thus the wafer burns faster. The result is overpressurization and rupture of the canisters.

So yes, moisture is the culprit. But the over-pressure condition cannot occur until the airbag is triggered. And the trigger mechanism is not being affected. The faulty airbags are triggering normally. It’s what happens after the trigger that is the problem.